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SNES hacker speeds up a game that originally ran at 4 frames per second

SNES hacker speeds up a game that originally ran at 4 frames per second


Vitor Vilela managed to get it to run at a cool 30 frames

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The Atari arcade cabinet game Race Drivin’ was ported to the Atari ST in the summer of 1991, and then ported again to the SNES a year later. It was the sequel to 1989’s Hard Drivin’, and while it boasted numerous improvements over its predecessor — it could model a car with four wheels, as opposed to Hard Drivin’s two — it was still not particularly fast.

The SNES console port ran at a slideshow-y 4 frames per second. And when the Genesis port arrived in 1993, Electronic Gaming Monthly’s January 1994 issue gave the game a capsule review. It reads in full:

This is another so-so entry in the driving scene where the truly innovative titles (Chase H.Q. II and Rock & Roll Racing) tend to stand out, while others like this get lost in the crowd. The scrolling is very choppy.

It received mostly fours and fives (out of 10) from the magazine’s staff. (This in an issue with an editor’s letter about the California attorney general threatening to do something about violence in video games! Night Trap was terrifying at the time!)

Anyway, Race Drivin’ ran at 4 frames per second on the original Atari ST hardware. Software engineer Vitor Vilela thought that wasn’t good enough and decided to do something about it using contemporaneous hardware — the Nintendo SA-1 processor. As Kotaku reports, the results show exactly how much more powerful the SA-1 chip was; Vilela managed to get around 30 frames per second using a conversion they developed specifically for it. Here’s what that looks like in action.

In the description of the video on YouTube, Vilela writes a little about how they managed to get this frankly very impressive feat working. “Just like my other conversions, this one moves the entire memory to the SA-1 side and moves almost the whole processing to the SA-1 CPU side,” they write. “With all optimizations included, the game runs up to 1000% faster compared with original.”

All the code Vilela wrote for this hack is available on Github, along with the source code for the other hacks they’ve pulled off. It’s a shame that EGM couldn’t have gotten its hands on this version of the game — it looks like something ported directly from an alternate future.