Translation of a NDS competitive mahjong title

Discussion in 'NDS - ROM Hacking and Translations' started by FAST6191, Feb 22, 2012.

Feb 22, 2012
  1. FAST6191
    OP

    Reporter FAST6191 Techromancer

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    Background- mahjong is a fairly popular game in Japan but what the west knows as mahjong is properly known as mahjong solitaire or Shanghai; mahjong solitaire is a tile matching game where mahjong proper has the closest equivalent in gin rummy. To the best of my knowledge, it certainly is the operating assumption going into this, all games outside Japan (unless Korea got in on the action but a quick scan says no) that claim to sport mahjong are in fact the solitaire variety which is fun but not what I am and if several forum posts over the years many others as well are after.
    Most should be playable (assuming you know the rules which you can easily learn elsewhere) with a minimal knowledge of Japanese or none at all but this may be one of the few occasions where a menu or minimal translation will do wonders. The trouble comes in the Japan has several to choose from and I want to pick the best one in terms of options and AI- if it turns out Simple Series* vol 44- the Gal Mahjong is the superior version I will hack that (you ask me what the best GBA chess game is and I will tell you Dexter's lab chess and I have several similar examples for other puzzle games). I am also open to the option of a total conversion (think Elite beat agents vs Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan) if it does turn out to be a silly version that sports the best engine if for no other reason than I am not aware of such a translation happening in the ROM hacking world.

    *the simple series, 2500 series, minna no series and other such series often have awesome versions (minna no soft tetris was the best commercial tetris version on the GBA by a very long way) so certainly do not dismiss them outright- my next steps might actually be to comb through said collections properly and pull up anything that wants translating.

    Step 1: Pick a game that wants translating as we have several options. I pulled all the games with mahjong in the title and did a scan of the others for those that might also feature it. Should there be a far superior version as yet undumped do speak up and should I have missed one also speak up.

    I am not a purist by any means and I do not really mind which version of the rules we end with (there are some subtle differences between parts of various parts of China, Japan and elsewhere but to the best of my knowledge they are all Japanese rules with Japanese tilesets or variations on said tilesets (same "values" but different characters/illustrations)). Equally mahjong is not a game I am brilliant at/have much strategical knowledge of so my opinions on hard AI might want to be taken with a pinch of salt.

    I am not so concerned about wifi and general wifi play (some games had a minor "pictochat" type affair built in) but some of those did have wifi versions made of them which will get translated in preference to their non wifi cousins (if the backport is simple enough I might go for it though). Equally I will probably not want to translate any download play components if for no other reason than flash carts are cheap and if I did do such a thing it would only work on a flashme modded DS.

    Generating the above also saw me go through every Japanese game and it turns there are loads of things very much worthy of a translation and especially on the puzzle game and light adventure game front but that is a different matter for a different day.

    I can do the hacking side of things (once we narrow down the list a bit I will pull them apart and see how they work) although I am quite happy to have some help if someone wants an in to translation hacking but translation might be tricky and those translating should probably know that puzzle games have a long history of kicking most of their text to pictures rather than text one can dump into a file and edit. Unless we end up translating one of those story and minigame sporting versions (unlikely) I do not imagine the need for a massive team as with most RPGs although should the right project manager come along room could be made- my favoured model for all this will be open information (specs for the rom and any formats within) but closed patch making and translation.

    List of possibilities

    I do not think the Japanese version of Club house games/42 all time classics had a proper version of mahjong but I am willing to be surprised (there were apparently a few differences). Again there was also an original release and a wifi version later. Also I do like the Club house games/42 all time classics title but the versions they included had minimal rule variations (more than some, less than a proper dedicated title).

