Handheld Underground


posted by taizou @ 2016-06-26 22:51:37 Dumps

YES! After a ton of work which I probably will write a blog post on at some point - Vast Fame GBA games are HERE!

To cut a long story short - these games are copy protected and can't be fully dumped using normal equipment/software, but I was able to dump them by observing the protection's initialisation routine in No$GBA, replicating it on a real GBA and dumping the ROM through the GBA itself using an Xboo cable (super thanks to Robyn for that suggestion!). But even with the games dumped, there's a bunch of other protection in place, which I implemented in endrift's excellent GBA emulator mGBA. So these dumps are now supported in mGBA nightly builds from 2016-06-26 onwards!

Unlike my previous GBC releases, I have NOT (yet?) prepared a version of these games with the copy protection hacked out. I may or may not do that later, but don't hold your breath too much. This means these dumps will not work on any emulator that does not implement Vast Fame's protection (i.e. any emulator other than mGBA, as of this writing) and they also will not work on flash carts.

Zook Man ZX4 / Luke Ren ZX4 路克人ZX4

After that one, uhm, underwhelming semi-unofficial entry by Sintax, Zook is back for reals! You may know this game better as Rockman & Crystal; this is the Taiwanese release. For those unfamiliar with Zook, it's a series of Mega Man clones, and this one takes most of its inspiration from the X series. And I like it a lot! Okay it obviously was rushed (spoilers? there's no unique last boss, only a boss rush, and the Zero-ish dude from the first stage never shows up again) and jacks a lot of graphics from elsewhere, but they nailed the controls really well, and there's plenty of variety. And the music is p cool as usual for Vast Fame.

Zook Man ZX4 (Luke Ren ZX4) (Unlicensed, Chinese).zip

Juezhan Sanguo 決戰三國

An interesting strategy RPG based on the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. Haven't played too much of this one, but its copy protection is implemented slightly differently from the others.

Juezhan Sanguo (Unlicensed, Chinese).zip

Digimon Rury / Digimon Ruby

The famous(?) RPG with barely-comprehensible dialogue. A dump of this game is already available, but it comes from a later reprint with the copy protection hacked out. This is the original! It's the proper size (hacked dump is 32MB, the game is really 8MB) and may be less buggy (e.g. the hacked dump crashes and resets on the ending screen) but I haven't tested it thoroughly so can't confirm that.

Digimon Ruby (Digimon Rury) (Unlicensed, English).zip

There are several other Vast Fame GBA games which remain undumped, though - these are the known ones:

If you have any of these games and would like them to be dumped, please contact me! Email, Twitter, or just leave a comment here.

(For Digimon Sapphire - if you bought it brand new from a Chinese reseller from the late 2000s onwards, and it goes to a black screen after completing a level, it's probably not the original version I'm looking for. But if you're not sure, let me know and I'll help you figure it out.)



1posted by ? @ 2016-06-28 05:17:14

hell yes

2posted by Poptheweasel100 @ 2016-06-28 17:39:24

I really love the Zook Hero series, so seeing the final game released is great.

The only problem is that I can't play it on my PSP. If you can remove copy protection, that's great. If not, that's fine. I can still play it atleast.

3posted by hagen78 @ 2016-06-28 18:31:33

great!! long since expected you to get into some game .... and there are 3 !!!

4posted by Barver @ 2016-06-29 07:11:03

Can we get some pics of the carts and boxes for these? Don't think I've seen an original copy of all of these before.

Nice to see this site isn't dead :)

5posted by ? @ 2016-07-01 19:21:05


6posted by COLOR @ 2016-07-01 23:18:33

Thank´s for this great gift, i wanna play Rockman & Crystal in Visual Boy Advance, for some reason my pc no run the mGBA Emulator :(

7posted by COLOR @ 2016-07-01 23:24:14

You plan to fix Rockman & Crystal someday? well, if it is possible ._.

8posted by taizou @ 2016-07-02 23:03:44

Poptheweasel100, COLOR - I *may* try to hack out these games' protection at some point, but it's much more involved than others I've dealt with, would take a lot of time and probably I'd miss something (like whoever hacked Digimon Ruby & Sapphire for the deprotected reprint carts). Hopefully developers of VBA and other emulators will begin to implement support for it though.. or maybe someone else could hack it out. I'd be happy to help anyone attempting to do either of those things, even if I don't do it myself.

