Homebrew Emulation Introducing Nintellivision - an Emulator for the DS/DSi

wavemotion

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Welcome to the official release thread of Nintellivision!

In 1979, Mattel Electronics released their answer to the Atari 2600: Intellivision - the "Intelligent Television". This console ran with a 16-bit core processor clocked at a whopping 894Khz. The machine had a distinctive (and largely green!) color palette and an even more distinctive sound chip producing low rumbling swooshes and wooshes. Over the next few years, the company would sell almost 3 million units and produce a library of 130 official games. Since that time, hobby programmers have taken up the mantle and produce many dozens of amazing homebrew games. The system is home to unique games that never made their way to any other system - mostly due to the need for the sophisticated keypad controller. These include the amazing AD&D Cloudy Mountain, Treasure of Tarmin, Utopia, Beauty and the Beast as well as four games specifically produced for the Intellivoice add-on module.

Nintellivision looks to recreate that experience with some quality of life upgrades for your Nintendo DS and DSi.

The official releases will be posted here... starting with 1.0 released today:

https://github.com/wavemotion-dave/NINTV-DS

This is an Intellivision emulator for the DS/DSi. Most games will run full-speed when run in DSi mode. For the older DS, there are some config options you can tweak to get the best performance - some games will be playable on that older hardware... some will not.

To make this work, place NINTV-DS.NDS on your flashcart or SD card which you can launch.
You must have these 3 files in the same directory as your ROM files:
grom.bin
exec.bin
knowncarts.cfg

Optional is ivoice.bin for Intellivoice games.

The knowncarts.cfg file is supplied with this emulator. The GROM and EXEC binaries are property of Intellivision and you will have to find them yourself. Don't ask. If you own Intellivision Lives (various over the years), you likely have both files already somewhere in your house.


When you load the emulator, you will see the following... you can select LOAD to select a cartridge/game to play. The emulator supports two types of files... raw binary files(.BIN or .INT) and intellicart .ROM files (where the .ROM contains the loading information - popular among newer homebrew games).
upload_2021-9-7_17-17-19.png



Once loaded, the configuration (or default settings if nothing yet set) is loaded with the game. You can pick your overlay and tweak key mappings and other settings in configuration.
upload_2021-9-7_17-18-0.png



In configuration you can map 6 of the DS keys as well as set some other options. Of note here is the 'Dual Action' controller which has the Disc/Buttons on one controller and the Keypad mapped to the other controller. The Intellivision could not distinguish keypress buttons when the disc was pressed - but this lets you get around that (in short, it lets you do things like move and shoot at the same in AD&D Cloudy Mountain). To gain more speed, you can tweak the audio settings (higher numbers are lower quality... and faster speed). You can also try the 'Aggressive Frameskip' option which is a bit dangerous in that it can cause sprite collisions to not be detected - so it works for some games and not others. But if you're desperate for more speed, give it a try.
upload_2021-9-7_17-19-14.png


Finally there are up to 10 high scores for every game which you can save off to keep track of your accomplishments.
upload_2021-9-7_17-19-41.png


Thanks to the community here for testing this one out over the last couple of weeks. I'm proud of this first release - more overlays and more features/faster speeds coming soon!

Edit: tons of progress. Tons of features.
1635108519530.png
 

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wavemotion

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With coffee this morning, I jettisoned the preliminary ECS support. The ECS was a computer add-on module that had like 5 carts come out - two of which were actually not terrible... but nothing that was outstanding. The support was only half-implemented in BLISS and I managed to get it semi-working last night but was underwhelmed given how much space/resources the ECS was taking up in the emulator. So it's gone - nobody will miss it. In exchange, we got back like 400k of RAM with all the junk that got tossed... this should ensure a longer lifespan on the older DS-LITE/PHAT hardware.
 

CrashMidnick

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Thanks my Lord !

Thanks to you and other devs (or because of you from my wife's point of view...), I just bought a DSI XL for a really good price and almost new. Even if I will use mainly the DS lite (slot-2 lover here), I will be able to test "DSi" emus on real hardware without a 3DS ^^
 

wavemotion

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Fantastic, Crash! In all honesty, the DSi XL is the pinnacle of 8-bit emulation machines. Solid Nintendo design and it has the right screen resolution (192 pixels in the vertical direction) for almost all of the old-school machines. This means that you won't get black borders or other weird stretching in the Y direction for classic machines such as the Atari's, Intellivision, Sega Master System, MSX (1), Colecovision, ZX Spectrum, etc. Most of the early machines were 192 pixels vertically as a standard for the video chips of the era. In addition, the DSi XL/LL has a slower refresh on the LCD which more closely mimics a real CRT - the pixels take a little longer to fade and that provides a more accurate experience to the real-deal. Neither the older DS-LITE, the smaller DSi nor the newer 2DS/3DS models mimic this behavior as good.

