Handheld Underground

Prohibido jugar con Giles

posted by taizou @ 2022-05-05 21:08:44 Dumps

This day has been a long time coming. Almost 12 years ago I imported a batch of rare games from Taiwan in the hope that I could just stick them in my newly-purchased EMS GB Transferer, dump them, and produce a ROM image that would immediately work in emulators, just as you could with any conventional, licensed Game Boy game. But, in the end, the only thing I was able to do was extract a single game from a multicart, Shi Kong Xing Shou. Of course, that was nothing to be sniffed at - it's a very good game that had been undumped until that point - but that still left a failure rate of over 75%, which was naturally a little disappointing.

Soon enough I'd learn why those dumps didn't work - copy protection, in short - and in the decade-and-a-bit since then, I've learned a whole lot, and dumped and emulated many many games with protection and other odd mappers, including the full entire multicart that Shi Kong Xing Shou had come from. But two from that early batch still eluded me: a pair of fighting games, developed by the well-regarded Taiwanese developer Vast Fame, probably the most-wanted yet most-elusive unlicensed Game Boy games out there. Unlike every other Vast Fame GBC game, these hadn't seen more easily-dumped re-releases on multicarts or by other publishers, instead remaining locked away behind the company's own custom protected mapper.

Vast Fame's history with the Game Boy fighting genre goes back possibly as far as King of Fighters '97, the hack of Takara's Nettou King of Fighters '96 which reintroduces the missing characters from Nettou KOF '95, as well as adding a fancy new SGB border. I believe this hack predates Vast Fame as an entity, but it does seem to have some connection to them or their staff, and all their subsequent fighting games were based on it.

Next came Super Fighters S, aka Super Fighters '99, aka Fighter 2000. This took the KOF '97 hack as its foundation, but built a whole new game around it, including new music, new stages, a new intro, full GBC support, and new characters, with its roster coming from the real KOF '97. It was one of the first games developed by Vast Fame as we know it, released in either 1998 or 1999, and although the original version didn't explicitly credit them on the packaging nor in-game, it does feature the V.fame boot logo which would appear in their subsequent own-brand releases.

From there, Vast Fame would go on to pump out a new fighting game for GBC every year until 2002 - and, relevantly here, the rest of those games adopted the same copy protection they'd use for the majority of their subsequent self-published games in Taiwan. So of course I've had my sights on reverse engineering and emulating this practically ever since I first thought "hey what if I made my own emulator" back in 2013 - but I never got anywhere until an extremely unlikely hacked-together software & hardware combination bore fruit earlier this year.

And so: finally, after all these years, hhugboy 1.4.0 supports most of Vast Fame's Taiwanese releases from around 2000 onwards, including those stubborn two fighting games and a whole lot more! But for today's releases we'll be sticking with the fighters. Let's rumble?!

Nü Wang Ge Dou 2000 (女王格鬥2000)

With the new millennium came Vast Fame's true debut on the gaming scene in Taiwan, firmly stepping away from their former semi-anonymity with the introduction of their double-diamond logo and custom cart shell. Nü Wang Ge Dou 2000 (loosely translatable as Queen Fighters 2000) would be their first fully own-brand fighting game, and they really came out strong with this one. As you might have surmised by now, it was their take on an all-female fighting game, no doubt taking inspiration from SNK Gals Fighters for the Neo Geo Pocket Color (the internal header name literally is "Gals Fighters") but Vast Fame at that time had quite a few women in key development roles, so they may well have pushed for it internally too.

Now, Super Fighters S was cool and all, but ultimately it was just the foundation of the Nettou KOF series taken to its logical conclusion, an imaginary "real" Nettou KOF '97 for GBC. And yeah it was well-done, with a bunch of quality audiovisual work put into it, but the nature of the thing meant it could only exist in KOF's shadow. This, on the other hand, was peak Vast Fame breaking out from the confines of imitation, with a brand new original 16-character roster, big expressive NGPC-style sprites and a whole new soundtrack from composer Yishen Liao. And the result is really leagues ahead of Super Fighters S in terms of the amount of distinctive Vast Fame style and personality and charm that shines through as a result.

