Stern – Mazer Blazer & Great Guns (Arcade)
Another classic era game for which the emulation has been criminally neglected over the years. The dump might be incomplete (missing speech roms on Mazer Blazer) but I feel the driver for these could be substantially improved.
Konix Multisystem (Home)
This one is another tricky case, the system was never released. An emulator showed up a while back (at first I thought it was some elaborate April Fools style joke but I guess it’s actually real) but a bit like the Nuon mentioned above, I’m not sure any actual system roms are dumped, despite software for the system being available. There are further issues in that the software available (from what I can gather) is developed for different revisions of the hardware, including different CPUs. MESS does already emulate the video chip, at least partly, it’s used for some UK Quiz machines made by Bellfruit, but MESS certainly doesn’t have any kind of HLE of the rest of the system. At least I *think* that’s the situation with this one anyway, it isn’t really 100% clear. More info on the system can be found here.
(Konix Multisystem video, from existing emulator, not MESS)
Casio – Loopy (Home)
The Casio Loopy was a home system from Casio aimed at girls, most of the software is of ‘edutainment’ quality, but it’s still an interesting system to emulate. I mentioned in briefly in a previous update here when Kale got some of the software showing graphics in MESS. The main issue is that we need a way to dump the internal BIOS, that will aid greatly in the emulation because right now we’re having to bypass it and would be required to do an HLE simulation of the missing function calls to make further progress. I did come up with an idea of how we might be able to read the data out, but it doesn’t seem like anybody on the development teams has access to a working unit + the required games to run test code so for now it’s on the backburner.
(Casio Loopy hardware information and video from original system)
SNK – Hyper NeoGeo 64 – Fatal Fury Wild Ambition, Samurai Shodown 64, Samurai Shodown Warriors Rage, Roads Edge, Xxtreme Rally, Buriki One, Beast Busters 2nd Nightmare (Arcade)
It’s true that Wild Ambition has been mostly playable in MAME for a long time, and these days you can even play the Samurai Shodown games a bit, but the Hyper NeoGeo emulation is undeniably incomplete. First of all, many games don’t accept inputs, don’t run at the correct speed, have many missing graphical effects (or in the case of the driving games, most of the graphics missing entirely) There is also still no sound. It’s difficult to really consider the system emulated to any real degree.
Part of the problem is the lack of games, and the way each group of titles appear to want to handle the video hardware in a slightly different way, resulting in direct conflicts between the meaning of various registers, probably due to other configuration registers being set in a different way, this is highly annoying if you want to emulate it without hacks. It’s an annoying piece of hardware to say the least, as mentioned there is no sound, and part of the reason for this is that they use a relatively obscure V53 variant of the V33 instead of a plain one meaning there are additional peripherals to emulate and the like. The games also have annoying / buggy code, last time I tried looking at the sound I realised that some games test more RAM than they actually have, and expect the tests to FAIL otherwise they upload the sound programs to an invalid location for example. While that was in the end easy to spot you’re left wondering how much more odd behavior there is.
The problem with the inputs comes down to missing MCU dumps, it seems the games talk to the MCUs through shared ram, and expect replies probably in the form of packets containing the control data (a bit like JVS) for Wild Ambition the game code just does a simple check on the content of a single location of the shared RAM, but other games seem to want something else (maybe checksums of the data?) and will require code studying in order to simulate the MCUs. The lack of MCU dumps and poor simulation could also be the reason the Samurai Shodown games coin up too quickly and glitch if you coin them at the wrong time. Further compounding this is the system SNK used, each board time (Shooting, Driving, Fighting) has a different IO board, which at the very least provides a different ID code. With decap hopes basically dead at this point (and some of the accusations of chips being ‘stolen’ rather than decapped not being pretty at all) I guess further work will be needed on the simulation
(A selection of Hyper Neogeo 64 games running on original hardware)
Kaneko – Gals Panic II (Arcade)
Most of the Kaneko protection systems are well understood at this point but Gals Panic 2 remains the odd one out. The MCU sits between the two 68k CPUs on what can only be described as an wasteful over-engineered piece of hardware when you consider the game it runs (and how badly it performs) The exact role of the MCU isn’t understood, it at least copies data between the CPUs, but could also play a role in decompressing graphics from the main CPU data roms (which seems to be a very slow operation on original hardware) As a result of this not being understood / emulated the game(s) remain unplayable. It’s probably quite a realistic emulation target at this point.
