A handful of people donated towards picking up some Plug and Play units, I guess it wasn’t the best time to be asking (let’s face it, the world is more of a mess than usual at the moment) but it did allow some additional items to be picked up so I greatly appreciate all the contributions that were made. If anybody who donated does want to be specifically mentioned please let me know, otherwise data protection / privacy etc. means I can’t just list everybody.
One item that was picked up was the Dodgeball cartridge for the Toyquest TV Go Go / Go Go TV cartridge.
This admittedly is going to be a difficult one to emulate, the system is an interesting hybrid of ‘camera’ and ‘per game’ motion controller, some of which are just physical objects for the camera to pick up, others I believe containing actual motion sensors etc. The games present a controller / no controller option on startup.
Dodgeball is one of the less common cartridges, and also pushed me more in the direction of confirming something that I’d suspected for a while, the US and EU cartridges contain different code. The Dodgeball cartridge was sourced in the US and does NOT contain a language selection menu on startup. The existing dumps were all EU sourced and do.
Without the camera providing a background here the screenshots look a little bare, and you can’t make the selection to start a game, but this one will be an interesting test of technology later, MAME at some point is likely going to have to start accepting a video stream input from a PC camera if these are to become playable at all. I guess it could be simulated with a mouse making areas of the screen lighter / darker if the way the game talks to the camera is figured out at least.
As this might have slipped under the radar before, the previous dumps for the system were the ‘4 in 1’ (that is bundled with the system) as well as the ‘Tennis’ and ‘Whac a Mole’ cartridges. Those are the EU sourced versions. I’ll probably need to pick up the US versions of these for final verification that they differ. A US version of Baseball is also on the way.
The JAKKS Pacific ‘Hannah Montana / High School Musical Two in One’ was an interesting unit to get hold of. I was expecting this box to contain both the Hannah Montana ‘G2 Deluxe’ and High School Musical ‘G2 Deluxe’ units, with ‘two in one’ simply meaning both units in a single box. I was however mistaken, and this is both games in a single unit, with a menu to select between them.
The unit used a custom marked Sandisk TSOP-32 NAND Flash ROM, of a type we’d previously seen in one of the Ultimotion units (and had no way to dump)
Thanks to some information from Team Europe on a different type of 32-pin Flash ROM (figured out by studying an entirely different system which used 32-pin flash ROMs in place of the usual ones via a sub-board adapter) Sean was able to work out a pinout for these too (which has since been documented in the MAME source)
Initial dumps allowed the Hannah Montana part to boot and pass the usual HotGen self-check.
However, selecting the High School Musical part caused the game to crash. Searching through the ROM I could not find any strings relating to High School Musical, this was suspicious. Adding further logging to the NAND access code in MAME revealed it was trying to access blocks beyond the dumped ROM, odd, considering it was passing the ROM check.
We did already have suspicions tho, the chip was marked -256B, which was thought might mean 256 Megabits (32 Megabytes) however, Sean was already having to dump the ROM at 64 Megabytes to get the data needed for just the Hannah Montana part. 256 Megabyte had been ruled out as a size because there were no standard Flash ROMs with the correct block size with a capacity of 256 Megabytes, even if it was theoretically possible. In the end Sean had to hack the database for his programmer software to force custom parameters when reading, and dumped the ROM at 256 Megabytes. The upper 128 Megabytes of that was empty, 0xff filled, but the fact that it was still giving data at that point does suggest that the ROM really is 256 Megabytes. I guess these were custom made for JAKKS too as _HSM is part of the part number printed onto the chip, in the same font as everything else. (unless HSM stands for High Speed Memory, but none of the others have this)
Anyway, with a complete dump the High School Musical part boots. Interestingly the program that gets loaded once you select High School Musical has its own test menu, which does checksum this later part of the ROM instead. I guess it was easier to combine the games this way, adding the boot menu to the Hannah Montana game while making minimal changes to the High School Musical code, having it basically load up as an entirely separate piece of software once selected. It *almost* caught us out.
Neither game is properly playable yet tho as these use the GPL16250 tech, although it does look initially like they’re going to provide some good test cases for fixing up some aspects of the emulation there. Hannah Montana does allow you to navigate the game menus and world a little bit (with some broken / missing graphics) while High School Musical crashes shortly after booting due to unemulated unSP CPU core instructions – this is good, it gives us a test case for implementing them.
Of course with this not being the two separate units, but a combined one, it became necessary to pick up the separate units too, so I did that and they’re flying around the postal system as I write this.
