Once upon a time, the arcade was the only place where you could play video games. But today, video games are both in our homes and in our pockets. A smartphone filled with Candy Crush, Subway Surfers, and all the other games provides a miniature arcade experience.
An arcade isn't like that: It provides one game per machine only. If we were to look inside an arcade machine, we'd find custom boards unique to every game. Some boards by the same manufacturers might have shared common hardware traits, but that was it.
This Reddit user, @twistedsymphony, decided to make use of just that. According to a Reddit post, they made a hobby out of finding cheap and old arcade games that run similar hardware to more rare or expensive games. Then, they'd convert the cheap hardware to run the more expensive game. Sort of like a brain transplant performed by a programmer, isn't it?
'Hacking around' with a Taito F2 hardware
The Redditor had been "hacking around" with Taito F2 hardware for a while now, they state. In one conversion they completed, they turned Ah Eikou no Koshien, which is a Japanese baseball game, into Gun & Frontier, a vertical "shoot 'em up" game. They posted about their experiences on a wide breadth of different tools and techniques.
In order to make this possible, Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator was the tool of choice. MAME, in case you don't know, is an open-source emulator designed to recreate the hardware of arcade game systems in software on modern computers to preserve gaming history by preventing vintage games from being lost or forgotten.
As you can see, the games in question were quite different. Here is Ah Eikou no Koshien.
And here is Gun & Frontier.
A 'brain transplant' done by a programmer
By discovering the differences and trying out possible solutions, they were able to perform the hardware hacks such as a few bodge wires and an extra addresses line for a larger Rom that made the "transplant" possible.
While there were issues like graphics corruption and controller problem, they were successfully able to run one game on another. You can find all the nitty and gritty details on this post where they explain the whole process.
Here is the conversion test which will surely make you feel nostalgic.
A relatively 'new' hobby
This was a success story; however, they've been playing around with arcade hardware for about two decades now for repair and restoration. and it was only in the last few years that they started modifying games.
They stated, "This was my first real attempt at writing something for the 68000; it was a pretty fun challenge looking through the instruction set and working out a solution."
Not bad for a first attempt, right?