Hacked Punch-Out Controlled With Actual Punches

In a slightly safer departure away from jetpack roller-skating and flinging around bolts of lightning, [Ian Charnas] has been hacking retro video games. After a lot of hard work [Ian] has managed to add pose estimation to control the character in the NES boxing game “Punch-Out.” Surely he can’t get hurt doing that? No, but since it wasn’t fair to hurt the poor suffering characters, without taking any damage himself, he added electric-shock feedback to give the game a bit more, ahem, punch. See, you can get hurt playing video games!

By starting with Google MoveNet, which is a pre-baked skeletal tracking model which can run in a browser using TensorFlowJS, he defined some simple heuristics for the various boxing moves usually performed with the game controller. Next, he needed to get the game. Being a all-round good guy, [Ian] bought an original copy of the game cartridge to obtain the license, then using the USB CopyNES from RetroUSB, dumped out the game binary for the next step.

Emulation of the NES hardware was chosen, taken care of by FCEUX, in order to run the game and the posture model on the same machine. This simplified the control of the game, since it would be somewhat more work to have it run on the original NES. By using emscripten, FCEUX was cross-compiled to WebAssembly, and so both the game and control side are both in the land of JavaScript. To be honest, after playing the game a little, [Ian] found it far too fast to be playable with posture control, as opposed to much faster button pressing, so some game hacking was required. Emulation made this much easier.

It took [Ian] around two months of disassembling the game binary, and figuring out the game logic around the characters in order to slow them down enough to make it playable, but he did manage it. You can be the judge, since he bought a bunch more cartridges to unlock more license copies, you can play it too. Just don’t add the electric-shock part, nobody needs to be administered electric shock therapy from a two inch high bright orange Mike Tyson!

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the conversion from hynix SRAM to FRAM on a Pokemon Yellow PCB

Pokemon Time Capsule

The precious Pokemon we spent hours capturing in the early nineties remain trapped, not just by pokeballs, but within a cartridge ravaged by time. Generally, Pokemon games before the GameBoy Advance era had SRAM and a small coin cell to save state as NVRAM (Non-volatile random access memory) was more expensive. These coin cells last 10-15 years, and many of the Pokemon games came out 20 years ago. [9943246367] decided to ditch the battery and swap the SRAM for a proper NVRAM on a Pokemon Yellow cartridge, 23 years later.

The magic that makes it work is a FRAM (ferroelectric random access memory) made by Cypress that is pin-compatible with the 256K SRAM (made by SK Hynix) on the original game cartridge PCB. While FRAM data will only last 10 years, it is a write-after-read process so as long as you load your save file every 10 years, you can keep your Pokemon going for decades. For stability, [9943246367] added a 10k pull-up on the inverted CE (chip enable) pin to make sure the FRAM is disabled when not in use. A quick test shows it works beautifully. Overall, a clever and easy to have to preserve your Pokemon properly.

Since you’re replacing the chip, you will lose the data if you haven’t already. Perhaps you can use [Selim’s] Pokemon Transporter to transport your pokemon safely from the SRAM to the FRAM.

Modded GBA SP Does Its Best Switch Impression

The whole idea behind the Nintendo Switch is that the system isn’t just a handheld, but can be converted into a more traditional home game console when placed into its dock. The wireless controllers even pop off the sides so you can kick back on the couch and enjoy your big-screen gaming from a distance. Judging by how many units Nintendo has sold of their latest system, it’s clearly a winning combination.

Which is probably why [Tito] of Macho Nacho and his friend [Kyle Brinkerhoff] decided to recreate some of the Switch’s core features using one of Nintendo’s older handhelds, the Game Boy Advance SP. There was already a video-out mod kit on the market for the GBA SP that would let them play games on the TV, but the team still had to figure out how to make a dock for the 18 year old handheld, plus get it working with the official Switch Joy-Cons.

Wiring the custom PCB into the GBA SP

Lucky, this crew is no stranger to developing impressive GBA SP add-ons. Last month they took the wraps off of an expanded 3D printed rear panel for the system that housed a number of upgrades, such as an expanded battery pack and support for Bluetooth audio.

This mod uses a similarly expanded “trunk” for the GBA, but this time it’s to hold the rails the Joy-Cons mount to, as well as the electronics required to get the modern controllers talking to the Game Boy. Namely, a Raspberry Pi Zero and a custom PCB designed by [Kyle] that uses a dozen transistors to pull the system’s control inputs low when the Pi’s GPIO pins go high.

[Tito] doesn’t seem to mention it in the video below, but we’re assuming the dock component of this project is just a 3D printed box with a connector sticking up for the GBA SP’s link cable port, since that’s where the TV-out modification outputs its video. Incidentally that means you don’t really need the dock itself, but it certainly looks cool.

At the end of the video [Tito] goes over a few of the rough edges of the current build, including the rather lengthy pairing process to get the Joy-Cons talking to the Raspberry Pi. But ultimately, he says that not only does the system feel good in his hands, but playing those classic games on the big screen has been a nice change of pace.

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Dante’s Inferno Arcade Reveals Your True Fate

Many of us are vaguely familiar with the levels of hell described in Dante’s epic poem from the 14th century, even if we’ve never visited ourselves. It’s natural to wonder in which circle of hell one might end up, but that’s a question that [scubabear’s] arcade build seeks to answer.

