Handheld Underground

new dump: Super Donkey Kong 3!

posted by taizou @ 2017-07-31 00:51:47 Dumps

So quite a while back I posted a video of a game entitled Super Donkey Kong 5 by Makon. This was basically an attempt at porting 4 stages from Donkey Kong Country 3, with the typical bad colour palette found in most early Makon GBC games.

But it wasn't the original! Before that there was a mono version with a different stage order, simply titled "Super Donkey Kong 3" (the same name as the Japanese version of DKC3) and released on a single cart even more simply titled "Donkey Kong 3". Needless to say, this release was often overlooked (including by me) as being nothing more than a pirate copy of Donkey Kong Land 3, and has remained fairly elusive.

But! JP Ronny recently picked up a multicart containing this game, was cool enough to lend it to me, and I was able to extract it! So here we go:

It seems to have been built on Sonic 3D Blast 5 (even sharing its header name) and will run in any emulator that supports that game.

Download: Super Donkey Kong 3 (Unl) (Multicart Rip).zip


Update 2017-08-02: Emulator fixed version!

So the reason the raw dump doesn't work in many emulators is that Makon used a PRETTY clever variant on a common protection trick.

As a little background, the Game Boy ROM header contains some metadata, such as ROM size and cartridge type, which is never actually read by the console. A cartridge with incorrect values in these positions will run just fine on a Game Boy. However, emulators and copiers usually rely on the header to figure out how to handle a given ROM - meaning they will fail if these values are incorrect.

It was relatively common for unlicensed companies to set deliberately incorrect values in the header, providing a simple deterrent to casual piracy. But if you're able to dump such a cartridge, it's usually sufficient to fix the header values to allow it to work normally in emulators (as long as it has no other copy protection).

This game and Sonic 5 both have incorrect header values, and emulators that support them just override these values, so I assumed doing the same in the ROM would be a quick fix. And yet.. if I did that, it wouldn't boot. Which left me mystified for a good while. Maybe there was some code checking the header hadn't been tampered with?

But no - even sneakier than that - what Makon did here was actually place frequently-used EXECUTABLE CODE in the header position, meaning any attempt to fix the header would break the game entirely.

So in the end what I had to do was move that code elsewhere and replace all the references to it, allowing me to then update the header untrammelled, and giving you (finally) a .. somewhat more emulator-compatible bad Donkey Kong game. Enjoy!

Download: Super Donkey Kong 3 (Unl) (Multicart Rip) [Emu Fix].zip

Also: the multicart!

The cartridge this game was found on is titled "Matchless 23 in 1 (A)", and presumably was released sometime in 1998 shortly before the Game Boy Color (since it contains '98 release James Bond 007, but lacks any 'color' reference, which post-GBC multicarts nearly always have). It has 18 unique games, with the remaining 5 being repeats under different titles.

I was able to dump this too, but the mapper is unemulated, so it doesn't work beyond the menu (except Snoopy!)

Download: Matchless 23 in 1 A (Unl).zip

One interesting thing I was able to pull out of the multicart ROM, though, is a list of 208 titles for repeats, 128 of them unique; presumably this means variants of this cart with more-inflated game counts may have been produced, featuring such classics as BIG WOLF and OLD KARATEKA.


2420 ROM Pack V - Camera repair cart

posted by taizou @ 2017-02-04 14:28:46 Dumps

Got something a little bit unusual this time:

Looks like a prototype cart, and hardware-wise it pretty much is, but its purpose is something else entirely!

There isn't much info on these things at all, but from what I can ascertain it's from a series of carts distributed to camera repair shops for camera diagnostics/adjustments/repair. Presumably at some point the camera manufacturer wanted to create a portable diagnostic tool and decided to base it around cheap commodity hardware - the Game Boy - rather than spending time and money on developing their own machine or using something more expensive and unnecessarily sophisticated for the job.

I only have this one cart, but Steven Seventyeight on Youtube has a bunch more, plus a modified 4-player adapter which was presumably used for connection to the cameras. I have neither the corresponding camera nor the adapter, so mine is not much more than a curiosity at this point.

The original assumption is that these were likely for Ricoh cameras given Nintendo's history of working with them (e.g. for the chips used in the NES), but codeman38 identified some of the cart numbers as actually corresponding to internal model numbers for Minolta cameras. This document lists a bunch of them; the cameras seem to date from the mid-90s so presumably these carts would have been made around the same time.

