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 Post subject: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 9:15 am 


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Hi all,

Just wanting someone to clear this up for me.
I have used a PAL game in my NTSC NES and it is faster (Mario 3) and I expect that.

But when I play PAL games in my Genesis Model 1 Revision 1, they seem very normal to me, not sped up or sounding comical. (Golden Axe)

Can someone explain this to me?


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 9:27 am 


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Golden Axe is probably the sort of game where the speed boost would be less noticeable. It does run faster. Sometimes the music speed is adjusted though (e.g. in Sonic 1 PAL the music is super slow but in Sonic 2 it is normal speed, both games are still 16% slower though).


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:42 am 


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Perhaps on the Genesis is less noticable overall. I play many PAL games on it and they don't seem to run overly fast or feel wrong like Mario 3 PAL does on the NTSC NES.
I guess I could get my mate to bring his megadrive over and compare between the two systems.


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:47 am 


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Usually the speed change is much easier to notice in the music than in the gameplay - but in some genres (like fighters or shooters) it's more noticeable than others (RPGs).

With the NES the music will ALWAYS play faster on an NTSC system, unless the game is intentionally programmed to detect the difference and adjust to it - to my knowledge no licensed releases have ever done that, but it's common in modern homebrew.

On a MegaDrive/Genesis, as well as a SNES, the music is executed by a second processor running completely individually from the refresh rate of the video chip, so wether you're using a PAL or an NTSC system, or a PAL system in 60hz mode, usually won't affect the speed of the music. A lot of us Europeans noticed that back in the days when playing FF6 ("Final Fantasy III") on an import adapter, and the opera would go out of sync.
That is probably why you aren't noticing the difference as easily on MegaDrive games.

That said, it really depends on how the music engine is programmed, and there are rare examples of 16 bit games where the music speed actually IS affected by the video chip's refresh rate - however, the only one I can think of is Sonic 1, which has been mentioned.

As for the gameplay speed, while it IS possible to program the game logic to run independently of the video updates, it is rarely desirable, and would usually result in choppy movement in one version, so I'm almost certain that every single 8- and 16-bit game (but the tendency was common up until PS2) will run slower on PAL/faster on NTSC.
However, a majority did't have any adjustments made to them in their PAL release to accomodate that, so a lot of PAL releases for both NES and MegaDrive should really be played in 60hz for the best experience.


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 11:42 am 


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C64c wrote:
I play many PAL games on it and they don't seem to run overly fast or feel wrong like Mario 3 PAL does on the NTSC NES.


Well 60hz is the correct speed for almost every game, they were designed in NTSC regions and PAL consoles literally just slow them down. They should never feel overly fast, rather the PAL console should feel overly slow.

If you're referring to how it compares with your memory of playing the PAL versions in the past.. I guess NES games or Mario in particular are very timing-sensitive games, or perhaps you played it more and it is ingrained in you. Also, as Sumez says, changes in the music are really, really obvious so you might just be picking up on that.


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 11:46 am 


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Well thank you both for your input.
I recall prince of persia PAL, the music is messed up on my genesis, so have to turn it off during gameplay.
It only messes up when the FX sounds occur during the musical score.


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 11:50 am 


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It's worth bearing in mind on the Mega Drive that many of the games released in different regions were identical, so playing the "PAL version" on an NTSC console is literally the same as playing the NTSC version. This is especially true for earlier games. If you want to know which, take a look at a ROM set and look at the labels. If a ROM is labeled up for multiple regions (e.g. World, or JUE, UE, etc.) then the PAL version should play perfectly (better than on a PAL console, really) on an NTSC system.


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 2:20 pm 


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But even if there's a PAL specific ROM, don't expect it to be adjusted for PAL timing anyway. Only a few companies did that. Off hand I can think of Nintendo and Tecmo. Even the total conversions of Contra games into "Probotector" didn't touch the timing issues, and should be played on NTSC systems.


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 2:54 pm 


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As a bit of an aside, there are a handful of PAL region exclusive NES titles that will not play correctly at all on an NTSC CPU/PPU or have serious issues as the clock timing and VBLANK (480 vs 576 lines IIRC) values are different. This is because the PPU and CPU are different between PAL/NTSC NES consoles, as opposed to many other consoles that just utilize a different frequency crystal oscillator.

Off the top of my head the following are unplayable on an NTSC deck/toploader or Famicom via adapter:

Asterix
Elite
Noah's Ark

There are probably many more, and probably even some NTSC converted titles as well since having the programming tweaked for the PAL hardware could introduce random issues. I have a PAL NES deck at home and could test all PAL exclusive releases for a more definitive list to start with (if there isn't one already).


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 3:17 pm 


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It's actually almost entirely because of the difference in scanline timing. You are correct that the PPU and CPU chips have some differences, but if the game doesn't play like it should, it's due to the timing difference between 50hz and 60hz.

The NES doesn't have built in scanline IRQs (though common mapper chips later in its life cycle, such as the MMC3, added that), so if you wanted to time your code to to the a specific scanline you'd have to assume a very specific timing, or look for a "sprite 0 hit". If you start waiting for a sprite 0 hit after it's already occured, your game will freeze or slow down, meanwhile other kinds of timed code will result in things scrolling all over the place when they aren't supposed to.

Battletoads uses a ton of crazy rendering hacks (certain stages actually turns off rendering for a while on each frame to get more vblank cycles!), and is completely unplayable at the wrong refresh rate. Mr. Gimmick (PAL exclusive outside of Japan) is playable, but looks absurdly glitched.


