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January 28, 2018 Haze Categories: General News. 17 Comments on Things you’re probably not going to want to do #348693

In the previous updates I touched on how having proper emulation of the classics has made a lot of the old ports redundant for all but the sake of curiosity. Today I’m going to look at another device which for all intents and purposes is now completely redundant, but is also a sign of what people had to accept back in 1998 when it was released.

I’m talking about the Datel Game Booster for the original Sony Playstation. One of a number of unlicensed addons that were produced for the system.

The Datel Gamebooster was a device that plugged into the Playstation and allowed you to play Game Boy titles on your TV by plugging the cartridges into the adapter, similar to how you could get a Super Gameboy for your SNES. I’ve added support for this Datel Game Booster in MAME.


Game Booster Game Booster
Game Booster Game Booster

Great, fantastic, you can play Game Boy games on a Playstation, that’s pretty cool, right?

Well, there’s a catch. Let’s start with compatibility. It’s bad. Most games won’t work, those that appear to often end up crashing, even Tetris seems to crash after a while. I’ve done research on forums, and these aren’t bugs in the emulation of the device, these are bugs in the device.

Let’s take a step to the side here and talk about what the device actually is. You might think it would have some of the Game Boy hardware inside it, or at least a knock-off of the Game Boy hardware. After all, the official Super Game Boy for the SNES had a CPU inside it and everything. You’d be wrong. What we have here is a pure software emulator running from the ROM inside the device. On startup the device reads the cartridge you have plugged in and dumps the content to GameBoy cartridge ROM, using the standard Gameboy mapper addresses for banking, to the Playstation’s RAM. This isn’t much different to how you’d dump the cart with a cart copier, except instead of saving the file it just copies the data into RAM for temporary use. The emulator, which as mentioned, is contained in the ROM inside Datel’s device is then executed using the copy of the game ROM that was just read out.

This instantly limits you to only games using the standard banking scheme, with a maximum of 64 banks of 8192 bytes.

Of course, the emulator is based on 1998 emulation technology too, and in 1998 emulators weren’t exceptionally good, especially not if you were having to code them for a machine with a 34Mhz processor.

That brings us to our other issue. This is slow, VERY slow. By default it has a frameskip of 2, which alone is enough to ruin the gaming experience in many cases, but even with that many frames being skipped the titles run at around half speed, if that.

So you can play only a small part of your library, with bugs, at about half the speed of a real Game Boy. Sold yet?

It has no sound either. Sound isn’t emulated, the device makes no attempt whatsoever to emulate the Game Boy sound chips, so you’re playing the games in silence. It has a CD Player option that allows you to put a CD in the Playstation’s drive and use that, but it’s hardly a substitute for the real sounds. Then again, sound emulation would have made it even slower, and sound at less than 100% speed is a lot more noticeable than video.

Now the fact that there are homebrew NES emulators for the original Playstation (they’re not great, but they’re better than this) might suggest it possible that Datel could have optimized this further, but in reality trying to emulate anything on a 34Mhz processor isn’t a great idea, you have to cut a lot of corners somewhere.

But yes, even back in the day this thing wasn’t a great product. It was a novelty, some people no doubt found it rather geeky and cool, possibly even rebellious to be running Game Boy games on their original Playstation, but it was hardly practical.

There are a few interesting things about it. First of all it comes with a built in game, Rebound Mission, and I don’t know about you, but to me a Rebound Mission sounds like something you might decide to go on for a night out after being dumped.


Game Booster Game Booster
Game Booster Game Booster

It’s a simple game, the main problem is it’s as slow as everything else, because it’s apparently a Game Boy game Datel wrote, and are running under their emulator. I haven’t tried extracting the ROM to see if it really is yet, but I’ll probably give it a try, it might actually be enjoyable at full speed, but at the speed it runs it’s just tedious and lacks any challenge.

So is there anything else interesting about it? Well it attempts to use the Super Game Boy borders if they’re present, which is kinda neat and unexpected, as you can see here on the Centipede / Millipede pack.


Game Booster Game Booster
Game Booster Game Booster

However compatibility comes back to bite us again here, as while Centipede can be played, Millipede only hangs on the title screen you see and goes no further. Again there are posts saying this happens on the hardware, so this isn’t a MAME emulation bug, it’s a bug in Datel’s emulator.