Unfortunately, the larger sprites do come at a cost: the extra time taken to copy them to VRAM takes an extra frame, making animations noticeably choppier. It's still not as bad as, say, the Game Boy version of Street Fighter 2, but it's a very clear illustration of the tradeoffs that developers had to make in order to pull off a fighting game on the system; either you can have snappy responsive gameplay or nice big sprites but not both.

As I mentioned in the intro, for whatever reason this game doesn't seem to have seen widespread secondary releases in other regions, aside from being distributed by Kong Feng in apparently untouched form in mainland China. So this version is, probably, the only one that exists. And now you can play it! (Note as with all these releases it'll only work in hhugboy for the time being, until such time as other emulators implement support for it)

Nv Wang Ge Dou 2000 (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Nv Wang Ge Dou 2000 (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip

Chao Ji Ge Dou 2001 Alpha (超級格鬥2001α)

This one is a straight-up followup to Super Fighters S, with its name translating to Super Fighters 2001 Alpha. As such, it reverts back to being Basically A KOF Game, but presumably the standards of VF's own-label releases didn't allow them to quite commit to an outright copy-job, so all characters are recoloured in the artwork and their names changed to random shit like "Oswald" and "Jason".

This time we have 24 characters, with a roster loosely based on KOF '99, except with not-Rugal appearing as final boss, and Dina and Cio making a welcome return from Queen Fighters. Again it has bigger-than-Nettou sprites with the attendant performance issues, although the NGPC aesthetic is dropped here in favour of something partway between the chibi Nettou style and full-on human proportions. Perhaps inevitably, the non-original characters and more-realistic sprites result in a game that doesn't quite have the same charm as Queen Fighters, but it's all still very well-presented, there is a cool new Yishen Liao soundtrack and a cool intro and a cool title screen and all. Another unique addition for this one is a training mode where you can practice your moves against an inert CPU character.

Once again, this game doesn't seem to have had any kind of altered secondary release, just an untouched Kong Feng one & that's all. I really wonder why that happened - if Vast Fame was more precious about these games for some reason, or if other publishers just weren't interested... but surely this one had at least had the whole "just rename it to KOF and sell it as a KOF" potential? I dunno. It was a weird business.

Chao Ji Ge Dou 2001 Alpha (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Chao Ji Ge Dou 2001 Alpha (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip

Ge Dou Jian Shen (格鬥劍神) - Soul Falchion

And finally! This batch of releases comes to an end with the very last fighting game from Vast Fame. If you aren't familiar with Soul Falchion, it's a weapons-based fighting game heavily influenced by Last Blade and Samurai Shodown, specifically the Neo Geo Pocket Color entries in those series, with most (or all?) of its 20 characters being based on those games. However, the sprites are actually downsized to fit the smaller Nettou KOF-style proportions, undoing the performance downgrade of the previous two games and making the whole thing feel more responsive again.

So, gameplay-wise this might actually be an improvement on the previous two, but unfortunately it's otherwise quite obvious that it came after Vast Fame's creative peak - there isn't any original character art to be found, for example, the intro is just a slideshow of character portraits edited from the NGPC games without any animation. Overall it's still a solid game and there are even still some good new music tracks here, it just doesn't quite live up to the standards of their earlier work.

Another pretty clear sign of something being up, though, is the fact that Vast Fame's name is totally absent - there's no credit to them anywhere in-game nor on the packaging, and even the "V.fame" boot logo which was present ever since the otherwise-anonymous Super Fighters S has been replaced with "SOUL". This would be the case for all of their subsequent games even as they moved onto GBA, with their only known credited release in 2002 being Xin Feng Shen Bang. So this period marks Vast Fame slipping back into the background after their couple of years in the sun.

