Yeah! Over the MS-DOS collection over at archive.org is well over 2,500! Isn’t that great?!?
Well let’s take a peek at a few favorites…
Sadly DataEast’s greatest hit RoboCop doesn’t work correctly on the site, however if you were to do something evil like open up the inspector, and manually download the asset yourself it’ll load fine in actual DosBox. It’s a great side scroller, even 30 years later. Yes, 1989 was a long long time ago.
And speaking of SSI, Curse of the Azure Bonds and it’s ilk are available as well! I’m not sure how a board game company with a vast library (and IP rights licensed) could possibly fail so hard. Maybe the games were too difficult? Maybe they were too involved? I guess I’m guilty of it too, as I’m the uncleansed masses that preferred Fallout 3 to 1&2. Just as Diablo took off as it removed the clock, and turned it into action.
Project-X was a favorite shoot-em-up on the Amiga, although it being PAL was surprisingly significantly harder to play on my NTSC Amiga, with not being able to see all the screen, running faster, and the insane blinking of some timing with the sprites. I didn’t know there was a PC version, but yeah it looks pretty much like the Amiga version. And it was one of the larger issues that a 386 PC with VGA & a SoundBlaster really not only was as good as an Amiga, but was just plain better as PC hardware kept on improving while Commodore trapped in their downward spiral just didn’t innovate.
Rise of the Triad – The Hunt Begins, this was a soso shooter, but where it really shone was it’s multiplayer maps and combat. It was a awesome time waster on the LAN. I never tried it dialup, or even in modern times, but many fond memories of this game. And it didn’t need insane requirements, unlike say Quake. And it was surprisingly more fast paced than DooM. I wonder sometimes if they had released the source code to ROTT (2002) much sooner than ID released DooM (1997), or around the same time if it’d have achieved more retro popularity? Or was it more of as LAN game, and my experience with it kind of lacking in single player the prevalent feeling?
MechWarrior was at first this incredible 3D game where you could pilot a battle mech in the 31st century! How awesome! It changed the world from the table top rules of BattleTech – The Crescent Hawk’s Inception into something action based. Amazingly the genre for some reason never seems to get the massive appeal I always felt it should have. Although Mark Kern is trying to do something with Mechs & Kaiju over at Em-8er.
Turbo Out Run, a SEGA classic game. The graphics are … well caught in a world between 1987 and 1990. I guess they either didn’t want to push the PC too hard, or accidentally release a superior game on a non SEGA platform? It could have looked better. It should have sounded better. It’s ‘fine’ but I kind of call shenanigans. Golden Axe is way better.
So this is by no means an exhaustive list, I left out a LOT, as 2,500 is way too much to give any reasonable review without it turning into a book, but I scanned the first hundred or so and picked out what caught my eye.
I’d say my favorites here is Crazy Taxi & Jet Set Radio. While Nights was fun when the Saturn was fresh and new, it’s so annoyingly on rails, and without the special controller it’s just klunky. Sonic DX.. yuck. It suffers from all the 3d control issues that plauged the first gen 3d, although the worst ones are the PlayStation megaman, and that horrid ‘tank’ control of Resident Evil.
I’m thinking of doing something with the worst rated games on steam. So many people chasing the best, why not dive into the worst. Although I’m not AVGN but why not?
Since I was in Japan, I thought I’d head on down to the local Sofmap, and pre-register for the new and exciting Mega Drive Mini!
Although I did pick this thing up on the 19th, I was unable to use it until I returned to Hong Kong where I have a television. In my trip I did manage to secure a semi-furnished apartment, but buying a TV wasn’t on my mind. I did however buy a (then) gargantuan 30″ Apple cinema display! It’s so big, that I feel like I’m far too close to it, even with well over a foot distance as it’s just so big. Anyways using some mechanical HDMI to DVI connector and plugging that into the Cinema display gave me a whole lot of nothing. Sad.
But back in Communist China hooked up to my 52″ spytronic, supersonic TV, it works great!
Intrestingly enough it seems the American and European versions not only have the classic 3 button controller but have two of them, while the Japanese version has a single six button controller only. Having owned an ATGames POS, a fancy emulator / cart dumper (The Retro Freak!), and a $3 Chinesium clone, I have to say that SEGA has finally hit this one out of the park. Not only is the aesthetic pretty damned cool, but it performs and sounds great.