    I genuinely have no idea which is going to be the best or even top ? other than as a rule of thumb most collections of games tend not to have as many options (might rule out the table games). Tie in games are a tricky one (Gundam tie in games are frequently top notch) but a few tie in and such games here (thinking the likes of gal mahjong and Chuukana Janshi Tenhoo Painyan Remix) are not likely to end up as best candidates for a translation if for no other reason than they are probably going to need a lot of work to do. Again my main criteria are going to be best AI and best ability to fiddle with rules with a heavy dose of best UI as well (something touchscreen driven but done well and with fallback to buttons if possible) but I am fairly flexible on any one of those. Edit- I should also state I am operating under the assumption those playing this will roughly know the rules so a proper basics to mahjong hustler tutorial is not an essential (indeed the tutorial will probably be one of the main casualties in the menu/basics translation idea).

    0046- Yakuman DS
    Linking up the wifi version (0555 in the numbers)
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-ndstitle-1179/
    http://gbatemp.net/t...025-yakuman-ds/ (it came originally in the massive releases floods).
    http://www.nintendo....x.html?link=txt (Nintendo's attempt at a game, I would not get too excited about Mario being on the cover though).

    0104- Mahjong Taikai
    http://gbatemp.net/t...hjong-taikai-j/

    0217- Simple DS Series Vol.1 - The Mahjong
    http://gbatemp.net/t...ies-volume-1-j/

    0245- Gundam Mahjong DS
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-ndstitle-0819/
    0290- Table Game Spirits
    Not entirely sure about this one and it does appear to have a breakout clone, some card games, shogi and some other stuff.
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-ndstitle-0870/

    0310- Minna no Mahjong DS
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-ndstitle-0890/

    0315- Nihon Pro Mahjong Kishikai Kanshuu Pro Ni Naru - Mahjong DS
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-ndstitle-0895/

    0731- Mahjong Fight Club DS: Wi-Fi Taiou
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-ndstitle-1365/
    So I do not forget/get questions there is also a v1.1
    http://gbatemp.net/t...aiou-v01-japan/

    0750- Table Spirits 2
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-ndstitle-1384/
    Seems to be the wrong boxart
    http://www.amazon.co.../dp/B000KN6A42/

    0797- Mahjong Haoh DS Special
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-ndstitle-1439/

    1183- Chuukana Janshi Tenhoo Painyan Remix
    This one apparently rocks some catgirls.
    http://gbatemp.net/t...an-remix-japan/

    1205- Jan Sangoku Musou (Dynasty warriors spinoff?)
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-ndstitle-1205/
    http://www.gamecity.ne.jp/ds/jmusou/

    1314- 1500 DS Spirits Vol. 1: Mahjong
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-mahjong-japan/

    1454- Wi-Fi Taiou: Gensen Table Game DS
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-game-ds-japan/
    http://www.amazon.co.../dp/B000P9G212/

    1881- Taka Reet Ura Mahjong Retsuden Mukoubuchi ~ Goburei Last desu ne ~ (awesome cover for this game)
    http://gbatemp.net/t...burei-last-des/

    1921- Super Lite 2500 Custom Mahjong
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-mahjong-japan/

    1949- Simple DS Series Vol. 30: The Table Game
    http://gbatemp.net/t...ble-game-japan/
    http://www.amazon.co.../dp/B000Y2NHRM/

    2051- 1500 DS Spirits Vol 9 Futari Uchi Mahjong (this appears to be the two player version)
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-mahjong-japan/

    2709- Simple DS Series Vol. 44: The Gal Mahjong
    Mahjong but featuring anime girls in bikinis and minigames with said girls- on second thoughts it had better be an awesome engine for it to get translated in preference to the others.
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-mahjong-japan/

    3280- Akko de Pon Ikasama Hourouki (probably a better effort than most western singers that get games manage)
    http://gbatemp.net/t...hourouki-japan/

    4072- Mahjong Navi DS
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-navi-ds-japan/

    4073- Table Game spirits victory
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-victory-japan/ (not sure about this one)
    http://www.amazon.co.../dp/B000P9G212/

    4526- 1500 DS Spirits: Mahjong V
    http://gbatemp.net/t...ahjong-v-japan/

    4839- Mahjong Haoh DS - Dankyuu Battle
    http://gbatemp.net/t...ahjong-v-japan/

