Keep it Secret, Keep it SEGA

The Trade Mark Security Signature (TMSS) was SEGA’s attempt to prevent unlicensed developers from releasing games for the Genesis / Mega Drive. Failing the TMSS check disables the Visual Display Processor (VDP). Passing the TMSS check displays this lovely screen:

toss

TMSS check passed!

Continue reading

Main Screen Turn On

In my previous posts, I was able to make the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive compute the Fibonacci number sequence on it’s CPU and pass the TMSS check. In this post, I’m going to focus on making the Visual Display Processor draw images on the screen.

I will be ignoring steps performed by most other people writing on the subject: I’m not clearing the RAM, checking the Reset button, or initializing the Z-80 co-processor, controller ports, and the sound chips. I would rather add code for each subsystem as I need it. However, it’s possible that an actual Genesis will require all of these steps before it will work. I don’t know. I’m far from testing on real hardware, and I see no reason to complicate things early on. Code that works in my emulator is sufficient for learning. Continue reading

Genesis Does Fibonacci

Can you think of a better way to spend a holiday than learning to write assembly language for a 26-year-old game console? I couldn’t, so I wrote a simple program for the SEGA Genesis. (Known as the Mega Drive outside North America.)

First, some tools are needed:

  • A decent text editor
  • An Assembler that produces M68000 machine code
  • A Genesis emulator with a built-in debugger

I tried to find these three tools for Mac OS X, my preferred platform. There are plenty of text editors available and the GNU assembler will run on just about anything, but I could not find a Genesis emulator for Mac OS X that has a built-in debugger. Phooey. Gotta use the right tool for the job, so it was time to dig out the old PC. Windows XP, Pentium 4. Let’s go!

Continue reading

The Prose and Cons of Marketing

I haven’t updated in over a year due to some unexpected popularity. This site began attracting attention from the wrong kind of people. Over 33,000 comments full of unintelligible nonsense. Sounds like a typical day on GameFAQs, but I’m talking about spammers. Enough spam to break the comment system. Thanks.

Bad writing, but not quite "Zelda is an RPG" bad.

Bad writing, but not quite “Zelda is an RPG” bad.

Along came WordPress 4.0. The comment system functioned again. Check the awesome photo of me manually deleting those 33,000 spams – 85 at a time. The fun was short lived. The comment system broke again after I deleted a couple thousand. I finally went into the database, typed an SQL query, pressed Enter, and closed my eyes. Problem solved. Should have done that a year ago.

Apologies to anybody who left a comment during the popularity spike; it is gone forever. Apologies to anybody who tried to reply after comments were shut off; I wanted to hear from you. In the near future, I’ll install a spam-blocking plugin and re-enable comments. We’ll see what happens.

Xbox 360: How to Import Downloadable Content

Note: Since posting this article, Microsoft has switched from points to local currency. As a result, some of these instructions are no longer valid. Specifically, using Bing Rewards to get credit for other regions no longer seems possible.

Whether seeking an unusual avatar pack or an add-on for an imported game, many people don’t know how to purchase Xbox 360 downloadable content from other regions. I’ll explain what to do.

Step One: Create a Gamertag for the Desired Region

1. Go to: https://login.live.com/

2. Click the link that reads “Sign Up Now”

3. Fill out the form with fictitious information for the desired region.

4. For address and phone details, look up a business in the area. A web search for “Barber Shop in London” will produce plenty of results. Please change a few digits in any street addresses and phone numbers you may use. The last thing we need is some chavver receiving spam that was intended for you.

5. Write down the bogus address; it will be needed later.

6. Create a new user on your Xbox 360 with the email address you just created.

Step Two: ???

You will need a foreign Microsoft Points code. Two ways to do this:

1. Go to a website like this or this and buy points for the desired region.

2. Sign up for Bing Rewards using the email address you created above. Bing Rewards is a free service that rewards you with credits for doing your web searches on Bing rather than Google or anything else. Those credits can be spent on various rewards including Microsoft Points. Microsoft Points earned through Bing Rewards are not tied to a specific region like most MS Points.

Step Three: Profit!

Log into your foreign gamertag, and redeem the Microsoft Points code from Step 2. Your first transaction with any account will require you to enter an address, so use the fake address from step 1. Assuming you can read English, this is pretty easy for United Kingdom accounts, but setting up a Japanese account can be tricky.

Games on Demand are usually region-locked, so be careful. Enjoy your imported content!