Of course an everdrive + real iron is the enthusiast way to go, but for the impulse / normies this is great fun too. As far as I’m aware though, the American version is lacking things like NHL 94 is seemingly embarrassing, but I guess it’s an EA licensing thing, and of course EA won’t rush to help you play a great old game where there is microtransactions to be had.
I was almost thinking of doing some graymarket export of these, but I don’t think it really matters as once you change languages it’ll change to the different territory version of the games, so I guess they are all international, with only the default language being the ‘region lock’ as it were.
So I am assuming it’s $20 USD or 18 Euro/16 GBP for this insane collection:
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Alien Soldier, Alien Storm, Altered Beast, Beyond Oasis, Bio-Hazard Battle, Bonanza Bros., Columns, Columns III, Comix Zone, Crack Down, Decap Attack, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Dynamite Headdy, Ecco the Dolphin, Ecco Jr., Ecco: The Tides of Time, ESWAT: City Under Siege, Eternal Champions, Fatal Labyrinth, Flicky, Gain Ground, Galaxy Force II, Golden Axe III, Golden Axe, Golden Axe II, Gunstar Heroes, Kid Chameleon, Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole, Light Crusader, Phantasy Star II, Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom, Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium, Ristar, Shadow Dancer, Shining Force, Shining Force II, Shining in the Darkness, Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic CD, Sonic Spinball, Sonic The Hedgehog, Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Space Harrier II, Streets of Rage, Streets of Rage 2, Streets of Rage 3, Super Thunder Blade, Sword of Vermilion, The Revenge of Shinobi, ToeJam & Earl, ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron, VectorMan 2, VectorMan, Virtua Fighter 2, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, Wonder Boy in Monster World
So if you haven’t already got this great collection, now is the time to do so!
And for those who like other emulators, yes the ROMs are available uncompressed!
It looks suspicioutsly like the old iOS versions of SEGA games I used to have back when I used an iPhone (2010-2012)
So yeah, leaderboards, and other stuff, and freeumium on mobile only. Although I guess that means anything Android will do, including PC’s and Mac’s running Android under emulation.. Or ‘big’ Android systems like kiosks, and ‘computing sticks’ that’ll plug into any nice big TV set.
Add in some bluetooth controlers, and I try to pretend it’s 1988.
Since I live in the future, let me get you a list of what is available for you ‘tomorrow’
And I don’t just mean supporting ROM hacks, and mods, I mean this is what the new Genesis & Mega Drive Classics UI looks like:
SEGA themed bedroom
First off as you can see, it’s a room. The kind of place any SEGA nerd of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s would of course dream to own, with wall posters, sonic rug, eco toys, and of course a nice library of games and a tube TV set.
Instead of the old boring menu, you now get to choose titles off the shelf, and it’ll automatically drop them into the console. Maybe we will get manuals rendered next?
Chose a game
While it is dark, it does offer a ‘time of day’ so you can watch the procession of the virtual sun in your bedroom. I guess it speaks that we don’t get to go outdoors enough, but now we can be trapped into a virtual bedroom as well. With our game selected, we can turn up the curvature of the tube, or even enable scanlines for that old feel..
The emulator is VERY demanding, there is no mistake about that. While the classical interface was unique for the time, but it also had issues like making you scroll one at a time through the games. As always you can buy this on steam. A nice touch is the latest update adds in many controllers and pads.
So what is missing? The MegaCD. The 32x. Saturn, Dreamcat heck even the master system are suspiciously absent. One day I suppose. Will this hub turn into something that 3rd parties can release Genesis/Mega Drive titles onto? Is this the start of the virtual console?
To be honest, it was about 30 minutes worth of work to jump from Allegro 2.11 to Allegro 4.2. I’ve never used it before, but the only ‘gotcha’ was how they handle the main to WinMain for linking.
At the end of your main procedure, you need to place the following code:
And that is it! No semicolon either!
