Saturday, April 28, 2012

6 Practical Everyday Uses for Your Gamecube

Ah, the Nintendo Gamecube. Misunderstood and under-appreciated in it's day, and quickly overshadowed by it's slightly more likeable younger brother Wii. This was truly an entertaining system with a rather impressive catalog of exclusives. I can't count the number of hours wasted playing games such as Super Smash Bros. Melee, Resident Evil 4, and Zelda: Twilight Princess.

Despite it's excellent library, the Gamecube lived a rather short life and enjoyed rather underwhelming sales. As a result, it died shortly after the Wii was released. Many games initially slated for the Cube, such as Super Paper Mario and Donkey Kong Barrel Blast, also ended up getting moved to the Wii in the interest of higher sales volumes. By 2007, the system was left with a slow trickle of mediocre kids games and sports titles, with Madden 08 being the last official title.

Considering this, it doesn't look like there's much left to do aside from aftermarket game shopping. Thanks to the efforts of many creative minds within the Nintendo hacking scene, however, there's many unintended and interesting uses for your obsolete console.

Today I'm here to happily present to you 6 practical, everyday uses in which the Gamecube can once again shine like it's mid-2001. Are you ready?

6.) Make it an artistic expression.

 If you have a good eye and some experience with vinyl dye, I strongly encourage you to break out your old Cube and turn it into a colorful creation derived from your own unique tastes. If you're good enough, you could probably even start selling your works as art. Hell, I'd buy from someone that could make a good enough two-tone black and white case for mine.

5.) Gut it and make creative use of the case.
(credits to EMDF on DeviantArt for making a lunchbox!)

The Gamecube has always jokingly been called a lunchbox, and I've personally always thought about buying a broken one with the intent of gutting the faulty hardware and turning it into one. Add in a gutted Gameboy Player and you've got yourself a rather sturdy and fashionable lunchbox with a built-in icepack.

It would also come in handy as a cup holder, a pencil sharpener (ports 1-4, anyone?), or a custom iPod speaker dock.

4.) Learn how to program for it's hardware!

Think you're level-headed enough to write programs? Better yet, are you by any chance interested in game programming? If you do, the Gamecube could be a great start for you. At this point, it's very inexpensive to get a working development setup. Unless you're plan on creating a high-budget game with realistic graphics, the hardware should be able to run whatever you throw at it. Just bear in mind, it only has 24MB of memory, so you might have to be a little creative once in awhile. ;)

3.) Game hacking (may require 3rd party tools)

(credits to Tsukimaru on the Smash Boards for this awesome SSBM texture hack!)

I'm not encouraging piracy here. This is written under the impression that the reader has dumped his games and is using legal tools to modify them.

Depending on the popularity of the game, there may be many tools available to extract and modify the contents of one of your favorite games. From textures to models to audio to any random bits of data understood by foreign tools, it is your playground. Feel free to build as many sandcastles as you'd like to.

Some games also have rather nice built-in emulators. If you dump the rom of your choice, you may very well be able to swap it out with a little bit of research. ;)

2.) Turn it into a retro game depository (requires 3rd party tools)
The Gamecube homebrew scene was at a slow, steady pace for many years. Initially, it was rather difficult to run unsigned code on it's hardware, as it required an original copy of PSO I+II, a BBA, and a dedicated PC. It was much more costly to hack and more complex to program for when compared to the likes of the Xbox or Dreamcast, which both had thriving homebrew scenes at the time.

Around 2008, however, it picked up quite a lot of steam, thanks in part to it's younger brother's similar hardware. Before the days of the Twilight hack and the Homebrew Channel, the only way to run unsigned code was through running SD Media Launcher or Freeloader in NGC mode.While Nintendo eventually blocked these tools from booting through firmware updates, hackers found their way into the main part of the hardware as they originally intended to.

As the Wii scene grew, the Gamecube got to jump on it's bandwagon and enjoy a rebirth of sorts. In many instances, homebrew releases get ported to both platforms. Today, the console enjoys a wide variety of emulators: NES, SNES, Genesis, PS1, and even Nintendo 64!

1.) Turn your Gamecube into an Ultra-Portable Media Center!
Thanks to it's small form factor and it's networking and media card compatibilities, the Gamecube is a rather nice choice for a UPMC. Thanks to the team porting MediaPlayer CE over from the Wii and the past efforts of those who retooled Gamecube Linux into a media-based OS, we now have the ability to do much more with our systems than Nintendo had originally intended.

