Pandora’s Box 6 – Removing Junk, Compatibility Lists…

So, one of the annoyances caused by getting these all-in-one arcade boards is that it often seems like the people making them don’t know enough about the games being added to realize that there are some games that have problems. Perhaps there are duplicates that are unneeded, perhaps there are issues with controller set up that make games unplayable, etc…

I’m creating several lists to help people when they first pick up a Pandora’s Box 6 to very quickly get set up and have as many unique, known working games as possible.

  • Default Games to Remove
  • Compatible Added MAME ROMs
  • Compatible Added FBA ROMs
  • Compatible Added PlayStation disc images

I’ve only just started working on these lists now so it is a work-in-progress but you can find the start of this over here or by selecting the compatibility lists from the Pandora’s Box 6 menu at the top.

Feel free to leave a comment on that page with some changes you’ve made or games you’d added!

Stupid Pandora Tricks – Running NES games on your Pandora’s Box 6

I’m sure some of you are seeing the title of this post and are wondering the same thing – Why? The obvious answer is, of course, because you can. You might be thinking that we’re talking about running NES games through something like the Vs. or PlayChoice 10 systems. Well…

Thanks, XSplit, for the downgrade to 30fps and somehow making the audio so quiet.

…It Might Be Dynamic Recompilation

One of the best things about the Pandora’s Box 6 is that it includes PlayStation support. Obviously, it was one of the ways that the original creators of the box used to cover gaps in the Pandora’s Box’s MAME playing abilities. Too weak to play Tekken 3? Include the PlayStation version!

I am not 100% sure as I haven’t been able to look at the files on the Pandora’s Box 6 SD card too deeply yet, but I am almost certain that the ability to play PlayStation games on PB6 is down to the use of PCSX-ReARMed. PCSX-R is a port of the PlayStation emulator that uses dynamic recompilation to achieve high performance emulation of the PlayStation 1. This is why Raspberry Pis are able to play PlayStation games so well and the same goes for the hardware in the Pandora’s Box. So I’m pretty sure you see how we’re going to do this now.

…It Might Be NES

I decided to experiment with a NES emulator that was made to run on the original PlayStation itself called IMBNES. Back in the day, I remembered burning a CD-R that had a bunch of NES games on it along with the software and was able to boot it up with one of the hardware mods that you would plug into the serial port on the back of the original PlayStation. In those days, NES emulation wasn’t so far along and the emulator had its own faults but it was playable enough so I was quite happy.

So the end goal here is to create a disc image that contains both the emulator executable as well as all the games you wish to play. Once done, you would transfer the .ISO over to the Pandora’s Box and you should be able to play it!

…It Might Be Guide

Okay, so here’s a little step-by-step guide for getting this all up and running without too much trouble.

Step 1: Download IMBNES and Extract It

First, you will need to download the latest version of IMBNES from the website. I’ve mirrored the latest version below just in case the original site goes away.

Extract it anywhere on your hard drive, it shouldn’t matter where.

Step 2: Create PS1 Disc Image with rombank.exe
  1. From the extracted imbnes folder, run rombank.exe.
  2. Click on one of the two Add ROMs buttons at the top left and find the NES ROMs you wish to add to your disc image.
  3. Use the Tag removal button to remove unneeded parts of file names as we only have a certain amount of characters per filename seen in the NES emulator anyways.
  4. Click on the unsupported mapper removal button to remove ROMs that use mappers unsupported by the emulator.
  5. Adjust other options as you choose.
  6. Click on Build IMBNES ISO button to build and output a proper PS1 disc image with the emulator and ROMs selected. (If any file name conflicts come up, adjust them so that they won’t conflict and try again.)
Just about ready to create our IMBNES PS1 Disc Image with ROM Bank.
Step 3: Copy IMBNES Disc Image to Pandora’s Box 6 Flash Drive
  1. Remove U-Disk from Pandora’s Box 6 and insert it into your PC.
  2. Copy your newly created *.cue and *.bin files to the roms_playstation directory found at the root of your Pandora’s Box 6 U-Disk.
  3. If you decide to rename the *.bin and *.cue files, make sure to also edit the *.cue file to point to your new *.bin file name, otherwise the emulator will not start up properly.

Limitations to Know About

So, there are a few things you will need to remember when using this emulator. Not everything’s perfect:

  • It will screen tear like crazy on any game that has a lot of scrolling such as Super Mario Bros. 3, but will always be playable.
  • This emulator is very old and as such there are some strange emulation issues with some games such as occasionally scrambled graphics (the earned stars in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!), audio not quite sounding right, that sort of thing. Most games should still be very playable.
  • Because the Pandora’s Box 6 does not have writable partitions, just like with the arcade games on it, you are unable to save your game in NES games. This includes anything like save states (which I don’t think the emulator supports anyways). So don’t bother playing any long RPGs unless you intend on completing them in one sitting.
  • I have not found a way to return to the menu to select another NES game other than using the Pause button to return to the Pandora’s Box 6 main game menu again and loading up the emulator. Small but annoying price to pay, I suppose.
  • Aspect ratio is incorrect and there does not appear to be a way to adjust it without adjusting the resolution of the Pandora’s Box itself.

Have fun!

The Pandora’s Box of Copyright

There’s been a really recent new development in the world of Chinese Pandora’s Box maker 3A Game. If you’ve made any attempt to purchase a Pandora’s Box 5 or 6 recently – say, in the last 2-3 months – you may have noticed something unexpected.

