Evercade Gloved, PS Portal hacked, and 18 screenshots from 18 Fist of the North Star games for the hell of it

We're all over the place this week. I blame Glover.

Evercade Gloved, PS Portal hacked, and 18 screenshots from 18 Fist of the North Star games for the hell of it

You know, some weeks I start pulling together ideas and news for ROM and end up with a great conversation about a fan translation or a scoop on a new emulator update. And some weeks the best thing I do is gather a bunch of screenshots of Fist of the North Star. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It's a bit of a random collection of stuff this week, but that did give me the opportunity to share some Glover-related personal trauma. And there's a very cool translation for a Dreamcast light gun shooter that has a bit of Resident Evil DNA to it! And lots of screenshots of Kenshiro, which will become only slightly more clear by the time you scroll to the bottom of this newsletter.

This has been yet another bummer week in the media, with layoffs at Engadget that sound to me like the death knell for that site's editorial independence, which was overshadowed by the news that Vice's colossal mismanagement has wasted more than a billion dollars in capital over the last few years and now means hundreds more journalists need to lose their jobs. The Vice website itself is going away sometime (soon?) so in honor of that, I want to share some great emulation-related features from Vice's former tech site Motherboard and gaming site Waypoint.

The Story of NESticle, the Ambitious Emulator That Redefined Retro Gaming
The product of a talented programmer who designed a hit shareware game while he was still in high school, NESticle was so good that everyone looked past the fact its name was basically a dick joke.
What I Learned From Near, an Emulation Legend and Real Person
Over several weeks of reporting, I came to know a person of immense talent who was also in constant, undeniable pain at the hands of the internet.
The Near Impossible 20-Year Journey to Translate ‘Fire Emblem: Thracia 776’
Nintendo’s heralded strategy series is now completely playable in English, thanks to the tireless work of fans battling what the community dubbed the “translation patch killer.”
Programmer Uses NSA Tool to Liberate Legendary Super Nintendo Emulator From EA
The long-rumored SNESticle was hiding in a GameCube game for more than a decade. Now a programmer has come up with a way to run SNESticle on its own.
Uh, Is Soulja Boy Selling Cheap Emulation Boxes? A Waypoint Investigation
We’re serious.
Nintendo’s Offensive, Tragic, and Totally Legal Erasure of ROM Sites
The damage that removing ROMs from the internet could do to video games as a whole is catastrophic.

Thankfully the great editors from those sites have gone on to do their own things: check out 404 Media and Remap if you're not a regular reader already.

The Big Two

1. The Glove(r)s comes off: Evercade goes Nintendo 64

Last time I wrote about Evercade, it was to highlight a new handheld emulation system, but this is an altogether bigger deal: creator Blaze is emulating its first Nintendo 64 game, and it's chosen to start with Glover.



It's possible my memories of Glover are, let's say, slightly bitter. Everyone remembers Glover as the weird Nintendo 64 platformer starring a glove; people who know their gaming history may chime in "ah, yeah, and there was a PlayStation version that wasn't as good, too." I had neither — I had the Windows version, which may be the single most memorably disappointing gift I received in my entire life.

To be gifted a new videogame as a tween with no job and a small allowance was a thrill, since I couldn't afford to buy many myself. But at the time I got Glover, I had played Sonic the Hedgehog; I had played Tomb Raider; I had played Warcraft 2 and Command & Conquer; I had played so very many things that seemed way, way cooler than this glove man with his bright red ball. Then I tried to play Glover, and it got worse.

I don't know if the Windows version of Glover released in 1998 was crap, or if its system requirements simply far outstripped what our family Pentium was capable of. I don't remember if it was new, or a few years old; I have a dim memory of a $5 sticker on the box that my mind may have invented because it thinks Glover surely must've been in the bargain bin. I'm pretty sure the keyboard bindings were a crime against god, because I remember being absolutely baffled by how to do absolutely anything in the game. I couldn't even use the ball, the one action Glover seemed born for. I utterly failed to glove.

