Projects

Resurrecting Dead CPS2 Game

CPS2 Game with flat battery

Recently I realised it was time to change the internal security “suicide” batteries on my collection of CPS2 games. These batteries are designed to render the game unplayable when they run down and should be replaced every few years. Here is an article I did on the CPS2 arcade system many years ago. Information on replacing the batteries. Essentially the game data on the rom chips is encrypted and a small code is needed to decrypt when the game is run. The encryption “key” is held in volatile memory powered by a 1/2 AA 3.6v battery.

With 2021 being a very busy year for me, I didn’t get round to checking my games until 2022. Before ordering a new set of batteries I decided to check that the games were operational. 

Unfortunately I found my copy of X-Men Vs Street Fighter was not booting up and just showing a blank/grey screen. Looks like this battery might have died.

Upon opening the cartridge and testing the battery with a multimeter, the battery was showing a solid 0v. Happily all my other games are working fine.

Time to investigate the current solutions to dead CPS2 games.

Solutions

I was already aware that the game roms can be simply replaced with decrypted versions called “Phoenix” rom sets. The battery would no longer be needed. Personally I didn’t want to use this method as the games would be less original in my eyes.

Another option is called the CPS-2 InfiniKey board. This generic solution allows a small PCB to be soldered on the game board. The infinikey works by injecting the known decryption key into memory on start-up, allowing the original game roms to operate normally. The only problem is that the Infinikey is currently not easy to get and costs around £20.

I then found this thread on Arcade-Projects.com, from the user aje-fr detailing how the to use a simple programmable pic chip to resurrect CPS2 games. aje-fr uploaded HEX files to github for each game. All that’s required is to program a PIC12F675 or PIC12F629 chip, and solder it to the required points on the game board. All details for the exact connection points are located here.

Using a PIC12F629 I already had to hand, I flashed it with the xmvsfu HEX file. First I decided to solder the chip on a socket to allow me to change the PIC code in case I selected the wrong game.

I plugged the board back onto the CPS2 motherboard and powered on. It started perfectly!

Now I removed the wires and mounted the PIC in a more permanent position.

I tested the game for a few minutes and all is working correctly. Batteries ordered for my other games, but if any more loose battery power in the future, at least I now know of this great solution to resurrect the game.

Neil – 8bitplus – 2022

DIY Sega Rally Cabinet Complete

I’ve always wanted to own a full size sit down Sega racing cabinet. Now I had the space in my new workshop I decided to build my own. Now its finished and time to show off this project. I couldn’t possibly work out how many hours its taken this year, or the total cost, but here it is:

It features a mix of home made construction and real arcade parts. Powered by a PC running Mame, Model 1/2/3 and TeknoParrot emulators. Full force feedback in most of the games. Plays, sounds and feels just like the real cabinets. Loaded with a library of classic Sega and other racing games. Dyatona USA, Sega Rally, Initial D, Outrun, GTi Club, Ridge Racer and more.

Now if I could just beat that 1st place time in Daytona…..

For more pics and to see how I built it, click here.

CRT pickup Road-trip

CRT Madness. Does it exist? My wife thinks I have it, so it must be real. I’ve just been on a 400mile (round trip) to pickup a pair of Sony Trinitron TV sets. It was a long day but totally worth it. I’m no stranger to buying CRT TVs and finding problems when I get them home, but this seller was showing them working. He was also able to answer questions before I made the decision to take a drive across the country to pick them up. I was getting both a 25″ and a 21″ TV.

When I got to the destination address the seller had already set them up with a DVD player to show them working. I brought along a Mega Drive and Everdrive cartridge to use the amazing 240p Test Suite program to quickly establish how good they still were.

Having done some quick tests and played a bit of Sonic 3, I loaded up the car and set off home. 4 hours later I had them both on my console workbench to do some more tests and hopefully tweak the calibration to my liking.

KV-25F1U

The 25″ Trinitron KV-25F1U was in very good condition and was producing a good strong picture with no flickering in 60hz. Its geometry was ok for a 25″, and on the whole was quite acceptable all round. I did find the Horizontal positioning was slightly over to the left (see grid below). This I’m sure can be improved in the service menu. Colour and picture settings were also improved by doing a factory reset of all settings. Thankfully no problems with the convergence or gun strength here. 

Photos before calibration above. This TV will be my new primary TV for retro consoles, and is in place. I’m still tweaking this.

KV-X2182U

I knew this Trinitron KV-X2182U could be a really good set, and I’ve owned one before. Straight away the colours and contrast were very strong and the picture looks very sharp and detailed. Unfortunately cameras cannot do justice to a good CRT in photos, but Its very impressive. This TV looks to have ok geometry but could be improved somewhat. The vertical pin, and h-shift can be corrected in service mode when I get time.

Again the photos are without any adjustments yet. I think this set will look amazing when calibrated.

Its always a roll of the dice now when buying CRT TVs, but I think I’ve got lucky with this pair. This should provide me with a couple of spear units, and CRT gaming for a long time to come. I’ll post more photos when I get them both looking perfect.

At last! An update.

2021 is just flying by, and its been a long time since I had time to sit down and do an blog update.
My workshop got finished early this year just in time to start working from home.

