Monday, September 10, 2012

PSP Hacks

This weekend I decided to try to find a solution to my squeaky sound effect problem with Final Fantasy VI on the PSP. I couldn't find anything with regards to patching the PSOne game itself but did find some information on hacking a PSP to run a SNES emulator. This sounds like the best of all worlds... Portable so I can play on the bus and original game! Sweet!

I have a newer PSP 3000 which apparently is 'unhackable'. You can't run unsigned programs on it which shut down prior hacks. It does turn out you can run a 'game' which tricks the PSP into running hacked firmware until you turn the system off. From there it's a simple matter of getting the emulator and a ROM. It turns out I have all the ROMs because of my SNES project so I was partway there!

It took some fiddling but I got everything installed on my PSP and tried it out. The emulator loaded up! Woo! Unfortunately it turns out SNES emulators for the PSP are not nearly as advanced as ones for the PC.  They only know how to handle 4 of the 8 graphics modes, for example, and Mode 7 isn't one of them. FFVI actually makes a fair amount of use of Mode 7 which is a bit of a problem. I can remember playing FFV on an emulator without Mode 7 support and it was rough. In some spots you just had a black screen and had to use a FAQ to tell you exactly where to walk. If this happened in FFVI it would sorta negate the whole portable advantage.

Eh, I gave it a try anyway. The first thing I noticed was the pacing was off. Biggs and Wedge seemed to be moving too slowly at times and way too fast at others. I got into a fight and the sound effects, while a little better, were still not SNES quality. I guess the PSP itself can't handle the way the SNES did some sounds?

Test complete I went to put the PSP to sleep and found I couldn't. I don't know if it's the emulator or the firmware hack but the sleep function just doesn't seem to exist. I can't pause/power down while I'm at work. Presumably I could save state, exit the emulator, shut off the PSP, and then go through the firmware hack on the way home... But this sounds a lot like I'm spending 20% of my FFVI time hacking a PSP. This is a deal breaker for me. Even if the graphics and sound worked properly I don't think I could handle losing sleep mode.

So I'm back to my old dilemna. I can play on the SNES (and probably not play much with Mists of Pandaria coming out in two weeks) or I can play on the PSP and suck up the bad sound effects. I played the PSP both to and from work today and think I can probably get over the bad sound. The music remains awesome. I've completed Locke's scenario near the start of the game and am currently escorting Banon through the mines of Narshe.

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