- 📝 Posted:
- 🚚 Summary of:
- P0205, P0206
- ⌨ Commits:
- 💰 Funded by:
- [Anonymous], Yanga
- 🏷 Tags:
- rec98 th01 gameplay boss mima-th01 danmaku-pattern rng performance palette glitch jank konngara meta
Oh look, it's another rather short and straightforward boss with a rather small number of bugs and quirks. Yup, contrary to the character's popularity, Mima's premiere is really not all that special in terms of code, and continues the trend established with 📝 Kikuri and 📝 SinGyoku. I've already covered 📝 the initial sprite-related bugs last November, so this post focuses on the main code of the fight itself. The overview:
- The TH01 Mima fight consists of 3 phases, with phases 1 and 3 each corresponding to one half of the 12-HP bar. 📝 Just like with SinGyoku, the distinction between the red-white and red parts is purely visual once again, and doesn't reflect anything about the boss script. As usual, all of the phases have to be completed in order.
- Phases 1 and 3 cycle through 4 danmaku patterns each, for a total of 8. The cycles always start on a fixed pattern.
- 3 of the patterns in each phase feature rotating white squares, thus introducing a new sprite in need of being unblitted.
- Phase 1 additionally features the "hop pattern" as the last one in its cycle. This is the only pattern where Mima leaves the seal in the center of the playfield to hop from one edge of the playfield towards the other, while also moving slightly higher up on the Y axis, and staying on the final position for the next pattern cycle. For the first time, Mima selects a random starting edge, which is then alternated on successive cycles.
- Since the square entities are local to the respective pattern function, Phase 1 can only end once the current pattern is done, even if Mima's HP are already below 6. This makes Mima susceptible to the 📝 debug mode HP bar heap corruption bug.
- Phase 2 simply consists of a spread-in teleport back to Mima's initial position in the center of the playfield. This would only have been strictly necessary if phase 1 ended on the hop pattern, but is done regardless of the previous pattern, and does provide a nice visual separation between the two main phases.
- That's it – nothing special in Phase 3.
And there aren't even any weird hitboxes this time. What is maybe
special about Mima, however, is how there's something to cover about all of
her patterns. Since this is TH01, it's won't surprise anyone that the
rotating square patterns are one giant copy-pasta of unblitting, updating,
and rendering code. At least ZUN placed the core polar→Cartesian
transformation in a separate function for creating regular polygons
with an arbitrary number of sides, which might hint toward some more varied
shapes having been planned at one point?
5 of the 6 patterns even follow the exact same steps during square update frames:
- Calculate square corner coordinates
- Unblit the square
- Update the square angle and radius
- Use the square corner coordinates for spawning pellets or missiles
- Recalculate square corner coordinates
- Render the square
Notice something? Bullets are spawned before the corner coordinates are updated. That's why their initial positions seem to be a bit off – they are spawned exactly in the corners of the square, it's just that it's the square from 8 frames ago.
Once ZUN reached the final laser pattern though, he must have noticed that there's something wrong there… or maybe he just wanted to fire those lasers independently from the square unblit/update/render timer for a change. Spending an additional 16 bytes of the data segment for conveniently remembering the square corner coordinates across frames was definitely a decent investment.
When Mima isn't shooting bullets from the corners of a square or hopping across the playfield, she's raising flame pillars from the bottom of the playfield within very specifically calculated random ranges… which are then rendered at byte-aligned VRAM positions, while collision detection still uses their actual pixel position. Since I don't want to sound like a broken record all too much, I'll just direct you to 📝 Kikuri, where we've seen the exact same issue with the teardrop ripple sprites. The conclusions are identical as well.
However, I'd say that the saddest part about this pattern is how choppy it is, with the circle/pillar entities updating and rendering at a meager 7 FPS. Why go that low on purpose when you can just make the game render ✨ smoothly ✨ instead?
The reason quickly becomes obvious: With TH01's lack of optimization, going for the full 56.4 FPS would have significantly slowed down the game on its intended 33 MHz CPUs, requiring more than cheap surface-level ASM optimization for a stable frame rate. That might very well have been ZUN's reason for only ever rendering one circle per frame to VRAM, and designing the pattern with these time offsets in mind. It's always been typical for PC-98 developers to target the lowest-spec models that could possibly still run a game, and implementing dynamic frame rates into such an engine-less game is nothing I would wish on anybody. And it's not like TH01 is particularly unique in its choppiness anyway; low frame rates are actually a rather typical part of the PC-98 game aesthetic.