Etrian Odyssey Reprints

etrian

Perhaps you are new to the DS/3DS, perhaps you couldn’t find them, or perhaps you never heard of them. Whatever the reason, if you wanted another shot at trying the Etrian Odyssey games, a small reprint of the first three has been produced to satisfy demand resulting from the upcoming release of Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan for 3DS. They may or may not show up in your local retail stores, but you can order them at Play-Asia right now:

Buy Etrian Odyssey (Nintendo DS)

Buy Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard (Nintendo DS)

Buy Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City (Nintendo DS)

etrian3

The Etrian Odyssey series is an homage to classic role-playing games where you move tile by tile in a first-person perspective, explore a massive labyrinth, sometimes fall victim to teleporters and pit traps, and must rely upon your trusty map (which you draw yourself) to find your way back to the safety of the village. However, it’s not presented like an ugly computer game from the late 1970’s. With attractive monster designs by Shin Nagasawa and wonderful retro-style music by Yuzo Koshiro, the Etrian Odyssey games liven up an old forumla with a charming presentation. Furthermore, you don’t have to break out the graph paper; the lower screen of the Nintendo DS lets you draw the maps with a snap-to grid and useful icons.

In terms of plot, the Etrian Odyssey games go well beyond the classic RPG formula. You know, the old “Defeat the evil wizard/dragon/monster; Thanks, you saved our kingdom!” routine. However, the games still focus on exploration and party customization. The narration is sparse and you won’t see comical banter between party members, but there is a plot that progresses and there will be one or two unexpected twists. Just don’t go in expecting something it’s not.

The Etrian Odyssey games were cult hits in Japan, but have remained obscure in North America. They may not be for everyone, but they are good games if what I have described sounds interesting. The Etrian Odyssey games are all stand-alone; there is no need to play them all. In fact, due to interface improvements as the series progressed, it may be best to start with the third game. The first three will play on a Nintendo DS (any version) or a Nintendo 3DS. The fourth game is for 3DS only.

Breaking the Habit: April 2012

Note: Due to a New Year’s resolution, I am restricting myself to one game purchase per month. This article is part of a series describing my choices.

Perhaps I was intoxicated with hype, but only one game on the April release schedule caught my eye. Sure, Skullgirls was generating some buzz, but I had just purchased a fighting game and wanted something different. Likewise, Phantom Breaker would have been excluded from consideration if it wasn’t delayed again. Seeing no opposition, here is my choice:

tw2_e32k10_screenshot_pack_4The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings

Platform: Xbox 360, Windows, Macintosh (Steam)
Developer: CD Projekt RED
US Publisher: Warner Bros.

Description: A role-playing game featuring a real-time combat system with a great deal of technique and which boasts a mature storyline that is heavily affected by the player’s actions.

+ 40 hour game length. Long enough to feel invested, short enough that I might actually finish it.
+ Descriptions of the combat system sounded fun.
+ CD Projekt RED is a small and honest developer fighting against the oppression of DRM!
+ It’s a story like Game of Thrones combined with gameplay similar to Dark Souls!
+ Lots of boobies and sex scenes featuring some mega hot Polish model playing as the main love interest.
+ I’m a total Microsoft fanboy and wanted a game that wasn’t on PS3. Am I being sarcastic? I have no idea!
– PC to Console port. Concerns about downgrades and interface changes.
– I was still really into Dark Souls, a somewhat similar RPG.

Conclusion: I bought the hype; I bought the game. An RPG with a mature story reminiscent of A Game of Thrones in a product that, unlike the actual Game of Thrones RPG, does not look like rubbish. Add in amazing combat like Dark Souls and a branching plot, and it was too much for me to resist.

After spending a couple hours with the tutorial, I was both intrigued and frustrated. The main character Geralt could do everything. The tutorial had me sword fighting, casting spells, setting traps, throwing bombs and daggers, parrying and rolling to avoid attacks, collecting herbs, and making potions. Unfortunately, the interface for switching between all of these options was somewhat awkward on a gamepad, and the controls never began to feel comfortable in this time.

The game itself began with Geralt sharing an intimate moment with main love interest Triss who was rolling around on a bed naked in such a way that nothing was left to the imagination. This may have been pleasing to watch if not for the stiff animations, blurry textures, and obvious polygon edges. Instead, it looked awkward and I felt like a teenage boy watching something naughty.

The botched eye candy led to a bit of humor when a messenger entered the tent to deliver a plot. Geralt reported to the king who was clearly trying to fill me in on some backstory as he told his advisors a bunch of stuff they likely already knew. When the king finished showing me what kind of person he was, I went to eat lunch, and swapped the game out for Dark Souls when I returned.

Despite anticipating the game for several months, I couldn’t get into it just then. Hopefully, I will revisit The Witcher 2 someday and find it to be as fascinating as so many claim.