Last night I was playing with Musashi, and actually had the ‘demo’ program loading up the Altered Beast program, and running. I just put in the memory areas to let it have read only to the ROM space, read write to the memory addresses, and write only to the IO ports. It was enough for it to lock up in an endless loop like this:
E 3990: 4a38 f01c : tst.b $f01c.w
E 3994: 67fa : beq 3990
Well some digging around and I found these vague hints:
Some special bytes:
F018: if bit5 is set 1, the screen is not updated
F01C: Timer ?
So it looks like it’s waiting for a shared memory value to be set to a ‘1’, so I setup the IRQ to include this nice hack:
So I thought I’d try to make the big step, as System16 v0.53 uses an ancient version of the UAE Amiga emulator, somewhere between 0.4 and 0.6, I think. Anyways I was hoping to expand more and more functionality, and one thing SEGA did love to do was add more and more processors into their designs with some boards sporting up to three 68000 processors. And Musashi can support multiple processors so, it seemed like a good fit.
So I amputated the UAE code, and tried to see how many functions System16 calls out from UAE, and it isn’t that much. Most calls involve setting up emulation, and executing a single instruction. System16 handles all the memory access, Interrupts, and I/O. So a few hours of bashing away I got it to link, and was greeted with a nice black screen. I did remember that when I was first playing with the code, that even though the CPU was executing instructions nothing would be drawn without the external interrupt. So I googled around and found another emulator, Virtual Jaguar, that also uses the Musashi 68000 CPU core.
So I could take the old UAE way of executing an interrupt from this:
Now with that in play, I went ahead and dumped all the old code, and the old Allegro, and went through re-building with Allegro 4.2 on Windows. It didn’t take that long, I was really impressed! At the same time I didn’t improve on anything in the slightest.
System16 v0.53 on Windows
This is only a proof of concept, the fun hasn’t even started yet. If you want a ‘solid’ emulator, go with MAME. This isn’t anywhere near ready but it is interesting that it is running. There is much more work to do with this, especially adding a Z80, and YM2151.
You can download the Win32 executable here. You’ll need your own Altered Beast ROMs, it’s an ancient set, nothing that any recent download will map to.
So, Ive been playing around with emulators, and for some reason I think it’d be awesome to have a real one. So I check ebay, and yeah there is a few, Altered Beast, Shinobi, and even an Outrun, and a couple of Hang Ons! Wow this is so cool, then I check the prices, and shipping and yeah it’s REAL expensive, REAL quick. And even back when I did own an Altered Beast board, I never got it hooked up as it was ‘too hard’.
So, I’m about to give up on the whole thing, then I spot this Altered Beast board, for sale for a mere €50! And the shipping isn’t too insane either! But looking at the PCB board in the picture, and I can tell something is not quite right:
Now for those who don’t know, this clearly is not a System16 board. However it certainly does have a 68000, and z80 processor! Could this be some 2nd tier manufacturing job? Or perhaps it’s one of these infamous bootleg boards?
For comparison, here is a real SEGA System16 board
A real System16 board
As you can see, they really look nothing alike. Also the other give away is that the far cheaper €50 board is JAMMA compatible. All the old SEGA boards are not.
What the heck is JAMMA anyways? You see that edge connector? That is where you would plug in the power, coin catchers, the player buttons, and the speakers to. Even in the old days, recycling cabinets was a thing, and having modular boards was a ‘good thing’. But SEGA didn’t want you to swap out their boards with anyone elses, so they used their own system. But it’s just a wiring thing, there is nothing digitial locked down, no encryption either (look at HDMI!). So you can use an adapter, to interface from SEGA to JAMMA.
Anyways, I went ahead and placed the order.
Now doing some more research, and the monitors used in 1980’s arcades were RGB+Sync driven. Which are ancient, and of course, HEAVY. But a little bit of searching led me to the to the GBS 8200 v4.0.
GBS 8200 v4.0
AKA known as the “GBS8200 CGA/EGA/YUV/RGB To VGA Arcade Game Video Converter”. Well this certainly looks perfect! I mean from the description alone, it’ll do what I want. Even better they make them a few KM from here, and I could get one for ~ $20 USD. Perfect.
Next up is the power, I decided to get a “JAMMA” power supply. A bunch of searching, and this one was the cheapest one I could find, and again shipping wasn’t too bad, but not great either. The supply was again around $20 USD, but shipping was $15. OUCH.
