List of Super NES enhancement chips

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As part of the overall plan for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, rather than include an expensive CPU that would still become obsolete in a few years, the hardware designers made it easy to interface special coprocessor chips to the console. Rather than require a console upgrade, these enhancement chips were included inside the plug-in game cartridges. The presence of an enhancement chip is most often indicated by the presence of 16 additional pins on the cartridge card edge.[1]

Super FX[edit]

Super FX-rendered 3D polygon graphics in the SNES game Star Fox
Main article: Super FX

The Super FX chip is a 16-bit supplemental RISC CPU developed by Argonaut Games that was included in certain game cartridges to perform functions that the main CPU could not feasibly do.[2] It was typically programmed to act as a graphics accelerator chip that would draw polygons to a frame buffer in the RAM that sat adjacent to it.

In addition to rendering polygons, the chip was also used to assist the SNES in rendering advanced 2D effects. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island used it for advanced graphics effects like sprite scaling and stretching, huge sprites that allowed for boss characters to take up the whole screen, and multiple foreground and background parallax layers to give a greater illusion of depth.

This chip went through at least four revisions, first starting out as a surface mounted chip labeled MARIO CHIP 1 (Mathematical, Argonaut, Rotation & I/O) in the earliest Star Fox cartridges, commonly called the Super FX. The following year some boards were providing an epoxy version of it, and later a first revision came out under the label GSU-1. Both versions are clocked with a 21 MHz signal, but an internal clock speed divider halved it to 10.5 MHz on the MARIO CHIP 1. The GSU-1 however ran at the full 21 MHz. Both the MARIO CHIP 1 and the GSU-1 could support a ROM size of maximum 8 MBit. Later on, the design was revised to become the GSU-2, known as the Super FX 2 which was still 16bit, but unlike the earlier Super FX chips, this version could support a ROM size higher than 8 MBit. The final known revision was the GSU-2-SP1 which probably fixed some issues or optimized the earlier revision, but the details are unknown as is the meaning of the SP1 suffix. All versions of the Super FX chip are functionally compatible in terms of their instruction set. The differences arise in how they are packaged, their pin out, their maximum supported ROM size and their internal clock speed.[3]

MARIO CHIP 1
GSU-1
GSU-2
GSU-2-SP1
Variants of the Super FX chip sorted chronologically

Cx4[edit]

The Cx4 coprocessor chip in Mega Man X2.

The Cx4 chip is a math coprocessor that was used by Capcom to perform general trigonometric calculations for wireframe effects, sprite positioning and rotation. It is known for its role in mapping and transforming wireframes in Capcom's second and third Mega Man X series games.[2] It is based on the Hitachi HG51B169 DSP.

CX4 wireframe test screen

A Cx4 self-test screen can be accessed by holding the 'B' button on the second controller upon system start-up in both Mega Man X2 and Mega Man X3.[4] In both the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube versions of Mega Man X Collection, this self-test screen is still accessible in Mega Man X2 (although differently accessed due to the remapped controller configuration), but not in Mega Man X3, because Mega Man X Collection features the 32-bit CD version of the game and not the SNES version.

DSP[edit]

DSP-1 chip in Pilotwings

This series of fixed-point digital signal processor chips allowed for fast vector-based calculations, bitmap conversions, both 2D and 3D coordinate transformations, and other functions.[5] Four revisions of the chip exist, each physically identical but with different microcode. The DSP-1 version, including the later 1A die shrink and 1B bug fix revisions, was most often used; the DSP-2, DSP-3, and DSP-4 were used in only one title each.[6] All of them are based on the NEC µPD77C25 CPU.

DSP-1[edit]

The DSP-1 is the most varied and widely used of the SNES DSPs, appearing in over 15 separate titles. It is used as a math coprocessor in games such as Super Mario Kart and Pilotwings that require more advanced Mode 7 scaling and rotation. It also provides fast support for the floating point and trigonometric calculations needed by 3D math algorithms. The later DSP-1A and DSP-1B serve the same purpose as the DSP-1. The DSP-1A was a die shrink of the DSP-1, and the DSP-1B also corrected several bugs.[7]

DSP-2[edit]

The DSP-2 can only be found in the SNES port of Dungeon Master. Its primary purpose is to convert Atari ST bitmap image data into the SNES bitplane format. It also provides dynamic scaling capability and transparency effects.