I am disappointed with my purchase. I was trying to avoid buying games I do not play, and I was having too much fun with Dark Souls to be bothered with something similar. Furthermore, The Witcher 2 has been significantly discounted since release; I could buy it for less now if I was just going to stick it on a shelf. Finally, an April game I initially overlooked, Anomaly: Warzone Earth, turned out to be a lot of fun when I bought it several months later. Maybe I’ll do better research in the future.

Dodonpachi Saidaioujou Arrange Mode

Famitsu recently posted new information about the Arrange Mode (Console Mode) for CAVE’s arcade to Xbox 360 port of Dodonpachi Saidaioujou. Here is a translation from a member of the NeoGAF forums:

  • arrange mode is programmed by Ikeda, Ichimura and Yagawa, it’ll be totally different from previous arrange modes and will be focused on story, with voice acting by Aya Hirano
  • it will feature a new elemental doll, Saya
  • vertical scrolling, but 16:9 aspect ratio, like Jamestown and Gigawing
  • supports coop multiplayer up to 3 players (not specificed if online or offline), there’s only one score counter shared between players
  • there will be an anime intro, sung by Aya Hirano
  • Yagawa is in charge of the port (in previous games he only did arrange modes)
  • it’ll be their last game for 360
  • they’re working together with Microsoft
  • there will be a big announcement on March 2013

Saya, the new elemental doll from Ar Tonelico character designer Nagi Ryou, isn’t the creepiest thing they could have added to the game, but it’s close.

In a previous post, I commented on many of the obstacles that must be overcome to sell an arcade game to console gamers. Some of these issues (screen orientation and content) were also in the developer’s minds and have been addressed.

Also noteworthy is that CAVE’s three main developers are working together on the Arrange Mode since they typically work on separate projects. The increased developer attention combined with Microsoft’s involvement and the expensive additions (Anime intro, famous voice actor) suggest that CAVE and Microsoft are putting everything they can into this game. It will be interesting to see the finished product and consumer response.

Breaking the Habit: March 2012

Note: Due to a New Year’s resolution described here, I am restricting myself to one game purchase per month. This article is part of a series describing my monthly choices and the reasoning involved.

March presented me with a lot of tempting games, but it was tough to justify buying any of them. Here’s the list of March releases. I was able to quickly eliminate Mass Effect 3 due to me having never played the first two, but it looks like something I might enjoy someday. Read on to see all the temptations I faced in March.


Ninja Gaiden 3
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Developer: Team Ninja
US Publisher: Tecmo Koei

Description: A 3D action game featuring ninjas, demons, and fast paced combat.

+ I enjoyed Ninja Gaiden II for Xbox 360.
– I had just gotten Ninja Gaiden II as a gift from my wife.
– I’ve barely scratched the surface of Ninja Gaiden II; too soon for a sequel.
– Ninja Gaiden 3 has received a lot of negative criticism from fans and the press.

Conclusion: I don’t like to judge things without personal experience, but I also didn’t see a need to pay full price and use up my March pick on such a gamble.


Sine Mora
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PS Vita, Windows (Steam)
Developer: Digital Reality / Grasshopper Manufacture
US Publisher: Microsoft

Description: A 2D shoot-em-up attempting to appeal to console gamers of today with gorgeous 3D graphics and a lengthy (for this genre) story mode.

+ I tend to collect shoot-em-ups as they are rarely released in the West.
+ Shoot-em-ups are among the purest gameplay-driven games, and I greatly enjoy them.
+ Low Price. It was released as a $15 downloadable game on XBLA.
+ Sine Mora was exclusive at release. I always need justification for my console choice.
– This is Digital Reality’s first shoot-em-up.
– DR sought input from shmups.com members, but disregarded warnings about fundamental design flaws.
– The game was released with many fundamental design flaws. (Poor distinction between foreground and background, too much randomness in power-up drop frequency, some bullets were difficult to see, lots of dead time, arcade mode was too long, shaking bullets were a terrible idea, etc.)

Conclusion: The game turned off dedicated fans of the shoot-em-up genre and failed to attract the new crowd DR thought Sine Mora would appeal to. The game lost it’s exclusive status and was ported to several other platforms with the help of G.Rev (an experienced developer of shoot-em-ups) and those versions are probably better. I followed this game’s development closely, but now I can’t say when or if I’ll ever want to buy it.


Warriors Orochi 3
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii U
Developer: Omega Force / Tecmo Koei
US Publisher: Tecmo Koei

Description: A ridiculous hack-n-slash with split-screen co-op capabilities that combines the cast from Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors into a mythological scenario rather than their usual historical settings.