MD-9916A JAMMA switching power supply
I figured having the ability to screw in would be a ‘good thing’.
Naturally, I need the cables to wire this mess together, so I ordered a “JAMMA Cabinet Wire Wiring Harness Loom” for about $15 USD. Naturally mine is all in Chinese since I went cheap. But it’s OK, I have a multi meter so I can test continuity.
Finally I saw a QANBA N1 arcade style joystick in a local mall for $230 HKD. That is less than HALF the price of the ones I see online in the USA, Europe, or Canada. So at least that is nice. Now with all the parts, I just have to wait for the board to arrive. And wait, and wait. Nothing updated on ebay, then suddenly I check a few days later, as it’s been two weeks by this point, and it turns out that it’s been sitting in the post office in Hong Kong for a week! If only they let me know… SF Express, and FedEx have come without issues. Oh well, now I have the board!
I can now finally flip it over to reveal:
It’s all 74L TTL logic chips, EEPROMS, and some PALs as well. There are NO custom SEGA chips at all. If anything this is what is inside of the SEGA ASIC’s on the System16 board. Whoa.
Ok, so this is certainly a bootleg board. A quick search of MAME shows that they have a Datsu ROMset, so maybe this is one? Nothing on the boards say Datsu, however it does say ALTER/S, and it shows being QA’d on 11/11/88.
Now it’s time to cable this thing up!
But first JAMMA boards are typically key’d so you cant put the adapter in backwards. There is no key on this board, so I need to check the voltages to make sure I don’t flip it backwards.
JAMMA Standard Pinout
Key, No Pin
Key, No Pin
Coin Counter 2
Coin Counter 1
Video Analog Green
Video Analog Red
Video Composite Sync
Video Analog Blue
Player 2 Start
Player 1 Start
Player 2 X-Dir
Player 2 Up
Player 1 Up
Player 1 X-Dir
Player 2 Y-Dir
Player 2 Down
Player 1 Down
Player 1 Y-Dir
Player 2 X-Clk
Player 2 Left
Player 1 Left
Player 1 X-Clk
Player 2 Y-Clk
Player 2 Right
Player 1 Right
Player 1 Y-Clk
Player 2 Button 1
Player 1 Button 1
Player 2 Button 2
Player 1 Button 2
Player 2 Button 3
Player 1 Button 3
1 Player 2 Button 4
Player 1 Button 4 1
1 Player 2 Button 5
Player 1 Button 5 1
2 Player 2 Button 6
Player 1 Button 6 2
This is the standard pinnout of a JAMMA harness. Importantly you can see it’s Ground than +5v. So looking at the 68000 processor to check it’s pinnout:
You can see it’s power input is on pin 14. Likewise, the ground is on pin 53. Also looking at the edge connector, you can see the two pairs of pins, which correspond to the double ground, and double +5v.
Connecting the harness
From there, it was a matter of connecting up the power supply, adding in the power to the video board, connecting the RGBS connector, and powering it up. It was very cool to get a glimpse of Altered Beast!
Something is wrong
And hello, it is a Datsu board. I’ve tried to google about these boards, and all that I could find out is that they seemed to be popular in Italy. They may have been made in Korea. There was another variation called ‘Mutant Warrior/Super Warrior‘. There was some posts about it in an Italian game forum mameitalia.net, and arcadeitalia.net . Google translate works fine enough to read, but they were in smaller places that couldn’t afford mainstream games, so enter the bootlegs. And this makes sense, as the board I got was from rural France.
I maybe had a picture for 20 seconds, it was frozen, then the screen went black. I power cycled, to nothing. I tried it again to a green screen. And again to a green screen. At this point I think it’s died. I let it rest for a few minutes, and try again. Nothing. I leave it powered up, and feel the processor, and it’s warm. It’s doing something, so I think. So I start to play with the video board, and as I change resolutions, I get an image!.. then it disappears. Power cycling, and changing resolutions occasionally gives me an image. I look more closely at the CPU board, and notice that it has 4 standoffs placed on each corner. There is nothing in the middle, and over the past 28 years the board is sagging.
