Author Topic: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down  (Read 1541 times)

rari_teh

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Yesterday, I stumbled upon a post here, I forget by whom, that was asking for this anti-piracy bypass patch for Gowin’s School Fighter for the Game Boy Color. The patch was fairly well-documented, the game looked interesting and I was looking for a source of procrastination, so I took the time to recreate it. An hour and an RSI later, I managed to play the game through, patching the undocumented anti-piracy checks as they were triggered. While I’m fairly certain that no checks remain, I can’t fully guarantee that I didn’t miss a secret area or something of that effect that also triggers an AP check. As I tried to register an account here to post the patch, I mistyped the security question and the server crashed while trying to serve me a second captcha… oops??? (I know that was probably just a coincidence, but just in case, my bad *-*) Anyway, here’s the link to the patched ROM.

Also, I must say, gotta give it to Gowin when it comes down to character design. Even if the gameplay isn’t that good, every single character in the game is so captivating and has so much personality it’s a shame that this game doesn’t seem to have any sort of following.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2021, 07:47:04 AM by rari_teh »

Ankos

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Re: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2021, 12:57:25 AM »
I was the one asking about this earlier. Thank you for making this. I've always thought that animation-wise Gowin had the nicest looking unlicensed gameboy games, but unfortunately even video footage can be hard to find for some of them. Interestingly GS-13 GS-15 and GS-16 were all beat 'em up games, which makes me suspect that GS-14 was also a beat 'em up game (assuming it exists)

yy小龙虾

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Re: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2021, 04:44:03 AM »
Hi 瓜瓜龍, I'm glad to reply to you again. As far as I know, Gowin's game GS-14 does not exist. It's just my guess, but I found some evidence to support it. This is a screenshot of their game release time I found on Gowin's official website. I guess Gowin decided to start making GBC games after making GB games GS01-08, because these games are not released in full order of numbers. After they released GS07 (GS07 was released after GS08), they didn't release any games in 1999. Why? Because GameBoyColor was born at the end of 1998, I guess Gowin spent a whole year (1999) developing GBC games and refilling the previous GS02-GS08 games with GBC boxes to make more money.
Why was GS09 released after GS13? I guess the development time of GS09 should be in 1999. At that time, it may have been in the state of semi-finished products, but Gowin has not determined whether to make it into GB games or GBC games for sale, so they left a space for GS09 and released GS10 to GS13 until GS14 was replaced by GS09. The release time of GS09 and GS15 is only two months away, so I don't think GS14 exists. Of course, these are just my personal guesses. :)

Ankos

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Re: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2021, 11:19:02 AM »
I have seen that page before. My thoughts were that GS-02 to GS-10 (excluding GS-09) had multiple versions released throughout Gowin's history, and that the website only displayed the most recent versions of the games released. GS-09 and GS-10 both play very similar to monochrome games, those being Prince Yeh Rude and Story of Lasama. Just by the way the gameplay of Gowin games evolved makes the idea that GS-09 was made after GS-13 seem strange. Also, do you know when Gowin's multicarts were released? They had advertisements for them in the Wolf Weekly gaming magazine in Taiwan, but finding images of these is difficult, and they are expensive to import. If I had to guess what Gowin released during 1999 (if anything) it would be those

rari_teh

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Re: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2021, 02:29:03 PM »
@Ankos: I suspected it had been you because I remembered your avatar, but I wasn’t sure and I also didn’t know how to tag people here; I’m not very used to SMF-based forums. Hope you’re enjoying the game! =)

WRT the current discussion on production numbers: this probably doesn’t mean much since it’s not the same group at all, but this practice of assigning product codes for the projects in the order they started instead of the order of release is definitely not unheard of – I know (or at the very least assume) that Bit Corp did it that way with their Gamate games. When they were bought by UMC, they made a 4-in-1 pack-in cart for the Gamate that had an internal list of all the games they had released for the system. All the earlier gaps in that list are games that never surfaced and were probably never released (e.g. C1010 and C1020), but almost all of the later gaps are games that we know did get a release (e.g. all gaps after C1036 including the C1045–C1053 range).