    Not sure
    1561- Sansuu Puzzle de Migaku: Gakken Otona no Shikou Sense (most of the games with gakken in the title are educational)
    http://gbatemp.net/t...ou-sense-japan/

    3445- Dragon Dance Edit- apparently is a mahjong solitaire/Shanghai game but with a few twists.
    http://gbatemp.net/t...on-dance-japan/

    Definitely mahjong solitaire/Shanghai
    0241- Shanghai
    http://gbatemp.net/t...-ndstitle-0814/
    5231- Shanghai DS 2
    http://gbatemp.net/t...ghai-ds2-japan/

    To save others the hassle of removing links the simple list

    List of candidates
     
    4 people like this.
  2. Densetsu

    Former Staff Densetsu Pubic Ninja

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    There are several European titles in English and one US title:

    1265 - Mahjong
    1851 - Mahjong
    1899 - Mahjong
    2655 - Mahjongg DS
    2727 - Mahjongg: Ancient Mayas
    3976 - Solitaire Mahjong: Ancient China Adventure
    4386 - Mahjongg: Ancient Mayas
    5211 - Mahjongg: Ancient Egypt
    5389 - 3-in-1: Solitaire, Mahjong & Tangram
    5582 - Mahjong Journey - Quest for Tikal (US)
    5658 - Jewel Master - Cradle of Egypt - Mahjongg - Ancient Egypt
    5831 - Mahjong Mysteries - Ancient Egypt
    5843 - Mahjong 300

    Still, I think the Japanese titles look a lot more interesting with their Gundam and bikini gal variations and what-not. I'm not sure what's with the Western propensity to associate mahjong with Egypt and the Mayas; it gives them a shovelware-esque kind of feel.
     
  3. Skelletonike

    Member Skelletonike ♂ ♥ Gallant Pervert ♥ ♀

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    If I had to vote i'd vote on Simple DS Series Vol. 1 (cuz from the pics I found it looks decent and most simple ds series games that I played were pretty good) or on Gundam Mahjong, cuz it has friggin Gundam characters.
     
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  4. DS1

    Member DS1 伝説の雀士

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    As FAST6191 pointed out that first sentence, those are not Mahjong games. No mahjong games have been made in English, or translated on the DS. In fact, in the entire history of console gaming, the only time that Mahjong has graced foreign soil is in Yakuza 2 and 4 (and maybe 3, though I believe they cut it out with some other content).

    With regard to this whole thing, I feel like anybody that actually takes the time to learn reach mahjong* will have no problem playing a game in full Japanese. Just learning the game alone requires that you learn a fair amount of mahjong terminology, which is of course, in Japanese. So with a translation would come the enormous burden of determining which terminology to use. As [the games planned to translate] are all Japanese, ONLY Japanese terminology is standard. All other terminology is colloquial... for example, the term 'honitsu' in Japanese, it known as 'half flush', 'dirty-one pair', 'suit with colors', and so forth in English. If the player of this translation isn't familiar with the terminology I used, than what was the point of me translating it?

    The one exception would be rule variations, which range from limited (random anime games on PSP) to extensive (Gundam Mahjong, Yakuman DS, Custom Mahjong, etc.). However, the Japanese explanations for these rules are often crammed into limited space, or not explained at all (like kuitan, a common Japanese name for 'open tanyao counts as 1 yaku')... which would make translation difficult... though not impossible assuming you used a small enough font.

    *It's very difficult to learn all the rules unless you have people teaching you. The one time I ever met actual Japanese people, they got all freaked out when I said I knew how to play mahjong, because it's basically like their version of Chess - either you are some super genius nerd or some old guy in a park. I was like, "what, you guys don't know how to play?", and they were all, "HELL NO. TOO COMPLICATED." and they were all brain surgeons and rocket scientists.