I decided then and there that Glover was the worst videogame I had ever played in my life other than E.T., on my friend's Atari 2600. But at least that had been a novelty for us to laugh at. Glover had come into my home, masquerading as an exciting gift, and left me with nothing but hate.

So, anyway, Evercade's doing N64 emulation. Pretty cool! I bet Marc Normandin over at RetroXP, who has nicer things to say about Glover than I do, could play this version and appreciate it. I'm mostly interested in the work required to make the N64 emulation run on Evercade's modest hardware, though, as it's significantly more advanced than the systems Blaze has previously supported. In an interview with Time Extension, head of marketing Sean Cleaver talks about how much they actually went in and rebuilt the game to make it playable. *Obi-Wan Kenobi voice* He's more machine now, than glove.

Here's Cleaver:

"Technically, memory bandwidth and solving general memory restrictions that come from the more powerful system so optimisations have been made there... Byteswap Labs have rebuilt Glover from the original source code to specifically target the N64. They built the game's code using modern techniques to speed up the execution of the game and make the experience much better, which was also part of the puzzle, allowing it to run on Evercade hardware.

These optimisation tools were written with the future in mind and are able to facilitate even more releases with optimisation. So, in the future, it's possible more 64-bit games will come to Evercade."

Another nice tidbit from the interview for Evercade owners: Glover was obviously an analogue controlled game on the N64, and the Evercade team are doing "initial work" to support third-party controllers with analogue input for the Evercade VS system. For now you'll have to make due with reworked digital input for Glover specifically. But it seems like there will be more 3D games that benefit from analog controls coming down the pike.

The Piko Interactive Collection 4, including Glover, is out in April, with pre-orders opening February 29. I was going to crack a joke about going to review bomb Glover on Steam, but then I read this one from awesomegabriel and L O L ed.

2. PlayStation Portal turned into PlayStation Portable, hacked to run PPSSPP

Whoop whoop, new emulation device siren — Sony's PlayStation Portal, aka an 8-inch screen with a chopped-in-half DualSense bolted to it, has been hacked. This in itself is not shocking. Of course the Portal is just a basic-ass Android tablet; the reason Sony could make this thing relatively easily and cheaply is that they could grab some off-the-shelf parts to customize with their own controls. A teardown revealed it contains a 2019 Qualcomm Snapdragon chip with an Adreno 610 GPU used mostly in midrange phones. Nothing special, but good enough to stream video from a console, for sure. Or to run PSP games.

The coolest thing about this hack, really, is its source: Andy Nguyen, aka theflow0. He has a long history of discovering security vulnerabilities in PlayStation hardware (and collecting bounties for them), stretching back to hacking the PSP Go to allow running homebrew.

There are some clear limitations here; in a follow-up tweet, Nguyen said that the system has about 6GB of onboard memory, which won't be enough to store many games (UMDs could hold up to 1.8GB, though many games were under a gig). Nguyen said "there's much more work to be done," so it's probably going to be quite a bit of work to make this an easy-to-install hack. But hopefully that's doable; I can't say I really saw the appeal of a $200 streaming-only handheld, but an 8-inch PSP with legit PlayStation controller inputs? That's a bit sweeter.

Performance is the big question, but judging by a bit of quick research, users have reported successfully playing PPPSSPP on Adreno 610 devices at higher than native resolution. I'm not sure if all games will be able to run at 4x res (from the PSP's 480 x 272) to hit the Portal's 1080p, but at the very least the Portal should prove fun to mess around with. It's no Vita 2, but it'll do for now.

Patching In

😈 Oh hell, new GBA emulator in town – You likely know mGBA and Visual Boy Advance, but after three years of development programmer Arignir has releases a new alternative: Hades. You'll see some neat built-in features here, including an LCD grid effect and color correction to better simulate what games looked like on the handheld.

For performance and features mGBA still has the edge, naturally, but it's always cool to see another developer tackling their own project. Congrats to Arignir!

🙊 PCSX2 commits heinous act, prevents rare case of Apes Escaping – Villainous PCSX2 contributor JordanTheToaster has added a "fix" to the emulator to avoid "a rare issue of monkeys defying gravity and walking into the air and through walls and a few other game fixes and name fixes." This is against the natural order of things. For shame.

