Handheld Underground

Pikachu's Buffet

posted by taizou @ 2022-01-22 19:51:51 Dumps

Last time I dumped a multicart containing a game called Kou Dai Guai Shou - Dong Zuo Pian (or Pokemon Action Chapter), which was something like a remake of the well-known older hack "Monster Go! Go! Go!!". But did you know that hack didn't just have a remake, it had a sequel? Maybe if you read that wiki page I just linked to, you knew that. But who has time to read things any more?! You're not even reading this, right?

First, let's backtrack a little bit. The reason I'm able to bring you the sequel today is because I dumped that multicart previously. The original cartridge of Action Chapter was copy protected - so I hadn't done much with it despite owning it for A While - but the multicart was unprotected and used a known mapper, hence I was able to dump the entire multicart and extract that one game. Now, unprotected multicart rips don't always help with reverse engineering original cartridge copy protection, since they're often different recompiled builds of the game, and (at least with my limited skillset and the more complex protection systems) don't necessarily shed any light on how the original protection functioned.

But Action Chapter was different: it had clearly been hacked from the original version, redirecting certain reads to another ROM bank, where a pattern of bytes had been added. This revealed the protection on the original cart was pretty simple; all it was really doing was returning values based on a transformation of the address when ROM banks 80-FF were selected, and if those values were incorrect, the game wouldn't work. (This meant it would've been obvious if I overdumped the game when originally dumping it, which I always now do by habit, but... it was a long time ago). It actually resembles a simplified version of the runtime protection from Vast Fame GBA games, perhaps not coincidentally.

With that knowledge, I was then able to emulate the protection and get a dump from the original Action Chapter cart working. Which is cool! I always prefer to emulate the original protected versions of these games where I can - deprotected hacks can often have unforeseen bugs, even when they originate from "official"(?) sources. But what would be even more cool would be if some other game used this protection, wouldn't it? And so I trawled through a few likely candidates, turning up a lot of misses, until I found... you probably guessed already, Monster Go! Go! II! Of course it stands to reason that another Pokemon hack by the same publishers and (presumably) developers would work the same way, and it totally does. So let's get into it!

Kuai Shou Go! Go! II (怪獸 GO! GO! II)

So, you're the developer of that hit Smurfs' Nightmare hack Monster Go! Go! Go!!, in which an obscure Game Boy title was taken, graphically overhauled, colourised, and passed off as an entirely new and halfway-convincing Pokemon platformer for the Game Boy Color. Naturally, your thoughts turn to a sequel. Which little-known game from the depths of the Game Boy's library could serve as the basis for this one? Well, nobody has heard of this "Kirby", right?

Yep: this game is a hack of none other than Kirby's Dream Land 2, the massively-expanded followup to the original round boy's debut outing, bringing his trademark copy powers to the Game Boy for the first time, plus three new animal friends. So maybe they didn't choose an obscure game, but they did choose a very good one.

Unfortunately, this isn't nearly as comprehensive an overhaul as the original Go! Go!, with only the title screen and main Kirby sprite being changed (and even some Kirby sprites remain unaltered, notably when being carried by the owl or fish). You won't find any enemies being replaced by Pokemon here, sadly. In fact, the scope of this hack is much closer to the remade Action Chapter than the original Go! Go!. Perhaps this points to reduced budgets or increased time pressure coming from the "New GB Color" publisher, or maybe the developers just didn't think it was worthwhile drawing a bunch of new graphics for a game that already has a pretty serviceable Pokemon-like vibe. The colourisation is also fairly scant, with most of the game having just one sprite palette and one background palette.

The new Pikachu sprites are still fairly well-done, albeit mostly limited by Kirby's diminutive dimensions, which can't help but feel like a downgrade from the adorably chunky Smurf-sized guy seen in the previous game. But there's obviously something missing from the screenshots so far, isn't there? This is a Kirby game. Kirby has the power to inhale things, hold them in his mouth, spit or swallow, and float through the air. Pikachu can't (usually) do any of those things! So I KNOW you all you freaks out there want to know how they handled that. (don't worry i'm freaks too)

As for how the copy powers look, you can find out for yourself, but they generally range from "fine" to "unchanged if they could get away with it".

And now to the dirty business of ROMs. There are 3 versions; the GBX will work in hhugboy 1.3.1 or later with no extra configuration, the raw will work in the same versions if you set "Unlicensed compatibility mode" to "New GB Color Pokémon hacks", and the MBC5 hack should work in anything. I made the latter the cheap (but safe) way of expanding it to 4MB with the protection pattern hardcoded in the ROM at the address it's read from.