I’ve also seen some other SGB games where trying to access the Datel built in menu causes them to crash, presumably a memory issue or something.

So yes, there’s a built in menu. What does it look like?


Game Booster

Game, Cheat, Trainer, Palette, Options..

Palette is interesting, but ultimately a bit pointless. Let’s have a look at it being used with Tetris 2


Game Booster Game Booster
Game Booster Game Booster

So yes, you can swap any of the 4 basic colours for another one of your choosing..

Cheat is a set of built in cheats that you can enable for various Game Boy games (which at least gives you some indication of what is expected to run) Trainer appears to be a cheat finder type thing, and Options, is just a set of options, where you can turn the CD player on, change the frameskip level, tell it to pixel double the image, or select from 3 built in borders for the regular games.


Game Booster Game Booster

Why emulate such a pointless device? Because we can, and because it documents a little piece of history, back in the day some people no doubt used this because it’s all they had. It shows how far we’ve come. Here are some videos.



My only closing thought on this is that it would have actually been interesting if somebody had done their own homebrew emulator that could use the cartslot, or if Datel had allowed it to load a different emulator from CD (although in both those cases you would have to use some of the Playstation’s RAM to load the emulator)

Emulating pointless things in MAME is a lot of fun.

It was also released for the N64, but with a short annoying music loop as the N64 didn’t even have a CD drive to give you that option. I haven’t looked at the N64 version (yet)

17 Comments

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My parents bought me one of these to play Pokemon Blue because it was cheaper than an actual Gameboy. The game ran fine, except that it couldn’t save, which makes trying to play a long game like Pokemon pointless.

pointless indeed

glad u got fun out of the wasted time

Emulating is also preserving things that otherwise would be lastly forgotten. Good job as always.

> Palette is interesting, but ultimately a bit pointless.
Isn’t that the same thing you could do on the Super GameBoy with non-Super GameBoy games?

It also doesn’t just exchange any of the four colors with exactly one other color, it seems to take different layers (?) into account, note that on the left Tetris screenshot everything around “Round” is white, whereas only parts of it get colored in on the right

With Millipede/Centipede I’d guess it’s a matter of a non-implemented mapper – I *think* I remember even official compilations sometimes used nonstandard mappers with both games unaltered

Centipede / Millipede is just a 128KB MBC1 mapper game, the emulator correctly copies it all into RAM so it isn’t a mapper issue in this case.

It’s just a bad emulator from the relatively early days of emulation.

MAME was just as bad back then for a lot of things (although the cases where it didn’t work were more hidden from the public) but people were amazed by it because it was doing things they’d never seen or thought possible before. Kinda crazy some people still swear by those ancient versions tho.

Hi Haze (and everyone), The reason people swear by it is nostalgia and “you never forget your first love”. People tend to remember things through their eyes from the past. Great job on the emulation! Thanks again for an informative and fun post!

But that doesn’t even make any sense. Logic would suggest your “first love” would be more attributed to the *game*, not the emulator. And if the emulator can’t drive you to see your first love, then again logic would suggest your *first hate* should be attributed to that emulator. Assigning “love” to an ancient, creaky, outdated emulation platform is just as silly and pointless as Datel’s offering here.

I’m sure the Datel thing was magical for some people back in the day, and seeing pictures of it running brings back some good memories, maybe enough to make people want to give it one more try for old times sake, maybe even if they hated it. Could be some people picked them up with a few GameBoy carts never having owned a GameBoy and knew no better.

But yeah, nobody should be picking it as a way to actually run GameBoy games in this day and age, we’ve come a long way, and sometimes it’s fun to demonstrate just HOW far we’ve come in 20 years.

Likewise nobody should really be running MAME from back then, I remember it well, it was unstable, buggy, inaccurate (and ironically, compared to most other emulators at the time, slow, even if people seem to have forgotten that old versions were slow on hardware of the era)

I say this because just last week I encountered somebody with an i7 based PC running a MAME4All based port, which is forked from something of pretty much this era with none of the real improvements from the last 20 years. They were amazed when I showed them all the little things that had improved in that time, even just how much better classics like PacMan sound than in those ancient versions and how much better the official MAME interface with a real frontend is than the RA one they were using, even if it takes a bit more work to configure it in the first place.