We also got a Sing Scene Pop. This is another JAKKS Pacific unit developed by HotGen, it also used the funky Sandisk NAND ROMs, but now it was possible to dump them. The dump passes test mode, and as this isn’t a 2-in-1 there’s no reason to suspect any trickery here, we can trust that result. Again the basic machine runs here, but there’s no sound, graphical issues, and no lyrics displayed, so it isn’t playable. Again I’m hoping it helps us figure out some more details of the GPL16250 level of SunPlus tech. The Ultimotion Disney Fairies unit was also dumped with this newfound knowledge of dumping these Sandisk ROMs, however that displays nothing as it’s by a different developer and uses the hardware in ways we understand less at the moment (and again uses some previously unseen unSp 2.0 opcodes)
All in all, several dumps that have the potential to be very useful for figuring things out.
Let’s have a look at one that is playable then.
Guitar Super Star: You Take The Stage is the 2nd ‘Guitar Super Star’ game from Senario and builds on the foundations set by the first game. This time around the songs are fully licensed, which alone is a big step up for a game in this genre. On top of that the controls feel a little more forgiving, making it not feel quite as awkward to play. It’s still got some questionable choices, such as only having a single direction strum bar, and it’s still, in reality, not a patch on the proper Guitar Hero games, but it’s an improved effort.
This is one of the SunPlus games to actually use 16MBytes of data, this time in a 32MByte ROM (with half the ROM blank) This is because the 10 backgrounds, even tho they’re fairly short loops, take up a significant amount of space. To facilitate the extra data, the upper half of the ROM space is banked, but figuring that out was easy enough. This will be marked as WORKING in the next MAME release. There’s also a video from MAME here
Moving on to one that I didn’t personally pick up, but was instead funded and dumped by Team Europe, we have the Spider-Man Super TV Air Jet (JG6000SP) which was put out under the Lexibook Junior banner. This is an inflatable Ride-On Air Jet, with game controller, if you want to see what it looks like the manual can be found by Googling the part number (JG6000SP)
I’m including here this as Team Europe are a big part of this Plug and Play emulation initiative by not only creating initial interest in emulating this kind of unit, but also supporting the project financially, throwing in probably more of their own money than both fundraisers combined, and also dumping a lot of the less ridiculously difficult cases to ease the workload on Sean.
Anybody familiar with Lexibook will know that most of their licensed products are reskins of existing games, so it probably won’t be surprising to hear that this SunPlus based unit reskins 7 of the common SunPlus games. I’m going to do some side-by-side comparisons below. It’s also worth noting that Lexibook also released a version of this without the Spider-Man license, where presumably the unmodified versions of these games will also be found. Pictures of the non Spider-Man themed games, the rightmost of the 3 shots, are in this case taken from the “Lexibook JG7415 120-in-1” Video from MAME is here
Clawgrip has been another huge supporter of the work being done on Plug & Play units, again picking up many such things in Spain and having them shipped across to Sean. One such unit he picked up with his own money was a Spanish VTech ‘TV Station’ which is some kind of educational / organizer type thing for use with a TV. Currently the inputs aren’t hooked up (I guess based on the presentation it has some kind of mouse, but haven’t checked this with him yet) It’s possible the hookup for inputs here is similar to some other VTech units, but again I haven’t yet checked that. As maybe you’re noticing by now, there’s plenty of room for somebody to come in and help document how the inputs work by studying the code / hook up the inputs on many of these units. I think this can be a positive as it gives people an avenue to start contributing in non-financial ways if they have an interest.
Finally for now, I picked up a “Go! Go! Connie-chan! Asobou Mouse” which is a 1997 Bandai Plug & Play. When I saw it I was hoping that it would use the SH6578 style hardware, as Bandai’s other 1997 unit ‘Game Pad’ did, and that turned out to be the case. Due to the limited amount of SH6578 software we have every unit that provides further evidence is helpful as even with a document on the chip, not every possible edge case or change from standard NES behaviour is fully documented so having software to help validate the emulation is important. This one also needs a mouse hookup, and currently falls to test mode where it fails a RAM check, meaning I need to look into that. It was pointed out to me that there’s a long Japanese video covering this unit on YouTube too, so that should be a useful reference for improving the emulation.
That’s all for now, but as you can see plenty more seeds being planted, several useful test cases for helping to further developer the emulation of things like the GPL16250 and SH6578 in addition to some bits that are already considered ‘working’
Again, if you wish to throw something into the money pool for picking up these Plug and Play units then the PayPal address to use is “firstname.lastname@example.org” everything helps.