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Hunny, I Found a Bug

February 19, 2019 Haze Categories: General News. No Comments on Hunny, I Found a Bug

24 people have donated at this point, and I’ve been able to pick up a good number of the JAKKS Marvel titles etc. for studying as well as some miscellaneous items. We’ve got a complete collection of GameKeyReady units, and all the GameKeys except for the rather redundant 2-in-1 Pac-Man & Bosconian (we have the 3-in-1 which has those 2 and also Rally-X) It’s possible there are alt revisions (we know for at least one game this is the case) but our baseline coverage of those units is good right now. The GameKeyReady units are currently easiest ones for Sean to dump as he has an established technique. The non-GameKey ones (of which we have a good number of units secured) are going to be more challenging, but shouldn’t be impossible (he managed to dump Classic Arcade Pinball previously, which was a non-GameKey unit)

Anyway, trying to balance coverage here with actual work being done is actually challenging; anybody who has been following my YouTube page will likely have seen videos of many of the things I’m going to end up covering before I write about them here, but I do like to have write-ups with static screenshots too so will get round to things eventually.

One of the GameKeyReady units we picked up was “Winnie the Pooh, Piglet’s Special Day” It has a GameKey port code of WP, and no GameKeys were ever released for it. It’s a Disney product, which might make you wonder why it doesn’t use the DY GameKey port code and share games with the Disney Friends etc. The answer is fairly simple, this is a single button unit with a spongy (very squeaky! not sure it was like that 15 years ago or not) Kid-friendly analog stick while the Disney units are digital controls.


Pooh

This one was very much designed for younger children. It’s well drawn, and animated, but ultimately, as you’ll see, rather shallow. Basic ‘story’ and game instructions are presented in big bold dialog boxes that presumably an adult would have read out.


Pooh Pooh Pooh
Pooh Pooh Pooh Pooh

You choose the games from a grid of 6, the analog stick allows you to move the cursor around, which works well as a control method as you can move more quickly by pushing the stick further or slowly with gentle movements. Some of the games have an easy/hard mode option, with the hard mode usually just meaning you have to do the activity for longer, in most cases you can’t really lose, just repeat until you succeed, you know, like Dark Souls, but even easier.


Pooh Pooh

In Rabbit’s Garden you pull vegetables out of the ground and throw them in a basket, there are also moles trying to steal them. Each vegetable has 3 stages of growth, at the 3rd you can either pull it out the ground (by moving over it and pressing the button) or one of the moles will steal it. If you both go for the same thing then you’ll get it as long as you keep pressing the button. Get 10 (easy) or 20 (hard) in the basket and you win. It really doesn’t matter how many get stolen, the count never goes down, and winter never comes.

Pooh Pooh Pooh

Rabbit’s Birthday Surprise involves going full on Metal Gear by hiding in a box with Piglet while grabbing carrots to put on a birthday cake for Rabbit. The cake is the same colour as Piglet and looks disturbingly like a joint of ham. This one does dock you carrots if Rabbit sees you. You can also scare him if you want, which seems a little mean but likely won’t cause as much trauma as when Piglet finds out what the cake he’s sticking carrots in is made out of.



The next game, Butterfly Catch, involves blowing bubbles to catch butterflies. You can also catch leaves too, which is more challenging because there are less of them, but they don’t count. Piglet will free whatever you catch with his stick. Personally I wouldn’t recommend trying this at home as butterflies are defenseless meaning this is just cruel; if you are going to do this, try it with wasps instead, that really should have been what Hard mode was, but alas, it just means you have to get twice as many butterflies. Again there’s no real lose condition here, no penalty for doing anything wrong and no time limit. Pooh Bear was not given a role in the Bubble Bobble movie.



Pooh’s Picnic Fun does have the basics of a game in place. It’s race against Kanga to collect fruit for a Picnic. You must crawl under the bushes by pressing down, and jump across the turtles in the river using the button; fail to do either and you’ll be slowed down. After crossing the river it’s time to toss Piglet high in the air to grab fruit off a tree (a tree of many kinds of fruit, I have no idea if this is Pooh lore or not) and then head back over the river, and under the bushes, to your picnic basket. First to get 3 pieces of fruit wins. You can actually lose here, you have to really try, but you can. Roo probably hates Kanga because she’ll stand there throwing him in the air over and over again making sure he is just out of reach of any fruit until Piglet has grabbed some for you, talk about letting the team down.



Pooh’s Music Corner is very much not a game. At best it’s a limited sound board. You can click on some objects and they make a sound. You can click on some characters and they’ll start playing some music. Maybe it would sound better if our SunPlus audio emulation was better, I’m not sure. If characters are playing music the hunny jar icon in the corner will slowly fill, and at the point it is filled Roo will leap up and grab the jar of hunny from the shelf. So basically the entire game is click on a character and wait, click on more characters and wait less. Clicking on the music box does not actually appear to trigger any kind of sound or animation. Clicking on the hunny jar shows an animation of some being spilled, but worry not, no hunny was actually spilled in the making of this music video as your honey count never goes down.