Of course, this is all conjecture stemming from that internal list and what little we know about the games that got dumped, and is naturally only very tenuously connected to the matter at hand here, but hopefully it is at least a bit interesting.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2021, 02:40:06 PM by rari_teh »

Ankos

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Re: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2021, 04:32:01 PM »
@rari So GS-14 would be a canceled game in that case? That makes sense. Based off of what I know about unlicensed gameboy developers, a lot of them would reuse assets from their earlier games. Maybe some assets from GS-14 made it into other Gowin games that did get released

rari_teh

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Re: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2021, 11:30:17 PM »
@Ankos: If I’m right, that’s exactly it – and yeah, I agree that there’s a good chance that some GS-14 assets live on under that hypothesis. Normally I’d daydream about a proto cart surfacing one day, solving the mystery and giving a bit more credence to my conjecture, but sadly bootleg protos seem to be rarer than the teeth of the hen

Ankos

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Re: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2021, 05:55:49 PM »
It would be difficult to even say what a prototype would look like for this sort of thing. If I had to guess, I would say it would probably be on a commercially available flashcart since those were frequently used as dev kits. I know that a couple of prototype Sintax gba games got leaked a long time ago, but have no idea how they got leaked. An alternative possibility is that GS-14 is not a game, but instead some other product that Gowin released. I know for a fact that they had some sort of rewards program, and had unadvertised products during the early 2000s, such as this game case, so maybe they made a cheat card or something

Ankos

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Re: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2021, 01:09:06 AM »
@yy
http://gxemu.blog67.fc2.com/blog-entry-174.html?sp
There is a picture on this webpage showing a copy of GS-10 with a circuit board that has the copyright year 1999 on it. This would suggest that there was a print run of this game earlier than documented on their website

rari_teh

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Re: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2021, 04:37:24 AM »
Correct me if I’m wrong, but given that Gowin claimed that GS-10 was released in January 2000, isn’t it possible that the PCB is marked 1999 because it was designed (or maybe even printed) late that year, with the carts only hitting the market in January?

Ankos

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Re: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2021, 11:21:54 AM »
@rari
Yes, that would make sense. By the way, did you know that Gowin released updated versions of their games? I tried ripping the ROM for binary monster 1 from three carts, and got three different ROMs. My guess is that they were trying to make updates that let them skirt around Nintendo's changing anti-unlicensed game tricks. Also, looking at Gowin's website again I noticed that some of the pictures on the art page have characters I don't recognize. I have not played Dinosaur Genesis, and haven't beaten Stone Age, so I guess I can't say for certain they were not from those games. They look like they have a different art style from that of Stone Age, and one of the characters has the text GBA on their clothes

https://web.archive.org/web/20020603233152/http://www.gowingame.com.tw:80/taiwan/art/art.asp

elfor

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Re: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2021, 02:39:13 PM »
Great work Rari! Could you perhaps take a look at Binary Monster 1 & Binary Monster 2 too?

Especially 2 looks great, a super mario land clone:

rari_teh

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Re: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2021, 07:21:06 AM »
@Ankos: That’s very interesting! I wonder if anything of substance was changed between these revisions.

I’d never seen that art page before, what a delight! I’m a sucker for oldschool animesque, it’s a pity that not all images were archived. The GBA girl looks a lot like a moe gijinka version of the console to my eyes; while I know that this trend already existed in Japan in the early 2000s, I wonder if it had gained enough traction to spill over to other places in East Asia by the time this drawing was made.

@elfor: I’ve just taken a look at both these games, but sadly, I only have a less-than-basic understanding of Assembly, to put it mildly. Without Low End’s notes, there’s no way in hell I’d have been able to figure out School Fighter’s copy protection. That being said, Binary Monster seems to have a similar implementation and I might be able to work it out in a night or two using the other game as a very rough guide – I’ll probably work on it when I have the time if nobody beats me to it. The way Binary Monster 2 works, however, looks completely alien to me and I can’t even figure what the debugger is trying to say.

Ankos

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Re: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2021, 05:31:08 PM »
@rari There were also video clips (I assume trailers) for some of Gowin's games, but those also were not archived. Also, that art page appears to credit the artists and even links one of their websites

rari_teh

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Re: The School Fighter patch somebody asked for before the forum went down
« Reply #14 on: November 29, 2021, 08:29:09 AM »
@Ankos I checked the linked artist’s webpage with so much hope, but sadly it’s a barren wasteland of unarchived images… I’m glad that the Archive seems to have fixed this not-fetching-images problem over the years, but it’s sad it was so late =(

On an unrelated note, elfor sent me a DM on the Romhacking.net forums that was very similar to their post here but also included a link to what seems to be the lost original School Fighter AP fix by takashi/Low End. Even though both fixes should practically do the same thing, I’ve also uploaded it to Yandex.Disk because I suspect his implementation would be more useful to someone looking to reverse-engineer the copy protection chip (I just removed the loops while he changed the expected value for the variables – another less important difference is that in one instance he seems to have edited the code before calling the check subroutine while I edited the subroutine itself).