As mentioned, the case and PCB seem to be the same ones used for Game Boy prototypes; the PCB is Nintendo-made, labelled DMGC-MBC1-512K-EPROM1-01 and it has a 512kbit (64kbyte) EPROM installed stickered "2420V" (although the ROM is only 32kb and doesn't actually require the MBC at all). However it has a black plastic cover over the EPROM which I haven't seen on any existing prototypes, so it may have been custom-made for these carts to prevent damage to the chips.

Here's the menu:

Without a camera connected you can't do much - most actions will lead you to this "I/O Error" screen.

There isn't much in the ROM pointing to who programmed it, although there is an unused(?) 8x8 font that also appears in some early Taito games. However it feels more like it was programmed in-house by Minolta rather than outsourced to an experienced Game Boy developer; the UI is very 90s-camera-menu-like and its unusual use of the Game Boy's controls (Select to select menu options; A, B and Start are unused), plus it redrawing the whole screen on every button press, gives the impression of a programmer not used to working with the system. So the font may have been a leftover from them studying existing Game Boy software to figure out how it works.

Download: 2420 ROM Pack V.zip


let's get hitek

posted by taizou @ 2017-01-08 21:09:53 Dumps

Yet another unlicensed GB protection system has fallen hell yeah~
As you may have guessed based on my last hhugboy release, this time it's Hitek's turn!

Hitek (or Gaoke) was a Chinese company that released several Game Boy games developed by Ruanxin, a team containing several ex-Waixing staff, some of whom would later go on to work for Jungletac. (Ruanxin isn't explicitly credited in-game, but you can find a bunch of little references here and there, like the boot logo of these carts being "GK-RX" for "Gaoke-Ruanxin")

Their protection is almost identical to BBD's, but they make much better use of it (they switch modes while the game is running, while BBD just sets one at the beginning and that's it; also the cart initialises in a mode that prevents the entire ROM from being read, similar to VF's GBA games), so it's not so easy to hack out. Hence why only Li Cheng ever did it, I guess. So, for now, these games will only run in hhugboy v1.1.8 and up.

Terrifying 911

This first one comes thanks to Ryan Silberman who lent me the cart!

This is probably the most infamous unlicensed Game Boy game in existence - incredibly bad taste presentation hiding an EXTREMELY faithful port (..except the music) of the original Metal Slug. It's a world away from those Sintax/BBD "Metal Slug"s which are basically generic shooty-platformers with sprites from the NGPC Metal Slug games; this is an actual port from the actual Neo Geo.

I previously dumped the Li Cheng release, which was a hack of the Chinese version; this is the original English version complete with fully translated pre-stage shit-talk between George W Bush and Osama bin Laden.

download: Terrifying 911 (Unl).zip

Shuihu Zhuan Zhi Qunmo Fengyun Lu (水滸傳之群魔風雲錄)

A port of Chuanpu's Mega Drive strategy RPG "Shui Hu Zhuan". Again, this was only previously dumped from a Li Cheng cart, in which NPC boundary checking was completely broken (resulting in them wandering through walls or into buildings). Now you can enjoy the original non-glitchy version!

download: Shuihu Zhuan Zhi Qunmo Fengyun Lu (Unl).zip



posted by taizou @ 2016-10-30 18:22:39 Dumps

So here's a super cool thing - thanks to Shamboozle, we have a new batch of Vast Fame GBA dumps!

As with my previous Vast Fame GBA releases, these will only work in recent versions of mGBA. The two Digimon games work in release versions 0.5.0 and later, but Mo Jie Qi Bing will currently work only in nightly builds from 2016-10-28 onwards, because it uses a previously unemulated feature of the protection system and also isn't picked up by the auto-detection in previous versions.

Mo Jie Qibing (魔戒奇兵)

First up, here's something never dumped in any form before! A top-down shooty-type game loosely based around Lord of the Rings (although outside of the cutscenes you wouldn't really know it).

It uses the engine from Kiki KaiKai Advance (also known as 'Pocky & Rocky with Becky' for its US release), which Vast Fame is rumoured to have obtained legitimately from that game's developers. But overall I found this a more enjoyable experience than Kiki KaiKai, and the graphics and music are IMO better and the environments more varied. They even brought back a version of the raft stage from the (massively superior) SNES Pocky & Rocky, which was not present at all in the GBA game.