So here’s how it went carrying on from the last post. Once the insulation was all installed, the plasterboards went up. Next the joints were filled and sanded to give a smooth surface for painting. I decided to go with a striking and warm orange along with contrasting grey (please don’t say ‘Easy Jet’). I then found a local supplier for floor carpet times.

These carpet tiles are new, found through Facebook. Two shades make a nice checker-board pattern.
I then finished installing the network points and the switch. I contemplated installing a patch panel, but decided to just allow the cables through the wall to the switch ports. There are 12 network sockets in total around the room, all going to the switch. I went with a TP-Link 16-port PoE switch. The WiFi point is powered from the switch and sits nicely on top.

For desks I also used Facebook marketplace and got a nice curved desk for my games table, and another straight desk for my PC area and soldering stations.

Then it was time to start unpacking boxes, setting up consoles and bringing over my arcade machines from storage. Lots more work was also done with the inclusion of smart heating and sensor controls.

So there you have it. An unused space in the garden transformed into an amazing space for playing arcade and console games, along with office space and electronics workshop.

Current Status – Workshop/Arcade plans

Hello. Its been a while since I last posted an update. We moved into our new house in the middle of February. The house had been empty for 4 years and is completely outdated, so we have a huge amount of work to do.

During this lock-down I’ve been able to start planning my new workshop. I’ve marked out the area I should be able to build in. It gives me an area of 19 x 8 foot. That should be plenty for a decent sized workshop and space for my arcade machines. The building will be breeze-block construction, and too keep the cost down, I’ll be building it myself.

I’ve also been brushing up on my Sketchup skills and done some renders of how it might look.

To get a better sense of the space I wanted accurate models of my 3 arcade machines, but couldn’t find the exact ones in the 3D warehouse. I finally found a model of the Naomi Universal, but not for the Electrocoin Neo-Geo or my Scud Race cabinet. So I made them in Sketchup too 🙂

So As you can see, its a long way to completion. I need to remove the old greenhouse foundations first, level the ground and get a new foundation ready. This project needs to be done alongside the house renovation when I can afford it. Until its build I have nowhere to work and understandably I still cannot accept and work requests. I’ll post more updates as the work starts.

RetroFlag cases for Raspberry Pi

With all my game collection, tool and most of my equipment packed up for the move (see here for details), I’ve been looking for an easy project to keep me busy. Something that doesn’t involve soldering for once.

I recently found out about the RetroFlag line of retro console inspired cases for the Raspberry Pi. Some while back I started looking into RetroPie for a friend, so I decided to build a couple of emulation machines for the living room. One based on the Megadrive case, and the other Nintendo SNES case.

Both cases are very good and could easily sit along the lines of the current mini consoles from Nintendo and Sega. The even feature working buttons for power and reset.
I’ll post more info and details of how I setup these machines soon.

Retro PC now with Voodoo2

You may have seen my previous posts about building a Retro PC for some DOS game action…

I wanted to keep maximum DOS compatibility, but also add support for 90’s 3D accelerated Windows games. So the biggest additions were the CPU upgrade to 233Mhz, double the RAM to 64mb and the Voodoo2 3D card. Specs are now:

  • Pentium MMX 233Mhz
  • 64mb EDO Ram
  • 3DFX Voodoo2 8mb 3D Card
  • S3 Virage DX 2D card

All working perfectly and now I’m able to play games like Unreal Tournament with most settings maxed out. Some very old DOS games may run too fast, but I found a program that can disable CPU caches and other features. This should allow be to slow the PC down to 486 speeds when needed.

More on this project later when I get time.

Affordable RGB to HDMI adapter

I’ve been looking for a cheap RGB Scart to HDMI adapter for some time. Its already been proven that most of the cheap units on Amazon or eBay are crap and don’t in-fact support RGB or resolutions down to 240i/p. So I got a recommendation to try this one. Elephas Scart to HDMI and can be found on eBay and Amazon.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Converter-ELEPHAS-Adapter-Support-Set-top-Black/dp/B00RMMGOGS

It actually works quite well for the low price, but does have a little lag. Picture quality ranges from Ok to quite good, with some of the best results on the MegaDrive and Neo Geo Consoles. Its no replacement or a OSSD, but not bad at all.

It certainty allows for clear stable screenshots and for testing purposes. I don’t I could recommend it for extended play sessions with the lag. I’ll do a full review later.  

 

 

Retro PC

During the last couple of months I’ve been playing around with the idea of building a DOS based retro PC. Now I’ve finally gone and made a start.

My aim is to have a good, fast, DOS/Win98 compatible PC for games. Nothing too fast or fancy. I also wanted to keep the price down. Unlike some other projects, this should be cheap.

I settled on a board, CPU and memory combo from eBay. The motherboard is a Lucky Star 5I-VX2B. CPU is a Pentium 100mhz without mmx, and it came with 32Mb of 72pin SIMM RAM.

I was tempted to go with a highend 486 biuld, but this was a good speed/value price-point. The motherboard chipset is also new enough to work with large drives (by that I mean over 8Gb) so no worries about fitting a large game collection on the HDD. 60Gb should be fine. Win98/DOS7.1 allows for FAT32 and removes the old 2gb partition restrictions. DOS7.1 is actually just as good as the older versions when setup correctly. Windows 98SE is just for a few Widows only games that need it.

I’ll upload more pics, videos and info as this project progresses.