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Arcade Archives (Hamster): Nintendo Switch - scanlines curiosity...

firenze

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May 16, 2013
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So, I really like the ability to turn my Switch into an incredible portable arcade classics machine. Sometimes people complain about "no Virtual Console", but frankly I don't miss being asked to re-buy the same console games when I'm getting legit (non-pirated) quality emulation of great arcade/classics titles from the likes of Hamster, Johnny Turbo's Arcade (Data East games), ZeroDiv (Psikyo games), Sega Ages, the NES selection on Nintedo Switch Online, etc. - many of which have rarely or never seen wide release on a western console. I sold most of my Neo Geo AES collection a while back, which more than funded my ability to buy every Hamster ACA Neo Geo and Arcade Archives release (yes, I realize some people might find that insane).

I also love a good CRT image, or good scanlines via an emulator or well done port. For instance, take a look at anything M2 ever works on - their scanlines are always stellar. For some reason M2 can always nail it, while other companies who work on classic rereleases (for example, Digital Eclipse) seem to continually mess this up.

I've seen something interesting with respect to Hamster's Arcade Archives releases and scanlines. In general, this should also apply to Hamster's output on PS4 and, presumably, Xbox One - but since I am personally most familiar with Switch, my comments reflect that system.

1) "Bad Scanlines"
As many of you may know, Hamster provides some scanline options on a lot of their Arcade Archives games which are... a bit lacking. Namely, using scanlines forces a gross and smudgy "smoothing" filter to be applied. You can choose to turn the filter off, or use scanlines (with bad filter) with selections of (1) horizontal scanlines in a range of intensity from "A1" to "A5" (Hamster's default settings turn on "A1" scanlines) or (2) "B1" to "B5" which also make the kinda stupid addition of a scrolling line. For some dumb reason, you can't choose scanlines with no smoothing filter, which would be optimal for someone like me seeking a nice crisp CRT look. Therefore, I always end up turning the filter to "off" for what I think is the cleanest and best looking image - it's not bad, but man... I'd really like some well done scanlines.

2) "Good Scanlines"
However, some of the Arcade Archives games have what I will call "good scanlines". In these games, the display settings allow the choice of "Scan Line Type", with selections of Off/Sharp/Soft. Then you can choose scanline thickness from 1-10. These scanlines look pretty great! I'm not sure why Hamster doesn't apply these to the emulators running all of their releases; my best guess is that the scanlines might be easier/harder to implement based on the resolutions output by the original arcade hardware at issue - which might explain why some companies' games seem to get the good scanlines, and others do not.

Anyway, I just find this quirk to be a bit interesting and I want to publicize it a bit more, in hopes that Hamster will make the effort to use their very nice looking "good scanlines" more often, and possible even patch their old games - like the ACA Neo Geo line or the Nintendo Arcade Archives games - to use the much better scanline system. And even if nothing comes of this, perhaps the below list will be of some interest to people as a reference and a place to add information for future releases.

GOOD SCANLINES (original publisher in parentheses)
- Atomic Robo-Kid (UPL)
- Bomb Jack (Tekhan, aka Tecmo)
- City Connection (Jaleco)
- Crazy Climber (Nichibutsu)
- Double Dragon (Technos)
- Double Dragon II (Technos)
- Ikki (Sunsoft)
- Kids Horehore Daisukusen (Nichibutsu)
- Moon Cresta (Nichibutsu)
- Ninja Kid (UPL)
- Ninja Kid II (UPL)
- Renegade (Technos)
- Rygar (Tecmo)
- Star Force (Tecmo)
- Terra Cresta (Nichibutsu)

BAD SCANLINES
- All ACA Neo Geo titles (106 released as of the date of this post)
- All Nintendo Arcade Archives titles (9 released as of the date of this post: Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Mario Bros., Punch-Out!!!, Sky Skipper, Excitebike, Ice Climber, Urban Champion, Vs. Super Mario Bros.)
- 10 Yard Fight (IREM)
- Argus (Jaleco)
- Alpha Mission (SNK)
- Athena (SNK)
- Front Line (Taito)
- Heroic Episode/Youjyuden (IREM)
- Ikari (SNK)
- Kid Niki: Radical Ninja (IREM)
- Moon Patrol (IREM)
- Omega Fighter (UPL)
- Route-16 (Sunsoft)
- Traverse USA (IREM)

Further breakdown of # of games with "good scanlines" for the 36 Arcade Archives games released on Switch as of the date of this post, sorted by original publisher:

IREM: 0 of 5 (0%)
Jaleco: 1 of 2 (50%)
Nichibutsu: 4 of 4 (100%)
Nintendo: 0 of 9 (0%)
SNK: 0 of 3 (0%)
Sunsoft: 1 of 2 (50%)
Taito: 0 of 1 (0%)
Technos: 3 of 3 (100%)
Tecmo/Tekhan: 3 of 3 (100%)
UPL: 3 of 4 (75%)
TOTAL: 15 of 36 (~57.7%)
 
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DunDunDunpachi

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I remember seeing the option to adjust the scanline thickness in the NAMCO Arcade Pak and I thought that was very cool. It gives you far more control over the final image as opposed to cycling through pre-set filters.

It's an issue worth thinking about, as well as other emulation issues. PC emulation is so far ahead of what is offered on consoles (barring, of course, hacked consoles). When these arcade collections and retro titles are porte to modern systems, they should have a host of options.

The biggest feature still missing from most console ports is savestates, in my opinion. This has been improving, however.