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MAME work and other stuff

The Post-Christmas Update

December 27, 2012 Haze Categories: General News. 13 Comments on The Post-Christmas Update

Not a great deal to report here, but I just thought I’d mention that Manhattan has been improved since the last batch of screenshots and the background scrolling is much more correct now. I’ve also done some general purpose cleanups.

The reference videos we have (YouTube) show the colours cycling between levels, that doesn’t happen yet in MAME, and to be honest I can’t see any registers for it, I’m starting to wonder if it’s a different version. I’ve asked Charles who dumped the cassette if he can test the version we have, but we’ll have to see. It could just be a missing emulation feature, considering the clown-car credit lists often associated with Deco Cassette the driver is still in rather bad shape but I’m running out of places to look!

While on the subject of the Cassette system it does seem to have been designed primarily with the ‘Highway Chase’ game in mind, and in many senses the feature-set of the hardware is very similar to the standalone Mad Alien / Highway Chase hardware, but seemingly a bit weaker because the actual Highway Chase released on the Deco Cassette system is a worse looking, and rather glitchy game if the references we have are to be considered accurate; it even has bizzare pink/blue desert scenes and water scenes with green water, despite the correct palettes being right there! Furthermore the dividing line in the road isn’t present in any of the reference videos despite the writes for it and emulation of it in the driver?!

Anyway, the background ’tilemap’ is just one of those things that turned out to be very close to Mad Alien, instead of being one simple tilemap it’s actually a left ‘edge’ and right ‘edge’ (which can have independent scrolling to bring them closer together / further apart, while sharing a vertical scroll register for the overall vertical movement speed, clearly designed to draw a road capable of becoming wider / narrower..) Furthermore, there are multiple sections to the tilemap and there is a register to control looping of the top part only, or the bottom part only, or doing a transition between the two, again very much designed to do different sections of a road, allowing for tunnels and the like; that feature was missing hence Manhattan not looping the correct section of the tilemap properly. Fixing this also fixed the annoying background looping in Super Astro Fighter (I also fixed the colours there, the driver was failing to actually store the written palette values in RAM, but then expecting to be able to read them back)

Clearly it was a cheap system for low-budget games, trying out ideas, and creating new revisions etc. without breaking the bank, but that does sometimes make it hard to know if bugs in the driver are real game bugs, or actual emulation bugs, especially when you’re not 100% sure your reference material is the same version as the dumped version. Sometimes there are obvious clues that things differ, the Astro Fantasia videos we have show a completely different main boss, the Graplop videos we have seem closer to the Starcade version with an actual Graplop title drawn whereas the ones we have are the Cluster Buster variant, and what seems like a very early version of Graplop before any polish was added.

I should have another previously unknown 80s game to show here in a couple of days thanks to the same guys who uncovered Planet Probe, but more on that when it happens :-)

I was looking a bit at the protection on the Pgm 3-in-1 but haven’t been able to make any logical conclusions about some of the ops, even what should in theory be the simple ones controlling the movement of the cards. I’ll have to do some hardware tests.

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They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom…

December 23, 2012 Haze Categories: General News. 4 Comments on They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom…

Charles MacDonald and The Dumping Union managed to get another one of the rare Deco Cassette games secured, and dumped. This time it’s ‘Manhattan’

A video of the original game was uploaded to YouTube a few months back, taken from a Japanese arcade where the game was actually still being operated (the same place often have rare classic period games for a short period of time) but beyond that sightings of the game had been few and far between, it apparently did make the US shores back in the day but was quickly replaced.

To be honest, it’s not hard to understand why, first of all the game lacks any kind of attract mode, it just cycles the title logo sequence over and over, something which I consider to be a deathwish for any arcade title (surprisingly Nam1975 got away with it, although the CD version oddly rectifies that for an environment where it doesn’t matter) If you can’t see the gameplay, why would you risk playing the game? At first I thought this might be an emulation glitch, but if you look carefully at the video it does the same, just starts drawing the title logo again after it does the colour cycle and has displayed the DECO logo.

