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Deco Cassette in MAME 0.189

September 11, 2017 Haze Categories: General News. 8 Comments on Deco Cassette in MAME 0.189

MAME 0.189 was released the other day and one piece of progress that went into it, which I actually feel is one of the most significant progress made between 0.188 and 0.189 comes in the form of improvements to the DECO Cassette System driver. AJR has put a fair bit of effort into getting these things right, and in 0.189 it’s finally paid off.

Since it was first emulated the DECO Cassette System has proven tricky to emulate properly, not only due to the fragile nature of the games meaning that every dump we have should be treasured, but also because it was built as quite a flexible system, with the video system offering a number of different modes of operations, many only used in a handful of places. It also didn’t help that some of the games are just plain ugly on real hardware, almost as if even the programmers didn’t fully understand the hardware and sometimes ended up just accepting what was displayed was the best they were going to get, even if it wasn’t what they were aiming for.

One of the big issues the driver has always had came in the form of the way certain colour mixing modes work; the incorrect emulation of these resulted in a number of situations where the colours being shown in MAME did not match those being output by the original games running on the actual system. With MAME 0.189 it appears that this issue has finally been solved, every emulated Deco Cassette game now perfectly matches the colours in all the original hardware captures we have been able to find.

While not a particularly interesting game, one of the most obvious examples of where things improved was with Lucky Poker, old MAME shots are on the left, correct, newer MAME shots are on the right. You can see that the game gains a green background and black text boxes ingame, and a blue background on the title screen.

Lucky Poker (wrong colours) Lucky Poker (good colours)
Lucky Poker (wrong colours) Lucky Poker (good colours)

The Deco Cassette Multigame (an unofficial conversion for the hardware that uses a ROM containing the games instead of cassettes) also saw the selection menu become a lot less garish, now correctly showing a blue background.

Deco Cassette Multigame (wrong colours) Deco Cassette Multigame (good colours)

Astro Fantasia is another where the colours changed a lot, previously the emulation looked like this, with every stage having the same colours.

Astro Fantasia (wrong colours) Astro Fantasia (wrong colours)

With the fixes each stage gains a unique palette.

Astro Fantasia (good colours) Astro Fantasia (good colours)
Astro Fantasia (good colours) Astro Fantasia (good colours)

We have videos of the game Manhattan which show similar colours changing between levels, but from what I can tell that’s a different version of the game, the one we have doesn’t even attempt to write to any registers to do this. It isn’t uncommon for there to be multiple versions of Deco Cassette games. One game with significant colour changes between versions, which can now be seen is Rootin’ Tootin’ (aka LaPaPa)

In older MAME versions both versions of the game (the one with Rootin’ Tootin’ in attract, and the one with La Pa Pa in attract) used the same default blue background as the bios

La Pa Pa (Rootin' Rootin') (bad colours) Rootin' Rootin' (bad colours)

With the fixed colours there’s actually a very significant difference in the background colour of each set, one having what is actually a rather ugly green background, and the other going for a more neon look with a black background. While the green looks ugly, it is verified on hardware, it wouldn’t surprise me if the set with the black background is a newer set after players didn’t like the green much.

La Pa Pa (Rootin' Rootin') (good colours) La Pa Pa (Rootin' Rootin') (good colours)

Highway Chase was also much improved in 0.189, with the headlight effect working properly. The new colours are arguably uglier, with a blue road instead of a black road, but again this was a Data East design choice, the blue road is verified against hardware; you can see the same colours & graphics used in the ‘madalienb’ clone of ‘madalien’ so again it was probably something Data East changed over the course of several revisions until they were happy with it (although no cassette versions with the grey road have been seen) Left is Highway Chase in older MAME versions (headlight effect not working – always on but not masking anything, black road) and on the right is Highway Chase in newer versions (headlight masking works, road is blue)

Highway Chase (bad colours) Highway Chase (good colours)
Highway Chase (bad colours) Highway Chase (good colours)

There are many other examples of places where colours have changed, and as mentioned, in every case, even ones where things look subjectively worse, the new colours are verified against actual hardware videos, so again, big thanks to AJR for working on this because it really brings the actual driver for the system up to scratch. Now here’s hoping some more rare cassettes turn up and can be dumped before it’s too late for them

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Gaelco Mania

September 5, 2017 Haze Categories: General News. No Comments on Gaelco Mania

The generally less interesting part of today’s news is about Gaelco’s Maniac Square.

Maniac Square

Again, a DS5002FP protected version of this game exists, and again we ended up finding a previously undumped set, which is clearly an alternate code revision while buying up boards for dumping. Like with Glass both sets identify as Version 1.0. The first of the boards was supplied by Charles MacDonald, so thanks to him goes for that.

Maniac Square Maniac Square
(boot screens from the 2 protected Maniac Square sets)

As with Glass, there was already a version of Maniac Square emulated, an unprotected version with the following boot screen. In this case they did actually remember to remove the Co-Processor message from the screen.