The artwork is vibrant and enticing.

The stand-up cabinet was built for The Magic Castle, Hollywood’s exclusive private club for the magic set. The design is loosely inspired by old-fashioned love testers, the sort of which you might have seen in that Simpsons episode. The club has traditionally issued members with unique RFID tags in keychains, which can be used to trigger special objects in the facility. In this case, when a member scans their keychain and places their hand on a handprint, the machine starts up.

The hand is detected by an Adafruit touch sensor board, and the machine begins determining the fate of the member while playing a short musical interlude. Once calculated by the Raspberry Pi within, the user’s name is read out based on the RFID data, and their destiny is read aloud. They’re then given a receipt stating their destination in hell, along with a quote from Dante’s Inferno.

It’s a fun game and one that we’d love to try out if we find ourselves visiting The Magic Castle one spooky day. It’s made all the better by the sheer quality of the cabinet and the associated illustrations from [Jeremy Owen.]

For those keen to do something similar, [scubabear] hasn’t skimped on the details of the construction nor the electronics that make it all work. We’ve seen other great builds too, from the carefully crafted to the glowiest you’ve ever seen. Video after the break.

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magnetic toggle swtches

Modified Toggle Switches Grace Hyper-Detailed Cockpit Simulator Panels

In the world of the cockpit simulator hobby, no detail is too small to obsess over. Getting the look and feel of each and every cockpit control just right is important, and often means shelling out for cockpit-accurate parts. But not always, as these DIY magnetically captured toggle switches show.

Chances are good you’ve seen [The Warthog Project]’s fantastically detailed A-10 Thunderbolt II cockpit simulator before; we’ve featured it recently, and videos from the ongoing build pop up regularly in our feeds. The sim addresses the tiniest of details, including the use of special toggle switches that lock into place automatically using electromagnets. They’re commercially available, but only for those with very deep pockets — depending on the supplier, up to several thousand dollars per unit!

The homebrew substitute is mercifully cheap and easy to build, though — a momentary DPST toggle switch is partially gutted, with a length of nail substituted for one of its poles. The nail sticks out of the back of the switch, where a bracket holds a small electromagnet. When energized, the electromagnet holds the nail firmly when the switch is toggled on; the simulated pilot can still manually toggle the switch off, or it can be released automatically by de-energizing the coil. Each switch cost less than $20 to make, including the MOSFETs needed to drive the coils and the Arduino to provide the logic. The panels they adorn look fantastic, and the switches add a level of functional detail that’s just right for the whole build.

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Fixing A Broken Game Installer By Sheer Force Of Will

These days, we seldom purchase games on physical media. Even when buying titles from yesteryear, we usually download them from an online service. Some of these older games haven’t been properly ported to their new delivery platform, as [Slortibort] found out. Thus, it was time to dive into the game files and sort the problem out.

The game in question was the Hammers of Fate expansion pack for the base game Heroes of Might and Magic V. [Slortibort’s] partner bought it from Ubisoft, and ran the installer. However, the installer would report that it couldn’t find the original files from the base game, and fail to start.

Fixing the issue was no mean feat, requiring use of the Sexy Installshield Decompiler to dive into the guts of the installer to see what was going wrong. In the end, it came down to some registry key shenanigans, but the route of how [Slortibort] got there is well worth the read.

It’s a fine example of some of the issues around moving games to digital distribution; proper attention must be paid to do it right. Even then, there’s always the risk you’ll lose your games down the track. There are benefits, of course, but there’s always a tradeoff to be made.

RC Minecraft Boat Patrols The Pool For Treasure

Looking to recreate those relaxing¬†Minecraft fishing sessions in real life, [electrosync] recently set out to 3D print himself a blocky remote controlled boat, complete with a similarly cubic occupant to ride in it. Each element of the build, from the oars to the bobber on the end of the fishing line, has been designed to look as faithful to the source material as possible. In fact, the whole thing is so accurate to the game that it’s almost surreal to see it rowing around the pool.

That said, some of the resemblance is only skin deep. For example the rowing action, though it appears to be properly synchronized to the boat’s movement through the water, is completely for show. A standard propeller and rudder arrangement under the boat provide propulsion and directional control, and [electrosync] notes its actually powerful enough to push the boat very near to its scale top speed from the game, despite the exceptionally poor hydrodynamics of what’s essentially just a rectangle.

A look under the deck.

Speaking of which, [electrosync] even went through the trouble of printing the hull in wood-fill PLA and coating it in polyester resin to make sure it was watertight. Granted he could have just made the boat out of wood in the first place, saving himself the nearly 60 hours it took to print the hull parts, but that would have been cheating.

Beyond the servos and motors that move the boat and the oars, [electrosync] had to give his 3D printed fisherman a considerable amount of dexterity. Servos embedded into the 3D printed parts allow “Steve” to rotate at the hips and raise and lower his arm. With a fishing pole slipped into a hole printed into the hand, he’s able to cast out his magnetic bobber and see whats biting.

We’ve actually seen quite a number of projects that allow virtual objects inside¬†Minecraft to interact with the real world, but comparatively few efforts to recreate objects from the game’s blocky universe, so the change of pace is nice.

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