The Hyper Train
Early 2023 saw some big video emulation improvements made to the SNK Hyper NeoGeo 64 driver.
Fatal Fury Wild Ambition would benefit from greatly improved ground rendering, improved hit effects, correct colours on some 3D elements, improved priorities with background objects against the 3D, removal of corruption on the title screen, and even some visual tricks such as the sprite cutting effect on the ‘VS’ screen now working as expected.
Buriki One, while, at the time of writing, still having an obviously incorrect title screen and a number of other issues, benefited more than many of the others from the improvements. The ring is now correct, as is the priority of the jumbotron, and the many effects used by the advertisments on it. The split-screen effect used by intro sequences for the characters is emulated, as are some colour fade effect used to tint the colours on it, tournament trees between rounds are visible, zooming effects on text etc. are much better, and overall the game is significantly more playable.
Xtreme Rally / Off Beat Racer benefited from improved 3D display list handling, fixing the ‘stuck’ 3D elements, as well as corrected texturing, and improved priorities, allowing backgrounds to be swapped at various points during the courses. Mesh sprites also provide dust effects on the roads, fade register handling allows for the bonnet to darken in 1st person mode in the tunnels, and texture scroll support provides fake sky reflections in the car windows.
Roads Edge benefited much in the same way as Xtreme Rally, as well as from the moasic effect used when presenting the vehicles in attract mode.
Beast Busters 2nd Nightmare benefited heavily from improved priorities, with the HUD (including Continue countdown) now always visible. A flag to disable backface culling means the bus is now visible for the first boss too. Improvements to sprite zoom improved other areas, such as when a bomb is used.
Samurai Shodown 64 benefitted from improved priorities, blending, 4bpp textures and more, leading to a much more faithful looking experience.
Much of what can be said about Samurai Shodown 64 also applies to the sequel, Warrior’s Rage, where use of the Moasic effect during hits is also prominent.
Playstation 1 Hardware in the 2000s
It’s still early in the year at the point I’m adding this piece of progress to the page, but I think it will end up being the biggest piece of news of 2023. Several of the games on Namco’s System 10 hardware, a heavily protected Playstation based platform used in the early 2000s, were promoted to working state, having previously not booted. The System 10 library included a number of classic Namco puzzle games.
Mr Driller 2 is, as the name would suggest, the 2nd arcade entry in the Mr Driller series, and maybe the most famous of these Namco classics. It saw a worldwide release, with MAME supporting Japan, US, and European/Export sets.
A slightly lesser known follow-up Mr Driller G (where G stands for Great) was possibly a Japan only release. It makes the previously locked out ‘Space’ stage available by default, along with one further stage, adds more playable characters and generally acts as a more content-complete version of the 2nd entry without changing too much.
Star Trigon is a spin-off from the Mr Driller series, featuring the same cast of characters but this time in a space themed puzzle game which uses only 2 buttons in total, with the majority of the gameplay relying on just a single one. Again likely a Japanese only release.
Apart from the Mr Driller series, the most recognizable Namco title on the hardware is the 3rd Point Blank game, known as Gunbalina in Japan, and simply Point Blank 3 everywhere else. The game was also released on the original Playstation and in this case the arcade is a strangely downgraded version of it, having a very ugly version of the intro FMV because the NAND ROMs used by the arcade don’t have the capacity of a CDROM and a decision was made to keep the FMV, but drop the framerate of it right down in order to have it fit.
Uchuu Daisakusen: Chocovader Contactee is a bizzare Alien themed variety game, with a selection of off the wall minigames themed around aliens coming to Earth.
In addition to first party entries a number of 3rd party developers used the System 10 board and it was host to the final arcade games Mitchell Corporation would put out, with both titles remaining exclusive to the arcades having never been ported.
Kono e Tako is the more obscure of the pair of Mitchell games, it’s a puzzle game where you can swap pieces between the left and right sides using a ‘pick up’ and ‘throw’ mechanic. Other than that twist, it’s still based on a simple matching mechanic, but that simple yet still unique style of gameplay leads to an addictive challenge.
Gamshara while no less uncommon to have seen back in the day, is a better known game, as it’s arcade exclusivity combined with it being a rare example of a popular genre means many have sought it out over the years and recorded footage from their PCBs.
In addition to Mitchell Corporation, Metro also worked with the System 10 board, putting out a 2-in-1 title Gekitoride-Jong Space, which is surprisingly playable even with only basic knowledge of Mahjong tiles.
GAHAHA Ippatsudou was a collaboration between Namco and Metro, surprisingly it got an English language release. Much like Konami’s Bishi Bashi series, and the previously mentioned Chocovader, this is a collection of wacky minigames.
The sequel, GAHAHA Ippatsudou 2, expands on the original game adding new minigames and allows the player to select which game they want to play more directly. The currently emulated set is a Japanese set, it is unknown if this sequel was localized.
Kotoba no Puzzle Mojipittan is a Japanese puzzle game that we can be quite sure didn’t get localized, the mechanics are based around the Japanese language, it simply wouldn’t work in English
The System 10 platform was also home to the early entries in the Taiko no Tatsujin series, which as far as we’re aware was still exclusive to Japan at that point.
The original Taiko no Tatsujin is not supported at the time of writing but Taiko no Tatsujin 2 is
Taiko no Tatsujin 3 was also emulated
Taiko no Tatsujin 4 did not want to feel left out
Taiko no Tatsujin 5 keeps the formula going
Taiko no Tatsujin 6 was the final numbered entry in the series running on the System 10 platform, although there was another game, Taiko no Tatsujin RT which is not yet supported.
On the stranger end of the spectrum is a game about stand-up comedy routines, where the controller is a life-sized doll that you have to slap at the appropriate times in order to get the desired audience reaction. Going by the name Tsukkomi Yousei Gips Nice Tsukkomi, it’s entirely in Japanese, and basically unplayable without knowledge of the language. It’s one of 3 games on the platform known to be using a subboard with an MP3 decoder chip, and additional CPU to drive said chip making it more computationally expensive to emulate. Maybe surprisingly the Taiko no Tatsujin games did not use anything similar.
Seishun-Quiz Colorful High School also made use of the MP3 decoder, and once again requires knowledge of Japanese to play, as it’s a Japanese Quiz game.
Golgo 13: Juusei no Requiem is the 3rd Golgo 13 game on Namco hardware, with the first two entries in the series being on one of Namco’s other Playstation based boards, System 12. This one also uses the MP3 decoder board.
Uncommon Older Arcades
It’s surprising how often previously unknown games still show up. Spanish developed Top Driving is one such game. A PCB turned up, and short work was made of getting it up and running in MAME. The game was put out by Proyetsel and is the hardware is similar to the TCH / Proyetsel games Action Hollywood and Kick Goal, but thankfully without the pesky sound PIC.
Akazukin is a release from Sigma that appears to have seen distribution in Japan and Italy based on those who remember playing it back in the day. Often remembered as Little Red Riding Hood, or rather the localized name for that story ‘Cappuccetto Rosso’ in Italy it is one that has been asked about a few times over the years, and a board would finally surface in 2023.