Now, other versions of Soul Falchion have been dumped for a long time, because unlike the prior two games, it received a large number of secondary releases, often with reduced or no copy protection. It also appeared on Vast Fame's multicarts, again with no protection, which I dumped and extracted a while ago. Why this one and not the others? Who knows! However, none of those versions exactly match this standalone Taiwanese cartridge. The common dump, sourced from a mainland China release, has a different title screen and buggy fade effects in the intro. The multicart version meanwhile seems to be an earlier revision, with the soundtrack from Super Fighters 2001 Alpha in place of the partially-unique one found in standalone releases, and all the characters having different palettes. So I think we can probably consider this new dump to be the "definitive" version.

Ge Dou Jian Shen - Soul Falchion (Unl) [C] [GBX].zip
Ge Dou Jian Shen - Soul Falchion (Unl) [C] [Raw].zip

8 Comments

Oppan Gangfeng style

posted by taizou @ 2022-02-20 02:09:39 Dumps

Vast Fame published games fairly directly in its native Taiwan, and so those releases can be seen as most closely reflecting what they wanted to put out into the world, with a string of (mostly) original titles issued for GBC under their own name, as well as a few more-infringing games released anonymously. However, although Taiwan certainly had a well-developed local game scene, the biggest market for Chinese-language releases was, of course, mainland China, and Vast Fame had to rely on local publishers and distributors to get their games out there.

While some of these distributors are not named, we know that by 2001 or earlier they had hooked up with Kong Feng Industries Limited (also known as Gangfeng, but the Kong Feng romanisation seems to be used most commonly by the company, so I'm going with that). This is a company probably best known for producing the "GB Boy" Game Boy clone systems, which they still make to this day, although they have long since exited the game-publishing business.

A magazine ad from 电子游戏软件 2001 issue 8 reveals that Kong Feng released Vast Fame's Shui Hu Shen Shou and Digimon Pocket in that year. Subsequent ads from 2002 issue 1 and 2002 issue 2 list further Vast Fame titles, alongside some Chinese translations of licensed games. Most of these releases used "Game GB Color" or simply "GB Color" branding.

Later releases came with "GB全彩中文" branding, later additionally identifying themselves with the Siddham script character 𑖦 (I bet your device can't display that). Although I don't believe these were openly credited to Kong Feng, they used the same PCBs, the same "SEA" back sticker, and the patent on their later shell design was registered to the same address that Kong Feng occupied at the time, so... you can draw your own conclusions there. However, under this line they seemed to move away from distributing Vast Fame games under their original titles, instead often rebranding them to latch onto big-name franchises, even when this was fairly incongrous with the game itself. (Eventually, they stopped publishing Vast Fame titles altogether and put out a string of low-quality RPGs developed by "Tian Cai Xiao Zi" using a hacked up version of VF's San Guo Zhi engine).

Now, while these cartridges were copy-protected, it turns out most of them didn't use the same protection found on Vast Fame's Taiwanese releases, but rather another variant on the well-understood type used by BBD and Hitek. So, after figuring that out I was able to emulate it pretty easily. It's supported in hhugboy 1.3.1+, named "Vast Fame secondary releases" in the "unlicensed compatibility mode" menu. In all cases I'm providing GBX and raw dumps, no deprotection hacks because they use the protection features in a non-trivial way.

(Incidentally the carts all have 32KB SRAM onboard and addressable, so I've specified that much in the GBX files, even though the games only seem to use 8)

Shu Ma Bao Long - Kou Dai Ban (數碼暴龍-口袋版)

Thanks to RocknRami for lending me this cart a long long time ago! The pic above is taken from her blog, because... if I ever took a picture when I borrowed it I sure as hell can't find it.