    **Reach mahjong = Riichi mahjong = 'Japanese' mahjong
     
  5. kujibiki57

    Newcomer kujibiki57 Newbie

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    I'm sorry, but it seems you didn't read the first post properly, he means the real Mahjong game, which is very different from the Solitaire variant you posted (all your links were to that variant, and I don't think there is even a translated DS mahjong game that isn't of that variant, as the first post stated)

    To OP: I've only played Yakuman DS so far (the Mario one) and it's fine, but kinda complicated to navigate in anything else other than Quick Match
     
  6. FAST6191
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    Reporter FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip
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    Thanks people

    @Densetsu to the best of my knowledge every one of those is mahjong solitaire which was the main reason for kicking this off (all the ones outside Japan are mahjong solitaire rather than proper mahjong).

    DS1 linked me to http://www.gamefaqs.com/features/recognition/84459.html?type=1 which has guides (menu translations and game breakdowns which amounts to pretty much everything for most of them) for the following games
    gamefaqs games list

    Although it is not that I have bitten off more than I can chew but it looks like we will have to ponder the choice carefully. Using that list as a base as well as what I found since this morning and the input of a couple of people I have since spoken to
    0046- Yakuman DS - Nintendo's effort and supposedly one of the better ones all round with some nice stats options.
    0104- Mahjong Taikai - Accused of being the everything and the kitchen sink mahjong which could be good.
    0217- Simple DS Series Vol.1 - The Mahjong- simple by name, simple by nature would be the main criticism here. It is however one of the few to feature 2 and 3 player variants.
    0731- Mahjong Fight Club DS: Wi-Fi Taiou - looking at reviews (although mainly on Amazon) this looks to be one of the better ones even if it does not feature quite as much customisability.
    1314- 1500 DS Spirits Vol. 1: Mahjong- appears to more be about getting it done and lacks some of the other features. I have yet to look into the later 1500 DS game properly though (Mahjong V rather than the two player one).
    1881- Taka Reet Ura Mahjong Retsuden Mukoubuchi ~ Goburei Last desu ne ~ (the gamefaqs link romanises it as Kou Reeto Ura Maajan Retsuden)- based on a manga it is apparently a decent game and worthy of being placed among the others here.
    1921- Super Lite 2500 Custom Mahjong - the main feature here was the hugely customisable AI but in some regards it is a bit weaker it would seem (less options although far from the fewest). Equally I have played against "custom" AI in hundreds of puzzle games and never found it that much more, if any more, engaging (think poker or chess AI bots that can be told to use certain strategies) once I get to understanding the game.
    2709- Simple DS Series Vol. 44: The Gal Mahjong - despite the minigames it looks as though it has a fairly decent if very basic implementation.
    3280- Akko de Pon Ikasama Hourouki - granted it was from a Japanese talent agency but it has the whole cheating option/element and who does not love a bit of cheat. The one round only thing might get some people though (many of the others have the option but it is just that).

    The gundam game also came up on several occasions (and is certainly one of the top candidates at time of writing) and I also really want to look at the Haoh games but have not had the chance. I think I will kick the table games out of the running unless someone can demonstrate they are competitive with the others and as much as I like the look of Jan Sangoku Musou it looks to be full on RPG territory which I am sure would be nice but I am not up for such a project right now and the translator time could be better spent on one of the many as yet untranslated RPG or adventure games (of which my little list making exercise last night highlighted the large amount of ones that are in need of a translation- Project Hacker: Kakusei has been a pet toy hack of mine for years now but this might tip the balance towards actually doing something).

    I might relax on the UI a bit as well- it seems some are capable of being finger and button driven but others are not so hot.

    Mahjong Navi DS was more of a training game than straight up mahjong (although it obviously has the game in there). Were there other options out there in English already this might have become the target of my interest but there would appear to be better options.