(Original Hardware, Video might not be 100% safe for work, although doesn’t appear to contain nudity)
TCH – Wheels & Fire (Arcade)
Dox was given the source code to this one, but doesn’t have much time to work on MAME these days. You can kind of play it in MAME right now (it’s an OutRun style racer) but the graphics are very glitchy and it lacks sound. The game is a European creation and employs typical interrupt driven raster effect techniques to draw the road, much like many home games of the period did, the hookup for this is currently imperfect, hence many of the road glitches. The rest of the hardware is basically a zooming blitter, also not fully implemented, some kind of CPU driven DAC for the sound (not implemented at all)
I don’t know if Dox will find the time to finish it, if not it is one I might take a look at myself.
(No original hardware videos available)
Nichibutsu – Tatakae! Big Fighter / Sky Robo (Arcade)
Nichibutsu produced a number of arcade shooters including a significant number of classic ones before moving on to producing almost exclusively Mahjong and Casino titles. Out of all of the games they produced Tatakae! remains one of the few unemulated ones. Like so many games the issue comes down to protection with an MCU supplying important game data (including jump offsets and the like) which causes the game to malfunction very early on. There isn’t really even much footage of this one about (at least not on YouTube that I can find) so a video of some of the game music will have to suffice.
(The music of Tatakae! Big Fighter)
Space – Quiz Punch / Quiz Punch 2 (Arcade)
This Korean quiz game makes unlicensed use of a number of Disney characters (much like Comad’s Bouncing Balls does) and isn’t really otherwise that noteworthy. Both games are protected with the MCU supplying jump addresses. The first game also has a badly dumped ROM. I guess most people aren’t really going to be excited by this one, but it remains an interesting target.
(original hardware video of Quiz Punch 2, a protected Korean quiz game with unlicensed Disney characters)
Gaelco – 16-bit Era games – Thunder Hoop 2, Glass, World Rally 2 + more (Arcade)
Gaelco’s games, using a ‘Dallas’ protection MCU are well known due to their devious use of protection. For the original World Rally we were lucky enough the Gaelco shared the original game code after wanting to make it available to the public, however for the remaining games we’re not so lucky. The MCUs are secure RAM based suicide devices meaning these games have a strictly limited shelf life. The actual protection in the game code consists of hundreds of checks against values in shared RAM in the game code with many small, but significant failures in the gameplay or overall presentation should any checks fail. Dumping the MCUs is beyond the ability of anybody involved in the project, and the protection scheme from a code point of view is so devious and subtle that being confident you’ve caught and patched out / simulated all the checks in near on impossible. Needless to say these are difficult tasks, and if the protection is to be simulated would require both somebody with the coding skills, hardware understanding and inside-out knowledge of every aspect of the game to make any progress with confidence; an unlikely combination.
(original hardware video of Thunder Hoop 2, YouTube embedding is disabled for unknown reasons)
Taito – Air System – Top Landing & Air Inferno (Arcade)
I can’t say I’m a bit fan of the Taito ‘Landing’ games, to me they seem to be very weak arcade games, providing neither a detailed simulation, nor really exciting in any way but they were popular, and you even still see the odd one about so must have some appeal I’m not understanding. Due to the basic 3D requirements of these games the actual hardware they used was upgraded compared to regular Taito hardware of the era, with additional maths DSPs and other helper chips to accelerate the rendering. Air Inferno is a more interesting game and definitely the worst emulated of the two right now, but even Top Landing has it’s share of problems in MAME at present.
(Taito’s Top Landing and Air Inferno on original hardware)
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