Then there is the secondary problem, it isn’t really obvious what you’re meant to do, arcade games should be obvious without having to read the instructions. In this case I managed to waste several attempts simply dying because I didn’t understand that you had to press a button when your character falls on the trampoline, failure to do so means you get no height at all and results in near instant death and one life lost, no second chances or prompts.

Finally, the actual game. Once you’ve been launched up to a certain height, which depends on when you press the button, all you really do is fall down while attempting to steer your character towards the bounce pads (balconies..) at the side to gain points, and possibly a bit of extra height depending on how fast you’re going, but losing most control over your character each time you do so. To end a stage safely you must always land on the bottom most pad, which generally means you can’t be going too fast by the time you reach that point. Obviously there are things to avoid too, a feat much trickier each time your character goes spinning out of control; glancing the edge of a platform also does you no good at all. Some of the pads also contain letters to spell the word ‘DECO’ landing on the same one twice also seems to end the stage. It’s an original concept, but I’m not convinced it works as a game. I might be missing something, I’ve not quite understood the meaning of the word ‘Bound’ which is displayed (maybe a target score you have to reach to finish later levels?) but there really doesn’t seem to be much more to it.

The final nail in the coffin has to be the sound, the whole thing sounds like a cross between Galaxian and a fire alarm, it’s truly nauseating.

Of course, it’s good to see it emulated, these Deco Cassettes remain some of the more fragile and ‘at risk’ of the arcade games, I think they also gave Data East a cheap way experiment with ideas at a low cost, hence the various evolutions of gaming concepts / code and alt versions of the same things you find turning up (there are still missing versions of Graplop / Cluster Buster / Flying Ball for example, which just seems to be the evolution of a single game) (personal note, cgraplop2 doesn’t seem to let you coin up / start at the moment, investigate)

Currently the emulation has some issues, it’s most likely these are down to incomplete emulation of the Deco Cassette video system, rather than a bad dump, they affect the rendering of the building graphics at the side of the playfield which is rather obvious in the screenshots below compared to the video above, and even moreso in action. Several other Deco Cassette games have similar issues, which is why I’m inclined to think it’s a video issue, not a bad dump; the only cassette game I’m rather suspicious of when it comes to the dump is “Super Astro Fighter” due to it erasing the game palette, although that could be a CPU or protection issue of some sort (stupid problem, this driver is old and a bit crap.) Anyway, what this means is I should take a look at the video emulation at some point in the future if nobody beats me to it.

MAME screenshots

Manhattan Manhattan

Manhattan Manhattan

Manhattan Manhattan

So thanks again to Charles MacDonald and The Dumping Union, the only work I’ve put into this myself is translating their analysis of the protection dongle scrambling into actual MAME code so that the cassette loads in MAME, but because they’d already done all the hard work that part was easy enough :-)

In other news Phil B. submitted his driver for Rise of the Robots, the failed prototype of the overhyped pre-rendered piece of junk fighting game from the 90s which was meant to sell computers / consoles and change gaming forever, so this Christmas / New Year could well be an enjoyable one if you like to witness rare train wrecks ;-)

*additional Manhattan notes*

After playing it a bit more, and actually figuring out what is what (with the sound turned off) the game is a little different to how I describe. The main crime remains a lack of an attract mode / how to play instruction screen / some prompts which would have made the gameplay clear, but essentially your ability to land on any given platform depends upon the speed you’re traveling at, except for the lowest one which you can always land on as long as you hit it. That’s what the ‘bound’ text is all about, it means that the current speed will cause you to bounce, not land. Still, the game is quite shallow, a lot depending on the moment you hit the launch button (the exact right time and you’ll launch high enough to land on the roof for some bonus points) There also doesn’t seem to be much in the way of level progression aside from some more annoyingly placed obstacles which, including ones in the center of the playfield you’ll need to avoid on the way up too.