But.. there is a light at the end of the tunnel in these rather dull mini-games for the final game, Light Tag, might actually prove to be useful.

Light Tag is a simple ‘search our your friends in the dark’ game. You hunt around rocks and trees with your lantern looking for your friends.

The best part about this is that this specific minigame does not currently work properly in MAME, and is the reason the emulation of the machine has been given a NOT WORKING tag. There are 2 issues. The first issue is with the Dynamic Recompiler (DRC). When the DRC is enabled all of your ‘left’ movements in this minigame are interpreted as ‘right’ movements, with the recompiler turned off they correctly move you left. This will almost certainly be useful for fixing a bug in the recompiler. The second bug occurs both with and without the recompiler and is easily triggered too. Once you find one of your friends the game usually locks up completely, making it unplayable from that point (you can’t even exit to menu). This could point us at either another CPU bug that occurs in both cores, or a bug in the emulation of the on-chip peripherals (at the moment where the problem lies isn’t clear)




So yes, even this collection of games, clearly aimed at a very young audience actually has a real use in terms of emulation development and improving our emulation as it provides a useful test case highlighting some flaws that may end up improving other things where the bugs being introduced were less obvious or where we hadn’t even noticed.

There’s also a credits page if you want to see who made this. Personally, jokes I’ve made in this write-up aside, I thought the presentation here was excellent and captures the characters well, but the majority of the game concepts are neither educational or actually fun. It would have been nice to see the ‘Hard’ modes (where present) actually add a degree of challenge rather than just being ‘do it for longer’ as I think even younger kids would have benefited from some sense of progression. Since no GameKeys were ever released for this unit I can’t see it having provided much beyond a day or two of entertainment, I know I would have become bored of it quickly.

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docock

February 16, 2019 Haze Categories: General News. No Comments on docock

Joysticks, especially those that were available for 8-bit and 16-bit computers back in the day often had a tendency to look rather phallic, but maybe none so quite as much as the 2004 JAKKS Pacific Spider-Man Plug and Play game. For a toy aimed at kids the definitely doesn’t look like the most innocent of designs.


Spider-Man

Anyway, with money from the 22 donations that have been received, I was able to pick up one of the GameKeyReady versions of this Spider-Man plug and play, as well as the game key to go with it. It runs on SunPlus hardware as expected, just like the other GameKeyReady units. Sean managed to dump the ROM with no issues.


Spiderman 5-in-1 Spiderman 5-in-1 Spiderman 5-in-1

The primary game in the unit is a multi-level platformer, it’s not too bad, there are certainly worse Spiderman games out there. You jump and swing about, collecting bags of money, beating up or webbing enemies until you get to a boss. It’s a shame it only seems to run / animate at 30fps, but it’s a nice little platform game if you like platform games.

Spiderman 5-in-1 Spiderman 5-in-1 Spiderman 5-in-1
Spiderman 5-in-1 Spiderman 5-in-1 Spiderman 5-in-1

The 2nd game in the unit is a fast-paced ‘Bank Panic’ style thing, where you must quickly web attack the enemy cards that pop up (those with the red edge) while making sure not to web any of the friendly faces (blue edge) because that results in immediate failure. This plays well and is a good test of reactions.


Spiderman 5-in-1 Spiderman 5-in-1 Spiderman 5-in-1

The 3rd game plays a bit like a Game & Watch title, you’re having to follow Venom at the top, making sure to throw web to block his projectiles, while also defending yourself from enemies that run in from the sides.


Spiderman 5-in-1 Spiderman 5-in-1 Spiderman 5-in-1

The 4th game is a pre-rendered 3D maze title, where you go around defusing bombs. It’s a very simple game really, and easy enough just to ignore the main view entirely and just use the mini-map. Probably the least fun thing on here.


Spiderman 5-in-1 Spiderman 5-in-1 Spiderman 5-in-1

The 5th and final game is a bit like upside down Missile Command, you must blast the rockets and bombs being fired at you using your web before they destroy the beam holding Spider-Man up.


Spiderman 5-in-1 Spiderman 5-in-1 Spiderman 5-in-1

So GameKey?


Spider-Man

Yes, we have the GameKey, and yes, after seeing the Phallic joystick I thought Sean was having a bit of a joke when he dumped it and had ‘docock’ in the filename. Of course, I was meant to read that as Doc Ock, not Do Cock, but yeah, that happened.

Anyway, the GameKey is some more platforming action, much like the first game in the main unit, however this time round things are much more polished. The whole thing runs at a solid 60fps, so is buttery smooth. Sadly you can’t play the original levels with these improvements, but it does give you some new challenges and builds on what was already the best part of the main unit.


