A Cycle-Accurate Sega Genesis With FPGA

The Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) is a powerful tool that is becoming more common across all kinds of different projects. They are effectively programmable hardware devices, capable of creating specific digital circuits and custom logic for a wide range of applications and can be much more versatile and powerful than a generic microcontroller. While they’re often used for rapid prototyping, they can also recreate specific integrated circuits, and are especially useful for retrocomputing. [nukeykt] has been developing a Sega Genesis clone using them, with some impressive results.

The Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive) was based around the fairly common Motorola 68000 processor, but this wasn’t the only processor in the console. There were a number of coprocessors including a Z80 and several chips from Yamaha to process audio. This project reproduces a number of these chips which are cycle-accurate using Verilog. The chips were recreated using images of de-capped original hardware, and although it doesn’t cover every chip from every version of the Genesis yet, it does have a version of the 68000, a Z80, and the combined Yamaha processor working and capable of playing plenty of games.

The project is still ongoing and eventually hopes to recreate the rest of the chipset using FPGAs. There’s also ongoing testing of the currently working chips, as some of them do still have a few bugs to work out. If you prefer to take a more purist approach to recreating 90s consoles, though, we recently featured a project which reproduced a Genesis development kit using original hardware.

Thanks to [Anonymous] for the tip!

17 thoughts on “A Cycle-Accurate Sega Genesis With FPGA

    1. Implementation just means something you did. Emulation means you tried to make it act like something else. An FPGA is not a genesis, therefore it is emulation. You can model the digital behaviour in an FPGA but the gates are different and any analogue behaviour will be different.

      1. I think the same. In some way or another, ancient GAL/PAL chips are closer to being true hardware-programmable logic than modern FPGAs.
        The former are using same generation of technology they are being asked to substitute.
        There’s no Flash, no ARM core, no USB interface, no oscillator running at the hundreds of MHz. It’s just a mixture of EPROM/diode logic and a digital gate array. If being “programmed”, a logical matrix is being created on the physical level. It’s totally pure and innocent compared to an FPGA.

  1. The MiSTer fpga implementation is a dead ringer for a real megadrive. Even the Titan Overdrive II demo works and that thing uses several undocumented hardware behaviors that absolutely broke every emulator when it came out.

    1. I’d would rather like to see lithography being possible at home, eventually. Or on a maker fair. So we can “print” old chips on glass or plastic.

      FPGAs may old simulate logic perfectly, but it’s not same technology.
      That’s like gutting a tube radio and stuffing it with a smartphone that has an FM chip built-in.

      We vintage enthusiasts are not interested in plain functionality.
      We’re interested in seeing our old technology still being alive and relevant.
      It gives us the feeling of immortality.

    1. Hi. I think it’s because the Famicom was very popular in the far east, the former home of both the clone makers and the microelectronics.

      The Famicom/NES was from the early 80s (~1983), just like the IBM PC and later Apple II models.
      They all were being cloned heavily, since they were around in the days when cloning business had boomed (just think of those thousand of nameless Turbo XT mainboards).

      By contrast, the Sega Genesis was released late in the 80s (1988/89) and no success in the far east. Sega America and Sega Japan had big arguments about the future of the Sega Genesis back then. Sega of America wanted to support the platform much longer due to it being successful in the states. But Sega Japan said no and pushed newer models, which failed to catch on.

      Anyway, the hearts of the Genesis, the Z80 and Motorola 68000 were heavily being cloned. The OPL3 chip found in the Sound Blaster 16, existed in various unofficial versions, too. The FM chip in the Genesis is a cousin of the OPL3, btw.

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