NBA Jam ROM Hack on SNES is Heating Up

It’s a rare game that is able to bridge the gap between sports game fans and those that identify as hardcore gamers. Midway was able to bring those two groups onto common ground when they released NBA Jam to arcades in 1993. The game was an instant hit and was ported to 16-bit home consoles that same year. Compromises were made during those ports, so an attempt to make them more inline with the arcade release came in the form of NBA Jam: Tournament Edition a year later. However, in the heart of [eskayelle] NBA Jam: TE on the Super Nintendo didn’t go far enough. Now they have released a ROM hack that completely reworks NBA Jam: TE, and it’s called the “Double Z Mod”.

The Original NBA Jam Ball from the Title Screen
The original NBA Jam ball (courtesy of Steve Lin)

The concept behind the ROM hack was to bring about the NBA Jam game that fans deserved. All facets of pop culture from the early 90s were mixed in (not just former Presidents). According to the ROM hack’s notes, some of the things that were packed into the mod include:

• Assets from the original game have been restored, such as the Mortal Kombat banners.
• Modified certain players to give them a more “arcadey” feel.
• Soar to new heights with Air Jordan!
• Play as “The Worm”, Dennis Rodman, on at least four teams.
• Forget the Rookies, now play as the 1992 Dream Team.
• Tons of new secret characters including: Hulk Hogan, David Hasselhoff, Arnie as the T-800, and more.
• Expanded rosters are now as easy as inputting the “Konami code”

(Hint: B, A, B, A, Up, Down, B, A, Left, Right, B, A at the title screen menu)

In a gesture to give back to the ROM hacking community, [eskayelle] went as far to provide a collection of helpful tools to help potential SNES ROM hackers build their own NBA Jam: TE remixes. The document details ways to alter player photos, team colors, stats, and cosmetic tweaks. Since the Double Z mod focuses on being as 90s as possible, maybe this collection of tutorials will lead to a current NBA roster update.

To play the NBA Jam TE Double Z mod, you can use devices like the Retrode that allow easy dumping of an original cartridge onto a PC. From there the dumped ROM can be patched using an IPS patcher, like LunarIPS, which is as simple as locating two files in a browser window and hitting “Apply Patch”. In case you needed to see the Double Z mod in action, there is the clip below.

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Wheel of Fortune Gets Infinite Puzzles on NES

Wheel of Fortune is a television game show, born in the distant year of 1975. Like many popular television properties of the era, it spawned a series of videogames on various platforms. Like many a hacker, [Chris] had been loading up the retro NES title on his Raspberry Pi when he realized that, due to the limitations of the cartridge format, he was playing the same puzzles over and over again. There was nothing for it, but to load a hex editor and get to work.

[Chris’s] initial investigation involved loading up the ROM in a hex editor and simply searching for ASCII strings of common puzzles in the game. Initial results were positive, turning up several scraps of plaintext. Eventually, it became apparent that the puzzles were stored in ASCII, but with certain most-significant-bits changed in order to mark the line breaks and ends of puzzles. [Chris] termed the format wheelscii, and developed an encoder that could turn new puzzles into the same format.

After some preliminary experimentation involving corrupting the puzzles and testing various edge cases, [Chris] decided to implement a complete fix. Puzzles were sourced from the Wheel of Fortune Puzzle Compendium, which should have plenty of fresh content for all but the most addicted viewers. A script was then created that would stuff 1000 fresh puzzles into the ROM at load time to minimize the chances of seeing duplicate puzzles.

ROM hacks are always fun, and this is a particularly good example of how simple tools can be used to make entertaining modifications to 30-year-old software. For another take, check out this hack that lets the Mario Bros. play together.

Reverse-Engineering a Game Boy Clone’s Boot ROM

[nitro2k01] got his hands on a Game Fighter, a clone of the original Game Boy. While there’s a ton of information about the boot ROM and operation of the original Game Boy, not much is known about these clones. [nitro2k01] wanted to learn more, so he used a clock-glitching technique to dump the device’s ROM and made some interesting discoveries about its copyright protection and boot process along the way.

Reading the contents of the Game Boy ROM is a bit challenging. The ROM is readable while booting, but afterwards the address space of the ROM is remapped for interrupt vectors and other uses. There are a couple of methods to get around this, but the simplest method involves glitching the crystal by grounding one of its leads. This causes the CPU to jump to random locations in memory. Eventually the CPU will jump to a location where the boot ROM is accessible (if you’re lucky!).

Although [nitro2k01]’s clone can run the same games as the Game Boy, it has a different boot ROM and also has some significant hardware differences. [nitro2k01] managed to use a modified version of the crystal-grounding technique to glitch his clock and dump the clone’s boot ROM. He found that the clone uses an unusual variation on the Game Boy’s copyright-checking technique, along with some other oddities. [nitro2k01] also posted a disassembly of the boot ROM, which he explains in detail.

Thanks for the tip, [Ove].

Programming a Game Boy while playing Pokemon

We hope our readers are familiar with the vast number of ROM hacks for the original 1st-gen Pokemon games. With certain sequences of button presses, it’s possible to duplicate items in the player’s inventory, get infinite money, or even catch a glimpse of the elusive MissingNo. [bortreb] is familiar with all these hacks, but his efforts to program a Game Boy from inside Pokemon is by far the greatest Pokemon glitch ever created.

This ‘total control’ ROM hack was inspired by [p4wn3r]’s extremely impressive 1 minute and 36 second long speed run for Pokemon Yellow. The technique used in [p4wn3r]’s run relies on the fact the warp points in Pokemon Yellow are right after the item list in the Game Boy’s memory. By corrupting the item list, [p4wn3r] figured out how to make the front door of his house warp directly to the end of the game resulting in the fastest Pokemon speed run ever.

Realizing this ROM hack is able to control the CPU with only the player’s inventory, [bortreb] wanted to see how far he could push this hack. He ended up writing a bootstrapping program by depositing and discarding items from the in-game PC, and was then able to reprogram the Game Boy with a number of button presses on the D-pad, select, start, A and B buttons.

The resulting hack means [bortreb] can actually make Pong, Pacman, a MIDI player, or even a copy of Pokemon Blue. In the video after the break, you can see all of [bortreb]’s speed run along with the finale of playing a MIDI file of the My Little Pony theme song. [bortreb] has a really amazing hack on his hands here that really pushes the definition of what can be done by tinkering around with a Pokemon ROM.

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Zelda is the princess, now Link is too

[Mike] is a huge fan of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and now that he has a daughter it’s a great time to pass this epic quest down to the next generation. There’s a problem with explaining the plot to her daughter, though: even though the player can name the character after themselves, there’s no way to change the gendered pronouns. Yes, it’s a problem that could have been solved by a cameo by Professor Oak asking, “Are you a boy or a girl?’ but [Mike] came up with a better solution: changing all the pronouns with a ROM hack.

There are a few ‘problems’ with altering the dialogue with a ROM hack. Most importantly, all the new pronouns need to be the same length as the words they replace. [Mike] is using the word ‘milady’ to replace ‘my lad’ and ‘master,’ but also had to take a page from critiques of modern epics and replace ‘swordsman’ with ‘swordmain.’

So far, everything is working as planned and the [Mike]’s daughter [Maya] is enjoying seeing herself sail her dragon ship and battle foes. It’s a great effort to bring some semblance of gender neutrality to a classic game, and an awesome project for a really great dad.

Thanks to [Guillaume] for sending this one in.