Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The CollectorVision Phoenix Part 2 - The FPGA System Built by Thieves and Sold on Disinformation

Three blog posts ago, I was rather critical of the CollectorVision Phoenix, an FPGA console which implements the ColecoVision : https://nerdlypleasures.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-collectorvision-phoenix-fpga.html  I said all that I believed needed to be said, but since then I have determined that the console was deserving of further criticism.

Before we go into the specifics of my claims, let's review the basic hardware specifications of the ColecoVision and similar systems which are based off the TMS9928A Video Display Processor (VDP).


Sunday, November 4, 2018

Newly-Made High Quality Controllers for Vintage Consoles

When you see new controllers being sold for your retro video game systems in your local retro video game store and in many online stores, they are typically of the atgames, Tomee, Cirka, Retro-bit, Gamerz-Tek or Hyperkin quality, which is essentially no-quality.  When you buy these controllers, expect cheap plastic, stiff or rattling buttons, thin and short wires, useless turbo options and terrible D-pads.  Occasionally one can find quality products that go above and beyond and try to compete or exceed the quality of original, first-party controllers.  Let's take a look at some of the respectable options for your classic consoles.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Analogue Mega Sg – A Preview of the Next Chapter in the FPGA "Console Wars"

Analogue Mega Sg JPN Version
Today, Analogue has made an announcement of its next FPGA retro console. This was a reveal which had been long expected. When the console was revealed as an implementation of the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, it came as no great surprise to observers like myself familiar with Analogue’s history. Let’s explore some of that history, the specifications of the unit, what you will get for the $189.99 retail price and how this console may fare in today’s increasingly-crowded retro-console market.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The CollectorVision Phoenix - An FPGA Console Behind the Times?

The ColecoVision has a very driven fan community.  I did not own one and really do not share the love that those who do or did have, but nonetheless it is a classic gaming system that has new products and peripherals released for it.  The idea of recreating the Coleco in a modern, updated console, has long been talked about.  Currently, no less than three different groups have announced some kind of FPGA-based Coleco.  One of those project, called the CollectorVision Phoenix, is now accepting funding on kickstarter.  Let's look into the Phoenix's campaign and features and I will explain why I think you should give this FPGA console a pass.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sega Genesis - Compatibility Issues Across Models

When you buy a console, you might expect every game to work perfectly on it.  In most instances you are covered, but some consoles tend to be a little picky about the games they can play for obscure, rather than obvious, reasons.  Here let's look at the Sega Mega Drive and Genesis and see what kind of compatibility issues you can encounter when playing games on them.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Game Boy Colorization Examples

In a previous blog entry discussed the various tools developers had when they sought to colorize Game Boy games.  http://nerdlypleasures.blogspot.com/2015/01/getting-out-digital-crayons-color-and.html  The two main hardware methods were the Super Game Boy and the Game Boy Color.  In a followup to that blog entry, this blog entry let's talk about and show examples of how each method was used.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Exciting Developments for NES ROMs

When it comes to the NES, everybody at one point or another has emulated the NES.  NES emulation has been around for a long time and has improved so much that often the experience of playing a game on an emulator is indistinguishable from playing the game on real hardware (accounting for video improvements via emulation.)  But NES emulation is continually evolving as we find more games to dump and understand better the hardware found inside previously-dumped games.  In this blog post let me share some recent developments regarding NES ROMs.


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Investigating the Games on the NES, Famicom and SNES Classic Editions

Nintendo's latest efforts to "cash in" on its retro properties, the NES Classic Edition and the SNES Classic Edition, have gone very well.  The hardware is inexpensive to make and the games, for the most, part, are held in high regard.  The consoles sell very well, sometimes too well.  All across the three major markets, they were in high demand at launch.  One interesting thing about these devices for me is the software included on these devices.  These are emulator boxes and they run ROMs, just like the Virtual Console for the Wii U and Wii and previous releases for the GameCube.  Let's see what kind of ROMs they use.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Product Review Potpourri

In today's blog entry I will review three inexpensive products for your retro gaming consoles.  If you are interested in getting HDMI-only consoles to play on a CRT, splitting HDMI signals for capturing and playing without copy protection and a name-brand NES to Famicom converter, read on.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Ten Advantages of an IBM PC/XT over an IBM PC

If you are looking for an early PC-compatible "8-bit system", the IBM PC and the IBM PC/XT are good choices.  They sold well, are built to last and "just work".  But while you may want to get one of each, if money or space is tight, I would suggest trying to find an IBM PC/XT over the IBM PC.  Some reasons why are as follows :


Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Great Unknown : 720p and 480p Retro Solutions

While retro video games and consoles have been getting the digital treatment in the forms of emulators, PCs and services like the Virtual Console, buying hardware to specifically play retro games in a digital form (as opposed to a clone console) is a relatively recent phenomenon.  There has been a draw for people who want to really use their cartridges on a high quality, high definition system using a modern TV.  There has also been a market for people who want a plug-and-play box where they don't have to fiddle with emulator options.  Most modern TVs use the HDMI connector for passing digital content through to a LCD panel's display processor.  HDMI licensing issues aside (search my blog for information about those issues), most of these retro devices support a maximum resolution of 480p, 720p or 1080p.  While some of these devices support 1080p, many only support 720p or 480p. which can lead to thorny problems with lag and image resizing.  Let's take a look at the issues in this blog article.