In short - the DSi XL is one hell of a classic gaming machine and can usually be had for under US$70 in good condition. I got my last one for $50 shipped with a slight cosmetic issue that doesn't affect gameplay. For the price of 1 new game you can have 10,000 classics!
 
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Plazorn

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wavemotion

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There are some amazing Homebrews on the Intellivision that will mostly run fine under Nintellivision. Unfortunately some great looking games are not free for the ROMs and with the new LTO flash-cart these ROMs are often sold and tied to a specific personalized flash cart - so you can't even buy a normal .BIN rom for play on emulators for those games.

However, there are some great freely released games. Some you have to really hunt for - some were made free for a year or two before going commercial so you may need to pull some tricks like using the wayback machine to restore a website before it was changed to get the free stuff (assuming you missed out during the periods of it being free).

I'd recommend playing DK ARCADE (DKINTY.ROM) as an absolutely stellar version of Donkey Kong with all the screens and really enjoyable playability. COPER COMMAND as an intellivision spin on Chopper Command. Pumpkin is a fun little galaga/space-shooter. Aardvark is always worth a play. Burger Time 2 (BT2) - Master Chef is an improvement on the original. Mystic Castle is a faster and highly enjoyable hack of Thunder Castle. MS-Pac-Man gets everything right as much as possible on the classic system. Stonix is as close to Arkanoid as you can get on the system. Exidy's Sydney Hunter and the Sacred Tribe is a great little platformer. And XMAX Carol is worth a play any time of the year!
 

wavemotion

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Not ready for a new build, but the daily check-in has 2 new overlays for Utopia and Swords & Serpents.

upload_2021-9-8_13-17-21.png


By the way - as a graphic artist, I clearly suck. Badly. It's functional - but that's about it. If anyone has reasonable skills using GIMP or other paint program and wants to make the overlays awesome (staying within the basic layout shown here), please do let me know.
 
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CrashMidnick

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As with everything I do for the retro hobby community, it's all available online at GitHub. You can see the current overlays here:

https://github.com/wavemotion-dave/NINTV-DS/tree/main/arm9/gfx

And that directory includes the "baseline" version which is empty.

I did not see the empty file, I will try this week-end to make one to see if I can help you on this task (as an example I made the french layout keyboard for UAE4ALL2 (Switch)). However I am slow as a snail and I do not think it will be better than what you are doing.

Just my 2 cents : I understood that you want everything open source and do not want to touch copyrighted things. But why not leaving the possibility to users to add scans by themselves in a folder that is linked to a surface of the touch screen ? When you see how beautiful overlays are, it is quite downgrading the quality of your emu as we will only fill in squares or try to replicate the original ones.

bgBottom-utopia.png
 
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VatoLoco

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Awesome, Dave!!
I never owed an intellivision, but my buddy had one when we were kids in the early '80s.
I rmmbr staying the night and playing astrosmash, bump n jump, and a racing game i could never master the controls so i'd crash into the trees constantly.
The memory is kinda intwined with watching saturday night live when we were up 'passed bedtime', lolz.
 

MarioKartFan

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Dave:

This motivated me to dig through boxes that have been closed since the turn of the century. I rediscovered Ice Trek, which is another underrated Gem for Intellivision that works great on your emulator.

The 1.0 sound really good. Such an improvement. And the dual action controls make a huge difference. Managed to beat AD&D on Hard last night.
 

wavemotion

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And the dual action controls make a huge difference. Managed to beat AD&D on Hard last night.
Yeah, that's a game changer on AD&D for sure! I also map the XYAB buttons to the 4 main arrow-fire directions so that I can use the DS buttons to fire in those 4 directions and I also map RUN to the L/R shoulder buttons. This lets me move and fire in the 4 cardinal directions effectively. Beats the pants out of playing the buggy and no-key-mapping DS Intellivision Lives version!
 

wavemotion

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Okay... I got a big speedup in video rendering that gives 10+% additional frames. Even the Intellivoice games are now running full speed on the DSi. I'm going to drop the "aggressive frameskip" which was rather dangerous (it bypassed some collision detection) as the new engine will render just about everything fast enough on the DSi.

The DS is another story... it's broken again. Most likely due to lack of memory again. It's the bane of my existence right now with this.

Edit: it wasn't memory - it was an uninitialized variable! Woot... everything working again. And better still - on the older DS games like Astrosmash, Treasure of Tarmin and Tower of Doom are all pretty close to full speed :) Intellivoice games and some of the other complex games are still a bit slow on the older hardware but we're making progress!

Just checked it all in... not ready for a new build as this needs some serious testing. If anyone would like to grab the most current check-in at https://github.com/wavemotion-dave/NINTV-DS and let me know how it went for you (and whether you are running DS or DSi mode) - that would be most appreciated!
 
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