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Opening

As with 2018, I’m starting this 2019 writeup early, very early, so that I can add bits to it throughout the year as I test new additions etc. made to the project. MAME 0.205 was released at the end of December 2018, and some development happened between then and the new year, so some progress from 0.206 will be on the 2018 page, and some will be on this page.

It’s going to be interesting for me to see how this article develops because I actually have very little idea of what we might see in 2019. A lot of things (and probably the things most people want to see) aren’t very realistic, but with MAME having such a strong showing in less traditional areas in 2018, establishing an emulation foothold for many overlooked home & business systems etc. I suspect we’ll be seeing more of that in 2019 at least.

Anyway, this is a progress log page, not a speculative wish-list, so let’s just leave that there and see what I end up adding here over the course of the year.

Still Popirain’

While admittedly there might be some bias here due to both being involved in the emulation and helping to research / source the items, some of my favourite work of 2019 has to be the with the XaviX / Takara music titles, especially things like Popira. The original Popira managed to sneak in at the very end of 2018, but 2019 saw the sequel, Popira 2, supported as well as the spin-off title Jumping Popira. Popira 2 is much of the same thing, but with additional 2 player modes etc. These things are surprisingly addictive, especially when you consider the extra cartridges they can work with.


Popira 2 Popira 2

Jumping Popira is played with your feet instead of your fingers, as such, when played by hand it’s actually a fair bit easier. The presentation was really upped on this one too, with a number of cutesy themes.

Jumping Popira Jumping Popira

A large number of cartridges for these Takara music titles were also sourced, including previously unknown e-kara series cartridges.

One of the nicer finds was a used e-kara Web cartridge, that had 7 songs saved onto it. The e-kara web cartridges were sold like blank disks, and as the data on them was downloaded from a now defunct web service they stand as the only trace remaining of the data from that service. Obviously there were hundreds, maybe thousands of sounds on the original servers, so this is still just a drop in the ocean, but it gives a preview into what you could get.


e-kara e-kara e-kara
e-kara e-kara e-kara
e-kara e-kara e-kara e-kara

Also surprising was the discovery of 2 Spanish e-kara cartridges, containing exclusive songs for that market.


e-kara e-kara e-kara
e-kara e-kara e-kara
e-kara e-kara e-kara e-kara
e-kara e-kara e-kara

Watch Out!

One of the most culturally relevant things we’ve seen in 2019 is the continued work on the Nintendo Game & Watch titles. Now with an external contributor known as ‘hydef’ providing high quality artwork these things look better than ever in MAME. Plenty more were also dumped and emulated during 2019.

Balloon Fight is one of the later Game & Watch titles

Balloon Fight

Lifeboat is a one of the multi screen series

Lifeboat

Parachute is an earlier title

Parachute

Fire Attack has been the center of recent controversy due to what is now considered to be an offensive / inappropriate theme.

Fire Attack

Fire, while not really controversial, was subject to censorship in all releases since the original Game & Watch units, with the angels used for the miss counter being replaced. MAME of course uses the original representation, true to the systems.

Fire

Snoopy Tennis is one of a handful of Game & Watch titles to include licensed content.

Snoopy Tennis

Turtle Bridge is one that many players seem to have fond memories of, offering more memorable gameplay than some of the others.

Turtle Bridge

Octopus is another one that seemed to be common back in the day, so again many people remember fondly as one of their earliest handheld games.

Octopus

Black Jack is quite a departure from the regular Game & Watch style game, instead of a game of dexterity and good co-ordination it’s a simple casino style thing, a style that would be heavily copied by others.

Black Jack

Rain Shower is similar to Lifeboat in that it requires you to be watching 2 screens at once in order to correctly position things.

Rain Shower

Manhole is another one of the fairly simple early games.

Manhole

(is it worth showing off the ones from previous years with the new artwork?)

JAKKS in the Box

2019 was a big year for SunPlus emulation, something which will likely be featured prominently in this write-up. One manufacturer to make heavy use of SunPlus hardware was JAKKS Pacific where it was used for a large number of “Plug it in and Play” TV games from around 2004 to 2007.

There are actually multiple different SunPlus CPUs with different onboard peripherals. One of the games emulated in 2019 was the ‘Disney’ unit, with this version actually being a 2nd release of the game on newer hardware than the original release. This version had a GameKey port, which was basically a cartridge port for expansion games.