GBX: Guai Shou Go! Go! II (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Raw: Guai Shou Go! Go! II (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip
MBC5 hack: Guai Shou Go! Go! II (Unl) [C] [MBC5 hack].zip

Kou Dai Guai Shou - Dong Zuo Pian (口袋怪獸-動作篇)

And of course, for completeness' sake, now I need to bring you the original dump of Pokemon Action Chapter! It's exactly the same game as on the multicart, but with copy protection this time. So I'll reuse the same screenshots too.

I noted when dumping the multicart version that half of the ROM was taken up with some random DOS program that may have been in memory on the PC when the game was compiled (since it's really a 512KB game but using a 1MB ROM, a trait inherited from the original Smurfs game), and that's still here in the single cart ROM too.

I actually have two carts of this game, with slightly different labels; the one pictured above, and another which is almost identical with an extra bit of text reading 彩色中文版 (meaning "Colour Chinese Version", pretty misleading since nothing is in Chinese aside from the title screen). The ROMs are ALMOST identical between the two, except for one byte in the unused random-DOS-data portion. So I'm only posting the dump where that byte matches the multicart, since it seems to be the good one, and it doesn't actually matter anyway. If you want to reconstruct the other one, change the 0A at A3B86 to 2A.

The GBX and raw dumps work in hhugboy the same as Go! Go! 2. I'm not posting any deprotection hack of this version since the existing multicart rip already serves that purpose.

GBX: Kou Dai Guai Shou - Dong Zuo Pian (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Raw: Kou Dai Guai Shou - Dong Zuo Pian (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip


hhugboy v1.3.1 release

posted by taizou @ 2021-12-06 17:21:55 hhugboy

Just a quick emulator update post (yeah this thing is still going! for now!)

It adds support for 2 semi-obscure mappers covering dumps which will be released sometime soon, and also tweaks save file loading to allow undersized files to be loaded (since switching between unlicensed compatibility modes can change the RAM size & the previous behaviour would cause your save file to be overwritten).

Get it here!


Crack hack snack pack

posted by taizou @ 2021-10-03 17:46:34 Dumps

Hello!! Today, after a long string of GBA dumps, I'm back on the GBC train with... this average-looking multicart?

Well, in fact, it's not an average multicart at all; for starters, this really does have 145 games with no repeats, an impressive feat in the Game Boy era where very few carts legitimately reached triple digits. Its ROM is 16 megabytes, the same as the Vast Fame 18 in 1 - but while that cart was stuffed with later GBC games with larger ROM sizes, this one instead mostly opts to cram as many smaller mono games into the space as possible. That said, there are five one-megabyte games in here, so if they really wanted to they could've upped that game count even further, albeit at the cost of losing some of the more appealing titles. It also lacks any kind of SRAM or battery backup, so games relying on that functionality like Super Mario Land 2 or Link's Awakening won't be found here.

Here's the full game selection:

The label design suggests that this cart comes from the venerable JY Company, well known for publishing a large chunk of Hummer Team's output on the Famicom. This particular example uses the "Last Bible" menu engine and associated mapper (so-called because the menu music is taken from the Megami Tensei spinoff of the same name). This engine and mapper also appeared on carts from other publishers than JY, and JY themselves also used other mappers and menu types, but the Last Bible menus seem to be largely associated with decent quality, high-capacity multicarts with no or minimal repeats.

Of course, impressive game count or not, you may be wondering: is there actually anything new on this multicart? Or is it just a collection of licensed games and common stuff you could play already? Well: you may be glad to hear this one's Got Some Hacks, at least one of which was fully undumped, and another being a lost "definitive" version of something that's been around in imperfect forms for a while.

I've ripped those and will cover them separately below, but first here's the full multicart ROM, both in raw and GBX formats. Both will work in hhugboy, but for the raw you'll need to select Last Bible multicart mode manually. Other emulators will probably only run the menu.

GBX: New Super Color 145 in 1 (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Raw: New Super Color 145 in 1 (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip

Next, just to cover off a couple of interesting things I didn't rip: there are two Makon games on here, Super Donkey Kong 3 (listed as Gorila 3) and Sonic 5, but those are 1:1 matches for my previous dump and the common existing dump respectively, so I won't be posting them separately here.

And now onto the new stuff!

Kou Dai Guai Shou - Dong Zuo Pian (口袋怪獸-動作篇)

Remember Monster Go Go Go? The famous hack of Smurfs' Nightmare, which totally replaces all the graphics, starring an adorable chubby Pikachu who absolutely tanks the game's performance as soon as he appears, and featuring an iconic Celine Dion-inspired opening monologue from Meowth?

Well, what you may not know is that that game is not really a hack of the Game Boy Color Smurfs' Nightmare, but rather the lesser-known 1997 mono Game Boy version, released in Europe only. Colour was added in after the fact, hence its environments largely using a single generic colour palette, reminiscent of mono games operating on the Game Boy Color.

