MAME 0.164 was released this morning (being last Wednesday of July and all that) and it’s a solid looking release with a number of nice new additions and fixes.
The most significant improvement, in my opinion, comes in the form of the Taito Air System fixes from Kale and Olivier. These fixes bring Top Landing to a playable status, and considering how long the driver has been sat there in an almost working state (and in Raine before that in an even less working state) it’s really good to see it given some attention. These games might not have aged too well but they were a major component of Taito’s Arcade output at the time with titles in the series spanning multiple generations.
The other game in the same driver, Air Inferno was also improved although suffers from additional issues that mean it’s still marked as NOT WORKING, although you can at least now take off, fly around and complete the tutorial mission if you want to do so.
The most expensive addition in this release is support for the old Nintendo title ‘Monkey Magic’ which is a bat & ball game similar to Break Out etc. where the objective is to destroy the monkey face rather than a regular wall. It currently lacks sound because the discrete sound hardware isn’t yet emulated.
Interestingly the ‘Credits’ text is very similar to the ‘Unknown Horse Gambling Game’ that was added a while ago, it also uses roughly the same type of CPU although the rest of the hardware differs. The font is however very simple, and some characters (such as the E) do differ, so it might be coincidental, although maybe Nintendo, or a branch of Nintendo is a worthwhile avenue to explore in identifying this title just in case.
The most likely to be overlooked addition in 0.164 is the clone of PuzzLove, which actually has some very significant changes compared to the set I covered here a while back when I added it. system11 picked this one up and it’s a Korean release of the games instead. The title screen is completely different, and in the maze sections before each mini-game you actually have to chase around little characters to access the puzzles rather than them being static locations on the map. I’ve put some side-by-side shots below.
There are a fair few Mahjong and Casino style games added in 0.164 too, including a previously unknown Merit collection known as ‘The Round Up’ a title that they decided was worth applying for a trademark over. It’s really nothing new, the same games that were in Pitboss but with slightly different titles, but it further documents a little piece of history that would have been lost or forgotten otherwise.
In the ‘already covered here’ field there is Semicom’s Gaia. I also took the time to improve a few other things in the driver while adding it, so visible areas and rowscroll effects in Cute Fighters and Baryon are noticeably improved.
One that a lot of work went into, but which failed to cross the line into fully working status is Virtual Pool. Ted Green did a great job of tracking down and fixing some bugs with the MIPS dynamic recompiler which was causing collisions to fail on the game (and no doubt other subtle issues in other games) but the game still has a tendency to crash on the loading screens between levels so you can usually get a round in but nothing more unless you’re lucky. It runs on the same type of hardware as the Golden Tee Fore! games so quite why this one is so problematic is currently unknown.
Some older drivers saw attention too with Luca hooking up the speech in Harem
0.164 is not without it’s regression fixes too, recently issues with the Amiga driver being unable to load ADF files were fixed (don’t expect miracles tho, the actual driver hasn’t improved, just a bug causing ADF files to not decode in current versions)
There’s been a lot of work on the electronic toys too, including preliminary emulation of some of the official Game & Watch titles where the MCUs were decapped, these aren’t yet considered working for various reasons however (some of the additions in this category just lack proper artwork and testing)
Further tweaks were made to the MSX softlists and mapper emulation following the recent heavy reworking of the drivers restoring things like Metal Gear 2 and HERO to a working state.
There were other small but still good to see fixes too, getting rid of ROM patches is always good and an unlikely chain of events lead to the one for Taito’s Super Cup Finals finally being removed. In the end it looks like the game expects default data in EEPROM as a security measure, there is a byte it expected to be set but the internal init sequence doesn’t actually set. Using a default eeprom file with it set allows the game to work without patches, this is likely to be correct as the game avoids changing that byte when you do factory restore operations too.
There were some other important clones added in 0.164, some of which I was surprised to find had been dumped for a long time.
First up is a clone of Blitz ’99, this was dumped by Siftware years ago. The existing parent is version 1.30, the newly located clone is an older version, 1.2. There are likely other versions of the game out there too which simply haven’t been dumped yet, although finding them is tricky because most people are using newer drives cloned from the same sources, or SSD conversions cloned from those and most of the original hard drives are likely dead. If you do happen to own any hard drive based games do make sure to check the revisions on them against what is supported!
The other Hard Drive based game we had a previously unsupported clone for is California Chase, this one was again dumped a while back by jmurjr, but for some reason never processed, it identifies as Version 1.0r8 and slots between the 2 existing sets.
The Bubble Bobble series is one of Taito’s most iconic, so a new clone of Bubble Bobble II was a nice addition too, this actually became the new parent set as it’s a newer version than any of the existing ones, identifying itself as version 2.6 rather than 2.5 like all the others. It will be interesting if somebody could find out what it actually fixes, or rebalances, it is actually quite rare compared to other developers for Taito to offer a new revision of a game so there’s a fairly good chance it fixes an issue that was found by players / operators when the game was on location, the build date is a good 2 months after the older 2.5 release.
One of the most curious changes is the title screen date with Taito opting to use Roman Numerals for the newer release.
Another noteworthy thing in 0.164 is ‘Aqua Stage’. It’s noteworthy mainly because it runs on a Sega H1 board, that’s the same board as Cool Riders. Until this showed up we actually thought Cool Riders was the only thing using that platform. Unfortunately it tells us that a fair few things we assumed when emulating Cool Riders were wrong, things like the video registers can actually move around. The game is a coin pusher / redemption type game, rather than a real game, unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be running correctly in MAME right now, it never shows the title screen (without hacks) doesn’t attempt to read the inputs, and only outputs to one of the 2 monitors. Working out what’s wrong is going to take some digging so at the moment you just get an aquarium background (which you can change in service mode) I hope it’s not a case of where the ‘inputs’ are provided by another board running game logic code (like Ken Sei Mogura was for example) because the only thing we have / have dumped is the H1 board. Kale managed to hack it to display a title screen at least, which is what you see below, but this won’t appear if you run the emulation in MAME. System16 has a cab picture. The first part of this video is said to be Aqua Stage (although it’s hard to tell, there seem to be multiple aquatic games featured, somebody should have thrown a James Pond in there too ;-)