It would also be an inexpensive alternative for a more entertaining car dashboard considering the vast array of 3rd party accessories geared towards it's mobility. Imagine the cost of tracking down a small LCD monitor, a Freeloader disc, a cigarette lighter AC adapter, and a Memory Card -> SD Adapter.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sonic Gems Hacking: Sonic CD! (GC/PS2)

Hello! I'm here today to present some clarity for those still interested in editing, modifying, or just getting the Japanese soundtrack from the Sonic CD port found in Sonic Gems Collection, regardless of the platform you're playing it on or the region in which you reside!

Do keep in mind that is only for modified consoles, though.


This version is region-specific due to the smaller capacity of the GC Optical Disc. Though every region received unique content, the European and US versions are almost nearly identical, and both contain the American Sonic CD soundtrack only.

The best possible outcome is also the most expensive...

Finding the Japanese version of this would certainly be your best choice as there's no software modding necessary and you get additional Genesis roms thrown in that were removed from releases overseas.

If, however, you'd like to choose a western version as your basis...

....:.:.::.:::. Recommended Tools .:::.::.:.:....
ISO Editing Tool (such as MagicISO or even WinRAR/7zip)
ROFS to ISO Converter
AFS/ADX Editing Tools
An SFD viewer/converter (if you'd like to take it a step further or two!)
Gamecube Rebuilder v1.0 (needs .NET v3.5+)

1. ) Open GC-Tool and find your .gcm of choice.
2. ) Extract soniccdu.cvm from /soniccd.
3. ) Use ROFS to ISO Converter to convert "soniccdu.cvm" into "soniccdu.iso"

To anyone familiar with the PC version of Sonic CD, you wouldn't be too surprised at what you see!

There's many .BMP files that are immediately editable, including the copyright banner from the title screen!

1996 was a good year for 1993

Interested in changing the soundtrack? That's where the excellent AFS-ADX tools can help! Extract both the tools and "BGM_US.AFS" from soniccdu.iso into the same directory.

From there, open Command Prompt and locate your directory.
1.) Use afs_extract.exe to extract BGM_US.AFS.
--->This should decompress the AFS and extract it's ADX files that make up the soundtrack.
2.) Use wav2adx.exe to convert the music of your choice into .ADX format, rename the files accordingly!
--->There are several converters available for formats like MP3, WAV, AAC, etc.
3.) Use afslnk.exe to compress the new ADX files into an AFS file again.

You could also take it a step further and try to change the stock SFD videos! Provided you can find a tool that can convert between the two, Sonic Boom could be replaced by it's JP/EU equivalent or even some extreme bear wrestling video, and any and everything in-between!

With the use of GC ISO Rebuilder, you should be able to extensively modify the game to pack for re-injection into Sonic Gems. The most important thing to recognize while doing sensitive modifications like these to an image that's already been burned is to be cautious in your editing. There's several factors that should be considered (such as file size, possible additional padding in said files) to ensure that it will keep booting.

Also keep in mind that these tools work for several aspects of the game outside Sonic CD. Take a look at the files, and you'll see what I mean!

PlayStation 2:

Compared to Gamecube, the PS2 version of Sonic Gems Collection is interesting. They chose to release the game with all of it's different regional data on one DVD! It loads this regional data by determining what language the console is outputting on the screen. When English is detected, the American soundtrack is loaded. When Japanese is detected, the Japanese/Euro soundtrack is loaded.

This particular version wasn't released in the United States because Nintendo had wanted Gems to stay a Gamecube exclusive, so that brings you down to a European and Japanese release.

Fortunately, whether you don't have a Japanese PS2 or live in the United States and still want to hear the JP soundtrack, there's a way!

To play JP Sonic CD in Sonic Gems Collection (PAL):

Open the ISO in a Hex Editor and search for the text string "BGM_US". Note that it should come up two times as shown below. The first of these two results is simply part of a directory list that references various game files but I changed it anyway.

The second find of these results show how part of the game's code is being loaded. This is the one that you're looking for! The pictures shown below are sampled from an already edited ISO.

To play JP Sonic CD in Sonic Gems Collection (NTSC-J):

This mod can be slightly trickier to test out, but the Japanese version is truly the most recommended to use as a basis for your mods. It's the additional games and NTSC compatibility that won me over, at least!

Once again, search for "BGM_US". It shows up as a directory list first and a loaded file second. What I recommend doing for this one is switching the "US/JP" tags on both like so:

I simply switched the tags because I was testing with PCSX2 and it loaded the game in it's native Japanese. It originally played the Japanese soundtrack, but after the switch, it began to play the American soundtrack. I For once, it was music to my ears! I then proceeded to install it on my SCPH-30001R PS2's HDD, and it played the right soundtrack!

I highly recommend that you test any edited files in an emulator before running them on real hardware (just to save yourself some time and a headache).

Good luck to anyone insterested! If it's too much effort, then I'd only recommend the PSN/XBLA version of the game that was released a few months ago!

Happy hacking!
- Atrium-sx+