So, if you're the developer of that hack, what do you do when the devs of the Smurfs game then come out with a properly redone colour version of their own? Do you do nothing? Hell no! You partially remake the hack, by inserting the new Pikachu sprite and title screen into the colour Smurfs game, and then... you pretty much leave it at that, sadly. Most of the other new graphics are gone, Gargamel is back in place of Meowth, and the dialogue is all Smurf-based again. It seems like they attempted to replace the Game Over screen too, but evidently didn't actually test it, because it's broken.

This version was given a new title, translating roughly to "Pocket Monsters: Action Chapter", and received a copy-protected single cart release which I recorded a video from many years ago. (And yes the Game Over screen is broken in that version too.) But, thankfully, this multicart version features no protection whatsoever and will run in any emulator or flashcart without issue.

Kou Dai Guai Shou - Dong Zuo Pian (Unl) (Multicart rip) [C].zip

The King of Fighters '97

This one has some history behind it. Simply, it's a hack of Takara's Game Boy port of King of Fighters 96, bringing back characters from KOF 95 that were removed from 96. It's well-done enough, with a couple of nice-looking title logos and an original Super Game Boy border(!) that many have mistaken it for a legitimate game.

The original cart release of KOF 97 was copy protected, but the ROM floating around is cracked by the enigmatic "GYY Game Unlock Team", who also cracked the mono Gowin games. That original version of 97 is missing a few characters from 95/96, though: namely Eiji, Terry, Goenitz and Mr. Karate.

Another dumped revision exists, called King of Fighters '98, which brings back the missing characters, while also lacking any of the signs of removed copy protection seen in GYY's 97 ROM; instead that code resembles its unprotected KOF 96 equivalent (as discovered by Kak). This would mean 98 originated from a different, unprotected build of 97. However, the 98 title logo is of a low standard compared to the professional-looking 97 work, so it seemed unlikely that 98 itself was made by the 97 devs. Instead, it suggested 98 was hacked by some third party from a "missing link" build of 97. And, as you may have guessed by now, this is that version! It's unprotected, has the missing characters in place, and retains the 97 title.

This also appears to be the version that Vast Fame's Super Fighter S, and their subsequent three GBC fighting games, was based on. Those games contain, unused, the graphics for the KOF 97 select screen, complete with the extra characters from this version, which are totally absent from the initial release of 97. This - along with the professional graphics work and use of the "PC Paint Bold" font - points to the possibility of Vast Fame (or at least some staff member/s prior to joining the company) also having created KOF 97.

While this version doesn't use a nonstandard mapper, it's not compatible with the MBC1 used by the original KOF 96, and instead requires an MBC3 or MBC5 equivalent. However, the cartridge type in the header was left as MBC1, and hence the raw dump won't work with most emulators and flashcarts. For that reason I've prepared both a GBX version and a header hack which specify MBC5 instead & should work with anything.

GBX: The King of Fighters '97 (Unl) (Multicart rip) [S] [GBX].zip
Header fix: The King of Fighters '97 (Unl) (Multicart rip) [S] [Header fix].zip
Raw: The King of Fighters '97 (Unl) (Multicart rip) [S] [Raw].zip

Super Mario World 7

A hack of Adventure Island 2. I ripped this one from another multicart a long time ago, but this version is a little different; it still has the Adventure Island ROM header, and a few other bytes differ. Could be an earlier version.

Super Mario World 7 (Unl) (Multicart rip) (Alt).zip

Super Mario 4

A pretty well-known hack of Crayon Shin-Chan 4. A few different ROMs of this hack have been circulating for a long time, and this one is the same as "Super Mario 4 (Unl) [p1].gb" except for some inconsequential header bytes. Honestly, I wouldn't consider this worth ripping, if not for the fact that the existing ROMs' origins are obscure, so at least now we have one with some provenance to it. Like a fine wine.

Super Mario 4 (Unl) (Multicart rip).zip

Crayon Shin-Chan 6

Now, from a Shin-chan game hacked into something else, to something else hacked into a Shin-chan game! Sure, why not! This is a hack of the match-3 puzzle game Sanrio Carnival, replacing the Sanrio characters with Shin-chan and co. It also removes the 2-player mode and secondary block designs, and swaps all the music tracks around.

Note the name I've given this ROM is just what I think the title is supposed to be - the title screen reads just "Crayon Shin-chan" in Japanese without a number (and that's if I'm charitable in my reading of the wonky kana, which looks more like クレョンしんちやん than the proper クレヨンしんちゃん), but the multicart menu calls it "Kureyon Shin 6", so I'm assuming it was actually intended as a sixth entry in the series, following up from the five (five!) official Shin-chan Game Boy games.