🖼️ Yuzu smooths out texture stutters – A couple recent Yuzu updates have focused on VRAM usage and reducing texture stuttering, especially in demanding games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Xenoblade 2/3. Yuzu now includes a manual toggle for how much VRAM to use. The conservative setting "will prevent Yuzu from slowing down when used with third party programs that require VRAM" while aggressive "reduces stutter from cleaning VRAM consistently on games" and is recommended when no other running apps are using VRAM or if you're upping internal rendering to ~4K or using demanding mods.

Core Report

🐵 Analogue Pocket gets a pile of new coresDeveloper Obsidian has ported a number of MiSTer cores over to the Analogue Pocket: Vectrex, Mario Bros., Donkey Kong 3, Tower of Druaga, Donkey Kong Jr., and Asteroids Deluxe. A few are still WIP with a few things missing like high scores and Tate mode, but they're otherwise fully playable.

🐭 MiSTer or mouse trap? The MiSTer's arcade support grows with an old system, the Exidy Universal Game Board II from 1980. Developer Anton Gale launched the core in beta with a few of the system's games not yet working and some missing sound effects, but the supported list includes Mouse Trap, Spectar, TARG, Venture and Pepper II, none of which I can say I'm familiar with. But I love that there's a game called Fax, and that it got a sequel called Fax II, which are apparently trivia collections. Just the fax, ma'am.

Translation Station

Death Crimson 2: Altar of Melanito – This joint from hacker Derek Pascarella has his usual attention to detail (check out my interview about Cool Cool Toon!) applied to a Dreamcast light gun shooter. But not just any light gun shooter! Death Crimson 2 includes a story mode with dialogue and exploration in between shooting sequences. Weird but neat!

The translation patch includes a new ASCII font, graphics redone with English text, and even the VMU data readout's been converted to English. Pascarella added a cheat feature to allow for effectively infinite credits and time. I imagine more folks are likely to play a light gun game on original hardware than via emulation, so I particularly appreciate that Pascarella and team made modifications so the game can run via CD-R. If you've ever played a burned game on a Dreamcast, you may know they sometimes struggle and the disc drive makes some noise. Here's the deal:

"Death Crimson 2: Altar of Melanito is very read-heavy in terms of how it seeks and streams data from the disc. This becomes particularly aggressive during FMV playback, especially when dual FMV and audio streaming occurs (as is the case in several cutscenes).

Previous CDI releases of the game handled this horribly, with no optimizations in place in order to mitigate out-of-sync audio/video. For this English translation patch, great care has gone into encoding audio/video so that a moderately healthy GD-ROM drive will be able to read and stream this data without excessive synchronization issues.

However, players must bare in mind that despite said optimizations, experiencing this game via CD-R will still be suboptimal. Players will notice a moment or two where on-screen subtitles do not perfectly align with spoken dialogue. Please recognize that this is not a bug, but in fact a limitation of the Dreamcast's CD-ROM reading speed."

👊 Fist of the North Star 3: The Creator of the New Century - History of the Dreaded Fist is a really long name for a game – Logically I know Fist of the North Star was a big deal as both a manga and anime in the '80s, but I wasn't familiar with the series until so much later that it's wild to me they were already three games deep on the Famicom by 1989. This is actually the sixth game based on the manga in three years! And, notably, the first RPG, which kinda makes sense because walking to the right and punching dudes seems like a more on-point fulfillment of the core Hokuto no Ken fantasy. But the amount of text in an RPG makes this translation much more significant! According to translator BlackPaladin, the game tells the entire story covered by the '80s anime. This is actually the game's second fan translation, building on a Japanese - Spanish conversion from 2019. I'm not gonna say it's a looker on the world map, but the battle pixel art's pretty nice.

Good pixels

Just had the thought I wonder what Kenshiro looks like in practically every Fist of the North Star game ever* so uh, here we go

*There are even more than 18 games but this felt like enough. Omae wa mou shindeiru, etc.