It remains an interesting concept, and an important part of Data East history, and possibly with a bit more polish could have lasted a bit longer as a more popular game, but without a more depth or addictive qualities I don’t think it was ever destined to be a classic. I think if somebody did a more modern remake it might be possible to make more of a game of it but it feels more like it should be a bonus round of a larger game than an actual title in it’s own right.

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Man was born on his missions for performing to get peace of mind and make harmonious surroundings

December 22, 2012 Haze Categories: General News. Comments Off on Man was born on his missions for performing to get peace of mind and make harmonious surroundings

One recent surprise was a previously unknown PGM multi-game cartridge showing up with Smitdogg / The Dumping Union, containing Photo Y2k2 as well as 2 poker games.

It’s an official release from 2004, the same year several other games were re-released, probably as some kind of stock clearance exercise.

Being a 2004 release it does mean it’s almost certainly the fully secured ARM / 027A type, so can’t be fully dumped, it also lacks external ROM, so we have no way of running our own code on it directly even if an exploit was found.

Being a game without an external ROM the protection routines are typically weaker tho, more ‘functional’ than ‘most of the game runs on the ARM’ like several others which means it might be possible to simulate it, although this builds on what already existed with the Photo Y2k2 protection, and that hasn’t been done yet either!

In addition to the protection from Photo Y2k2 it appears to have some extra bits to get the write offsets of the background tilemap (used in the intro) which is exactly the same as Knights of Valor (PhotoY2k doesn’t even have any background tilemap roms, so obviously it wasn’t used on that) There is also protection controlling the movement of the cards (not understood) for the poker game in both the attract demo, gameplay, and game select screens. Selecting a game results in the same value out of range crash as Photo Y2k2.

I’m hesitant to write ANYTHING about PGM here, because as soon as I do I seem to get a flood of annoying SPAM to my email, but at the same time I do like to keep people informed, I’ll just keep hoping the spammer goes away for good.

I’m not sure of the exact title of the game, the internal string calls it ‘Flash 3-in-1′ the way the letters have been decorated on the logo makes me think another Logic / Puzzle King, but clearly the primary game is Photo Y2k2 with this just being used to clear old stock mask roms of that game. I say that because the PGM system has a max capacity of ’16MB’ for the bitmap (sprite) shape data, PhotoY2k2 was already using the full 16-meg area with 2 MASK roms (2x8MB) Instead of making new mask roms to add the data needed for the extra poker games they’ve instead used the original pairing, and used an additional rom to act as a patch / overlay over the last 1MB of those roms. This to me indicates they had an excess stock of the original mask roms they needed to use it.

In terms of regions it looks like this was only released in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong because the region warning screens for all other possible regions are incomplete or just corrupt. As usual the region is provided by the protection device tho.

Anyway, screenshots from the non-working emulation.

PGM 3-in-1 PGM 3-in-1

PGM 3-in-1 PGM 3-in-1

I’ve also uploaded the original hardware reference video Smitdogg provided (it would be nice if he threw all his vids on YouTube even if the quality is lower than the direct downloads they complement them well) Note how the cards get dealt out during the attract, then spin around in a circle, all that movement is controlled by the protection commands. I’m not embedding it, because it’s not an emulation video.

Smitdogg’s thread about it can be found here

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Dot Eaters Unite

December 20, 2012 Haze Categories: General News. 24 Comments on Dot Eaters Unite

One of the cool things about UME / MESS is the way it unites the various ports of games under one emulator, which can be interesting to study. Take Pacman, here you have the classic arcade

Original Pacman

Now, when you’re running MAME you have that, and only that (yes I know there are remakes and the Namco Anniversary one is really quite neat, but that’s an aside)

When you add MESS, you can look in the Software Lists and find many more versions of Pacman listed, some official, some unofficial / unlicensed, but all of them trying to be the same game. There are probably many more versions out there too, the lists aren’t complete by any means!

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Pacman Pacman

Some versions are good, and play close to the original, some are terrible and a million miles apart (the notorious A2600 version) Maybe it’s just my nerdy / geeky side coming through, but having an emulator capable of this makes for an incredible adventure, being able to see the limitations of each machine by studying the emulator code, and then being able to see what they came up with.