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 3:21 pm 


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Arasoi wrote:
I have a PAL NES deck at home and could test all PAL exclusive releases for a more definitive list to start with (if there isn't one already).


I've done the best I could


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 3:46 pm 


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Sumez wrote:
It's actually almost entirely because of the difference in scanline timing.


If I understand correctly, you are saying it is because the VBLANK timing on PAL hardware is longer than NTSC hardware? This is due to the extra resolution afforded by PAL. Most games didn't utilize it as they weren't developed in Europe. At least this is my understanding from doing some research on nesdev earlier on.

Sumez wrote:
http://gw.eternal.dk/pal


This is quite handy, thank you for that. There are a few PAL exclusive titles I don't see on here though. I'd be happy to help update it, unless they are omitted on purpose.


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 4:02 pm 


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Sumez wrote:

Lots of effort there. Thanks for this.
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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 4:18 pm 


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Arasoi wrote:
This is quite handy, thank you for that. There are a few PAL exclusive titles I don't see on here though. I'd be happy to help update it, unless they are omitted on purpose.

I have only included the ones I had the means to test, but several others have supplied information as well. You are very welcome to add any information you have, if you feel it can be 100% confirmed!
Which are the ones you are missing? I assume that by "PAL exclusive" you mean games that were released in Europe and Japan, but not North America?


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 4:24 pm 



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Sumez wrote:
I assume that by "PAL exclusive" you mean games that were released in Europe and Japan, but not North America?

Japan isn't a PAL territory.


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 4:36 pm 


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Yeah, thanks for pointing that out. ;)
But if no NTSC version exists, there's nothing to compare against, which is why I'm confused.


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 4:48 pm 


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Sumez wrote:
I have only included the ones I had the means to test, but several others have supplied information as well. You are very welcome to add any information you have, if you feel it can be 100% confirmed!
Which are the ones you are missing? I assume that by "PAL exclusive" you mean games that were released in Europe and Japan, but not North America?


I meant released only in PAL territories, stuff like..

Asterix, Legend of Prince Valiant, Noah's Ark, Elite and a few others.

I have Asterix, Prince Valiant and Noah's Ark in my collection, though not some of the others like Elite.

I can test others with my powerpak, but I am not sure if that would be up to your standards as with flash carts mapper chips are still emulated more or less on the FPGA.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding the point of the list though, I thought it was for testing games both ways. If it is only for NTSC/PAL dual releases I have a few games like Parodius I can contribute with.


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 6:23 pm 


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The idea of the list is to filter out PAL releases that are essentially "broken" (ie. game plays slow, but the music plays fast), as well as identify wether the ones that aren't are best played on an NTSC system or a PAL system. The list is entirely of PAL releases.

UPDATE: For example, you could buy a "PAL" Ice Climbers and play it fine on an NTSC system as the ROM is completely untouched. But if you buy Super Mario Bros. 3, you should play it on a PAL system because the game speed is entirely adjusted to the slower PAL region, and will cause glitches on an NTSC NES.
Meanwhile I wouldn't advise investing in PAL versions of any Mega Man game past the first two. Unless you enjoy either super fast music or super slow controls.

I think it's safe to assume that games exclusively released in the PAL region should be played on a PAL system, but I think wether they "work" on an NTSC one is still an interesting information to add. I'd add them as 50hz/50hz with a comment.


Last edited by Sumez on Mon Apr 16, 2018 6:26 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 6:24 pm 


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Thank you for clarifying, I'll see about PMing you some test data this week. :)


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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 6:39 am 


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Does this generally apply to the 32-bit generation of systems as well? I assume it does, and the reason I ask is I picked up a bunch of PAL Saturn games last week, several of the FPS titles in particular (Quake, Doom, Powerslave/Exhumed). On my US/NTSC Model 2, PAL Quake runs noticeably faster than the US/NTSC version on the same console. I can't tell if this is a case of the game being tweaked for the PAL release, or if it's the 50hz to 60hz difference in action. I'm leaning towards the later because movement in Exhumed feels faster than in the USA version (almost too fast, but it's been a while since I've played the US version of that), and in the notoriously choppy Doom--while it's still a mess--movement feels more brisk and the controls feel more responsive than the US counterpart.
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 Post subject: Re: PAL games in NTSC consoles
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:38 pm 


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I don't know a lot about it, but in the 32-bit generation (both PS1/Saturn and PS2/GC/Xbox) it gets a lot more complex!

For old-school 2D games you usually don't have much of a choice, and pretty much need to time your code to the refresh rate of the video chip. For 3D games, however, you get stuff like double buffering, and dynamic vector graphics generated on the fly, so everything you see is pretty much generated on the fly, interpolated between each frame anyway, so depending on how the game is programmed, it can easily be completely independent on the video updates (just like most modern games, especially on PC where the hardware profile is always unknown - notice how when you get framedrops in a game, you just skip those frames, instead of slowing everything down like in "old school" games). I know some games from those generations do it like this, but I honestly have no idea how many (like maybe only a handful, or was it the majority? I wouldn't be surprised if it was more common among western games)

However, a lot of 3D games on PS1, PS2, etc. ARE still timed to the video updates (just the "easiest" way to do it for some people I guess). Especially on PS2 it (fortunately) became somewhat common for certain more arcade-like games (but also stuff like Shadow of the Colossus) to give PAL players the option of 50hz and 60hz if their TV supported it, to run the game at the intended speed.


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