In order to fix the sag, I decouple the two boards, and spread them out. I try it again, and it doesn’t show me anything. Eventually I play with all the video board settings, and manually set it to the RGBS input, and then the image stays! The board is running. I tweek some of the settings, and the pink goes away, and now it looks correct!
And even the intro animation is OK
OK, now it’s time to turn it off, and wire up the joystick.
The first step is to remove the joystick ball, and on the QANBA N1 you first flip it upside down, and remove the little cover.
Remove the cover
to reveal the screwdriver slot to let you hold the stick in place as you unscrew the ball.
Now it pops off, and it’s really easy to remove the USB interface cables, and drag in the JAMMA cables. Again use a tester to tone out what goes where. DO NOT FOLLOW MY COLORING GUIDE. I’m pretty sure there is no colour standard, so just because mine is like this, yours will 99.9999% not be. The only common thing is that each of these buttons needs a ground.
Joystick wired up
My harness has a common ground for P1 and P2, so I just tapped up the end and tucked it in the joystick body. Now with wired up, I can put the joystick back together, and play!
And that is when I could finally see that something was wrong. I was doing pretty well, then in the 2nd level I saw this weird thing:
An actual wall of text
The sprites are working fine, and the gameplay continues. But eventually the wall of text effect went from the background to the foreground obscuring game play.
foreground tile corruption
So no doubt something is bad on the board. I need to get it looked at, and see about first dumping and checking the EEPROMS. Next the RAM on the graphics board, may be suspect as well. I think the CPU is fine since it runs OK, I’m just unable to really see pass the wall.
For the heck of it, I went and got some powered speakers, and hooked them up:
And it sounds so different from the SEGA version. An inspection of the board shows that there is no YM2151, but rather a pair of YM2203’s and an OKI M5205 for the speech synths.
In retrospect, I probably should have gone with something like the arcade supergun. I didn’t know it was a thing unfortunately. My solution is more “traditional” , but it works.
A long long time ago, back when I got a Pentium 100 the wonderful world of emulation was really starting to be possible with such a high powered CPU. First was the simple Game Boy emulators, then a Commodore 64 emulator, the incredible Amiga Emulator, the beginnings of SIMH (back when it was only a PDP-11 emulator), and then I found the SEGA emulator, System 16.
It was really cool being able to play 16bit arcade games on the desktop, although rather slowly. From there everyone knows the rise of MAME. But while looking around for a small 68000 C compiler, I came across the source code to an older version of System 16, 0.53 on archive.org. Naturally it’s for MS-DOS, as was everything back in the day. Also slightly interesting is the 68000 emulation, written by Bernd Schmitd of UAE fame. So for the heck of it, I set about getting Thierry Lescot’s System 16 building again. I’ve never used allegro before, so it was a bit of a fight to get a version of it to actually build. It turns out that I should have been building version 2.11 with tools of that era (why on earth was I using GCC 4, and binutils 2.18?) and instead stick with GCC 126.96.36.199 and some much older binutils. And in no time I had build the library, and it’s examples. With that done, I was able to re-build System 16 with GCC 4.1.2 and get a binary!
Back in the day, I actually did have an Altered Beast arcade board. Sadly it died in a move, someone near and dear just saw the PCB as “garbage” and tossed it. Sigh, but I did have ROM dumps, as I did a refresh of it forever ago. Anyways I still have the ROM files, so I guess that is nice.
Anyways I fired up the emulator and got what is known as the “jail bar” effect, which is from a bad ROM.
Notice the sprites
The System 16 splits it’s memory into a program space, a sprite memory bank, a tile memory bank, and RAM for stack and things like the palette. As you can see the program is certainly running, and the sprites are good. I did some poking around a bit later, and noticed that due to a logic bug, the texture ROMs are actually never loaded!
So a quick patch, and now we get Altered Beast up and running!
Altered Beast title screen
Well, now isn’t that great!
Not that I would imagine anyone would really care, I mean MAME is a thing, and even from the readme:
Altered Beast : No sound emulation
So it’s pretty quiet. Additionally the source is pretty restrictive:
These sources can’t be used for commercial purpose, any new version of the
emulator done with these sources must specify my name somewhere on the screen
et docs and I must be informed about any new release of the emulator.