Interesting note about this game - its box, which can be seen on Bootleg Games Wiki, bears the number "SLA-001". A number of Vast Fame's Game Boy Color games were published in China under the SL-xxx series, so that would presumably make this the first GBA release from that same publisher.

download - Mo Jie Qibing (Unl).zip

Digimon Sapphire

I dumped a version of this from an unprotected reprint cart ages ago, but that version has Problems - specifically when you finish a level, it will do something wrong; on the real cart it would hang on a black screen, but in emulators it could also just roll the credits or (if you were lucky) proceed to the next level albeit skipping the stage intro screen. But, finally, we now have the original, which works as it should. And it's a genuinely decent platform game which I highly recommend you check out if you haven't played it already.

download - Digimon Sapphire (Unl).zip

Shuma Guaishou - Hongbaoshi Ban (數碼怪獸-紅寶石版)

I've already dumped the English version of this as "Digimon Ruby", and the Chinese title translates to roughly the same thing. Presumably the dialogue in this version makes more sense, although it also has much worse problems with sound channels dropping out than the English version.

download - Shuma Guaishou - Hongbaoshi Ban (Unl).zip



posted by taizou @ 2016-10-24 00:22:24 Dumps

Today I have not one but TWO games called "Dragon Ball Z 3"! Yeah turns out when you're appropriating someone else's franchise no one really cares if you're using the same name someone else already used.

Dragon Ball Z 3 2002 Fighting

If you haven't already guessed from the name, this one is from Sintax. It's developed by BBD as usual for their early stuff (the BBD copyright is loaded with the title screen graphics but not displayed) and stuffed into a fairly generic looking cart, but it boots up with the usual Sintax "Kwichvu" logo and seems to be running on their mapper.

As with many of the games I've released here recently, this does have another version dumped, which is in Chinese and has a pretty ugly hacked title screen. But this is English and at least an original Sintax release (although maybe not the absolute original version? there are lots of variants of this game floating around)

Interestingly this one uses Sintax's mapper in a slightly unusual way, which didn't work with my earlier implementation in hhugboy - so you'll need v1.1.6 to play the raw dump of this game. While this made things harder for me, it actually makes things much easier for people just looking to hack the game and get it working on a generic cart, which probably explains why there are so many pirate versions out there.

raw: Dragon Ball Z 3 2002 Fighting (Unl).zip
fixed: Dragon Ball Z 3 2002 Fighting (Unl) [Fixed].zip


So it turns out the header of this game controls the language it runs in! I found this out completely accidentally while being a hilarious jokester on twitter - the header of the English version is "DRAGON BALLE" but if you change that "E" to any other character, it runs in Chinese mode! Try it! Game Genie code 411-3FF will change an English ROM to Chinese, while 451-3FF will switch a Chinese ROM to English. (but not the "Dragon Ball Z Fighting 2005" dump, which seems to be hacked from an English version and will crash if you try to switch it to Chinese)

The Chinese title screen in this version is maybe incomplete, showing the title 武鬥會, but it uses completely different artwork (probably the original original, as other versions have this art too). The pre-fight quotes are all in Chinese, and seem to be complete, aside from the occasional miscoloured tile.

Dragon Ball Z 3

Now here's something you don't see very often (unless Pokemon is involved) - a bootleg translation of a Japanese game into English! This is a translation of "Dragon Ball Z: Goku Gekitouden" and appears to come courtesy of the same people who brought you Pokemon Jade and Diamond (the translations of Telefang Speed and Power versions), judging from the font - and the fact that they literally stuffed a chunk of Telefang into the back half of this game's ROM.

As with Jade/Diamond, the translation is generally comprehensible if a little rough in places, although most of the names are wrong and a lot of the dialogue is VERY truncated due to them mostly cramming it into the same space as the Japanese. Despite having doubled the size of the ROM, they didn't use the extra space for text storage - only a bit of new code, translated graphics and font are read from there, leaving the majority of it literally just filled with useless Telefang data.

Despite being a hack of a regular licensed game, it runs on a slightly unusual mapper allowing for half bank switches, which are used when the extended part of the ROM is accessed. I've implemented support for it in hhugboy from version 1.1.5 onwards, BUT hhugboy's Super Game Boy support has problems with this game, resulting in bad colours in various places. So, it's fine if you want to play it in mono mode, but in SGB mode it's going to look a bit weird.

Fortunately for you SGB-lovers, I've also hacked a version to run on other emulators. Unlike my usual Sintax/BBD fixes, this one involved actually overwriting some data (albeit useless banks of Telefang sprites) and modifying a bit of code, so it is very much a hack and not just a rejigged/decrypted version of the original. Note that VBA(-M) also has the same Super Game Boy bug (because hhugboy is derived from GEST, and GEST was derived from the Game Boy portion of VBA), but other emulators should run it just fine.

raw: Dragon Ball Z 3 (Unl).zip
fixed: Dragon Ball Z 3 (Unl) [Fixed].zip

Thanks once again to Svetlana for helping me get this one!