JAKKS Pacific Disney JAKKS Pacific Disney

JAKKS Pacific Disney JAKKS Pacific Disney JAKKS Pacific Disney
JAKKS Pacific Disney JAKKS Pacific Disney JAKKS Pacific Disney
JAKKS Pacific Disney JAKKS Pacific Disney JAKKS Pacific Disney
JAKKS Pacific Disney JAKKS Pacific Disney JAKKS Pacific Disney
JAKKS Pacific Disney JAKKS Pacific Disney JAKKS Pacific Disney

The sequel, Disney Friends, was also emulated


JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends

JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends
JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends
JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends
JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends
JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends JAKKS Pacific Disney Friends

The initial JAKKS Pacific units that became possible to dump with newly developed techniques were the ones that sported a GameKey port. This also meant that the various GameKeys ended up dumped, including the Disney ones. The first contained Sports Bowling and Goofy’s Underwater Adventure. Sports Bowling is a decent little bowling title with cute graphics (as you’d expect from Disney) and Underwater Adventure is a well made game with mechanics similar to Puzzle Bobble. This is definitely one of the stronger GameKeys.


JAKKS Pacific GameKey 1 JAKKS Pacific GameKey 1
(The menu from one of the JAKKS Pacific Disney GameKeys)
JAKKS Pacific GameKey 1 JAKKS Pacific GameKey 1 JAKKS Pacific GameKey 1
(Bowling is fast, smooth and plays as you’d expect a bowling game to play)
JAKKS Pacific GameKey 1 JAKKS Pacific GameKey 1 JAKKS Pacific GameKey 1
(…but Goofy’s Underwater Adventure is just fine)

The second GameKey has Sports Tennis and Face Chase


JAKKS Pacific GameKey 2 JAKKS Pacific GameKey 2
(The menu from a second JAKKS Pacific Disney GameKey)
JAKKS Pacific GameKey 2 JAKKS Pacific GameKey 2 JAKKS Pacific GameKey 2
(Sports Tennis appears to be playable, although it’s far too easy to hit it ‘Out’, maybe just how it is tho)
JAKKS Pacific GameKey 2 JAKKS Pacific GameKey 2 JAKKS Pacific GameKey 2
(Face Chase is a slide and match puzzle game)

There was actually a third Disney GameKey which is the same as the 2nd one, except it contains an additional game, Riches of Agrabah


JAKKS Pacific GameKey 3 JAKKS Pacific GameKey 3
(The menu from the third JAKKS Pacific Disney GameKey)
JAKKS Pacific GameKey 3 JAKKS Pacific GameKey 3 JAKKS Pacific GameKey 3
(Riches of Agrabah is a Columns clone)

What’s Old is New Again

Some of the most famous JAKKS Pacific releases were those based on Namco IP; compilations of classic arcade games from the Pac-Man era. Emulating these is one of those ‘completing the cycle’ moments as MAME originally stared out as an arcade emulator with Pac-Man being one of the games emulated in the very first release. The JAKKS Pacific games are actually ports, not emulations, but emulation software such as MAME was almost certainly used to aid development, providing both reference for the running games, an easy way to extract graphics, and even record sound samples for use in these reproductions.

The first unit dumped was the Ms. Pac-Man GameKeyReady unit, not the original release of this unit, but due to the GameKey port, the easiest one to dump.

The Ms. Pac-Man units were also the only time JAKKS Pacific included MS. Pac-Man in their Plug and Play devices, none of the later releases featured it.


JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman
JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman
JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman
JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman
JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman
JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman

Two of the GameKeys were also dumped, one contained New Rally X and Dig Dug

One slightly odd thing about the New Rally X port here, and in subsequent re-releases of this on newer Plug and Play devices is that the second part of the music has entirely different instrumentation than the arcade, playing the tune with a more ‘bagpipes’ type sound. I’m not exactly sure why this is, because to the best of my knowledge no arcade version of the game has that, and otherwise these ports have attempted to be as faithful as possible to the original arcade sound and music. Had it been a one-off mistake I could understand, but it persisted through every single release JAKKS Pacific did of New Rally X.


JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman
JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman
JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman

The 2nd GameKey contained Rally X, Pac-Man and Bosconian. This GameKey is actually interesting (at least the version with Rally X, it was also released as a 2-in-1 with only Pac-Man and Bosconian) because Rally X here is actually an exclusive port. All the other games on this GameKey (Pac-Man, Bosconian) and the previous one (New Rally X, Dig Dug) were rereleased in newer Plug and Play units. This port of Rally X however was not, and differs substantially to the one contained on the (currently unemulated) original Namco unit JAKKS put out, which due to hardware limitations overlaid the map on the maze, and also played too fast at least on NTSC systems.


JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman
JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman
JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman
JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman JAKKS Pacific Ms Pacman

Plenty of Nicktoons

The largest range of GameKey supporting JAKKS Pacific units was the Nicktoons (NK) based selection. Personally I think the most interesting of those base units is the SpongeBob Fry Cook Games one, which presents a series of 9 sports themed mini-games for the player to compete in, with progressively stricter time limits for gold medals etc. The later stages can be quite difficult to hit the score targets on.


SpongeBob Fry Cook Games SpongeBob Fry Cook Games
SpongeBob Fry Cook Games SpongeBob Fry Cook Games SpongeBob Fry Cook Games
SpongeBob Fry Cook Games SpongeBob Fry Cook Games SpongeBob Fry Cook Games
SpongeBob Fry Cook Games SpongeBob Fry Cook Games SpongeBob Fry Cook Games

There were a number of GameKeys for the Nickelodeon units, including one with a SpongeBob theme. It added 2 games, Sponge Pop, which is actually a remake of a game in the first SpongeBob Plug and Play, but on the improved hardware we have here, and a ‘Tanks’ type Snowball Fight game. Interestingly both these games would be included on a later Plug and Play (not emulated at the time of writing) after JAKKS deemed the GameKey venture to be a failure. If you own the Jellyfish Dodge game, this GameKey is completely redundant.


SpongeBob GameKey SpongeBob GameKey
SpongeBob GameKey SpongeBob GameKey
SpongeBob GameKey SpongeBob GameKey

One of the Nickelodeon units was simply a 5-in-1 Nicktoons unit, with a number of surprisingly playable games. This one is definitely on par with the Disney nits.


JAKKS Nicktoons JAKKS Nicktoons
JAKKS Nicktoons
JAKKS Nicktoons
JAKKS Nicktoons
JAKKS Nicktoons
JAKKS Nicktoons

There was a Nicktoons themed GameKey released for all the NK base units, again it adds 2 games. The Golf game would go on to be rethemed for the Shrek plug and play (not currently emulated)


JAKKS Nicktoons GameKey JAKKS Nicktoons GameKey
JAKKS Nicktoons GameKey JAKKS Nicktoons GameKey
JAKKS Nicktoons GameKey JAKKS Nicktoons GameKey

Something I found a little odd is that for the same system type (NK) JAKKS put out games and GameKeys aimed at different audiences. There were two ‘Nick Jr’ Dora The Explorer games which were of the NK base type, the first one being Nursery Rhyme Adventure, which feels somewhat undercooked to the point of only offering generic music for most the mini games. This is very simple and consists of no real gameplay to speak of and the ‘story’ is nothing but a selection of the same games in a random order.


JAKKS Dora Nursery Rhyme Adventure JAKKS Dora Nursery Rhyme Adventure
JAKKS Dora Nursery Rhyme Adventure JAKKS Dora Nursery Rhyme Adventure
JAKKS Dora Nursery Rhyme Adventure JAKKS Dora Nursery Rhyme Adventure
JAKKS Dora Nursery Rhyme Adventure JAKKS Dora Nursery Rhyme Adventure
JAKKS Dora Nursery Rhyme Adventure JAKKS Dora Nursery Rhyme Adventure
JAKKS Dora Nursery Rhyme Adventure JAKKS Dora Nursery Rhyme Adventure

There was a 2nd Dora base unit too, part of me feels one of these should have simply been a GameKey for the other, but maybe JAKKS realised the GameKey idea wasn’t proving popular enough.


