Oct 082022

Virtvic handed over his sick Bosconian PCB at a recent event for repair. I’d not seen a Bosconian before so it was interesting to delve into one and it also gave me a chance to redump the PAL chip for the Namco version as the one we have on the PLD Archive is flagged as bad.

On power up the game went through its self test process and displays “RAM OK” and sometimes “ROM OK” then reset itself and the whole process repeats itself.
The game uses 3 x Z80’s all working together which is a little bit of a pain but luckily the MAME debugger makes this a little less painless to aid in fault finding.
In the debugger I could run through the code and see what checks are performed in what order to better narrow down where my issue was.
The memory maps for each CPU are the same apart from the ROM’s for each processor. That means all the RAM is visible to all 3 CPU’s.
CPU 1 does all the RAM tests then it lifts the /RESET pin for the other 2 CPU’s which then do a ROM test for their own ROM’s and stick the result of the ROM test into the shared main RAM.
While this is happening, CPU1 is in a loop constantly checking the RAM area for a value. When the value isnt 0x0 then it either proceeds to boot the game or flags a “ROM #” error depending on which ROM has failed.
Now around 90% of the time the “ROM OK” error didnt show before resetting and I never did see a “ROM #” error.

I pulled all the ROM’s and tested them against MAME but found this to be an undumped version. Overlaying the ROM’s on an existing set I could verify that this version booted fine so they were likely good.
All the CPU’s are socketed and all the pins were also going black so removed them to look for damage and cleaned them up in the process. On replacing the CPU’s the game booted but was very flakey. Messing with the CPU sockets I could get different behaviors so was fairly convinced at this point that the sockets were bad. In hindsight I should have suspected these earlier as they are not the best

I opted to replaced all 3 even though CPU1 socket seemed to be fine.

Next boot up went great and nothing I did would make it crash again

 Posted by at 3:46 pm
Aug 212022

Figured as I don’t do much in the way of repairs anymore I would post about any PAL news I may have.
I’ve done too much over the last couple of years to really capture here but all of the PLD files we have have now been moved to the wiki at https://www.pldarchive.co.uk so get yourself over there if you haven’t already and check it out. It covers PLD files of any sort and for any application so if you have any you are willing to share them please get in touch.

So todays news is I have successfully recreated and tested the final two missing PAL16R8 devices from Crude Buster. These were the final two that we didn’t already have so that’s a full set available now.


 Posted by at 2:51 pm

Phoenix & Pleiades High Score Save Kit files

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May 062022

Phil Murray has very generously released all his files for his High Score Save Kits for Phoenix and Pleiades.
The archives contain all the gerbers, source code files and compiled files needed to make these up.
The files can be found at the following places on the PLD Archive wiki

If you use these files and enjoy them please consider sending Phil a thank you or a donation.

 Posted by at 1:26 pm
Oct 302021

I’ve worked on a few of these boards before so I knew straight away that I should be able to access the components side on both PCB’s when it is all screwed together but on this board set the video PCB was showing solder side out.
This doesn’t necessarily cause damage if powered up but its obviously not going to work either.
I switched it back around and when I did I noticed that the crystal on the video PCB was completely missing.

I had a spare 12 MHz crystal so I fitted that. Without that crystal fitted you would get a blank screen.
I tested the game and it started it self test routine but failed on the 63701 with an “Error” and had some graphical issue too.

I had to hope the 63701 wasn’t actually at fault because that is an MCU with an internal ROM which I cannot replace easily.
The way the self test works is the MCU does its own self test and when it is complete it puts a value of 0x84 into the shared RAM at location IC22. The main CPU them reads this value when it is ready to and compares it to 0x84. If this doesn’t match then we get an error.
Looking at the schematics we see where the RAM is

I desoldered the RAM at IC22 and it failed an out of circuit test.

Replacing it cleared this error and allowed the game to boot.

Straight away I could see that sometimes there was a problem with the characters.

When they glitched so did the game title graphic too. It looked like they were being drawn twice overlapping each other. This led me to look for a counter issue, usually a 74LS161.

Following the VPOS signal on the schematics I came to some 74LS161’s. Found this one that has some excess solder on the legs. Touching this while the game was running cleared the issue so I just replaced it and the issue was fixed.

Now on to the remaining sprite issue.

Found 3 dead ROM’s on the video board which sorted all the graphics out when programmed up with the correct data.

 Posted by at 5:24 pm
Sep 292021

This version installs in 11J

Why a different version ?

  • Bootlegs have a space at at 14J but no socket, so this version simplifies testing.
  • The version I wrote for 14J won’t boot if 11J is bad, if that version fails to boot then you may have a bad rom at 11J

Diagnostic mode is still available via Player 2 Start + Reset


  • This version is only used for testing and won’t boot into the game once power up tests are complete.

Download link