This is one of the earlier "Game GB Color" releases as seen in those magazine ads, released in 2001. The title translates to "Digimon Pocket Edition", although in English it's widely just known as "Digimon Pocket". Previously I dumped the same game via a Vast Fame multicart, but this version differs in a number of ways, which I'll get into later.

So this is an RPG based on Digimon, as you probably guessed. I believe this was Vast Fame's first RPG, with its Taiwanese release probably landing around 1999-2000. This was when Digimon was really hitting its stride as a multimedia phenomenon, with the Digimon Adventure anime starting its run worldwide and video games hitting various non-Nintendo platforms, of course leaving a Game Boy-sized open goal for unlicensed developers. I didn't play much of it when I dumped the multicart version previously, but since I was curious about the differences and have been getting into some bits of Digimon lately I decided to give it a bit more attention this time around and see what's what.

You start the game with a full team of 6 baby Digimon. Although they have levels, they don't gain experience by fighting; instead you earn crests through battle, which allow you to evolve one Digimon to any other Digimon of the next evolutionary stage, with each one having a fixed set of stats and moves. There are 134 total Digimon across all stages, with sprites which seem to be based on the designs used in "Digital Monster Ver. WonderSwan", which was released in March 1999, around the same time Digimon Adventure premiered in Japan. Characters from that anime appear as "gym leaders" (for want of a better term), but the setting and story doesn't seem to be based on it otherwise.

Progression is pretty simple. You travel from town to town fighting random inhabitants, gaining an evolution crest every 4 battles. Townspeople seem to cycle through a shared set of teams, and the later ones can totally wipe you out early in the game, but you can reset the cycle by leaving town. After evolving a couple of Digimon you'll be ready to take on the "gym leader" who will grant you access to the next town plus another crest for your trouble.

And that's really all there is to it; a number of other elements seem to be notably missing or unfinished. Even though there's no experience system, Digimon have a "0000/0000" meter in the stat screen, which seems to do nothing. There is a "monsters" count on the save screen, but it always remains at 000, and in any case there are no "wild" encounters nor any other way to obtain additional Digimon aside from evolving your starting six. There are also no items aside from the evolutionary crests. It's all pretty barebones and rough around the edges. It certainly shows that it was Vast Fame's first RPG, and I wouldn't be surprised if development had been rushed to catch the Digimon wave as early as possible, but at least it presumably provided some foundation for their later high-quality original works.

As for the differences to the multicart version: this release has a whole different (better) soundtrack, a few bugs are fixed, and its player character sprite is changed from Taichi to a generic cap-wearing kid. However, in both versions, Taichi appears on the title screen and Cap Kid appears as the player character's portrait. Apparently the Taiwanese single-cart release is identical to this one, in spite of its manual showing a Taichi sprite like the multicart version; this probably indicates the multicart version is an earlier build, similar to some of the other games on those carts. I'm still open to the possibility of an earlier Taiwanese print having a different revision, though; it has been sighted in the same "New GB Color" cart shells used for Vast Fame's very early releases (as well as certain hacks) and I don't think the contents of that particular version have been documented. There's also at least one English version, maybe two, but those have eluded me for a long-ass while.

Surprisingly, the ROM dump 1:1 matched a ROM that had been sitting under everyone's noses for years, inexplicably misnamed "Zelda Shi Kong Zhi Zhang (Encrypted) (Unl) [C]" in GoodGBX. So if you have that ROM, you can select the "Vast Fame secondary releases" mode in hhugboy and it will run just fine. But nevertheless I'm giving it a proper release with its proper name here.

Shu Ma Bao Long - Kou Dai Ban (Unl) (Chn) [C] [GBX].zip
Shu Ma Bao Long - Kou Dai Ban (Unl) (Chn) [C] [Raw].zip

(This cart has a DSHGGB-81 PCB and boots with a "DIGI." boot logo.)

