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posted by janrinok on Wednesday September 04 2019, @10:37AM   Printer-friendly
from the lost-in-space dept.

Submitted via IRC for Fnord666

Collector unearths long-lost 8-bit Konami games, dumps them for emulation

At this point, you might think the entire history of a major gaming company like Konami would be well and fully documented. But you'd be wrong in the case of Space School, a series of game-like educational Famicom cartridges Konami designed for Japanese elementary school children in the '80s.

Designed in partnership with Japanese broadcaster NHK, the Space School series was never available in stores, and it could only be ordered directly by the schools themselves. The games also made use of a special "QTa" adapter that fitted Konami's specially designed 40-pin cartridges into the 60-pin slot of the Famicom.

Both of those factors made these games some of the rarest and most expensive in the Famicom collector's market. It also made reliable information about the titles hard to find—while a few Space School ROM files were floating around, their unique memory mapper configuration made them practically unplayable on modern emulators.

Enter a collector and YouTuber going by "Russian Geek," who managed to track down both a Space School cartridge (Part 1 of the "5th Grade" set, specifically) and an even rarer QTa adapter by scouring multiple Japanese auction sites (and spending hundreds of Patreon-provided dollars). In a lengthy video (Russian with English subtitles), Russian Geek lays out how he got access to these rarities and provides the Internet's first real glimpse into how these games look, sound, and play.

The video also features well-known NES hacker CaH4e3 (pronounced "Sanchez"), who took a deep dive into the QTa adapter and cart to decipher its unique memory mapper. While the cart itself just contains simple ROM files, the adapter apparently contains a unique Konami VRC5 microchip that isn't found in any other Nintendo cartridges (though other VRC chips are well-documented). This chip gave the Space School games capabilities similar to an MMC5 game like Castlevania 3, including more on-screen tiles and graphics that appear to "overlay" on top of backgrounds.

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"This lawsuit is not introducing any new element that people in the emulation community have not known of for a long time," said Parsifal, a hobbyist developer who has written emulators for the Apple II, Space Invaders, and the CHIP-8 virtual machine. "Emulation is fine as long as you don't infringe on copyright and trademarks."
And others feel operating internationally protects them from the worst of the DMCA and other US copyright laws. "I have written an NES emulator and I am working on a Game Boy emulator... anyway I'm not a US citizen and Nintendo can kiss my ass," said emulator developer ZJoyKiller, who didn't provide his specific country of residence.
Chief among those differences is the fact that Yuzu emulates a Switch console that is still actively selling millions of hardware and software units every year. Most current emulator development focuses on older, discontinued consoles that the developers I talked to seemed convinced were much less liable to draw legal fire.

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  • (Score: 2) by Alfred on Wednesday September 04 2019, @01:17PM (5 children)

    by Alfred (4006) on Wednesday September 04 2019, @01:17PM (#889506) Journal
    They have a 4K youtube video of the opening movie. Why 4K you ask? pffft.
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by AssCork on Wednesday September 04 2019, @01:19PM

      by AssCork (6255) on Wednesday September 04 2019, @01:19PM (#889509) Journal

      4k so it renders correctly on your VR headset, duh.

      Just popped-out of a tight spot. Came out mostly clean, too.
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday September 04 2019, @01:46PM

      by takyon (881) <> on Wednesday September 04 2019, @01:46PM (#889515) Journal

      It's unnecessary here, but some games can benefit from upscaling and other techniques.

      HD Emulation Mod Makes “Mode 7” SNES Games Look Like New []

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
    • (Score: 5, Informative) by Pino P on Wednesday September 04 2019, @03:13PM (2 children)

      by Pino P (4721) on Wednesday September 04 2019, @03:13PM (#889558) Journal

      The Picture Processing Unit (PPU) of the Family Computer (Famicom) outputs 240p video at 60.1 fps. YouTube refuses to display high motion video (meaning video with a frame rate higher than 30 fps) at any resolution smaller than 720p. YouTube down-converts video smaller than 720p to no faster than 30 fps, and the algorithm it uses for this down-conversion breaks the translucency hacks used in many Famicom games. So people who want to upload high motion 240p video to YouTube have to first upscale it to at least 720p.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday September 04 2019, @04:33PM (1 child)

        by takyon (881) <> on Wednesday September 04 2019, @04:33PM (#889585) Journal

        At one point, audio quality was also tied to resolution on YouTube. Not sure if that's changed.

        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
        • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 04 2019, @07:29PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 04 2019, @07:29PM (#889658)

          Youtube has combined audio+video streams, audio-only streams, and video-only streams. You can select from among any combination of these with youtube-dl... typically the highest quality audio streams are audio-only and the highest quality video streams are video-only, so presumably the proprietary web player will also select the audio/video stream quality independently. I expect the combined audio+video streams are still used by some older embedded apps in which case your audio quality will indeed be tied to the video quality.