First, here is a list of current or actually released retro-centered solutions by the maximum resolution they support :

Saturday, June 23, 2018

New Accessories and Ideas for the Game Boy Camera

Courtesy of Wikipedia
The Game Boy, while a modern marvel in and of itself, had a very unique peripheral released for it toward the transition from the monochrome Game Boy to the Game Boy Color.  That device was the Game Boy Camera, a cartridge with an twistable camera lens capable of taking four-color photographs in a 128x112 resolution surrounded by borders.  It could save up to 30 user-taken pictures to its battery-backed memory.  The program included some rudimentary editing tools, simple games and many little touches which were weird by Nintendo's standards.  Nintendo also released the Game Boy Printer, a small thermal printer which functioned as the only official way to memoralize photos outside the cartridge.  While the Camera was considered a modern marvel itself in its day, the Camera has had a cult following ever since.  Let's look at some of the ways in which continued interest in the Game Boy Camera has manifested itself.


Monday, June 4, 2018

Legal Remedies for Copyright Infringement of Open Source Software & the Trouble with Temporary Copies

Clone consoles are nothing new, clones have been made since the Atari 2600 became successful.  During a console's market life and for years thereafter, clones were usually illegal because they infringed on the maker's patents.  But patents expire, usually after twenty years, and after the consoles that utilized those patented chips and technologies could be freely recreated.  For successful vintage consoles, hardware clones usually follow their patent expiration.  Early clones used reverse engineered ASICs to replicate the functionality of an Atari 2600, a NES, a SNES and a Genesis.  But newer clones frequently use ARM processors and run emulators to cut down on costs and improve features.  One such clone, the Hyperkin RetroN 5, caused a great deal of controversy when it was discovered to have used emulators without permission from their original authors.  Let's dive into the legal ramifications of the this behavior.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Search for Artifact Color on the Commodore 64

NTSC composite artifact color is something typically relegated to computers with off-the-shelf graphics hardware.  We associate it with the Apple II mainly, which used it in its high resolution modes.  TRS-80 Color Computer fans also know it very well, because it was the only color available in that computer line's graphics until the Model 3.  IBM PCs also used with more frequency than was commonly known in the early days in CGA graphics cards.  But Commodore didn't rely on off-the-shelf 74-series logic to drive its home computers' displays.  It had bought the MOS company and all its chip fabrication expertise.  Its computers used real graphics chips and they displayed real color.  They didn't need the composite tricks to get their graphics working and they didn't need boards devoted to graphics either.  But I have come across some information which suggests that the assumption that the Commodore 64 did not support composite artifact color may not be supportable.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Gaslighting a Historical Event? - Billy Mitchell and His Perfect Pac-Man Game

On July 3, 1999, Billy Mitchell made history by playing the first verified perfect game of Pac-Man.  This was major news at the time and Mitchell was celebrated for his achievement.  He not only became something of a celebrity in the video game world but also helped to raise the visibility of Walter Day's Twin Galaxies, an entity devoted to keeping records of high scores and other video game achievements. For nearly twenty years that achievement was generally accepted and unchallenged. Recent developments, however, have called this historical event into question. Allegations of cheating by Mitchell have caused Twin Galaxies and Guinness World Records to no longer recognize his achievement.

We will discuss the game, give an overview of Mitchell and Twin Galaxies, recount the story behind the event and the incidents which gave rise to allegations of cheating and the effect they have had on high scores and records of the past.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Expanding Vintage IBM PC & Compatible Display Options - the GGLabs CGA2RGB Converter

GGLabs' CGA2RGB (courtesy of GGLabs)

Getting a high quality and proper video signal from an IBM CGA or EGA card or an IBM PCjr or Tandy 1000 without their specialized monitors can be difficult.  These computers used specialized RGB monitors to give a high quality solution using digital signals to tell the monitor which color to display.  Unfortunately this standard was not really adopted outside of the expensive PC compatibles and most RGB monitors only accept an analog signal.  When VGA and its analog RGB signal format became standard, support for the older digital RGB format went away.  In this blog entry I am going to examine an inexpensive converter that can help you adapt your vintage PC compatible's digital RGB video output to the more accessible analog RGB video output.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Compatibility Issues within the Game Boy Line

In the beginning, Nintendo released the Game Boy and it took the world by storm.  Since 1989, Nintendo has released no less than 9 major followup products in the Game Boy line sold to the public in the eighteen years to follow.  The Game Boy line has a reputation for rock-solid backwards compatibility, but here we will explore issues with backwards compatibility in as much detail as I can find.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Super Nt - Testing and Capturing

I had not planned on publishing a second blog entry on the Super Nt, but there were one or two issues I wished to address and the first blog entry was becoming very long.  So here is another blog entry discussing testing and capturing games on this increasingly wonderful device.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Super Nt Review - The Ideal FPGA Console?


