Jaleco produced a number of electro-mechanical games over the years, games where the cabinet
itself is key to the enjoyment of the experience. I'm thinking about Arm Champs and Arm Champs II, arm wrestling simulations that sported an actual hydraulic arm (flyer). Or the World PK Soccer series (flyer) where you can kick a soccer ball mock-up.
The funniest I've emulated though is Scud Hammer. In that crazy thing you play a rock-paper-scissors game with the most clichéd of Japanese characters. When you win, a puppet head springs out of the cab, and you have to hit it with a plastic hammer as hard as you can. Nice to blow off steam at the end of a stressful day! In MAME that is simulated via an analog port (e.g. mouse position) that reports the effect of the hit on the accelerometer.
One of the problems with such games from a MAME/preservation perspective is that, for a start, they're much more difficult to get hold of for dumping. And even then, you usually have to acquire the whole cab together with the PCB. As you can imagine, this poses some non-trivial issues of logistics and price. Indeed, a few of these games are still undumped, such as the original Arm Champs.
When recently one such game, Captain Flag (full cab and all) was spotted by coolmod (a member of The Dumping Union), we knew we didn't want to pass on it. It's a pirate themed redemption game released in 1993. It features a cool electro-mechanical torso, with the screen as "face", and moving arms. They hold a red and a white flag and mimic the player's vertical movements on two joysticks. A video of the cabinet in action can be found online:
Coolmod, with the help of a friend, took it upon himself to get this beauty dumped and documented. This required moving the cab (a two-day job) and involved a 350-mile trek to get the PCBs (two full boards and a sub-board). Smitdogg also helped with the dumping and Ryan with the funding. Manual and schematics were included:
I worked on the emulation, since the hardware (minus the cab specifics) is the same as Arm Champs and Scud Hammer, emulated in cischeat.cpp (that I wrote). One of the hurdles of course was the need to simulate, at least to some degree, the mechanical parts of the cabinet. Even when they're merely cosmetic and not involved with the player inputs, as in this case, the software will still hang and complain loudly if the actuators or sensors do not respond according to their specs!
Below are the results. Jaleco games are usually of high quality and as you can see this is no exception with nicely drawn cartoony graphics and smooth animation. It's a polished game albeit, as most redemption games, quite repetitive and short:
Below is a video of the current WIP emulation in MAME. Note that the flags at the sides are not part of the screen, but a simulation of the mechanical arms, done with MAME's Artwork system, to provide a visual feedback of the cabinet state to the player (eventually actual images extracted from photos of the cabinet should replace this crude approximation):
If you're wondering what the heck is happening in that video... the game is in Japanese and rather difficult to play if you don't understand the language: the player has to quickly react to the phrases uttered in an excited and confusing way by your opponent (don't expect fair play from a pirate!)
The buccaneer challenges you, to raise or lower one flag or the other. Or sometimes to *not* perform said action. Fortunately there aren't many variations, and even us gaikokujin can beat the game with some effort. This cheat-sheet should come handy:
I actually cheated to win those two rounds... the P key in MAME is your friend.
Thanks to Ryan Holtz, coolmod, Smitdogg and The Dumping Union
Trivia R Us
The Dumping Union acquired this PCB years ago but I'm studying it just now. Trivia R Us was produced in 2009 by AGT (Apollon Global Technologies), a company based in California.
The "game" consists in a collection of (mostly salacious) gags you can scroll through, a few per coin. Or, at your option, a trivia game with yes/no answers. It's operated via buttons or a touch screen (unemulated ATM):
It's actually based around the VRenderZERO chip emulated by ELSemi. The SoC contains a CPU core (SE3208, with an annoying instruction encoding) and produces graphics (rot-zoom sprites) and sound. Unlike the Crystal System boards though, this one is not protected by a PIC, and thus runs without code patches!
I had to tweak the driver to support higher resolutions (640x480). Plus all the graphics were shifted in-game,
which turned out to be a CPU core bug. Being a recent game the code is compiled, and thus makes heavy use of the
stack to manipulate its data. The routine that uncompresses the graphics from the flash was receiving an odd address in the
stack pointer, which on hardware is adjusted to the an even address, but in MAME was used unchanged. Took a bit to figure out as I was trying to debug the video part
Thanks to J. Mathevet, Smitdogg and The Dumping Union
Guru dumped this unknown PCBs with a cartridge recently...
Alas it's not a game this time, but a sticker-printing machine with screen, joystick and buttons: Yuvo's Joy Stand Private. We have a few of these photo booth boards emulated in MAME already,
such as Sega's Print Club series and a couple by Jaleco that I showcased here in the past.
See also Wikipedia's Purikura page.
Since these titles are not games, their inclusion in MAME has been debated in the past. In the end it was decided that they deserved
to be added as coin-operated, video-based machines that you could find in (Japanese) arcades. Also in most cases their hardware was
directly derived from arcade game PCBs. Kind of a moot point now that MAME and MESS are merged.
In this case the hardware appears to be unique. There are no custom chips on the PCBs and the video rendering is implemented by XC30xx FPGAs.
The CPU is a 68000 derivative with on-board peripherals (TMP68301):
The system hosts two cartridge slots (master and copy). Near the shell in the photo you can see the dumped cart contains 12 flash chips holding the graphics
for the backgrounds and the overlays. These are organized as 16x16 high-color tiles (5 bits per each RGB component and the 16th bit is
transparency). The hardware supports both a tilemap of these tiles as well as a frame buffer where the CPU renders the
composition of background and overlay chosen by the user.