Mo Jie Chuan Shuo (魔戒傳說)

Now we're getting into the GB全彩中文 releases, this presumably being one of the earlier ones, from 2002. Hey is this one of those Lords of the Rings I've heard so much about

Well... not really? It's actually E Mo Dao / E Mo Cheng 2, the Getsufuumaden/Castlevania hybrid, with the only apparent change being the title screen, plus the graphics for one of the intro scenes being corrupt (verified on real hardware). However in spite of that bug, the redone title screen is decent enough that I think the rework was done by Vast Fame themselves rather than being a post-hoc hack by someone else.

Vast Fame would revisit this theme later with a more comprehensive overhaul, currently dumped via a Li Cheng release, which adds a new properly LOTR-based opening cutscene, removes the map screen and makes the game totally linear instead.

Mo Jie Chuan Shuo (Unl) (Chn) [C] [GBX].zip
Mo Jie Chuan Shuo (Unl) (Chn) [C] [Raw].zip

(This cart has a DSHGGB-81 PCB and boots with a "TD-SOFT" boot logo, a strange one since that logo has also been seen in non-Vast Fame games.)

Mu Chang Wu Yu GB 6 (牧場物語GB6)

Another GB全彩中文 release. Unfortunately my copy has a low-quality reproduction label for some reason, but the original came with a gold seal that was applied to some of the mid-era carts under this line (they seemed to drop it when adopting a custom shell design for the Tian Cai Xiao Zi games).

Now we're REALLY in weird-rebrand territory. This game starts up with a series of nicely-drawn static graphics of Harvest Moon characters, and a new title screen to get you ready to enter a world of farming fun. Again, all of this appears to have been done by Vast Fame themselves; I don't know if it was their idea or done at Kong Feng's request, though.

But... Vast Fame never really made a Harvest Moon game, nor anything that would really fit the "agricultural RPG" theme at all. So what's the underlying game here? Why, sci-fi monster-collecting RPG, Shi Kong Xing Shou, of course! Yeah, why not! Maybe they were trying to do Innocent Life before Innocent Life. (does anyone even remember Innocent Life anymore? it just got left to die on the PSP while Rune Factory got 50 sequels and even outlasted its developer smh)

Mu Chang Wu Yu GB 6 (Unl) (Chn) [C] [GBX].zip
Mu Chang Wu Yu GB 6 (Unl) (Chn) [C] [Raw].zip

(This cart also has a DSHGGB-81 PCB and boots with a "DIGI." boot logo)

Digimon Sapphire

And finally! This is NOT a mainland release, but rather one of the rare few international English versions of Vast Fame games. It happens to use the same mapper as the above carts, despite having a totally different PCB and having been published by the "New Game Color Advance" company.

And this is not a rebrand either - it's basically an original Digimon strategy RPG, albeit based heavily on Vast Fame's previous original game Sheng Shou Wu Yu. It also received a rare Taiwanese release plus a mainland one under the GB全彩中文 line, which probably explains it using the same mapper here.

As usual for Vast Fame English games, the text is extremely badly translated, but just about comprehensible if you pay attention. Also the music is surprisingly messy here, with some tracks having channels out of sync, and music playing in weird locations like the Sheng Shou Wu Yu title theme playing in battle. Clearly it didn't have the same care and attention put into it that Sheng Shou itself did. But at least that solid foundation means it's got more going on than Digimon Pocket did.

You've probably noticed the cart calls this one "Digimon Saphire", but since the title screen has the correct spelling I'm going to be generous and not preserve their mistake in a ROM filename forever. You're welcome, label designer from 20 years ago.

Digimon Sapphire (Unl) (Eng) [C] [GBX].zip (GBX footer updated 22/02/2022 - new file CRC32 11B4BDE1)
Digimon Sapphire (Unl) (Eng) [C] [Raw].zip

(This cart has a BC-R1616T3P PCB and does not boot with a custom logo, despite having a "DIGI." logo at the usual spot in ROM)

13 Comments

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

18 Comments

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

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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

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