Of course Pacman isn’t the only game ported to lots of platforms, plenty of the other classics were for example, Mappy, see the original arcade


and some ports… (I was a bit hesistant over putting the Super Cassette Vision one because it runs too fast to play, but it ‘looks’ ok)

Mappy Mappy

Mappy Mappy

Mappy Mappy

Mappy Mappy


Some platforms got ports of more obscure games instead, for example the Casio PV-2000 got .. Super Pacman, under the title Mr. Packn (no idea why they used that title, it’s a licensed port)

Super Pacman Mr. Packn

and it wasn’t only Namco games which received a lot of ports, Nintendo was popular back then too, with the Amstrad CPC getting what is usually considered one of the best home ports (there is a graphic glitch in MESS on the lives bar tho)

Donkey Kong Donkey Kong

Now it has to be said that all of these were in an era where the arcades were vastly more powerful than the home systems so obviously the home versions do end up looking inferior, but from a technical point of view many are actually much more interesting due to their creative use of the hardware available.

All in all it’s reasons like this why I consider the MESS component of our project to be possibly the most fascinating bit (and definitely where the future is) that’s why I offer it as part of the MAME project with my UME binaries. MESS might not be perfect for all systems, and it does have a learning curve, but even with systems I’m mostly unfamiliar with I’ve managed to boot up, run, and take snapshots of many games even if a couple of the systems did take a little figuring out and digging up some basic usage instructions for or plugging virtual joysticks into slots before I had any controls.

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UME 0.147u4

December 17, 2012 Haze Categories: General News. 14 Comments on UME 0.147u4

UME (logo by JackC)

UME (Universal Machine Emulator) combines the features of MAME and MESS into a single multi-purpose emulator. The project represents a natural course of development for the emulators which already share large amounts of code and is part of an ongoing effort to unify development efforts and provide a single emulation platform for users and developers alike.

As an end user this means that the software provided here is not only capable of emulating arcade machines like the baseline versions of MAME, but in addition can emulate a large number of home computers and consoles from across the world using the very same code, developed by the very same team of developers.

0.147u4 Windows binaries (32-bit and 64-bit) (Self Extracting 7-zip)
0.147u4 Source (7-zip)

What’s New

You can read the various whatsnew files on mamedev.org
From MAME, From MESS

Points of Interest

The first important improvement that comes to mind with the 0.147u4 release is the fix made for screenless systems. In prior versions the displays for screenless systems weren’t being properly updated, resulting in an update rate of closer to 5-10 updates a second instead of 60. Now I know public opinion is divided on the Fruit Machines, and they seem to be very close to vs. fighting games as far as the love/hate relationship goes, but for those it’s a very important fix, as it is for a good number of systems in MESS which emulates a wider variety of screenless systems.

One area of ‘screenless’ things being worked on by R. Belmont and Olivier Galibert is old music synthesizers, and while I believe there is still plenty of work to be done there I think the overall goal is to bring a midi library into the MAME source and allow the devices to be hooked up to actual midi compatible equipment, and act like they originally did but running under emulation, the Yamaha MU-100 has already made it to the ‘working’ list however so clearly progress is heading in the right direction.

Olivier has also been busy hammering out the floppy code a little more, trying to properly figure out how the various controllers work and how they hook up to the original systems. Floppy hardware was heavily abused in the wild, with limits often pushed, specifications ignored, and things hooked up in bizzare, and often ‘incorrect’ ways, and of course they’re spinning magnetic discs so there are all sorts of analog and timing factors to consider, and on top of that you have numerous floppy formats which attempted to document copy protected images and the like which need to be parsed in an appropriate way. It’s a big job, and unsurprisingly has taken a long time so far, left most systems with floppy drives in a state of flux, and is still throwing up surprises. All the ‘upd765’, ‘wd1772’, ‘wd_fdc’ and ‘floppy’ tagged stuff in the MESS whatsnew relates to this, which is actually the bulk of it.