NOTE:Dear friends, due to the copyright reasons of the game, from now on, our Pandora Box 5 and Pandora Box 6 Arcade Version and Family Version (including console) series of U-disks no longer contain game files. If you purchased it and found no game files, You can contact the customer service staff to help you.
We feel sorry for any inconvenience caused to you. Thank you!

-3A Game Store ad on their Aliexpress store page.

This is… kind of odd and unexpected. China’s basically seen in the West as a lawless place where copyright is laughed at openly. Indeed, one of the biggest reasons why Pandora’s Box and their clones have been popular is because of it being a complete plug-and-play experience. There’s no need to dick around with not being sure if you have the proper version of ROMs when they are all provided by the company on it’s “U-Disk” USB sticks. Odder still is that all the Chinese companies creating clones and fakes don’t seem to be having any trouble and are throwing ROMs around with impunity, as you might expect.

It appears that 3A Game believes it can avoid any sort of legal liability by simply not putting the ROMs on the USB stick, but by sending customers a link to Google Drive that contains all the ROMs needed. Indeed, even their official YouTube channel features the above quote along with the link to the ROMs on Google Drive *directly* after it. I don’t know how they think that this is any better for them from a legal standpoint but at least it’s not *that* much more painful for the customers, I suppose.

The copyright warning as seen on 3A Game’s Aliexpress store page.

A Personal Theory

I’m going to preface this by saying that I know absolutely nothing at all about Chinese copyright law so this is a complete shot in the dark here.

I think that this is happening now partially because of the Chinese finally¬† lifting the ban on video game home consoles in 2015. I would not be shocked or surprised at all if 3A Game’s sudden change of heart was caused by those game companies now coming into the Chinese marketplace in the last few years and starting to exercise their newfound legal muscle. Why would anyone want to pay top dollar for the true original console and games when they can get them far cheaper on the black market? With Nintendo being the most traditionally litigious, I can easily see them arriving into the Chinese market with the WiiU or Switch and then going after these companies for including Vs. Super Mario Bros and Donkey Kong on all their pirated multi-game arcade PCBs and game consoles.

It just seems odd to start doing it during Summer 2018.

Pandora’s Box – A New (Fake) Challenger Appears

I was doing a bit of searching around on Twitter for anything related to the Pandora’s Box – because you never know when you might run into something – and I came across an ad for an item on eBay. This appears to be the first clone of the Pandora’s Box 6 that I’ve seen to this point. The PB6 was just released less than 3-4 weeks ago. I didn’t expect the blog post I made only 2 days ago to be made obsolete this quickly. Let’s take a closer look.

A Pandora’s Box 9, eh?

Okay, so you know I am instantly going to take a look and let’s see what we’ve got for pictures here.

The people who created this clone did their homework.

Okay, looks like someone new has stepped into the Pandora’s Box fray then because this is the first time I’ve ever seen any of the pirate boxes make this close an attempt to replicate the real thing before. From the only pictures available to me, it looks like they’ve done a damn good job. From the angle above, we can see that the casing is exactly the same as well as the fan opening in the middle. On the bottom left side, we have the same exact type of sticker that 3A Game uses to denote the date of manufacture. This clone reads as September 2018.

The attention to detail here in this clone is actually quite striking

Here we see a copy of the official Pandora’s Box sticker normally on the top right side of the board. I almost imagine that they chose to call it the Pandora’s Box 9 simply because they could get away with just mirroring the 6 from the original sticker easily. The English marking on the sticker is something the originals have as well, an easy way for them to see if they have an English or Korean version of the Pandora’s Box.¬†

Another thing to mention here is that because of the style of box matching the real PBs, this one is also meant to have it’s side with all the connections exposed through a large slot in an arcade console case. So this is yet another detail the cloners got right and indeed in arcade consoles I’ve seen that advertise having the Pandora’s Box 9, it shows the same large rectangular slot that the board slides into before it is secured to the case.

USB1 is for the USB stick with games. USB2 is unknown. USB3 is for connecting to PCs/consoles.

What’s also interesting is that it is clearly a clone of the Pandora’s Box 6 instead of 5 because of the arrangement of the USB ports. Most of the previous Pandora’s Boxes had one USB port for the 8GB USB stick that contained the games that would be inaccessible from the outside if placed in an arcade console box. This clone, just like the Pandora’s Box 6, actually moves the port to the exposed side alongside the two other ports. One of these ports usually has a rubber stopper in it (perhaps it is used as a serial port?) and the other is for plugging a USB cable into for use with PC and game consoles. As far as I can tell, the main reason for this change with the Pandora’s Box 6 is because of the added ability to add your own games. You wouldn’t want to add a few games and have to open up your arcade console to insert and remove the stick constantly. Nothing about the Pandora’s Box 9 advertises the ability to add your own games that I’ve seen yet.

Unfortunately, there is no other information on this Pandora’s Box 9 that I’ve seen so far aside from sales sites. No one I’ve seen to this point has reviewed it or posted any videos about it yet. The Pandora’s Box 6 videos only really started trickling in the last two weeks as boxes start to get into owners’ hands. I intend on doing some videos on it myself soon. I am extremely interested in purchasing this Pandora’s Box 9 myself to take an in-depth look at it but money’s not going to allow that to happen at the moment… so maybe next month or something, we’ll see.

Conclusion

This bootleg is so well done that without having it in my hands, it seems almost indistinguisable from the real thing. Even the number of games isn’t too outlandish compared to the Pandora’s Box 6 (1300 vs 1500). I’m very impressed and can’t wait to see more about it. Expect an updated version of the “how can you tell if it’s fake vs. real” guidelines soon.