Nach's SNES ROM Tools 3.0 is here

The long awaited latest version of NSRT is here, and it provides features that far surpass that last version (2.2). The ROM identification now surpasses GoodSNES, and there are a host of other features as well.

If you like the sound of this, don't hesitate to make a trip to http://nsrt.znes.org and pick up a copy for your OS - currently, Windows, Linux and Solaris are available.

The features added or improved upon in this release certainly make interesting reading:

Full ROM database which is more optimised than GoodSNES, with more reliable detection (using CRC32).

NSRT header file, which has potential to automate functions in emulators (such as setting up the SNES mouse etc.)

A function to fix certain common bad dumps in ROMs like Bahamut Lagoon and Tales of Phantasia.

Currently the software is command line only, but a GUI based version will follow soon.

Overall, this is an essential tool, and one that appears it will only get better in the future, with NPS (Nach's patching system) support and more to come. Keep your eyes on this one.

    - A news update I wrote posted on www.cherryroms.com on June 14, 2003

Nach's SNES ROM Tools is a free utility that has been available for quite a while now, but it has recently improved a great deal (during the jump from version 2.2 to version 3, which happened on June the 14th 2003). It is now a competitor for GoodSNES, Cowering's SNES GoodTool.

NSRT is a tool which combines many of the features common to Snestool, GoodSNES, Ucon64, SMC.com, and others. It is intended to do everything you could possibly want to a SNES ROM, apart from emulating it, which is what Zsnes, Snes9x an the rest are for. A sign of how up to date the NSRT people are with today's SNES emulation scene is that Nach, who started the project, and is the lead coder, has also recently joined the Zsnes team, and is making improvements to the code left, right and centre with the Zsnes WIPs.

NSRT can convert between formats (useful when using a copier, fix bad dumps, crack games (for copiers) if necessary, and identify and rename ROMs (this is the feature that has been worked on the most recently). The idea is that soon, the only tools that anyone will need for the SNES will be Ucon64 (worked on by dbjh, a friend of Nach's) and NSRT, and in fact it is heading that way now. NSRT has a full SNES ROM database (with CRC32 detection, unlike Cowering's GoodTools, which use the easy to fool checksum detection) which has no bad dumps, over dumps, translations, hacks, or trainers. While you might think that this is bad, and having all ROMs is better, I think that the NSRT approach is much better.

For a start, bad and over dumps are not included in NSRT, for the simple reason that they are useless. If a dump is bad, and doesn't play properly, then there is absolutely no point of verifying it and putting it in a identification tool. There are infinite amounts of bad dumps and over dumps (dumps which contain more data than the cart actually has) which can be created, so trying to keep up with them all is futile. The NES GoodTools often have a ratio of about 5 or 6 bad / over dumps to each good dump for each cartridge. The situation is not quite as bad for SNES ROMs, but there are still a heap of bad dumps. To get an idea of this, GoodSNES 0.999.6 recognises exactly 4900 ROMs. However, edit the config file so that it ignores bad and over dumps, and only 4759 ROMs are identified.

Translation hackers such as Gideon Zhi hate their patches being included in ROM identifiers, because it means that when some websites or ftp servers host a full set of ROMs available for a system (made from the GoodTools suite) then people simply download the games, see that there is a patch, and start playing, without giving a moment's thought to the person, or more often the people, who spent hours sweating blood to get the game hacked and playable in English. If their patch is available already on a game, then they will get no credit.

The preferred way of doing things is that people download a clean ROM image of the unpatched game, and then use soft patching with their emulator to get the game working. This forces people to actually find out who made the patch, and more importantly, it means they get the latest version of the patch, and a readme file to highlight any issues that still remain. To take a recent example, Gideon Zhi's Treasure of the Rudras patch was the culmination of work from 12 different individuals, and so when GoodSNES 0.999.6 came out recently with "Rudra no Hihou (J) T+Eng.99b2_AGTP", he was not best pleased. Since many sites will now distribute this image, and because he is the only person to which "AGTP" refers, then there are a heap of people who aren't getting credit for their work.

