posted by taizou @ 2018-09-12 18:44:31 Dumps
Rockman & Crystal is the English version of Vast Fame's genuinely-quite-decent Mega Man X clone and swansong for their Zook series, and it's been something of a holy grail for ROM dumpers for a LONG time. Just over two years ago, I dumped the Chinese-language Taiwanese release, Zook Man ZX4. So the game has been playable for a while, but what has always been missing is its fantastic English dialogue. Until now!
Many many thanks to a tiny fairy for lending me the cartridge!
here's the ROM: Rockman & Crystal (Battle Network Rockman Crystal) (Unl).zip
It works in mGBA 0.5.0 and later, might work in other emulators if they've implemented support for Vast Fame protection in the meantime. I dunno, I'm not the sheriff of emulators
posted by taizou @ 2018-09-06 22:48:48 Dumps
Back at it again with a weird GBA cart:
Super Panda! What could this be? I had my suspicions, but...
Yep, it's a NES game running on GBA using the free PocketNES emulator, a common tactic of bootleggers looking to stretch out their lineups. As with many of these carts, it has a newly-added "intro" consisting of two static images that zoom into the screen, then launches straight into the emulator. Note also that for the second of the images they managed to fuck up transparency and make the white areas black - here is what it probably should have looked like.
The game being emulated here is "Panda World", a platformer running on the same engine as the better-known Pocket Monster and equally-poorly-known Super PoPo's Adventure, likely developed by entities related to Gamtec or Super Game. This game has been dumped for a while, so I figured the GBA cart was nothing too special - just a ROM from the internet with a couple of images slapped on the front - and didn't pay too much attention to it.
But then I realised something: the Panda World ROM was only released by Cah4e3 in 2010. That's pretty late for a new mass-produced GBA cart. Not to mention the general condition of the cartridge made it appear much older. So I opened it, and inside found a sticker on the PCB indicating a 2004-2005 date! So this was made well before the ROM became widely available. Not only that, on the back of the PCB was the code "4351-XB"; Panda World was dumped from a multicart with the ID XB-F812. "XB" there is though to stand for "X Boy", a brand name of Unite Lucky Technology. So I believe this is probably a GBA cart produced by the original publishers of Panda World, using their own ROM.
That's already interesting enough for a nerd like me, but you may be wondering if there's really anything different from the existing dump. Well! The version on the multicart apparently had some weak copy protection, which was disabled by Cah4e3 in order to make it run on the common MMC3 mapper. But since PocketNES doesn't support this protection, the ROM they used here is already MMC3, either the original version before the protection was added, or an "official" hack removing it.
Here's the GBA ROM: Super Panda (PocketNES) (Unl).zip
But of course it's a NES game, so we can extract the NES ROM too, we don't have to be restricted to playing it in an emulator-inside-an-emulator:
Once extracted, it seems to work exactly the same as the existing dump. There are differences in the ROM, so there may be in-game differences somewhere, but I haven't verified this either way. (although one large difference is apparently accounted for by the presence of a block of Tengen Tetris graphics in this version, for some reason, almost certainly left in by accident and unused).
Here's the NES ROM: Panda World (Unl) (GBA Rip).zip
So that's it for this .. variation of a panda game. But one final point of intrigue is that the ID of this cartridge is "LC022", probably implying the existence of others in the series - I've never seen any, but is it possible X Boy (or whoever) released other unique games in this line? Maybe Super Popo's Adventure, or other unknown titles? MAYBE. Leave a comment if you know anything!
posted by taizou @ 2018-03-26 22:18:26 Other Stuff
Unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably, I fucked up a small part of the initial version of the GBX v1.0 spec - the text mistakenly specified all numbers should be little-endian, when the examples (and my emulator, and the ROMs I released) all use big-endian, which was my intent from the start.
I've fixed this and you can find the updated version here. Note that I'm not considering this a version update (because the old version was purely a mistake and contradicted its own examples in any case) so the version number 1.0 is retained.
posted by taizou @ 2018-03-21 00:27:04 Dumps
HEAVEN OR HELL
YEAH THERE'S MORE. Once again these dumps will currently only work in hhugboy v1.2.5 or later, but v1.2.6 is recommended since it fixes a save bug. GBX versions will work automatically, raw dumps require "NT (Makon) new" compatibility mode to be manually selected.