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

There are plenty more new JAKKS dumps to write about too, although the next batch to be covered were mostly aimed at younger audiences.

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Back Pac-ing

February 12, 2019 Haze Categories: General News. 1 Comment on Back Pac-ing

One thing I didn’t mention with the previous update is that for a lot of the HotGen developed JAKKS Pacific games there is an easy code to enter a debug / test menu. This is documented on The Cutting Room Floor where they show the screen from one of the later 2009 units. Either way, the method to access the test menu is the same “On the opening screen, hold Up and press A, then release Up and press Down to enter Debug Mode.”

Here is the screen from the Ms. Pac-Man GameKeyReady base unit that we used. It has a build string of “07 FEB 2005 A SKU F” this will be useful for comparing against other units as we know there are quite a few revisions.


Base Unit

2 GameKeys for this unit were also dumped, the first, containing New Rally X + Dig Dug and has a build string / date of “01 APR 2005 A SKU E” while the 2nd key, containing Pac-Man, Bosconian and Rally-X has a build string of “11 JUL 2005 A SKU I”

New Rally X, Dig Dug Pac-Man, Bosconian, Rally X

So yeah, 2 GameKeys, 5 more ports of classic Namco titles

New Rally X, Dig Dug Pac-Man, Bosconian, Rally X

There was a 3rd GameKey, which is the same as the Pacman, Bosconian, Rally-X one, but without Rally-X, so is kinda redundant. Rally-X was a bonus for buying a bundled version, if you bought a non-bundled version you didn’t get it.

Anyway looking at the games, first, Pac-Man, it feels good to play, and in my not fully educated opinion is a respectable port of the game.


Pac-Man Pac-Man Pac-Man
Pac-Man Pac-Man Pac-Man

Maybe subjective, but Bosconian feels more like a port, although is still enjoyable.

Bosconian Bosconian Bosconian
Bosconian Bosconian Bosconian

Rally X is more difficult than I remember it being, with very aggressive enemy AI, but it’s fast, smooth and very playable; maybe I’m just rusty. The original Rally-X arcade is actually one of the first arcade games I ever remember playing.

Rally-X Rally-X Rally-X
Rally-X Rally-X Rally-X

New Rally-X on the other hand is quite easy, and a fair bit slower (but still smooth) The sound emulation also doesn’t work as well. It’s quite strange, because Rally-X and New Rally-X feel like they’re 2 completely different ports, even if logically one would just expand on the other. The arcade New Rally-X was also easier, but the difference doesn’t seem quite as significant as it is here?

New Rally-X New Rally-X New Rally-X
New Rally-X New Rally-X New Rally-X

Dig Dug is probably my least favorite of these ports, but I’ve never really been a fan of the original. I love the sequel, but nobody really seems to care for it, however the original never really appealed to me. This has a slight scroll because the playfield otherwise wouldn’t fit on the screen, I find it to be distracting, although maybe the other options would have been worse for the actual game experience.

Dig Dug Dig Dug Dig Dug
Dig Dug Dig Dug Dig Dug

There you go anyway, 5 more ports of classic Namco games to a Plug and Play system, which is now emulated. One thing to keep in mind if you’re a MAME user, the GameKeys, which include these games, are part of the Software Lists, to be used with the Ms. Pac-Man base machine. This is because the GameKeys are like cartridges. If you’re using a proper version of MAME this isn’t a problem, but some distributions fail to include the vital ‘hash’ files needed for the Software Lists to work.

Again these were purchased with the help of the 20 donations that were made during the previous appeal. Sean Riddle handled the hardware side of things, I handled the emulation side of things.

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Return of the Ms. Pac

February 10, 2019 Haze Categories: General News. 9 Comments on Return of the Ms. Pac

Some of the better known JAKKS Pacific products were the ones based off popular arcade games, late home ports of classic 80s titles. These were some of the last times these games were ported, rather than simply emulated as is traditionally the case now.

That means the games have their own sets of quirks etc. due to either design choices to make the games more suitable for the target platform, or errors / lack of care in the porting.

With the now 20 donations from the previous donation drive, one of the things we picked up was the GameKeyReady Ms. Pacman 5-in-1 unit, and 2 GameKeys to go with it (one has arrived, the other has not yet)

Like all the JAKKS stuff so far this runs on SunPlus architecture. There are imperfections with the MAME emulation still, mostly noticeable with the sound, but otherwise all games in the collection play well.


Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman

With Ms. Pacman you can see how the game was squashed a little to fit on a horizontal screen.

Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman
Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman

Pole Position seems to be the weakest of the ports, the game difficulty is considerably less, and best I can tell you have no brake input. The system has 2 digital buttons, one is accelerate, the other is change gear (there’s also a 3rd on the front for the menu) there was however a special spinny joystick for the analog steering, which makes it a nice little addition anyway.

Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman
Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman

Galaga is Galaga, it feels like a solid port to me.

Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman
Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman

Xevious again seems to play well, the vertical area is cut off a little, and so maybe there are a few more shots coming from off-screen, but it doesn’t seem to impact playability, was a better choice than squashing the graphics or trying to implement a ‘smart’ scrolling, which never works well in a vertical scrolling game as it distorts bullet trajectory etc.

Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman
Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman

Mappy also feels like a solid port, stages and bonus levels intact, gameplay is challenging. There’s a slight vertical scroll to compensate for the playfield being larger than the screen, but it’s handled well.

Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman
Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman Ms. Pacman

You might say ‘why bother’ when it comes to emulating these, as you can just run the originals in MAME, but at least to me, part of the MAME journey is to document the paths each IP was taken on, and as these are official licensed ports, they’re part of that journey, and as they’re running on an entirely different architecture to the originals (the SunPlus ‘unsp’ core is certainly different to the ‘z80’ etc.) they’re interesting to study from that point of view too.

From an emulation point of view, MAME does need work, there’s an odd glitch where after saving the scores (because yes, all these on the GameKeyReady unit save scores to internal memory) a sound channel goes missing. Strangely Disney Friends suffers from a similar issue, but in that case ALL sound goes missing. Hopefully we’ll get to the bottom of it.

Thanks again to everybody who has been putting money forward, it’s really helping to source these and cover the unit costs and shipping costs for getting them where they need to go.

I mentioned Game Keys, and I’ll cover those in a future update.

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Dragon(Pin)Ball Z

February 8, 2019 Haze Categories: General News. 2 Comments on Dragon(Pin)Ball Z

Thanks to the 19 people who donated, we’ve managed to pick up a whole bunch of JAKKS TV stuff which is now en route to Sean. The first thing to arrive was one of the relatively easy dumping cases for Sean (already knew how he was going to handle it) so here is JAKKS Pacific Dragon Ball Z.

Note, there were no specific requests to be credited in the messages with the donations, if you donated and wish to be credited then let me know, otherwise I have to respect your right to privacy. Without specific requests I’m just going to list the number of people who donated :-)

The DragonBall Z Plug and Play is a 3-in-1


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

The game I was most curious about in it was the Pinball. This one actually led to an emulation fix, because it requires the raster interrupt to repeat, even without the triggers being rewritten; it is used to split the screen between the dot matrix display at the top and playfield + sprites at the bottom. Overall it’s a pinball game, it plays fast (60 fps) and while the flipped physics seem a bit weird it’s actually alright, it has tilt/nudge features, saves high scores, and you could play competitively for score on it with a friend I’m sure.


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

The second game, Kamehameha Assault, clearly takes influence from the NeoGeo title Battle Flip Shot, you bounce around a ball trying to hit targets, if you hit the target you steal it, but the CPU can steal back. You can also knock the CPU player off their feet by firing at them, including special attacks. I don’t think these units were linkable (although I could be wrong) so it’s VS CPU only, but overall, it manages to provide a challenging experience.


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

The third game, Buto-Retsuden, is a Vs. Fighting title, with a bit of a story too. I guess it wouldn’t be a DBZ game without a fighting mode.


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

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

Overall I think this one is a decent package, good variety in the games, and some level of challenge means there’s always a reason to come back to it, especially the Pinball part.

Thanks again to everybody who donated, and to Sean for taking care of the hardware side of things.

Here is a video of the Pinball game running in MAME.


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The Fortress is Fierce

February 6, 2019 Haze Categories: General News. 3 Comments on The Fortress is Fierce

As MAME is the only choice for Gamate emulation on a PC, some MAME users and readers might be happy to know one of the rarest Gamate cartridges was dumped earlier today, and will be documented in the Software Lists for MAME 0.207.

The game, Fortress of Fierceness, has a part code / serial of C1050, and was relased, we believe, in 1991. Gamate emulation has been another side project between Peter Wilhelmsen and me, with Peter taking care of sourcing / buying / dumping the cartridges, and me doing the emulation of the system in MAME. This one took a long time to track down, but works well under emulation, and is actually a decent game all things considered.

It’s a maze shooter, run around, kill enemies so that the room unlocks and you can move on to the next screen, collect weapons, find a special key to open a specific door that lets you progress, find the hostage and free them. The levels have passwords etc. and overall it’s well executed. Not sure why this one is rare, easily one of the better games on the platform.

For those not aware of what the Gamate is, it was released as a competitor the the original GameBoy, although the hardware is different in almost every possible way.


Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness
Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness
Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness
Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness
Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness
Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness
Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness Fortress of Fierceness
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