Friday, June 08, 2012

Super Mario Bros on Sega Genesis?

Here is a YouTube video of Super Mario Bros running on a Sega Genesis.  It may not look like much, but it is, in fact, an extremely clever bit of homebrew programming.  In 2010, an Argentinian programmer created a method to convert the original (8-bit) 6502 code to (16-bit) 68000.  This enables the Genesis to run the original NES software as though it were a native program.  Notice how the music sounds different as it plays through the Yamaha sound chip.

The catch: this feat is not being done on actual Genesis hardware, but in emulation.  Interesting!

Most people will shrug their shoulders and say, "So what?"  It's a clever programming feat and nothing else.  But suppose that you were creating a new video game system, based on the hardware of the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast, and you've added enough muscle to the DC to ensure perfect emulation of older game systems and arcade titles.  Emulating Nintendo hardware is, obviously, out of the question.  But we're not touching Nintendo's hardware in any way.  We're translating the software code itself.

This opens the door to third-party software titles from the NES era, without encroaching on Nintendo's copyrights in any way.  I should offer the caveat that this technique has only been used on Super Mario Bros, and it remains to be seen how successful translating later-era titles would be.  But the theory is sound, and it remains in the hands and minds of the programmers and engineers.

Would consumers in the 21st Century be interested in third-party NES-era video games like Ducktales, Blaster Master, RC Pro-AM, Contra, Castlevania and Mega Man?  It's tough to say, but the idea of reissuing 1990s Sega games is just as tough a call.  There may be an untapped audience willing to pay for the classics, or there may not.  I remain hopeful in the former, especially as the modern game industry crumbles and decays.

The important lesson is that it's possible.  It may be necessary to expand the Phoenix library to as many classic systems as possible.  That's my reasoning behind perfecting Dreamcast's emulation powers.  If nothing else, it's good food for thought.

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