Barver - hey, good to see you here, haven't seen you around in a while! And yeah, hopefully I'll get around to taking/posting pics soon. I have boxes + manuals for Zook and Sanguo but not Digimon.

9posted by Ziko577 @ 2016-07-03 03:55:58

Is it possible to rip the music from Zook Hero ZX4?

10posted by taizou @ 2016-07-06 09:36:19

Probably, if you're just looking to make clean recordings rather than rip the actual music data/sound engine itself (not sure how you would do the latter on the GBA, there doesn't seem to be a standard format like NSF/GBS etc).

I have a bit of knowledge of VF's GBA sound engine thanks to my efforts hacking Digimon Adventure (by Sintax, but uses VF sound) so I could probably identify some ROM location you could modify to change, say, the title screen music, then you could record it from there..

11posted by codeman38 @ 2016-07-11 05:26:02

@taizou: There actually *is* a standard music format for GBA music dumps, based on that used for PlayStation: http://gsf.caitsith2.net/

12posted by taizou @ 2016-07-17 18:14:30

oh I didn't know that, thanks! I'm probably not going to rip it, but at least the opportunity is there for someone else to do it.

13posted by boco @ 2016-08-04 03:08:35

hiii I've been trying to find someone capable of dumping rockman & crystal since like 2008ish? it's amazing to see it finally out and available ! you're doing great work!!
A friend and I just played through the whole game off my cart and were informed by a lovely stream viewer of your work. Thanks again!

14posted by taizou @ 2016-08-05 22:52:00

Hi! Would you be willing to lend me your Rockman & Crystal cart for dumping too? Zook Man ZX4 is the Taiwanese release and has dialogue in Chinese, it'd be nice to have both variants dumped.

15posted by pirate @ 2017-02-08 07:34:25

holding my breath here for the patched Zook Man ZX4 rom

16posted by taizou @ 2017-02-08 13:49:12

please don't

17posted by pirate @ 2017-02-20 23:21:43

We're using this rom in a small contest in tasvideos.org.

You made mgba support it so we can run the game fine but unfortunately mgba doesn't have a debugger.
It would be great if we could run it in other emulators to be able to dig more into the shit code and get more info, like displaying the disgusting hitboxes

18posted by taizou @ 2017-02-22 12:18:01

yeah I saw that, I think it's really cool that you're using this game!

honestly my #1 priority with these things is preserving the game and getting a good dump out there with some kind of support, and I've done that - yeah it would be nice if it could run in every emulator, but I've at least provided the materials (as in the ROM and source code for the protection implementation in mGBA) for that to be achieved by someone else.

I'm not the greatest romhacker and Vast Fame's GBA protection is a bit more in-depth than something like Sintax's GBC stuff, so I'm not really confident that I would be able to do it at all, and even if I could do it I'm also not confident that my hacked version wouldn't end up introducing some bugs that weren't in the original (as is the case with the deprotected Chinese reprint of Digimon Sapphire)

I won't say that I'll *never* take a shot at this, but, as I said, don't hold your breath- it's not a big priority for me right now and kind of a crapshoot as to whether I could even pull it off at my current skill level. I'd be happy to assist and share info on the protection with anyone else who wanted to take it on though.

(although- which emulator/s are you using that have decent debug functionality? if they're open source, there's always the possibility of implementing the protection support into them, and *that* is something I could maybe do)

19posted by pirate @ 2017-02-22 23:12:30

well, I think the only open source GBA emulator with a debugger is vba-sdl-h ( https://github.com/cosarara97/vba-sdl-h )

20posted by taizou @ 2017-02-23 14:05:20

ah man that looks like it was forked from some old-ass version of VBA.. I'll look into it though.

I've had this same problem on the GBC tbh that the two emulators with the best debugging functionality, BGB and no$gmb are both closed-source. Honestly if BGB's source code had been available I would have implemented mapper support into that instead of forking GEST to make hhugboy.

21posted by pirate @ 2017-02-27 12:16:42

The surprising part of the contest is that the final speedrun is going to be pretty entertaining to watch, and not only for the weirdos who like this game.