JAKKS Dora Race To Play Park JAKKS Dora Race To Play Park
JAKKS Dora Race To Play Park JAKKS Dora Race To Play Park
JAKKS Dora Race To Play Park JAKKS Dora Race To Play Park
JAKKS Dora Race To Play Park JAKKS Dora Race To Play Park
JAKKS Dora Race To Play Park JAKKS Dora Race To Play Park

There was a Dora themed GameKey, which naturally works with either base unit as they’re both NK coded, it offers 3 additional games.


JAKKS Dora GameKey JAKKS Dora GameKey
JAKKS Dora GameKey JAKKS Dora GameKey
JAKKS Dora GameKey JAKKS Dora GameKey
JAKKS Dora GameKey JAKKS Dora GameKey

In addition to Disney units, there were also Disney Princess units, which had their own DP GameKey code. I feel this is one of the weaker Plug and Play units, it offers a choice of 4 Princesses and a large number of very, very basic mini games, but the Princess choice is entirely inconseqential, it’s just the same games with 4 different skins.


Disney Princess
Disney Princess Disney Princess

Disney Princess Disney Princess Disney Princess Disney Princess
Disney Princess Disney Princess Disney Princess Disney Princess

There was a single GameKey released for the Disney Princess unit, and it was a Snow White themed one. In a somewhat unusual turn of events it was developed by a different company than the base game, and is subsequently a MUCH better product. This one has genuine charm about it, presenting 2 games, a ‘Pairs’ style memory matching game with the unique twist of having you navigate a maze as you uncover the tiles, and something which plays a bit like the arcade title Zzyzzyxx. They’re still games for kids, but these are both respectable efforts.


Disney Princess - Snow White GameKey
Disney Princess - Snow White GameKey Disney Princess - Snow White GameKey
Disney Princess - Snow White GameKey Disney Princess - Snow White GameKey Disney Princess - Snow White GameKey
Disney Princess - Snow White GameKey Disney Princess - Snow White GameKey Disney Princess - Snow White GameKey

One of the reasons the GameKey system ultimately failed was no doubt due to the sheer number of different incompatible units that used it, including ones where there wasn’t really a huge amount of potential for more games. Dragon Ball Z was a decent unit, if only for the Pinball game, but was there really a market for plug-in keys as specific as this? At least Namco, Disney and Nicktoons had the potential for varied IP.


JAKKS Dragon Ball Z JAKKS Dragon Ball Z
JAKKS Dragon Ball Z JAKKS Dragon Ball Z JAKKS Dragon Ball Z
JAKKS Dragon Ball Z JAKKS Dragon Ball Z JAKKS Dragon Ball Z
JAKKS Dragon Ball Z JAKKS Dragon Ball Z JAKKS Dragon Ball Z

Winnie the Pooh is another one with an IP specific GameKey port, although at the moment it has a few emulation isseus, namely the Light Tag minigame crashes when you find a friend.


Winnie The Pooh Winnie The Pooh
Winnie The Pooh Winnie The Pooh
Winnie The Pooh Winnie The Pooh
Winnie The Pooh Winnie The Pooh
Winnie The Pooh Winnie The Pooh

There were plenty of Superhero themed games too. Fantstic Four being one of them. Again tho, this was a GameKey unit with a very specific GameKey code of ‘F4’ for which no keys were actually developed.


Fantastic Four Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four Fantastic Four

Justice League actaully carried a ‘DC’ gamecode, suggesting that maybe there were plans for wider DC releases (which makes Fantsatic Four using an F4 code even more confusing) however no GameKeys were released for this either.


Justice League Justice League
Justice League Justice League

Spider-Man had a MV ‘Marvel’ code


Spider-Man Spider-Man
Spider-Man Spider-Man

There was actually an MV GameKey released, and it was another Spider-Man title, this time presenting an additional 5 stages in the same style as the first game in the 5-in-1 but with a greatly optimized engine updating at 60fps instead of 30.


Spider-Man Spider-Man
Spider-Man Spider-Man

The greatest hero team of all time also got their own Plug and Play.


Scooby Doo Scooby Doo
Scooby Doo Scooby Doo
Scooby Doo Scooby Doo

Also a WWE game


WWE WWE
WWE WWE WWE

Star Wars


Star Wars Star Wars
Star Wars Star Wars

Star Wars GameKey


Star Wars Star Wars
Star Wars Star Wars

TV Show TV Games

JAKKS Pacific also put out a number of games based on US TV shows, one of them was Wheel of Fortune which came in 2 editions, the first was emulated.


