Game Boy: Color Trippin' and the MAME motherlode
Plus: A tool for infinite DIY Nintendo DS visual novels (or at least infinite Haruhi Suzumiyas).
You know how I know it’s gonna be a good Sunday? Because I’m going to a bookstore. But how do you know it’s gonna be a good Sunday? Because it’s a Read Only Memo Sunday, buddy!
The last two weeks the emulation lobe of my brain has been all-in on Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. I wrote another feature for PC Gamer interviewing the developers of Ryujinx and Yuzu about what to expect from their emulators when the game arrives. We talked about some of the likely challenges to day-one emulation. I think it’ll be awhile before we see great TotK emulation, but it might be pretty damn good pretty damn fast.
I’ve got at least one more feature planned for pre-release, digging deeper into the legal questions around emulation and modding stirred up by PointCrow’s recent videos (for more, see ROM #3). I’m not gonna lie: I’m pretty excited about the prospect of playing a new Zelda game on my PC, at better than 720p, 25 fps. I went through the tedious process of hacking my Switch a couple weeks ago to get ready — maybe I’ll write about more about that alongside discussing TotK emulation when it arrives.
This coming week, though, I’m facing down potential jury duty, so I’m wondering how the San Francisco court system feels about FPGAs. Do you think they’ll be cool with me brining my Analogue Pocket? I’ll report back.
Onto the good stuff: We’ve got a bit of a colorization theme this issue, apparently. I didn’t know there was a mini wave of Game Boy games getting DX-ified, but it’s a thing! Here’s Kirby’s Dream Land 2 DX by modder kkzero, released just this week. It’s real pretty! And the upgrade to Game Boy Color comes with the benefits of presto-vanisho’d slowdown. kkzero also did King James Bible DX, which I gotta say is a real good gag.
If you’re more about mega busters than mega churches, perhaps the colorized, slowdown-banishing Mega Man World 5 DX released earlier in April is your jam?
More colors just below, with the first of our Big Two! 🌈
The Big Two
1. Limited Run gives Trip World the deluxe treatment
Imagine Kirk and crew going to the Mirror Universe in Star Trek, but instead of everyone being evil and having beards, everything was the same except big videogame publishers kept alllll of their retro catalogs playable via emulation. And also maybe we’d have weird hairy hobbit feet or something so the universe was still slightly evil. Worth it!!!
Anyway, that’s my roundabout way of saying that this re-release of Trip World from Limited Run Games feels a little bit like something out of another (better) world.
Obviously we’ve seen some great emulation collections in the past few years, and Capcom’s Mega Man Legacy Collection just casually sold a million copies in like two weeks. But Trip World DX is a slightly different beast. It’s a new release of a Game Boy game that never came out in the US, not just being emulated but being colorized, with oversight from the original director. That’s something special, in addition to a museum gallery of artwork, interviews and design docs. Obviously it would be impossible to treat every back catalog game with this degree of love and attention, but it’s a pretty sweet Mirror Universe to dream about, anyway.
What I really love about this project is how many people from the hobbyist emulation community contributed to this project in one way or another. Limited Run’s Carbon Engine is based off the code of Ares, a multi-system emulator started by emulation legend Near. Trip World’s DX colorization is the work of toruzz, who’s done a couple of these before, with Super Mario Land DX and Super Mario Land 2 DX. And much of the rest of Limited Run’s Carbon team is composed of folks pulled in from the scene. A couple years ago I wrote about how Nintendo’s piss-poor N64 emulation highlighted how incredible the work of the fan scene is by comparison, and we’re finally starting to see more and more of that work being recognized.
The only hard decision here is whether to play the emulated version on PC, complete with all that historical goodness, or to pick up an actual Trip World DX for Game Boy Color cart to play on my Analogue Pocket. I guess the latter is technically still emulation, so by playing it that way I shall bring no shame upon my people.
2. MAME Mr. Drillers its way to .254 with some big additions
MAME emulates so many distinct arcade systems, the only reason I don’t assume it can already play everything is that the patch notes keep listing new games with every release. An exciting version dropped this week, though, bringing the Namco System 10 support I mentioned in Read Only Memo #2 to release. MAME .254 is freakin’ packed.