Then you have the NeoCDZ, which really isn’t that interesting, it’s just a port of the FBA code, and from what I can tell shares the same bugs. Most games run, about 3 seem to play up in significant ways (Double Dragon and Last Blade 2 fail to load, Fatal Fury 3 will moan about the protection after a while) For the most part it’s usable and should be stable tho.

The Sega VMU support is interesting to see, although I guess it cheats a little because afaik the only way to get games onto the original units was via the actual Dreamcast (the VMU was the device which was both a memory card an low resolution monochrome LCD screen / handheld, a complete and utter pointless novelty and waste of battery power, but nevertheless an interesting concept) Again tho, it shows that MESS is flexible in scope, and sometimes the emulation of weird gimmicky things can be fascinating; I’d still quite like to see some of the classic Nokia phones emulated etc.

As usual there are a bunch of fixes to more obscure systems from the Mess side, if you’re familiar with them then you’ll have probably noticed them in the whatsnew, for the most part I’m not tho, so unless people have been posting screenshots over at bannister.org I’m not really sure what to say about them. Kale did make a few Amiga improvements (which should help with compatibility a little) but there are still a ton of low hanging bugs there before it’s anything like decent. The other thing Kale has been busy with is PC98, which was a popular Japanese PC platform, there is a thread about it .

So that’s it for the MESS ‘rubish’

MAME has seen a fair number of changes too, but in all honesty I don’t think many of them are that interesting / worth highlighting (that’s not to say they haven’t been worth doing, but the end results aren’t anything people are going to get excited about)

The most significant thing is probably the addition of a rare CPS1 game, but like so much of what shows up these days it’s simply a medal game and those really are just the video equivalent of the fruit machines; an element of luck, combined with a minimal test of skill to get you a payout which is almost guaranteed to be worth less than you put in. At least with the actual gambling games / fruit machines you can take advantage of previous players failing to take their chances thus leaving you with a greater chance of winning, but the ticket/medal games seem to be almost entirely flat payout. That said it is interesting to see how Capcom re-purposed the CPS boards with this being the most recent known CPS1 title by some margin. The game was released in 2000 with the last real CPS1 game being a 1995 release, but the board dates further back than that, the game doesn’t even run on the modern CPS boards with Qsound, but instead one of the original slower boards used for the first SF2. Prior to this game that board was last used before this in 1991! Again this is an example of how seeing how everything fits together (in the MAME as a document sense) can actually be far more interesting than the actual games concerned.

Kuru Kuru Pyon Pyon is similar, it’s a medal game, although in this case much closer to a regular Cherry Master style fruit machine, just very much Japanese Style.

Various bits of work have been done towards some of the music games (not the encrypted MPEG DDR ones tho), Gachaga Champ is some Konami Bishi-Bashi series mini-game thing, and Jong Yu Ki is a Mahjong game to go with various other Mahjong driver improvements from the Nogi, one of the Japanese devs.

I’ve been busy trying to improve the documentation value of some of the fruit machine stuff, spurred on by the screenless system fix mentioned at the start and an external contribution to split up the last remaining intimidating looking driver, but again nothing to write home about, it’s mainly tedious, laborious and unrewarding work in the short term, but it’s important to document things as best we can, and make sure MAME is representative of what arcades, and the coin operated amusement industry became in a non-biased way.

Barry (from FBA) has been fixing up some CPS1 bootlegs, trying to emulate the bootleg hardware properly instead of hacking things up, although that’s easier said than done, especially where you have bootlegs of bootlegs, where the original bootlegs added some code, then it turns out the actual bootleg it was dumped from doesn’t use it because it had been modified back to closer to the original hardware etc. which I think might be the case with some of them.