NSRT is changing this by making sure that people have to get patches from a place like The Whirlpool, which gives proper credit to the people who make patches, and only carries the latest versions. The amount of people who wander around complaining that there are bugs in patches while using an old beta patch is astounding. For this reason, NSRT has made the decision not to include patched versions.

There are no PD, or Public Domain ROMs in NSRT either. I'm not sure on my opinion to this - on the one hand, the vast majority of Public Domain ROMs are completely useless and not worth having (most of them are slideshows, and a good deal of them are either pornography or hentai). However, occasionally, someone makes a Public Domain ROM which is really worth playing, or interesting - an example would be Tetanus on Drugs for the Game Boy Advance. There are a few interesting SNES PD ROMs as well, most of them there as relics of days long ago, when there was a scene built up not around the Internet, but around BBSes. There were multiple cracking groups, each of whom fought to be the first to dump and release games over the BBS networks. A few PD ROMs included in GoodSNES are scene reports that date back to the early 1990s, and to be honest, I find them a fascinating piece of history. For this reason, I wouldn't mind some PD ROMs being included in the NSRT database, but I won't miss them too much if they aren't there.

Another thing which makes NSRT superior to GoodSNES is that the people who translate Japanes game titles are better at it than the people that Cowering uses. GoodSNES used to call Shin Megami Tensei "Digital Devil Story" for years, and there were other such embarassing bad translations / romanizations which littered the set. NSRT has a much better way of doing things, and so is the tool of choice for people translating Japanese games.

Besides the database, NSRT features the usual ROM analyzing functions, which allow it to give data such as the ROM's internal title, Checksum, CRC32, format (whether it is standard, or "interleaved" in a strange way), and any special chips the game has (SDD-1, SPC-7110, OBC-1, DSP-1, 2, 3, 4, Super FX, Super FX-2, RTC... the list goes on...). If there's something you want to do to a ROM, chances are NSRT either can do it, or it is in the pipeline.

Other things Nach and the team have planned include a new patch system called NPS (Nach's Patching System), the NSRT header (which allows internal ROM names to be changed to their correct titles), a feature which allows Zsnes and Snes9x save states to be renamed along with the ROMs... and many more. Nach says he is putting pretty much every feature request he gest on the to-do list.

The operation of NSRT is pretty simple, assuming you can handle a command line. There is also a GUI version (each release download contains both the versions) for people who feel more comfortable with that. At present, there is more functionality in the Command Line version due to the GUI coder having to take a break from the project, but this is being rectified.

Overall, this is an essential tool for anyone. I hope to see more competitors for the Goodtools on other systems soon, as apparently InVerse is working on a NES counterpart.

The only problem with NSRT at the moment is that the site which hosts the downloads (and also hosts the Zsnes WIP files), znes.org, is currently down, after suffering from a DOS attack from some malicious individual. Rumours are flying, but I have no idea who did it... anyway, it seems that it is taking them a while to get the site back up. I'll update here when it is, but in the meantime you can grab the tool on the www.cherryroms.com tool page. When the site comes back up, it will be at http://www.geocities.com/joecool22us/mirror.htm - I highly advise you to pick up a copy if you're into emulation.


UPDATE: As of 13/12/03, NSRT has found a permanent host at http://nsrt.edgeemu.com/. NSRT 3.0 Final has recently been released, and 3.1 is already well into production. Versions for Win32, DOS, MacOS X, and a number of *nix variations are available.


Another Update: As of May 2004, version 3.2 has been out for a while and 3.3 is in production. This is the first version which will actually have some stuff coded by me, but please don't let that put you off, Nach has vetted it all thoroughly.


Big update: NSRT 3.3 Release Candidate 1 is here. New features include:

  • 8.3 character filenames for every database ROM. I did all 3000+ of these by hand. Not fun.
  • File Compare feature
  • NSRT header adding and removing
  • ROM name modification
  • Huge changes to the internal core, including new file management library
  • The usual collection of Bug Fixes and Database updates
This is only release Candidate 1 though, much more will be added for the final version release. Enjoy!


Sources:

Using the tool
Talking to Nach on IRC, and being (sort of) on the development team.
Hanging on forums.cherryroms.com far too much.

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