DSP-3[edit]

Assistant chip used in only one game for the Japanese Super Famicom, a turn-based strategy game titled SD Gundam GX. The chip assisted with tasks like calculating the next AI move, Shannon-Fano bitstream decompression, and bitplane conversion of graphics.

DSP-4[edit]

A DSP used in only one game cartridge, Top Gear 3000. It primarily helped out with drawing the race track, especially during the times that the track branched into multiple paths.

GB-Z80[edit]

Main article: Super Game Boy

The chip used inside the Super Game Boy peripheral possessed a core identical to the Z80-derived CPU in the handheld Game Boy. Because the Super NES was not powerful enough for software emulation of the Game Boy, circuitry equivalent to an entire handheld console had to sit inside of the cartridge.[8]

MX15001TFC[edit]

This chip was made by MegaChips exclusively for Nintendo Power cartridges. The cartridges were equipped with flash ROMs instead of mask ROMs, and were designed to hold games downloaded from specialized kiosks for a fee. The chip managed communication with the kiosks to download ROM images, and provided an initial menu to select which of the downloaded games would be played. Some titles were available both in cartridge and download form, while others were download only. The service was closed on February 8, 2007.[9]

OBC-1[edit]

A sprite manipulation chip used exclusively in the Super Scope game Metal Combat: Falcon's Revenge, the sequel to Battle Clash.[2]

S-DD1[edit]

S-DD1 chip in Star Ocean

The S-DD1 chip is a powerful ASIC decompressor made by Nintendo for use in some Super Nintendo Entertainment System Game Paks.[2] Designed to handle data compressed by ABS Lossless Entropy Algorithm, a form of arithmetic coding developed by Ricoh, its use was necessary in games where massive amounts of sprite data had to be compressed with a 32-megabit data limit in mind. This data is decompressed on-the-fly by the S-DD1 and given directly to the picture processing unit.

The S-DD1 mediates between the Super NES's core CPU (the Ricoh 5A22) and the game's ROM via two buses. However, the controlling 5A22 processor may still request normal, uncompressed data from the game's ROM even if the S-DD1 is already busy with a decompression operation. This form of parallelism allows sprite data to be decompressed while other types of data are quickly passed to the main CPU.

Star Ocean and Street Fighter Alpha 2 were the only games that used this chip. It also served as a copy protection chip that made these titles extremely difficult to emulate.[citation needed][original research?]

S-RTC[edit]

A real-time clock chip used in one game, Daikaiju Monogatari II.[2]

SA1[edit]

SA1 chip

The Super Accelerator 1 (SA1) chip was used in a number of SNES games, including the popular Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.[10]

Similar to the 5A22 CPU in the SNES console, the SA1 contains a processor core based on the 65C816 with several programmable timers.[2] The SA1 does not function as a slave CPU for the 5A22; both can interrupt each other independently.

The SA1 also features a range of enhancements over the standard 65C816:

  • Upgraded 10.74 MHz clock speed, up from a maximum of 3.58 MHz
  • Faster RAM, including 2KBytes of internal RAM
  • Memory mapping capabilities
  • Limited data storage and compression
  • New DMA modes such as bitmap to bit plane transfer
  • Arithmetic functions (multiplication, division, and cumulative)
  • Hardware timer (either as a linear 18-bit timer, or synchronised with the PPU to generate an IRQ at a specific H/V scanline location)
  • Built-in CIC lockout, for copy protection and regional marketing control

SPC7110[edit]

A data decompression chip designed by Epson that was used in a few games by Hudson. Tengai Makyou Zero also contains a real-time clock chip accessed via the SPC7110.[2]

ST[edit]

ST010 chip in Exhaust Heat II

The ST series of chips were used by SETA Corporation to enhance AI functionality.

