I’ve got mail! What’s inside? A cartridge of Furrtek’s second, and so far, latest game Airaki. The envelope (as well as the title field in the ROM header) is marked with the number 1, suggesting I’m receiving the first cartridge of this batch. The cartridge comes in a resealable “drug bag”, and there’s also an instruction sheet explaining the game mechanics.
The game comes in a generic “game” shell, a type often used by pirates. The cartridge has a label with our muscular furry hero holding his massive sword in an erect position. *cough*
Looking at the back of the cartridge, we find the Philips head screw holding the case together, and the PCB doesn’t take up the full internal area of the cartridge. (Why would it when it doesn’t need to. )
Looking closer at the back of the PCB, you can see hints of the clever trick used to fit a through-hole DIP chip into the cartridge. The legs have simply been trimmed off so the bottom surface of the board is flat, and the chip’s legs are soldered from the top.
Looking at the top side of the PCB, you can see the memory chip used in the cartridge, an AT28C256, a 32 kibibyte EEPROM chip which could be reprogrammed. The PCB helpfully provides an option for this. As seen to the left of the chip, there’s a solder blob. There are three solder pads. The middle one goes to the flash chip’s /WR (write enable) line, whereas the other two go to Vcc (+5V), and a mostly unused pin on the cartridge slot. The cartridge came with a solder blob between the /WR pin and Vcc, making the cartridge look like a normal ROM chip. You could also remove this blob and put a new blob between the middle pin and the lower pin, turning the cartridge into a 32 kiB flash cartridge, given a suitable flasher. I will add support for this combination into my Gameboy cartridge flasher/reader, ALTANE which will soon be released and is accepting preorders. And speaking of which, time to dump the ROM!
In keeping with the tradition from Furrtek’s first game, Super Connard (literally Super Asshole in French) the game has an emulator check and greets you with a rude message if you try to run it in an emulator. The game still runs perfectly on hardware, of course, either using the original cartridge, or if you put it on a flash cartridge.
So the gameplay…
At first glance, the game might look like just another Candy Crush clone, which it sort of is. The left part of the screen contains a 9*7 of tiles, from which you can create combos by swapping the items at the cursor, and new items fall from the top of the screen. The unique gameplay element is the adventure part of the game. A combo of 3 or more items in a row will attack the enemy using the weapon in the combo, give you a power-up or give you a shield that you can use to block the enemy’s attack. One of the power-ups is a glass of beer which will both restore your health slightly and make you temporarily drunk, which is indicated by distorting the screen image in a wavy pattern.
There’s also a 2 player more, which I haven’t tried. The game functionality is described on the instruction sheet, which I’ve scanned and attached below. The game is slightly addictive, but could have used some music in the game, and not just an intro tune.
And on a technical note… After I started obsessing about latency, I’ve started to test the latency (lag) for Gameboy games. The lag in Airaki is 2 frames, that is, the time from when a button is registered as pressed by the CPU until a change can be seen on the screen is ~33 milliseconds longer than it theoretically needs to be. this is hardly a major issue, but if you know to look for it, you can notice it. This may have been needed for the link cable two player mode, but apart from that, I’m pretty sure it should have been possible to cut this down to 0 or at least 1 frames of lag.
The game is compatible with monochrome Gameboy, and Gameboy Color with enhanced coloring.
And finally, for those who want it, here’s the ROM.