+ My wife loves playing Dynasty Warriors 3 on the Playstation 2 with me. Time for an upgrade?
+ I can’t see myself not having fun with this.
– I don’t know if this is the best * Warriors game currently available.
– I couldn’t get excited about buying this game for myself.

Conclusion: I didn’t buy this game, but I do still pick up the case when I am shopping. Maybe I’ll buy this as a gift around the holidays. My wife gets far more excited about these games than I do.


Phantom Breaker – Special Edition
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: 5pb
US Publisher: 7Sixty

Description: Some janky 2D fighting game featuring a mostly female cast of anime stereotypes.

+ Xbox 360 exclusive. I need more justification for my console purchase.
+ I’m a sucker for Limited Edition boxes.
+ I like fighting games.
+ I like helping underdog developers bring unexpected Japanese games to the West.
? Fairly simple game mechanics. Simple inputs. Intended for beginner and casual play.
– I don’t like the artwork.
– The animation was very poor in video clips I have seen.
– Everybody who’s played the Japanese version of Phantom Breaker said it’s terrible.

Conclusion: I pre-ordered this game and intended for it to be my March purchase. It was delayed. I canceled my pre-order because I wanted to keep my options open for April.


Armored Core V
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Developer: From Software
US Publisher: Namco Bandai

Description: Team battles with customizable mecha.

+ As a huge Battletech fan growing up, I’ve always been interested in Armored Core.
+ Armored Core has been around since the original Playstation.
+ From Software made Dark Souls, so I don’t need much convincing to trust them.
– Offline Campaign is allegedly short.
– Online play is based on five-player teams; I don’t have friends who want to play this.

Conclusion: I really wanted to be able to buy this, but an online-focused game that requires team play means I get allied with obnoxious kids because I don’t have four (or any) friends who are interested in playing this game. I guess I should have gotten into Armored Core last generation when games like this were still played offline. Considering the mech customization and team play, I could imagine this game is downright amazing with the right group of people. Just no time or place for ACV in my life.


My choice:

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PS Vita
Developer: Arc System Works
US Publisher: Aksys

Description: 1 vs 1 fighting with an interesting cast of characters featuring a wide range of play styles.

+ I love the artwork and sound in Arc System Works games.
+ BlazBlue is great.
+ Plenty of offline content, smooth online play.
+ Thorough tutorials.
+ Interesting characters and story.
+ Deep gameplay mechanics.
– BBCSX is basically BlazBlue 2.5 and I already have BlazBlue 2 (BBCS).
+ BBCSX contains the story from BlazBlue 1 (BBCT), which I do not have.
+ BBCSX contains all of the DLC from BBCS and some new content and game modes.
+ BBCSX included a mini artbook and soundtrack. See first plus.

Conclusion: I passed this up in February, but BBCSX seemed like a better buy than all of the March games. I’ve since had a ton of fun playing this game online and offline.

I’d recommend BBCSX to anybody, beginner or expert, who wants a fighting game they can really dive into. The tutorials cover the basics from walking and jumping and gets into advanced techniques like when to use a Rapid Cancel and character-specific strategies. BBCSX is plenty of fun just being played casually with friends, but gets even better if you take the time to learn it’s seemingly endless intricacies.

There is a fairly active community on Dustloop. You can discuss extremely technical details like reading frame data, or argue about whether or not Noel Vermillion is wearing panties.

All in all, great fun, great game, great community.


Feel free to comment on my choices, tell me how wrong I am, or share which March releases feature characters you hope are going commando.

Possible Worldwide Release for Dodonpachi Saidaioujou

Dodonpachi Saidaioujou

I stumbled upon a surprising bit of news today. The Xbox 360 port of Dodonpachi Saidaioujou, CAVE’s latest 2D shoot-em-up arcade hit, may be getting a global release. This is significant because most of CAVE’s console ports are only released in Asia, and most are region-locked to only play on Asian consoles. This forces fans to import Japanese consoles and/or games to have greater access to CAVE’s library.

It is rare for one of CAVE’s games to get a release in the West, so I’ll always jump at the opportunity to pick one up where I can read the menus and manual and don’t have do go through the cost of importing. However, it is challenging to publish a game like this in the West.

Continue reading

Breaking the Habit: February 2012

Note: Due to a New Year’s resolution described here, I am restricting myself to one game purchase per month. This article is part of a series describing my monthly choices and the reasoning involved.

February’s game selection was predetermined. On June 7th, 2011, I placed a pre-order for a game that was going to be released in February. Read on to see what warranted my unnecessarily early pre-order, and to see which games I was forced to skip as a result.

Continue reading