Crayon Shin-Chan 6 (Unl) (Multicart rip).zip


Soup of Robot Wars

posted by taizou @ 2021-09-03 00:01:10 Dumps

Over the past five years on this site, I've dumped and released almost all of Vast Fame's known GBA games. But one still eluded me. Until now!

This is Ji Xie Ren Da Zhan - Zhong Jie Ban (機械人大戰-終極版), roughly translated to Robot Wars: Ultimate Edition, and as you may have guessed, it's Vast Fame's take on the extremely long-running Super Robot Wars crossover anime robot strategy RPG series.

I'm not familiar enough with the original Super Robot Wars games to know if this game is heavily based on any particular official entry, or if it's more of an original derivative work like Vast Fame's other GBA games. But the sprite work is really nice. Is that original or ripped from the official games? Again, I have no idea! Maybe some of the SRW fans out there can enlighten me on all of this.

Thanks to AprkMk16 for lending me this cart! As usual, you'll need to use mGBA to play.

Download: Ji Xie Ren Da Zhan - Zhong Jie Ban (Unl) (Chn).zip



posted by taizou @ 2020-12-16 02:00:08 Dumps

The year is 2003. We've got three hours and twenty minutes to spare, a regrettably gigantic cinema Pepsi, and an appetite for a fantasy epic. Of course, there's only one thing that'll do...

It's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King! But wait: this doesn't look like the multi-Oscar-winning film, and it doesn't quite look like the multi-7/10-winning licensed GBA game either?

If you've been around here a while, you may already recognise this: it's the English version of Vast Fame's Mo Jie Qi Bing! That's right, the TRUE king has returned!

Yes!! It's not a Sintax game! It's a good game! A real game! A game that's not just a graphic swap of another game! A game with original music and graphics that's coherent and makes sense and isn't broken! This is SUCH a breath of fresh air.

From the title, we can probably assume this was released after the official Two Towers GBA game, but before the official Return of the King game, giving it a release window of somewhere between late 2002 and late 2003. Sadly, this meant it had a pretty short shelf life, and makes it super hard to find today, since it has the same title as the much more widespread (and widely-pirated) official game. The giveaway is that the cartridge and box use the Lord of the Rings logo from the earlier, book-licensed Fellowship of the Ring GBA game, coupled with imagery from The Two Towers posters.

It almost feels unfair to hold this up against Sintax's GBA games, because the difference is SO vast. But I'm gonna do it anyway. This is a game with five playable characters, each with unique upgradeable attacks and special moves, 8 distinct levels, most with two sub-levels, 8 unique bosses each with dialogue, a mini-boss, a raft stage, weather effects, cutscenes, tons of great music tracks... and most importantly, it's actually fun, and well made, and doesn't have any showstopping bugs. It's just on a completely different level.

All the playable characters have modified names from their LOTR equivalents - this is the same in the Chinese version and was deliberate, they didn't just mistranslate them. This seems slightly redundant if intended as a legal dodge, since the English version just straight up uses the "Lord of the Rings" title, and both versions are stuffed full of movie stills and promo shots. If it wasn't for that, it honestly could've passed as a separate (very loose) adaptation from the books, since the hand-drawn character illustrations and sprites don't much resemble their film counterparts either.

Now, I have to mention one thing here: they didn't build this game completely from scratch. The engine actually comes from the GBA game Kiki Kaikai Advance (aka Pocky & Rocky with Becky), and was apparently obtained legitimately by Vast Fame. But this is no simple reskin - almost everything has been completely redone and expanded. I would say it even looks better than the original, with more detailed, colourful graphics. Is it a bit jankier in places? I mean, yeah! But, you know, the pressures of this kind of under-the-table development inevitably means some corners have to be cut. They really didn't cut many corners at all, though, and even... added corners of their own, in places. Like the raft stage, which, interestingly, resembles something that existed in the SNES Pocky & Rocky, but never made it into the GBA sequel. So, it seems Vast Fame even paid a little homage to previous entries in the series that gave them their engine.

That's really the kind of care and attention that set them apart from their contemporaries. They were making, essentially, a black market product, destined to be sold cheaply and anonymously - they could easily have just phoned it in, jacked some sprites from the previous LOTR games, dropped them into Pocky & Rocky and sold it like that. No doubt they would've been paid the same. But they didn't! They made something which can more than hold its own against the GBA's licensed library. That's pretty remarkable.

As per all copy protected Vast Fame games, this will only work in mGBA, specifically v0.7.0 or later. Enjoy a decent game for once!

Download: The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King (Unl) (Eng).zip