Ahh, here I am to see the screens. Great, superb ! The most interesting part for me is the possibility of finding a rare new GB game (the one included with the “system”).

And as you said, I remember testing out on DOS, a C64 emulator back in 1996, nothing worked, except a text adventure maybe. And I was thrilled. This kind of stuff documents an era where it was impossible to invade one system with another.

I did try extracting Rebound Mission and it definitely has code in there for the Gameboy CPU, so it’s almost certainly running in their emulator, but it crashed when I tried to load it on a regular emulator. Might be they intentionally protected it against people doing that, or it just relies on bad behavior that their GameBoy emulator has, but a real GameBoy does not have, or I messed up. I imagine even if it isn’t coded correctly somebody could ‘fix’ it to run as a real GameBoy game if they wanted tho.

I got mame ver 61 on xbox moded and nes snes genesis emulators. Some games works great others dont. Like street fighter 2 on nes. Those emulators will be on futures mames.

@Marcelo: MAME 0.61 is from July 4th of 2002. We’ve made a lot of improvements since then.

This sort of reminds me of the Rockman Complete Works collection, which was basically Megaman 1-6 ported from the NES to PlayStation over six individually sold CDs (which were exclusive to Japan and in Japanese only, unfortunately – basically the predecessor to the US-only Anniversary Collection on PS2/GC etc.)

While the game data (PRG ROM) from the Famicom version was on the disc, the graphics data (CHR ROM) was not (at least with Rockman 5, which is the only Complete Works disc I own) and it used the standard PSX format graphics, and the NES sound hardware was not emulated at all so it used prerecorded sound effects as well as streamed (XA) music in place of the NES music*. Again, this was roughly 1998-era emulation, so pretty early in the time period but still got the job done. Interestingly, they added the ability to switch weapons (and Rush Coil etc.) on the fly using the L/R trigger buttons just like the SNES games, something which was not possible at all on the NES. I don’t know how this was done, as the PRG ROM data was 100% identical to the Famicom version (CRC32 is 05cf9eb0, inside DATA.PAC). I still don’t know how they implemented easy/hard navi modes either (different weapon strengths, enemy placement etc.), unless it was recompiled and only used parts of the game code. I swapped the PRG ROM with that from Super Mario 3 (identical mapper) and the emulated game didn’t boot, so clearly they still used some game data from the original ROM image.

* The ability to use music tracks also gave Capcom the opportunity to include remixed music for the new “navi” modes. Most of the remixed music is taken straight from the Power Battle/Power Fighters arcade games (CPS2 versions), with the first three games only having these arcade tracks, with the NES music for the remaining stages. Rockman 4-6 had new remixes for every stage/boss that wasn’t on the arcade games, including the Dr. Wily stages, the Get Weapon screen, and any other scene where a music clip would play. The original NES versions of the tracks were all included and only played in the normal “classic” mode.

@Arbee:

I think that might have been his point, old MAME’s are very much like this, some things work, some things don’t, compatibility and correctness is nowhere near the level it is today, and one day we’ll end up emulating that MAME running on the original Xbox in MAME (because the “CoinOps” collections for the Xbox, while now dated, are a significant piece of homebrew software for the platform, that will likely end up being documented because that’s what most OG Xbox units that are still in use are being used for)

but yeah, I used some emulators on an OG Xbox not too long ago, if you don’t know / haven’t used better I guess they might pass as acceptable, if you’ve used better you quickly notice the flaws, very much like the situation here.

@Heihachi_73

I’d guess static recompiler, with the ROM just there so any data structures can be referenced without them having to change the code too much.

L/R triggers and stuff could just be done like the cheat system in MAME tho, likewise difficulty, hacking the rom on the fly isn’t difficult.

I have two different versions of this addon. I’m not sure they’re both from Datel though. I can try to dump the eeprom if you’re interested. Let me know by sending me an email, I’d be glad to help MAME

Due to the lack of CD, the N64 version merely loops the same track over and over and over…

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