Digimon 02 4
This is the English version of Shuma Baolong 02 4 from the last batch of dumps. It's... in English! cool.
Honestly this is probably one of Makon's better games, for what that's worth - okay you might fall through the floor sometimes, but at least it's mostly controllable and the level design isn't too punishing. Even the sprites are pretty cute!
GBX: Digimon 02 4 (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Raw: Digimon 02 4 (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip
Pokémon Diamond (Special Pikachu Edition)
You may already know "Pokémon Diamond" as the bootleg English translation of Telefang: Power Version. This is not that game! This is the "Special Pikachu Edition", a rehash of Super Mario Special 3, with Pikachu and a better colour palette.
Unfortunately, this version also omits the map screen, instead starting you on a level heavy on precision platforming, rendered near-impossible by the poor controls. If you manage to make it through that level via some miracle and/or savestates... there's a block, and you hit it, and an item comes out, and nothing happens. So you can't proceed past level 1. This level was similarly broken in Super Mario Special 3, but given that all levels were selectable from the start, you could at least skip it. Here, they aren't, and you can't!
Now, I dumped a Li Cheng release of this game a while back as Shuma Baobei: Hai Zhi Shen, and for once the Li Cheng version is actually the superior one, because... they fixed that bug! So if you want to actually play the game, that version is the way to go.
GBX: Pokemon Diamond (Special Pikachu Edition) (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Raw: Pokemon Diamond (Special Pikachu Edition) (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip
Pokemon Jade (Special Pikachu Edition)
You may already know "Pokémon Jade" as the bootleg English translation of Telefang: Speed Version. This is not that game! This is the "Special Pikachu Edition", a rehash of Sonic Adventure 7/8, with Pikachu and a better colour palette
...hold on, haven't we been here before? Yes, Makon/NT released their own Pokémon Diamond and Jade versions suspiciously close together, almost as if they were trying to cash in on the other Pokémon Diamond and Jade versions...
This game even shares a few more similarities with Diamond: it starts you on by far the hardest level, with lots of precision platforming (one jump is apparently impossible unless you lure one of the Porygons from further back in the stage and bounce off it), and... once again, it's fucking broken and you can't pass stage 1. This time, it just crashes when you touch the sign at the end.
If you want to see the rest of the levels, you can cheat your way around it by setting memory address C27D to a number between 01 and 04 for levels 2 to 5. In hhugboy's simple cheat format that would be C27D=XX or GameShark/Action Replay Pro 01XX7DC2, with XX replaced by the level ID you want to skip to. This will actually work on a real cart with Action Replay, as long as you only flip the switch on and off on the 'start' screen.
Interestingly, this wouldn't be the only time Makon rehashed their Sonic games in Pokémon form. Pokémon Adventure, also known as Pokémon Gold Version 2, uses the same Sonic engine and the same Pikachu sprite as Jade, but features redesigned levels which are quite a bit more forgiving than those found here. Overall Adventure feels like a somewhat-refined iteration on Jade, but... it's dated 2000, a year earlier than Jade's 2001. So Jade is both broken and a step backwards.
GBX: Pokemon Jade Version (Special Pikachu Edition) (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Raw: Pokemon Jade Version (Special Pikachu Edition) (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip
posted by taizou @ 2018-03-11 23:56:59 Dumps
So, now I have a finalised GBX format spec, and an emulator supporting the new format, I can finally get to releasing some GBX ROMs! And what better way to herald the arrival of a fancy new ROM format than, uh, *shuffles papers*, seven Makon games?
That's right! Makon Soft Studios, makers of many highly-regarded classics, kept pumping em out all the way through the GBC era. These games do show some progression from their earlier stuff - they make WAY better use of colour, and sometimes even the music is more tolerable. Unfortunately they still suffer from too many control issues to be really enjoyable to play in any capacity.
The publisher here still appears to be NT/Ka Sheng/Ka Sing/卡聖, but they've switched to a new mapper with half bankswitching functionality (used by these Makon games) and an entirely new mechanism for selecting multicart games (which I've yet to figure out, so no multicart dumps just yet).
These games will only run in hhugboy v1.2.5 or later (although I recommend you use 1.2.6 or later since that fixes a save bug affecting at least one of these games). The GBX versions will run automatically, the raw .gbc format ones require you to manually select "NT (Makon) new" compatibility mode.
Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back
First up! Mewtwo Strikes Back is a platform game more or less based on the superior unlicensed game "Pocket Monster" for Mega Drive and SNES. And with intro text attempting to tie it into the movie of the same name, with which it otherwise has no connection. Previously I dumped a Li Cheng hack of the Chinese version of this game, but now here's the English Makon original!
HEALTH WARNING!! Pikachu's electric attack in this game (A button) causes one colour in the background to flash rapidly between yellow and red, in a manner reminiscent of the infamous Pokémon episode Dennō Senshi Porygon. The effect isn't too bad when viewed on a Game Boy, but especially in later stages it can appear quite intense when displayed at a larger size on a modern backlit screen. Therefore please use caution when playing this game if you are sensitive to flashing/strobe effects!
GBX: Pokemon - Mewtwo Strikes Back (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Raw: Pokemon - Mewtwo Strikes Back (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip
Later, Makon revisited Mewtwo Strikes Back, as they so often did, rejigging it into a completely "new" game. So the stage order is changed and it's now about Digimon instead of Pokemon. But one actually useful addition they made here is a save feature! The game now automatically saves after every stage you clear, meaning you no longer have to complete the whole damn thing in one sitting. This makes reaching the ending a lot easier... except they took the ending out.
HEALTH WARNING!! Since this game is basically just Mewtwo Strikes Back, the same red/yellow flashing effect is present here too.
GBX: Digimon Pocket (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Raw: Digimon Pocket (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip
Another Digimon platform game, but this time they came up with something entirely new instead of rehashing a previous game! Probably for the last time! This one adds a mechanic whereby you have to fill up your "MP" bar by collecting items before being allowed to complete the level.
Thanks to Robyn for dumping this one an extremely long time ago!
GBX: Digimon 2 (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Raw: Digimon 2 (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip
Shuma Baolong 02 4 (數碼暴龍02 4)
Another Digimon game based on the Digimon 2 engine; I think this one may add more levels, although I haven't played through the entire thing to check. This is the Chinese version, I have an English version in my possession too and will hopefully be releasing that soon.
Note that this one was already dumped quite a while ago, and is in GoodGBX - my new dump matches it 1:1 so you can consider this a verification rather than a completely new thing (since a lot of unlicensed dumps in GoodGBX are of pretty dubious provenance)
GBX: Shuma Baolong 02 4 (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Raw: Shuma Baolong 02 4 (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip
Harry Potter 3
That Digimon engine makes another appearance, but the hero this time is equally-popular bootleg target Harry Potter, in a game trying to pass itself off as a tie-in to Prisoner of Azkaban (the book, specifically).
Unfortunately... this one is broken. On the real cartridge as well as in emulation, it crashes halfway through level 1. It should be possible to hack the save file to access later levels, however.
GBX: Harry Potter 3 (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Raw: Harry Potter 3 (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip
Street Fighter Zero 4 / Jieba Tianwang 4 (街霸天王4)
Tired of platform games yet? Good, because here's something completely different. It's a fighting game, based on Street Fighter Zero/Alpha 3! It's also a mess!
I'm not entirely sure if this one is a "true" Makon production, since it seems to have more links to Sachen than their usual work; there are elements of Sachen GBC games here, most obviously the COMPLETELY out-of-place Jurassic Boy 2 theme on the title screen. But it was certainly published through the same routes as Makon's games.
GBX: Street Fighter Zero 4 (Jieba Tianwang 4) (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Raw: Street Fighter Zero 4 (Jieba Tianwang 4) (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip
Capcom vs SNK: Millennium Fight 2001
And finally! This is another fighting game, and another original release of a game I've previously dumped in Li Cheng-hacked form. Most notably, this version has a bunch of extra frames in the intro - which is interesting (to me) because they used a high-colour trick seldom used on the GBC, switching palettes on the fly as lines are drawn, to circumvent the system's usual palette restrictions.
And as a game... it's also kind of a mess, but at least it has, like, four voice samples now! It is pretty different to Street Fighter Zero 4, to their credit, they didn't just take the old game and slap new characters in it.
Thanks to Pepper9801 for lending this cart (also an extremely long time ago)!
GBX: Capcom vs SNK - Millennium Fight 2001 (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Raw: Capcom vs SNK - Millennium Fight 2001 (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip
And that's it! For now...