    Looking at said guides we also appear to have to balance potential rules and options (Riichi and red fives being the main "dealbreakers" it seems- some of the "better" games lack fine tuning here) and some of the stats and tournament play/"gambling" side of things (I am the kind of person that just likes playing poker and considers the money meaningless but others quite like that sort of thing). However worrying about this will get us nowhere and I think the list has been narrowed down a bit.

    Edit as for terminology I will treat it like any other game- take any half decent RPG or some such and I guarantee you could form a sentence that would sound like gibberish to anybody unfamiliar with the game at hand even if they were familiar with the general genre/concept. Case in point http://gbatemp.net/topic/289405-resonance-of-fate/
    Equally if it is not that hard (my aim will be to get it as near to near search and replace as I can) I might even consider a "two patch" translation using either set of terms (my preference is towards the romanised Japanese but the American terms work well enough and are common enough not to be ignored outright).

    Edit 2
    I will see what can be done over the next couple of days and spend some time thoroughly acquainting myself with the rules up to and including common variants and if I can the theory of the game so I can be sure I am making a good decision.
     
  7. Vampire Lied

    Member Vampire Lied Resident sociopath

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    This sounds great! Can't wait to see what you come up with.
     
  8. Frank Cadena

    Member Frank Cadena GBAtemp Fan

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    I for one am looking forward to this project. Personal favourite is Mahjong Fight Club Wi-Fi Taiou because I find it most convenient to play with without much fussing around with the rules. That and it has a guide at Gamefaqs that translates or explains most of the rules options available. My 2 cents is that I'd like the menu options, ranks, rules, and what not translated except for the yaku names; those can be left alone.

    A close second is the Gundam one because, well GUNDAM! Enough said.
     
  9. FAST6191
    OP

    Reporter FAST6191 Techromancer

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    My list for now is yakuman, mahjong fight club and gundam mahjong. I am still very curious about the haoh titles but I am leaving them alone for now.

    Yakuman
    Non SDK formats (or at least very early versions/predecessors- ntft and ntfp ) and my predictions of large amounts text as graphics were accurate. Compression and any header issues look to be minimal though. Also a rather early demonstration of the 256 wide tiles (a large chunk are smaller though but I did see some 64 wide ones).
    Rather oddly it has an ARM9 of reasonable size with a few overlays, a file called main.srl (srl is the in house name for the debugging grade binaries but I do occasionally see it for download play) and a dwc\utility.bin (download play component) but I not sure what to make of it yet though.
    Typo I do not know but looking at ranking files in the vtex/ranking directory I see RANKIG with a space before the G- this is one of the issues text as graphics faces if there is a layout option and I do not see any layout options right now (although I have not drilled right down into the files yet).

    Fight club
    Another SRL file (child.srl) complete with icon and supposed size of 2048MBiTS but in reality did not even break the 3 megabytes mark. All packed into one .img subfile though (a method seen often enough).
    Before pulling that apart though the utility.bin file has a bunch of .nsc files and some .bmg (the text format) even more curiously including the standard multi5 languages + USA.bmg (there was already EN) and once decompressed in U16 unicode no less) and NFTR but closer inspection says wifi error/setup messages.
    That was getting nothing done so back to the subfile.
    Strings search drummed up a bunch of filenames