Here’s just a taste of what it’s added:
Mr. Driller 2 & Mr. Driller G
Taiko no Tatsujin 2, 4 and 6 (with more coming in .255)
Golgo 13: Juusei no Requiem light gun shooter
A pile of handheld game systems
“Almost a dozen Yamaha keyboards” 👨🎤
Everyone’s, uhhh, favorite talking toys from 1986, Bingo Bear and Monkgomery Monkey
Here’s a great overview video showing off bug fixes, some of the funky handheld games and some maybe-freaky '80s toys.
If you’re a cool cat with a light gun, you’ll be excited to hear .254 fixes some crashes in Time Crisis 2. If you’re a maniac, you’ll be excited to hear some bugs in Virtual Boy emulation have also been fixed, promoting a slate of Virtual Boy games to “working.” Clearly there’s something for everyone in this MAME release. Here’s where to grab it.
Attack of the tetrominos - The latest Ryujinx progress report highlights a bug that got a chuckle out of me: an obscure texture error on Nvidia 3000/4000 cards made Tetris pieces appear in the sky in several games.
The problem: cards go fast.
The cause was eventually narrowed down to newer Nvidia GPUs being able to start clearing render targets before the final image rasterization task has been completed. This can allow a texture to clear while it’s being sampled, producing the artifacts witnessed above.
Beware a fat texture - Another nice Ryujinx update last month greatly reduced stuttering while going through doors. Turns out the emulator was choking on some real big boi textures until riperiperi found a faster solution to update texture mapping rather than reloading it from scratch.
PCSX2 demonstrates unflinching commitment to accuracy
Respect. The. Hyphen.
QEMU hits a big 8.0.0 - QEMU isn’t a gaming emulator per se, but this is a pretty sizeable release. It’s a popular virtual machine emulator for Linux with performance that’s actually good enough for gaming. You can have your Windows inside your Linux, etc. To be honest I don’t really know my way around Linux enough to tell you how big a deal this is, but I’m assuming some power users out there are psyched.
MiSTer kernel gets built-in NFS support - If you’re the kind of person who hosts a podcast about file systems and network-attached storage, here’s a little update to get jazzed about. Thanks to the collaboration of Bas and RealLarry on the MiSTer forums, the MiSTer Linux kernel now has support for NFS. If you don’t know what that is, the takeaway is that it’s now a bit easier to store all your MiSTer games on a home server and play them over the network.
PIZZA TIME - Music to my ears, quite literally — MiSTer contributor Furrtek has released a beta core of the TMNT arcade game! Furrtek says it’s light on bugs, so if you can stand a little noisy audio during the opening song, then it’s time to stomp some Foot.
Live A Live Director credits fan translators for keeping it alive - A JRPG developer praising the fan translation scene? Be still, my heart. Here’s Live A Live’s original director (and producer of the remake) talking about it finally getting a western release after 29 years:
Unfortunately, we were unable to release the game outside of Japan. That was heart-breaking.
However, those who did play understood the appeal of the game and spread the word for us. Despite the game not being translated, volunteers localized it and passed down stories of how interesting it was for many years.
It has been my earnest wish that Live A Live be played by people all around the world, and thanks to so many people rooting for the game, they now can – and on the latest platform!
The Accidental Game Engine of Haruhi Suzumiya - Don’t you just hate it when you try to translate a videogame into English and you end up making a visual novel engine for the Nintendo DS? Ugh — every time it happens to me I swear it’ll be the last time! Okay, joking’s done, cuz this is legitimately excellent: Serial Loops from the Haroohie Translation Club is a game editor for the 2009 visual novel Suzumiya Haruhi no Chokuretsu. You can download it right now to assemble your own Suzumiya fan game without having to program it from scratch.
This grabbed my eye on RHDN because there’s an infamous plot thread in the Suzumiya series (a big chunk of the entire second season of the anime) where the characters are stuck in an endless time loop. There’s just something too perfect about a tool that could allow for infinite permutations of Suzumiya. This is just a 0.1 release, with a translation of the game still to come, too, but the devs hope to turn it into a little visual novel engine for the DS which sounds pretty dang neat.
Programmer John Lay recreated CD-i abomination Zelda’s Adventure on the Game Boy: Definitely emulation in the broader sense of the word, and wow you know a game is ugly when the Game Boy’s limited palette still offers a massive improvement.
I’m trying out Oriental Blue on the Analogue Pocket. This is not exactly a thrilling scene, but maaaan is this thing’s screen nice.
I just like Breath of Fire. That's all.