ST010[edit]

Used for general functions and handling the AI of opponent cars in F1 ROC II: Race of Champions. Contains a NEC µPD96050 CPU.[7][11]

ST011[edit]

Used for AI functionality in the shogi board game Hayazashi Nidan Morita Shogi. Also uses a NEC µPD96050.[8]

ST018[edit]

Used for AI functionality in Hayazashi Nidan Morita Shogi 2. It was discovered to be a 21.47 MHz, 32-bit ARMv3 processor.[7]

List of Super NES games that use enhancement chips[edit]

Title Chip Year Developer Publisher
Mega Man X2 / Rockman X2 CX4 1994 Capcom Capcom (NA) (JP) (EU)
Mega Man X3 / Rockman X3 CX4 1995 Capcom, Minakuchi Engineering Capcom (NA) (JP)
Soukou Kihei Votoms: The Battling Road DSP-1 1993 Genki Takara (JP)
Bike Daisuki! Hashiriya Kon - Rider's Spirits DSP-1 1994 Genki NCS (JP)
Final Stretch DSP-1 1993 Genki LOZC (JP)
Lock On / Super Air Diver DSP-1 1993 Copya System Vic Tokai
Michael Andretti's Indy Car Challenge DSP-1 1994 Genki Bullet Proof Software (NA) (JP)
Pilotwings DSP-1 1991 Nintendo EAD Nintendo (NA) (JP) (EU)
Shutokō Battle '94: Keichii Tsuchiya Drift King DSP-1 1994 Genki Bullet-Proof Software (JP)
Shutokō Battle 2: Drift King Keichii Tsuchiya & Masaaki Bandoh DSP-1 1995 Genki Bullet-Proof Software (JP)
Suzuka 8 Hours DSP-1 1993 Arc System Works Namco (NA) (JP)
Super Air Diver 2 DSP-1 1995 Copya System Asmik (JP)
Super Bases Loaded 2 / Super 3D Baseball DSP-1 1993 TOSE Jaleco (NA) (JP)
Super F1 Circus Gaiden DSP-1 1995 Nichibutsu (JP)
Battle Racers DSP-1 1995 Banpresto Banpresto (JP)
Korean League DSP-1 1993 Hyundai Jaleco (K)
Super Mario Kart DSP-1/1B 1992 Nintendo EAD Nintendo (NA) (JP) (EU)
Ace o Nerae! 3D Tennis DSP-1A 1993 Telenet Japan Telenet Japan (JP)
Ballz 3D DSP-1B 1994 PF Magic Accolade (NA)
Dungeon Master DSP-2 1992 FTL Games JVC Victor (NA) (JP) (EU)
SD Gundam GX DSP-3 1994 BEC Bandai (JP)
Top Gear 3000 DSP-4 1995 Gremlin Interactive Kemco (NA) (JP) (EU)
Metal Combat: Falcon's Revenge OBC-1 1993 Intelligent Systems Nintendo
Daisenryaku Expert WWII: War in Europe SA1 1996 SystemSoft Alpha ASCII Corporation (JP)
Derby Jockey 2 SA1 1995 Graphic Research Asmik
Dragon Ball Z: Hyper Dimension SA1 1996 TOSE Bandai (JP) (EU)
Habu Meijin no Omoshiro Shōgi SA1 1995 Access Tomy (JP)
Itoi Shigesato no Bass Tsuri No. 1 SA1 1997 Dice, HAL Laboratory Nintendo (JP)
J.League '96 Dream Stadium SA1 1996 Hudson Soft (JP)
Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius SA1 1995 Konami Konami (JP)
Jumpin' Derby SA1 1996 KID Naxat Soft (JP)
Kakinoki Shogi SA1 1995 Sakata SAS ASCII Corporation (JP)
Kirby Super Star SA1 1996 HAL Laboratory Nintendo (NA) (JP) (EU)
Kirby's Dream Land 3 SA1 1997 HAL Laboratory Nintendo (NA) (JP)
Marvelous: Mouhitotsu no Takarajima SA1 1996 Nintendo R&D2 Nintendo (JP)
Masters New: Haruka Naru Augusta 3 SA1 1995 T&E Soft T&E Soft (JP)
Super Robot Taisen Gaiden: Masō Kishin - The Lord Of Elemental SA1 1996 Winkysoft Banpresto (JP)
Mini 4WD Shining Scorpion Let's & Go!! SA1 1996 KID ASCII Corporation (JP)
Pebble Beach no Hotou: New Tournament Edition SA1 1996 T&E Soft T&E Soft (JP)
PGA European Tour SA1 1996 Halestorm THQ / Black Pearl Software