Wheel of Fortune Wheel of Fortune Wheel of Fortune
Wheel of Fortune Wheel of Fortune Wheel of Fortune

Learning Tools

One interesting thing about working on MAME is wondering how people will make use of the work being done. This is definitely the case for some of the more unsuual types of Plug and Play device we’ve been emulating. In 2019 the Fisher-Price “I Can Play Piano!” toy was emulated. Since the original hardware was really designed as a way to teach youngsters the basics of playing an electronic piano it doesn’t map especially well to standard PC hardware; it will be interesting to see if anybody finds a way to use it with actual PC music keyboards, or builds their own device based on the emulation we’re providing


I Can Play Piano
I Can Play Piano I Can Play Piano

I Can Play Guitar takes this challenge of unusual controller types a step further. This one might look like it could be a Guitar Hero clone but has many, many more buttons in an effort to teach correct hand positioning etc.


I Can Play Guitar
I Can Play Guitar I Can Play Guitar

Other SunPlus cases

The SunPlus hardware also made it into handhelds, with the Lexibook Zeus IG900 being one such machine. It’s a familiar set of games if you’ve already seen the ‘arcade’ selections in things like the Vii, but I guess the novelty here was having it in portable form, rather than the usual Famiclone stuff.


Lexibook Zeus IG900 Lexibook Zeus IG900
Lexibook Zeus IG900 Lexibook Zeus IG900 Lexibook Zeus IG900

Emulation of the Mattel Classic Sports plug and play complements the work being done on the LCD handhelds well, and shows what previous commercial attempts to reproduce them in a video form looked like.


Mattel Classic Sports
Mattel Classic Sports Mattel Classic Sports
Mattel Classic Sports Mattel Classic Sports
Mattel Classic Sports Mattel Classic Sports

Back to XaviX

I covered some XaviX additions earlier when talking about the Popira and e-kara titles, but that wasn’t the only XaviX work done in 2019, the emulation of the hardware saw dramatic improvements, and plenty of other titles dumped, with a decent number becoming playable (and many of the others having rather obscure control devices that have caused issues)

One of the easier ones to get running was Geigeki Go Go Shooting as it uses a completely standard control scheme


Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting
Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting Geigeki Go Go Shooting

Radica also released some games on XaviX hardware, with a Snowboarder game carrying an SSX license from EA being one of the more popular products


Radica SSX Snowboarder Radica SSX Snowboarder Radica SSX Snowboarder
Radica SSX Snowboarder Radica SSX Snowboarder

That same SSX game was then re-released rethemed without any SSX branding a few years later, presumably when Radica’s license to use the SSX name had expired.


Radica Snowboarder Radica Snowboarder
Radica Snowboarder Radica Snowboarder

What’s interesting is that Radica already had a ‘Play TV Snowboarder’ on the market, it was released prior to the SSX game, and despite looking a lot more primitive actually runs on the same XaviX architecture.


Play TV Snowboarder Play TV Snowboarder
Play TV Snowboarder Play TV Snowboarder

Arcades? What Arcades?

So I’ve covered a lot of progress in 2019 so far, and not even touched upon progress in the arcade side of the project. There was some progress, but for various reasons. not least a lack of new material to work with, and the existing material often being tough as nails to make progress on, there is far less to write about here.

Bugfixes

Tattoo Assassins has always had broken sound in some stages under MAME. I was starting to think this might be a bad dump, but it actually turned out to be an error in the ADPCM decoding which was fixed by an out of the blue external contribution in 2019. Given how infamous the game is it’s great to see it more correctly emulated.

*Bandit* prototype (if it gets promoted to working?)

*Akka Arrh* prototype


Akka Arrh Akka Arrh
Akka Arrh Akka Arrh Akka Arrh

*Rebound* / TTL work

*Funworld / Video Gambling improvements*

Play 2000

Hi Pai Paradise 2


Hi Pai Paradise 2 Hi Pai Paradise 2
Hi Pai Paradise 2 Hi Pai Paradise 2

Aristmk5 promotions

San Francisco Rush 2049

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