    list of said names

    ssai aside the extensions should immediately obvious to anybody that has looked at SDK formats (to save the lookup for those that have not they are largely graphics formats) and yes that probably means more graphics as text.
    First file (got to love magic stamps) appears to be uncompressed (potentially a bonus as it might allow in place editing) and starts at A218 with with RLCN which is otherwise known as the magic stamp of NCLR (reck-maehara-p.NCLR is the first name in the list) so jumping back to the start
    18A2 appears at 14H but that might be a bit of a false start. C240 should be the NCGR file and using the internal sizes (SOPC was mentioned) 14280 should be the NCER (RECN in the file which my strings search failed to find). Again using internals 1471B should be the NSCR file and it is- end to end packing method (often on the GBA and DS things will be byte or world aligned but certainly not always)?
    Fiddling around a bit says potential entries 1C long but there could also be several subsections of the packing format (patterns come and go it seems). More looking
    Anyway
    68BC- names start
    A20A- names end
    00 padding
    A218- files start
    File locations from above
    A218
    C240
    14280
    1471B
    Differences
    2028
    8040
    049B
    Well if it is not my friends from the 1c long sections (pasted section has had a 32bit flip done).
    Code:
    00000000 2006 0515 0000 0028 0000 A1E8 0000 A210 0000 0008 0000 A218 008F 6675  ......(..................fu
    0000001C 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0001 0000 0345 0000 032B 0000 6890 ...................E...+..h.
    00000038 0000 0000 0000 687C 0000 0001 0345 0344 0007 0701 0000 0001 0000 81B6 ......h|.....E.D............
    00000054 44D7 25C1 0000 0000 0000 2028 0000 0000 0007 0701 0000 0002 0000 81B6 D.%....... (................
    00000070 44D7 25C2 0000 2028 0000 8040 0000 0000 0007 0701 0000 0003 0000 81B6 D.%... (...@................
    0000008C 44D7 25C3 0000 A068 0000 049B 0000 0000 0007 0701 0000 0004 0000 81B6 D.%....h....................
    000000A8 44D7 25C9 0000 A503 0000 0824 0000 0000 0007 0701 0000 0005 0000 81B6 D.%........$................
    000000C4 44D7 25D1 0000 AD27 0000 5A30 0000 0000 0007 0701 0000 0006 0000 81B6 D.%....'..Z0................
    000000E0 44D7 25D1 0001 0757 0000 007F 0000 0000 0007 0701 0000 0007 0000 81B6 D.%....W....................
    000000FC 44D7 25BF 0001 07D6 0000 006F 0000 0000 0007 0701 0000 0008 0000 81B6 D.%........o................
    00000118 44D7 25CB 0001 0845 0000 00E3 0000 0000 0007 0701 0000 0009 0000 81B6 D.%....E....................
    
    This appears to run for about 810 (decimal) entries which brings it into line with the "common" in the file name list above.

    Food and a cheesy film awaits in a little bit and I still need to pull apart the next rom so I think that will hopefully do something for now. I had a quick dance around in the tile editor and it seems my text as pictures when it comes to puzzle games rule of thumb has yet more evidence. Very nice artwork though.

    The gundam mahjong title
    It could not be that easy could it- .txt files with shiftJIS encoding?

    guide_yakuman.txt

    A minor scripting engine of sorts or at least in text formats and the other files say interesting things as well.

    Apparently not- our friends ntft and ntfp are back along with another nice demonstration of 256 wide tiles. Again nice artwork.


    Conclusion (kind of)
    At a casual scan like this no one rom appears any easier or harder than the others (I did not see compression outside of download play components but I did not look hard), all three look to be loads of picture translation. All three look pretty (Yakuman is quite Nintendo character oriented, fight club is very traditional/faux traditional/gambling den Japanese and Gundam is for want of a better term chibi gundam) and from reviews do a fine job of being mahjong.
    Time to do some proper rom hacking it seems (most rom hacking I do these days is pulling apart exotic file formats and documenting them for others doing other projects)
     
  10. Frank Cadena

    Member Frank Cadena GBAtemp Fan

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    Looking at the Fight club file names, I recognise a few of the names. For example maehara, tamura etc are names of real Pro Japanese players in the game. levelup02.ssai, thunder-yakuman-00.ssai etc are probably animations for various things that happen in the game. For example, you get a winning tile and the resulting hand is mangan or more, thunder will strike the winning tile. The bigger the mangan, the bigger the thunder. So thunder-yakuman-00.ssai would probably be the thunder that strikes when you get a limit/yakuman hand.

    As you can see, I'm really excited about the whole prospect of getting to play some of these games in English. No matter how well I can play the game in it's current, Japanese, form it's still more comfortable to play the game in one's mother tongue. I really appreciate you doing this out of your own spare time.
     