PGA Tour 96 SA1 1995 Black Pearl Software Electronic Arts
Power Rangers Zeo: Battle Racers SA1 1996 Natsume Bandai
SD F-1 Grand Prix SA1 1995 Video System Video System (JP)
SD Gundam G NEXT SA1 1995 Japan Art Media Bandai (JP)
Shin Shogi Club SA1 1995 Hect (JP)
Shogi Saikyou SA1 1995 Magical Company (JP)
Shogi Saikyou 2 SA1 1996 Magical Company (JP)
Super Bomberman Panic Bomber World SA1 1995 Hudson Soft Hudson Soft (JP)
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars SA1 1996 Square Nintendo (NA) (JP)
Star Ocean S-DD1 1996 tri-Ace Enix (JP)
Street Fighter Alpha 2 / Street Fighter Zero 2 S-DD1 1996 Capcom Capcom (NA) (JP) (EU)
Dai Kaiju Monogatari 2 S-RTC 1996 AIM, Birthday Hudson Soft (JP)
Far East of Eden Zero SPC7110 1995 Red Company Hudson Soft (JP)
Momotaro Dentetsu Happy SPC7110 1996 Make Software Hudson Soft (JP)
Super Power League 4 SPC7110 1996 Now Production Hudson Soft (JP)
F1 ROC II: Race of Champions / Exhaust Heat II ST010 1993 SETA Corporation SETA Corporation (NA) (JP)
Hayazashi Nidan Morita Shogi ST011 1993 Random House SETA Corporation (JP)
Hayazashi Nidan Morita Shogi 2 ST018 1995 Random House SETA Corporation (JP)
Star Fox / Starwing Super FX GSU-1 1993 Nintendo EAD, Argonaut Nintendo (NA) (JP) (EU)
Stunt Race FX / Wild Trax Super FX GSU-1 1994 Nintendo EAD, Argonaut Nintendo (NA) (JP) (EU)
Vortex Super FX GSU-1 1994 Argonaut Games Electro Brain (NA), Pack-In-Video (JP)
Dirt Racer Super FX GSU-1 1994 MotiveTime Elite Systems (EU)
Dirt Trax FX Super FX GSU-1 1995 Sculptured Software Acclaim Entertainment (NA)
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island Super FX GSU-2 1995 Nintendo EAD Nintendo (NA) (JP) (EU)
Doom Super FX GSU-2 1995 Sculptured Software Williams (NA), Imagineer (JP), Ocean (EU)
Winter Gold / FX Skiing Super FX GSU-2 1997 Funcom Nintendo (NA) (EU)
Star Fox 2 Super FX GSU-2 cancelled Nintendo EAD Nintendo
FX Fighter Super FX GSU-2 cancelled Argonaut Games GTE Entertainment (NA) (EU)
Comanche Super FX GSU-2 cancelled Nova Logic Nova Logic (NA)
Powerslide Super FX GSU-2 cancelled Elite Systems Elite Systems (EU)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Anomie's SNES Port Doc". Retrieved 2011-04-05. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g (2007-05-01) Snes9x readme.txt v1.51. snes9x.com. Retrieved on 2007-07-03.
  3. ^ "The Super FX chip". MyPSP News. 
  4. ^ "CX4 test functions and source code contributors". 
  5. ^ "Digital Signal Processing". Overload's Puzzle Sheet. 2006-05-29. Retrieved 2007-05-09. 
  6. ^ Nach; Moe, Lord Nightmare. "SNES Add-on Chip information". Retrieved 2007-05-09. 
  7. ^ a b c byuu. "SNES Coprocessors — The Future Has Arrived". Archived from the original on 2012-03-07. 
  8. ^ a b "ZSNES v1.51 Documentation". Retrieved 2007-07-03. 
  9. ^ "Nintendo Power". N-Sider.com. Retrieved 2007-07-03. 
  10. ^ "SA1 Demonstration Program". SNES Central. 
  11. ^ "ST-0010". Overload's Puzzle Sheet. Retrieved 2007-07-03. 

See also[edit]

  • Memory management controller are different kinds of special chips designed by various video game developers for use in Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) cartridges.