Robbbert has been porting over anything he feels is valid from Misfit MAME, although that ultimately means the less interesting stuff because most of the fancy bits are aftermarket and MAME, unlike MESS doesn’t have any mechanism for documenting even the most interesting of those (which is a bit of a shame, at least for ones which have been tested on real hardware) Bubble Bobble Lost Caves is one such interesting thing which you *won’t* see supported in official MAME for this reason, although in all fairness it hasn’t been tested on original hardware anyway. Personally I’d like to see such things put in a sub-folder and flagged as IS_ARCADE_HOMEBREW with an option to hide them completely so purists can ignore them, although only after verifying they do work on original hardware. Anyway, enough of that, I’m sure the possibility of such things is one reason some people are so against MAME and MESS coming together, because MESS has always had a more open policy, most rom hacks are trash tho.

Robbbert has also been improving the upright / cocktail handling for a number of 8080bw games, and while I’m not sure if I’d count some of it as hacks rather than fixes many of the PCBs did end up with wire-mods to convert between upright and cocktail usage, so what he’s doing probably just represents that at worst.

Various (legitimate) Hispanic region CPS1/2 clones have been filtering through thanks to Artemio Urbina, which shows the value of having world-wide contacts, because the majority of those would have never left Mexico. It’s a shame we don’t have a similar contact in Brazil for the original Brazil releases, which seem even less common although I’m guessing Brazil usually just ended up using the Hispanic boards, much like Australia used the Asia, Japan and even US ones more than the dedicated Oceania region releases. The problem is these days it’s too easy to make fakes of them, so the only way to really trust them is if they’re found where you expect them to be found, in this case, in Mexico.

From a code perspective u4 is interesting because MAME now requires Python to compile, this is because (based on input from Google) the various build ‘helper’ tools are being converted over to use python scripts rather than building executable files which in turn build c files to compile. For now it’s just used for the new 6502 core and a few similar bits, but eventually, for reasons of portability, it will be used for all the helper tools. There is 0 impact of this from the end users point of view tho, MAME isn’t being rewritten in Python, and MAME doesn’t itself contain a python interpretor, it simply uses it as part of the build process.

I’m guessing the next release will be Christmas / New Year, and while it does concern me that things like Missile Command are still broken (due to driver hacks no longer working with the much more accurate 6502 core) I remain hopeful somebody will patch things up before then. As for Christmas surprises, I’m not aware of anything significant; Guru did just dump Armadillo Racing which will be in the release after this one, but that’s more just an obscure and amusing drop-in than any revolutionary progress.

Moving on from individual project new to some UME news, it seems that Alexis B. has decided to start following the combined projects for his Arcade History website, which now covers much of the content of the MESS software lists, making it more of a complete gaming information resource. This actually surprises me because I thought external sites such as that would be the strongest opposed to any kind of merger of the projects, instead it seems like even they’re going full-steam ahead. He also offers the information from the site as history.dat for MAME/MESS/UME frontends such as the recommended QMC2 (it is in the same Mameworld thread where he mentions his intentions to follow both projects)

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Scotland, A Land Without Birdies

December 8, 2012 Haze Categories: General News. 23 Comments on Scotland, A Land Without Birdies

In the previous post about the NeoCD exclusives it was mentioned that Neo Turf Masters has an entire extra secret course in the CD release. Usually the unlock requirements are pretty steep (but not unreasonable given the difficulty of the course) but it’s mentioned on the Raine forums that you can access the course by going to the course select screen and doing a half-circle (Left, Down-Left, Down, Down-Right, Right) then pressing ‘D’.

There don’t seem to be many screenshots of this course online, so I’ve taken snaps of all the different holes (excuse 15 being an overhead, I forgot to take a snap of the tee shot)

You can also admire my wonderful score ;-)

I wonder if anybody has ever tried picking apart the Arcade version to see if any traces of these course exist as disabled content, or if they really were added from scratch for the CD

Neo Turf Masters CD
The selection screen / intro page
Neo Turf Masters - Select Scotland Neo Turf Masters - Select Scotland
Hole 1
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 2
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 3
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 4 (there is actually no space between you and the water, the 3d view is misleading here!)
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 5
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 6
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 7
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 8
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 9
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 10
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 11
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 12
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 13
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 14
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 15
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 16
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 17
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Hole 18
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland
Neo Turf Masters Scotland Neo Turf Masters Scotland

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