The final piece of weirdness in this fight can be found in phase 1's hop
pattern, and specifically its palette manipulation. Just from looking at the
pattern code itself, each of the 4 hops is supposed to darken the hardware
palette by subtracting
#444 from every color. At the last hop,
every color should have therefore been reduced to a pitch-black
#000, leaving the player completely blind to the movement of
the chasing pellets for 30 frames and making the pattern quite ghostly
indeed. However, that's not what we see in the actual game:
Looking at the frame counter, it appears that something outside the
pattern resets the palette every 40 frames. The only known constant with a
value of 40 would be the invincibility frames after hitting a boss with the
Orb, but we're not hitting Mima here…
But as it turns out, that's exactly where the palette reset comes from: The hop animation darkens the hardware palette directly, while the 📝 infamous 12-parameter boss collision handler function unconditionally resets the hardware palette to the "default boss palette" every 40 frames, regardless of whether the boss was hit or not. I'd classify this as a bug: That function has no business doing periodic hardware palette resets outside the invincibility flash effect, and it completely defies common sense that it does.
That explains one unexpected palette change, but could this function possibly also explain the other infamous one, namely, the temporary green discoloration in the Konngara fight? That glitch comes down to how the game actually uses two global "default" palettes: a default boss palette for undoing the invincibility flash effect, and a default stage palette for returning the colors back to normal at the end of the bomb animation or when leaving the Pause menu. And sure enough, the stage palette is the one with the green color, while the boss palette contains the intended colors used throughout the fight. Sending the latter palette to the graphics chip every 40 frames is what corrects the discoloration, which would otherwise be permanent.
The green color comes from
BOSS7_D1.GRP, the scrolling
background of the entrance animation. That's what turns this into a clear
bug: The stage palette is only set a single time in the entire fight,
at the beginning of the entrance animation, to the palette of this image.
Apart from consistency reasons, it doesn't even make sense to set the stage
palette there, as you can't enter the Pause menu or bomb during a blocking
And just 3 lines of code later, ZUN loads
main background image of the fight. Moving the stage palette assignment
there would have easily prevented the discoloration.
But yeah, as you can tell, palette manipulation is complete jank in this game. Why differentiate between a stage and a boss palette to begin with? The blocking Pause menu function could have easily copied the original palette to a local variable before darkening it, and then restored it after closing the menu. It's not so easy for bombs as the intended palette could change between the start and end of the animation, but the code could have still been simplified a lot if there was just one global "default palette" variable instead of two. Heck, even the other bosses who manipulate their palettes correctly only do so because they manually synchronize the two after every change. The proper defense against bugs that result from wild mutation of global state is to get rid of global state, and not to put up safety nets hidden in the middle of existing effect code.
In any case, that's Mima done! 7th PC-98 Touhou boss fully decompiled, 24 bosses remaining, and 59 functions left in all of TH01.
In other thrilling news, my call for secondary funding priorities in new TH01 contributions has given us three different priorities so far. This raises an interesting question though: Which of these contributions should I now put towards TH01 immediately, and which ones should I leave in the backlog for the time being? Since I've never liked deciding on priorities, let's turn this into a popularity contest instead: The contributions with the least popular secondary priorities will go towards TH01 first, giving the most popular priorities a higher chance to still be left over after TH01 is done. As of this delivery, we'd have the following popularity order:
- TH05 (1.67 pushes), from T0182
- Seihou (1 push), from T0184
- TH03 (0.67 pushes), from T0146
Which means that T0146 will be consumed for TH01 next, followed by T0184 and then T0182. I only assign transactions immediately before a delivery though, so you all still have the chance to change up these priorities before the next one.
Next up: The final boss of TH01 decompilation, YuugenMagan…
if the current
or newly incoming TH01 funds happen to be enough to cover the entire fight.
If they don't turn out to be, I will have to pass the time with some Seihou
work instead, missing the TH01 anniversary deadline as a result.
Edit (2022-07-18): Thanks to Yanga for
securing the funding for YuugenMagan after all! That fight will feature
slightly more than half of all remaining code in TH01's
REIIDEN.EXE and the single biggest function in all of PC-98
Touhou, let's go!