In the four months since the announcement of the Super Nt, there has been a lot of anticipation over the final product.  Will it ship on time?  Will it be as good as the Nt Mini?  Is it worth the money?  Can I put my original hardware away?  Now that I have had mine for about four days by the time this blog entry posts, I can try to answer those questions and give my own impressions of the system.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

StarTech USB3HDCAP Review - A Jack of All Trades?

The StarTech USB3HDCAP (courtesy of Amazon.com)
Capturing real hardware has always been something of a challenge, especially when it comes to retro video game consoles and computers.  I have been seeking an affordable "all-in-one" capturing solution for some time.  Recently I read about the StarTech USB3HDCAP and remarked that it could handle odd inputs like 15KHz RGB, 240p Component video and even 320x200 70Hz VGA.  I also read that the StarTech uses the same hardware as the more expensive Micomsoft X-CAPTURE 1 and the less-featured Elgato HD60 S.  I purchased a card recently and found that getting the best out of it is not quite as straightforward as I expected.  Here let me discuss what I have tried and how well it works.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

sd2snes and MSU-1

The MSU-1 was a software memory controller (mapper) created by byuu for the bsnes/higan emulator to allow for vastly increased storage for SNES software.  The MSU-1 allows for ROMS up to 4GB in size whereas ROMs for the SNES were limited usually to 4MB without extra hardware.  FMV playback became possible due to the DVD-like storage capacity provided by the MSU-1.  In addition to the size increase, the MSU-1 allows for streaming audio in the same format provided by a CD, namely 16-bit uncompressed stereo audio at a 44.1KHz sample rate.  The ill-fated SNES CD-ROM system that Nintendo and Sony collaborated on was not nearly as powerful and would have suffered from noticeable load times.  In this blog post, let's talk about the hardware behind the MSU-1 and some of the more interesting hacks available for it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Famicom & NES - Simple Tweaks to Restore Audio Balance Levels

Audio balance levels in the NES and Famicom can cause some consternation and official hardware is not always consistent.  Here I will discuss some simple modifications you can do to your console to restore the balance between internal audio channels and internal audio channels and external cartridge audio.


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Analogue Nt Mini : Audio Tweaking

The Nt Mini's audio has come under some criticism from such luminaries as the My Life in Gaming channel.  Kevtris has fixed NES audio issues in Jailbreak firmwares v1.0 (MMC5 pulse pitch), v1.3 (audio sweep bug), and v1.8 (crackling static issue).  The excellent MLiG video was using v1.2, so its statements may not hold true for the latest official or jailbroken firmware.  Even so, it is hard to diagnose and fix a problem without being able to define the problem or demonstrate it in a way that would illustrate the problem to the less-technical viewer.  The MLiG video said little more than "We feel that sound might be somewhat further removed from the original hardware experience than any other aspect of the system."  

That MLiG comment is so vague as to suggest that the Nt Mini could be outputting reversed-duty cycle pulse waves like a Famiclone or too low pitched noise as with the NES Classic Edition, which it clearly does not.  Nonetheless, a more articulate critic of kevtris' APU implementation in the Nt Mini and Hi-Def NES Mod is that in certain musical tracks, the triangle and noise channels are too quiet compared to the two pulse channels.  In order to talk about this claim, first we must discuss the mixing levels of NES APU channels.


Friday, January 5, 2018

OPL2/3 Frequency - The 1Hz-ish Difference

The nature of FM Synthesis sound is based on sine waves.  Sine waves create sound by oscillating at a certain frequency and amplitude.  So a sine wave oscillating at a frequency of 440Hz (the pitch) would sound like an A note (A4) hit above the middle C (C4) on the 4th octave of a full 88-key keyboard.  But a sine wave in and of itself is not very interesting musically, so FM synthesis modulates two or more sine waves to create a much more complex sound.  The sine wave's frequency is programmed into the FM Synthesis chip and the modulation of the two frequency, combined with other methods to shape the waveform such as ASDR envelopes, make a sound more complex and realistic than the Programmable Sound Generators that were used in computer and video game music before FM Synthesis became popular in computer music.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Hyperkin's SNES Mouse - A Curious Product out of Left Field



In the middle of 2017, one of the more prominent companies that make retro-video gaming products, Hyperkin, announced a new mouse for the SNES.  The SNES mouse was released with Mario Paint in 1992, and while some other games supported it, it was mainly associated with Mario Paint.  Needless to say this announcement came as something of a surprise, as few people were really clamoring for a replacement SNES mouse.  I was so fascinated by this product that I resolved to obtain one as soon as I could, budget permitting, and review it on this blog.  This Christmas, the budget did permit my acquisition of what Hyperkin calls the "Hyper Click Retro Style Mouse for SNES", so let us proceed to the review.