  11. Vampire Lied

    Member Vampire Lied Resident sociopath

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    I can't do a lot, but I'd be willing to help with cleaning up images or something like that if you need help. Can't do much (nothing lol) in the way of translation or Rom hacking though.
     
  12. DaggerV

    Member DaggerV Archmagi of the Emerald Moon

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    Dude! I've been looking to play the real version of mahjong since, well fuck since jagex sold castle games domain to yahoo. All I can find is as you mentioned, matching tiles. W
     
  13. Auryn

    Member Auryn GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    @[member='fast']: the utility.bin is normally the Wi-Fi connection screen. I believe all Wi-Fi capable games have it but saddly they are not interchangeable. From what I saw, they normally contain many languages even if not used so repoint+some NCER edit should do the trick.
    Take a look here for more infos.

    About translation, a romanization of the terms is probably the best (Ron, Kan, Chi, etc...). I remember playing some arcade Mahjong that use them like that but don't ask me the name of the games :P
     
  14. ZensaiIwa

    Newcomer ZensaiIwa Newbie

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    Im a big fan of competitive mahjong, me and my friends have been waiting years hoping that they would release english version on the ds. we know nothing about rom hacking but you have all our support :yay:
     
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  15. mrgone

    Member mrgone GBAtemp Advanced Fan

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    i spent a few hours yesterday playing "minna no mahjong" on gba (1255).
    i see it has an descendant on DS too.

    is there any tile editor for gba? i tried fatilety, i used that on a shogi game on gbc, but sadly it was not as easy as on gbc.
     
  16. FAST6191
    OP

    Reporter FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip
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    Most DS tile editors will do for the GBA as well- the DS technically has some improved graphics abilities which usually just translates as what was bitmap (and thus quite rare) on the GBA is a bit more common on the DS.
    General purpose I usually float between
    TilEd2002
    http://home.arcor.de/minako.aino/TilEd2002/ It has some nice options to grab palettes and such from VBA savestates and general palette fiddling options but falls short when it comes to the custom tile sizes.

    Crystaltile2
    http://filetrip.net/nds-downloads/utilities/download-crystaltile2-20100906-f23649.html It is probably the best general purpose tile editor out there as far as I am concerned and can just about handle every system. Other than VBA savestates being trickier to grab palettes from and it lacking the TileEd2002 option to shift colours one by one (useful when trying to figure out how much header/junk is before the palette) with a single click it does it all.

    Tileggd
    http://code.google.com/p/tiledggd/ Less editor and more dumping tool it might even beat out CT2 above in terms of what it can do which is impressive. That said you usually will have to hand crank some things- where most tools will say GBA 4bpp this will say have boxes leading you to have to check boxes and fiddle with dropdown menus to say 4bpp, big endian, flip nibbles, BGR colour palette.... Pretty much every screenshot of a tile editor you will see from me comes from CT2 or TilEd2002 but I still consider this one of the frontline tools.

    Some still opt for things like Tile Molester (Alternate) and similar such tools but they often fall short on the GBA side of things (usually by lacking 8bpp support but there are other options the GBA affords that are more useful) so I tend not to recommend them. If you are coming from earlier consoles by all means give them a go but the above three will also do for the older consoles as well.

    Crystaltile2 does have some compression options built in as well which fall short on some of the more exotic stuff on the DS but the GBA was mainly BIOS compatible stuff (not all but it is very notable if a game does not do it) so that is not bad either, I still flank it with proper GBA compression tools like NLZ-GBA Advance, unLZ-GBA and Lz77Restructor 2 (more on those in the guide I link in a second) some of which can also double up as basic editors as well.


    Update on the general project- I have not really done much since as I was finishing up the ROM hacking docs other than have a bit closer look at some games. So far nothing seems too out of the ordinary so I think I was still planning something of a proof of concept for the three "finalists" up above (and if by some miracle I have time then I will definitely be looking at the Haoh titles).
     

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