Maniac Square

So, what is there to say about Maniac Square? Not a huge amount really. The protected versions are now playable, as you can see in the screenshots below. From a gameplay point of view I’ve not been able to find anything different compared to the unprotected version.

Maniac Square Maniac Square
(gameplay shots from the protected version of Maniac Square)

It’s a simple ‘race against the clock’ columns game, and there are no difference to write home about when comparing the protected versions to the unprotected versions in this case. It’s the same simple game. Analysing the DS5002FP program was maybe a little more interesting, as it looks like there might be an entirely unused command in there (or I haven’t found the point in the game where it gets triggered) but again, it’s such a simple game there’s not really even much interesting the protection can be doing.

I guess the problem with Maniac Square is that the released game is very much overshadowed by the prototype version. For those not in the know, the prototype clone of Maniac Square, that has been in MAME for many years runs on different hardware and presents the game in an entirely different way, with different special block types, counters for each colour, a fake pinball style dot matrix display giving you messages of encouragement etc. it’s just a much more interesting piece of software. I guess the final release with the pressure of the timer lives up to the name of ‘Maniac Square’ a little better, but it’s simply an inferior product all round. So yeah, the most interesting thing about Maniac Square remains a prototype that has been emulated for over a decade, it’s good to know the protected originals are now emulated for the sake of competition, but there’s nothing really else to say about them.

Maniac Square prototype Maniac Square prototype
(The prototype, emulated since 2003, is still a more interesting game)

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Glassic Gaming 1.0

September 5, 2017 Haze Categories: General News. 1 Comment on Glassic Gaming 1.0


One thing that has become clear while working with the Gaelco games is that the versioning they used was a bit of a mess. We have 2 World Rally sets that identify as “Version 1.0”, 2 protected Maniac Square sets that identify as “Version 1.0” and 2 protected Glass sets that identify as “Version 1.0” and the same for a number of other games, despite in all cases the code clearly being a different revision. Most Gaelco games display some kind of checksum on startup, but as we’ve seen with Alligator Hunt, that doesn’t even always tell you if the ROMs are different as in the case of Alligator Hunt the region control byte is outside of the checksummed area.

With Glass, there are also 2 versions that identify as “Version 1.1” and display 1994 Version on the title screen. One of those is the unprotected Korean version that has been emulated for a while now, the other is another protected set.

The problem with Glass is that Version 1.1 isn’t actually very good, the Korean version is censored (except for the end sequence, which apparently they missed) and the images are replaced with drawings, rather than photographs, again to make them more suitable to a wider audience. Even stranger than that, the 1.1 set lacks some of the gameplay elements of the 1.0 set, such as not including static ‘skulls’ in the playfield as part of the level designs that both block your shots and require you to navigate around as they kill you if you touch them.

Now, as mentioned, there are 2 “1.0” sets of Glass, both protected. The bootup screens for the versions we know about look like this

Glass Glass

I can’t tell you the exact difference between the two sets in terms of gameplay. In the case of Glass it calls the DS5002FP the ‘TURBO’ chip (it’s not really accelerating anything, just a fancy name) and as you can see in the above pictures, it is reporting as ‘OK’

That’s because, as you’ve probably guessed by now, we’ve managed to successfully dump the DS5002FP SRAM from a Glass PCB. This is also one of the rare occasions where the dump came out perfectly, interestingly it also used a Fujitsu MB84256A-70L type SRAM, like the World Rally 2 that also came out really well, maybe those chips are more reliable than the others, or maybe we just got lucky.

Below are some screenshots from the attract demo of the 1.0 sets showing the skulls in the playfield.

Glass Glass
Glass Glass
Glass Glass

Also here’s a video, recorded a few days ago before we’d verified the SRAM dump with a 2nd PCB

Now I’ve already mentioned that the Korean 1.1 set is a bit rubbish, but the SRAM dump we have also appears to work with the 1.1 protected set (not entirely surprising) and somehow, despite having the proper images, and no censorship, it seems to have had the entire attract gameplay demo stripped out, simply showing the ‘reveal’ sequence twice where usually it would show the game being played. At first I thought this might be because it requires a different SRAM content, but it actually looks like it’s just been intentionally removed instead. Not sure why anybody would do that (although I would be interested in knowing if anybody out there happens to own a board that shipped from factory as 1.1 and hasn’t been modified in any way can confirm it) The bootup screen for protected the 1.1 set looks like this, for reference.

Glass Glass

and to complete the set, the already emulated unprotected, censored version has the following boot screen (yes, they were too lazy to remove the ‘TURBO OK’ message, even if the Co-Processor isn’t used – it’s simply hardcoded to always show OK)


It would be interesting to know if there are any other Glass versions out there with different checksums shown on startup. Actually it would be interesting to know for quite a few of the Gaelco games, based on what we’ve found buying up boards for dumping the SRAMs it would seem there are quite a lot of alt revisions out there that maybe people haven’t noticed.

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