It's been exactly two weeks since my last MiSTer FPGA update so I wanted to take a moment to highlight a couple updates on some beta cores available now. For the uninitiated, the MiSTer FPGA is a community driven open-source project that is centered around replicating classic computer, arcade, and console hardware with one hundred percent or near perfect accuracy. Check out my last MiSTer related Cortex posts for more details, especially the one on game preservation and replication.
If you have one of these kits and are familiar with updating it, you can run any of these updates shown right now, but some betas might be locked behind a Patreon pay-wall until they are released to the public for free. A lot of developers working on cores for the MiSTer and other FPGA projects spend countless hours of their free time documenting and painstakingly recreating retro chipsets.
This is not only for the sake of preserving systems for the future, but also for the sheer enjoyment of those using their work to relive the past. If you are in a position to support the developer of your favorite core on the MiSTer FPGA project, I strongly urge you to consider kicking them a few bucks to show how much the community appreciates their hard work. Now, let's take a look at some of the recent developments for the MiSTer FPGA.
Sega System 16 beta core by jotego
Jose 'jotego' Tejada has been one of the key forces behind MiSTer arcade cores and he pulled a fast one on his supporters this April Fool's Day with a brand new core for the open-source project. He has been working hard on CPS-2 support during the last couple of months and the output has been quite impressive. To date, his work on CPS-2 has graced us with sixteen titles available, including some of the most iconic on the system, like Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo and Alien vs. Predator just to name a couple.
On April 1, Jose made a tweet claiming that his involvement with Capcom arcade boards was over and that he would be focusing on Sega instead.
I chuckled at this tweet and didn't think much of it, but jotego made good on his threat on the very next day with the first working Sega System 16 beta core and support for the iconic game, Shinobi. There are quite a few bugs still in this beta and Jose will definitely be squashing them until the core is ready for public release. The Sega System 16 was Sega's late '80s 16-bit hardware and the precursor to the Genesis/Mega Drive. This system is home to some of Sega's most legendary games, such as Golden Axe, Cotton, Altered Beast, and more.
Growing up, I didn't get to experience any Sega System 16 arcades in their native form. I can't ever recall seeing a cabinet anywhere for play. Being a child of the early '90s, the Genesis was already available with many ports of those System 16 games and the arcades were moving on to Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat mania.
Being able to play Shinobi on a large CRT with an arcade stick and the promise of arcade accurate performance is incredible. The original arcade version is famous for its ninja action, tight controls, and liberal use of intellectual property. After experiencing this for myself, I can't wait to get into other Sega System 16 games to see the origin of all those Genesis ports I played as a child.
NES core with save state support by Robert Peip
Just by coincidence, the two updates I'm highlighting this week are from the same two contributors as last time. Robert Peip is also a prolific FPGA developer, with some of the most mature and feature-rich cores resulting from his work. The current Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy/Color, Game Boy Advance, Atari Lynx, and AO486 PC cores are all available because of his efforts.
FPGA clone consoles and systems have become a key component of speedrunning setups due to their acceptance by the community at large for speedruns. The use of software emulation is sometimes frowned upon in speedrunning to due discrepancies in timings or accuracy based on the console. FPGA consoles have a measurable and quantifiable improvement in accuracy over high-level emulation methods given a mature and properly-developed core.
The known accuracy paired with the ability to be used on CRT televisions and monitors more easily than recent video cards or emulator setups gives speedrunners an amazing tool for practicing their craft. With save states being introduced to the NES core, this will allow runners the ability to practice key segments of their run without having to use a software emulator or flat panel display with inherent lag.
The 8-bit NES has been a solved system for a while now, with 100 percent cycle-accurate software emulators and the ability to lower input lag further than the native hardware allows with 'run-ahead' features. But 'run-ahead' certainly isn't allowed for speedruns and 100 percent cycle-accurate emulators require a modest computer to run properly. With save states now in open beta, this opens the door for speedrunners and 8-bit gaming fans to enjoy Nintendo games in a much more convenient way. No longer do you have to leave the red LED glaring all night long on your NES to keep your spot in Super Mario Bros. 3.
I hope you enjoyed this quick update on a couple MiSTer FPGA developments. Stay tuned for more news from MiSTerland, I'll be sure to keep them posted here on Shacknews Cortex.