It seems MAME does not support tilemaps with graphics of this depth, so I implemented the rendering myself in the driver.
The rest of the graphics (text, girl character) is on the main PCB as EPROMs used by two other tilemaps using more manageable 16-color 8x8 tiles.
An OKI chip is used for speech and a Yamaha FM chip plays the background music. This is how it runs under emulation:
A couple of tweaks to the flash chips and CPU emulation were necessary to get it to this state, but I did not implement the printer
nor the camera communication, so it errors out along the way anyway.
A quick peek at Mahjong Gorgeous Night, bought by Dyq and dumped by Guru. It's made by Techno-Top in 2000.
Similarly to their Mahjong Jong-Tei (1999, same PCB), it mixes drawn and (explicit) digitized graphics:
Three Of A Kind
Three gambling games turned up in the last couple of weeks. The first comes from Arzeno Fabrice, with help from Porchy, tormod
and The Dumping Union. The PCB was not working, so we were not sure of what it was, besides being a gambler (battery backed RAM, etc.).
The hardware is based on seta.cpp chips, but with two 65C02 CPUs, which is a first.
There is also a X0-009 chip that is actually a microcontroller (MCU) used for protection, most likely an Intel 8742
with internal EPROM.
While we see if it can be dumped (some 8741 off of Taito boards, i.e. M-Chips, have been dumped before), I've
written a simulation of its behavior. It handles the player inputs and cabinet outputs (leds, coin counters).
It turns out it's a poker game called The Dealer by Visco Games, which probably came out after 1988 based on the date codes on the PCB (no year shown on screen,
as often happens with gambling games):
Not much info of it on the net can be found, but there is some back story here.
Sadly the poster, "Nightmare Tony", a well known and respected member of the arcade community, is no longer with us (RIP).
The following two games, both Mahjongs, are thanks to Dyq and Guru.
One is Mahjong Super Dai Chuuka Ken (1995), by (the very prolific) Dynax:
It runs on ddenlovr.cpp hardware.
The second game is manufactured by BMC and, as you can clearly see from the Japanese title written in an Arabic-looking font, is called Mahjong Magic Lamp (2000):
This one runs on the bmcpokr.cpp driver I worked on last year.
Thanks to Dyq, Guru, Arzeno Fabrice, Porchy, tormod,
The Dumping Union
Burning Tricycles and Hot Sushi
An anonyMous (sic) contributor has kindly submitted dumps for 5 (!) games at once, all running on Sigma hardware.
They are medal games for kids that, albeit offering very little in terms of gameplay (most amount to a brief and
intense button mashing), do provide some form of entertainment thanks to their bright and large graphics featuring amusing cartoony characters in typical Japanese style.
In the past I covered several other games from this platform, including many by Sammy (one two three four
five and six).
The earlier game is Minna Atsumare! Dodge Hero (1997), where you try to hit with a volleyball one of your class mates, possibly the bearer of the highest number, which translates in an equal amount of medals hopping out of the cab:
The next new game is Itazura Daisuki! Sushimaru Kun (1997). You pick one of the three improbable customers, and bet on tricking him/her with some hot sushi (!?):
On to Burning Sanrinsya - Burning Tricycle (1997). You bet for medals on the winner of a wacky tricycle race involving cute animals:
The following game, Transformer Beast Wars II (1998), is based on the popular Hasbro franchise. You have three buttons (punch, kick and guard) to fight you opponent, in a fashion more akin to Rock-Paper-Scissors than a real beat'em up:
Finally Minna Ganbare! Dash Hero (2000) is, as you can guess, an exercise in button bashing to win a sprint race (as gambling games go, though, the actual pay-out rate is fixed by the operator):
Having this many games in a driver (sigmab98.cpp) is nice, since it helps improving the quality
of the emulation. New games with different code bases can make use of previously unused features of the hardware or
exploit the emulated ones in an unprecedented way, which then requires a more faithful emulation.
For instance, I found a video (original) of a few of these games being played on the actual cabs (which, by the way, are part of their appeal) and, despite the low resolution, it indeed highlights an unemulated sprites rotation effect in PEPSI Man (when falling).
Thanks to anonyMous, Yasu
Castle Of Dracula
An obscure Korean game has been spotted in Italy, bought and dumped by Caius!
Initially all he had was the title screen and a blurry PCB pic.. It turned out to be a shameless (and cheap) clone of Plotting.
Castle Of Dracula, this the name of the game, was apparently developed by Yun Sung in 1994, although the PCB only bears "Escape" stickers and the title screen displays a laconic "Y.S.E." copyright.
Here are some screens from emulation:
Having played the game a bit, the "so bad it's good" saying rather fits the clumsy, unpolished production. The game nonchalantly blends a fantasy back story of sworded heroes and damsels in distress, narrated through interludes drawn in manga style, with the titular Romanian gothic myth.
Brave enough? A video from the PCB is provided by Caius:
The "stiff" graphics do hint at a blitter based engine, don't they? Sure enough... the anonymous PCB is actually a clone of dynax.cpp hardware. The Dynax blitter is implemented by an FPGA with a few minor variations in how the drawing flags and the destination layers are selected.
Sound is also a single M6295 that plays digitized loops in place of the Yamaha PSGs. Don't listen to it for long or it'll get stuck into your head.
Thanks to Caius and The Dumping Union
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