Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Fixing NES Headers and Converting them to NES 2.0 : Putting Theory into Practice!

In my last blog entry, I announced the creation of an evolving database of NES ROM headers, focused on cartridge accuracy.  However, while I can make a spreadsheet for easy accessibility, spreadsheets are not the best way to organize data for use by other programs.  I cannot expect someone wanting a full set of proper NES 2.0 ROMs to manually edit the headers of over 2,900 separate files!

There has to be an easier way, right?
The task of manual fixing isn't slight.
Well, if you read further now,
I'll be happy to tell you how.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The NES and Famicom Accurate Cartridge Information Database

NES and Famicom emulation has been around for over twenty-five years.  In that time, the internal hardware has become very well documented.  NES and Famicom cartridges, on the other hand, have had a parallel journey of discovery during this time, but emulators and flash carts and FPGA devices have not always been up to date with current developments.  The core games which people enjoy with NES emulation, namely those licensed and approved by Nintendo and unlicensed games released during the NES' lifespan, sometimes suffer in emulation due not to bad dumps but a wrong information in their file header.  The header indicates what kind of hardware the game uses, but if the information in the header is wrong, out of date or missing, the game will not play or play correctly.  In this blog article I will explain how headers work, why they are necessary, the need for accurate information in them and how they have evolved over time.  Then I will describe and link to my database which contains the most accurate and up to date information for the NES and Famicom ROMs most people care about.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Taiwanese Connection - The Source for Many Unlicensed NES/Famicom Games

Joy Van - Twin Eagle
AVE - Double Strike

Taiwan was called one of the four Asian Tigers (with Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong), small countries which had developed economically very rapidly after from the 1960s to the present to compete with much larger countries.  Taiwan embraced technology, creating chip fabrication plants and becoming indispensable to the PC revolution.  Video game consoles were hardly overlooked by the island, and Nintendo was the largest publisher of console video games in Asia.  There was no protection system in place for the Nintendo Famicom, so Taiwan programming firms began developing unlicensed games for that console around 1986.

At the same time, Nintendo was becoming the largest publisher of video games in North America thanks to the success of the NES.  Third parties were naturally attracted to the increasingly successful system, but Nintendo was a hard business partner.  Nintendo required companies to buy cartridges manufactured by Nintendo, required cartridge orders in large unit quantities, limited the number of cartridges a company could release in a year and scrutinized the content of the games to be published.  After Tengen showed that it was possible to develop and release cartridges without Nintendo's sanction, other companies like AVE and Color Dreams entered the market as unlicensed publishers.  But they needed games to sell and the number of programmers who could handle Nintendo's console were limited, so sometimes they turned to Taiwan.