24 April 2020

Additional Pandora's Box DX Info

Last night, I streamed a few hours of gameplay from the Pandora's Box DX. You can find the archive of that here: Twitch.

Consider this a quick scratchpad of things that I've learned both during the stream as well as things I've discovered about the PBDX since that just don't have anywhere else to be put for now and that are not obvious.

What did we learn?

Positives

  • NVRAM files and hi scores are saved to the SD card or to the USB stick, depending on where the game is loaded from.
  • A single save state is available per game.
  • MAME2003 can run the arcade versions of Mortal Kombat II, Mortal Kombat III and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 at full speed. Arabian Fight also runs much better through MAME2003 than the version on the PBDX by default. Asura Buster: Eternal Warriors is full speed under MAME2003.
  • Beatmania 4th Mix is fully playable with the CHD installed. A bit awkward to play, but actually works.
  • Games that required the NVRAM fix on the PB6 (Joust, Defender, NARC, etc...) no longer require them. Allow the game to write to NVRAM and then restart the game and they will work.
  • PlayStation emulator can write standard memory card saves.
  • Megadrive/Super Famicom games can be added as advertised. Famicom games can also be added, which is not advertised.
  • USB hubs are supported. UDisk, controllers and keyboards can be plugged in and are functional.
  • 8bitdo SN30 Pro controller connected through USB cable is fully functional on the PBDX.
  • Keyboard appears to be mapped to both 1 and 2 players. Z key resets to main menu, 0 key enters Settings menu, 1 key on frontend goes to Search settings.
  • Bootup videos, music tracks and backgrounds are on the SD card and look to be easily replaced at will (untested yet).
  • SD card is not actually required. Copy everything from SD card to UDisk and you can boot up without SD card entirely. Alternatively, replace SD card with larger SD card and you can add more games directly on the card without UDisk. Using UDisk alone would mean easier backing up and sharing of your nvram/high scores, potentially.
  • PlayStation emulator crash on vibration from PB6 is fixed on PBDX.
  • Can still add your own menu background to either USB stick or SD card by creating user_bg.bmp on the root of either device.
  • The original Splatterhouse is not installed but if you install the MAME2003 version, it plays with corrected aspect ratio, instead of the horizontally squashed aspect ratio that it had preinstalled on the Pandora's Box 6.
  • Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear and Sega SG-1000 games are also functional.
  • Autofire for the shooters is here just like on the PB6 complete with the same prompt as you start the game up, however unlike the PB6, autofire is off by default! Hold the Start button and press the A button to toggle it on and off, just as the PB6.

Negatives

  • Screen tearing through HDMI is about the same as PB6, maybe a little bit better from time to time.
  • Only one save state per game is available, not all games allow it (might be only certain emulators?)
  • Image optimization is a slight bit better but still bad and still the only way to not get screen tearing unless using VGA output.
  • Scanlines were implemented by someone who doesn't know what they are, about 4 times too thick.
  • HDMI only outputs at 720p. VGA allows 720p or 640x480.
  • Adding too many games to UDisk results in ALL games on the stick being ignored.
  • Added MegaDrive/Super Famicom/Famicom games cannot have spaces, parentheses or quotation marks in their filenames, whether zipped or not.
  • Super Famicom/Famicom games cannot write save games, use save states instead. Megadrive still untested.
  • Some added PS1 games get added 3D Game tag as they should, others don't. Unknown as to why.
  • Gauntlet still cannot be played two players, has the same issue as PB6 where coins just get inserted for player one. Unfortunately, even with a USB keyboard, pressing the button mapped as 2p coin still results in health only going to player 1.
  • Select button on SNES appears to be unmapped.

Other

  • Entire operating system is held on a 1Gb flash NAND on the board, and not on the SD card as PB6. We will be dumping this NAND as soon as possible to explore.
  • Attempting to boot up without SD card or UDisk results in black screen with blue letters saying no TF card or UDisk could be found and does not advance.
  • Vertical games added under the FBA2012 emulator display rotated, so for those of you who were using the PB6 to play shooters in TATE mode, you'll still be able to do the same with the PBDX.
  • FBA2012 ROMs must be added to roms_fba2012, have filenames that are all lowercase and end in .zip
  • MAME2003 ROMs must be added to roms_mame2003 and be in .zip format.
  • PlayStation ROMs must be added to roms_playstation and be in .bin/.cue/.img/.mdf/.pbp/.toc/.cbn/.m3u formats, filename must not exceed 128 characters and extension must be lowercase.
  • Super NES/Super Famicom ROMs must be added to roms_sfc and must be in .sfc format. Can be a .sfc file within a zip.
  • Megadrive ROMs must be added to roms_md and be in .smd format. Can be a .smd file within a zip. You can simply rename a .md file to .smd and drop it into the roms_md directory and it should work.
  • FBA and MAME games added cannot exceed 2500 games total. (I think this may be incorrect, however. More testing needed first.)
  • Famicom ROMs must be added to roms_fc and must be in .nes format. Can be a .nes file within a .zip.
  • PlayStation games added cannot exceed 500 games total, same limit as PB6.
  • Super NES/Super Famicom games cannot exceed 1000 games total.
  • Megadrive games cannot exceed 1000 games total.
  • No limit given for Famicom games, though I suspect the limit is actually shared with Super Famicom. This will require more testing.
  • Famicom/NES select button is mapped to button E.
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