With Elis, we've not only reached the midway point in TH01's boss code, but
also a bunch of other milestones: Both REIIDEN.EXE and TH01 as
a whole have crossed the 75% RE mark, and overall position independence has
also finally cracked 80%!
And it got done in 4 pushes again? Yup, we're back to
📝 Konngara levels of redundancy and
copy-pasta. This time, it didn't even stop at the big copy-pasted code
blocks for the rift sprite and 256-pixel circle animations, with the words
"redundant" and "unnecessary" ending up a total of 18 times in my source
But damn is this fight broken. As usual with TH01 bosses, let's start with a
The Elis fight consists of 5 phases (excluding the entrance animation),
which must be completed in order.
In all odd-numbered phases, Elis uses a random one-shot danmaku pattern
from an exclusive per-phase pool before teleporting to a random
There are 3 exclusive girl-form patterns per phase, plus 4
additional bat-form patterns in phase 5, for a total of 13.
Due to a quirk in the selection algorithm in phases 1 and 3, there
is a 25% chance of Elis skipping an attack cycle and just teleporting
In contrast to Konngara, Elis can freely select the same pattern
multiple times in a row. There's nothing in the code to prevent that
This pattern+teleport cycle is repeated until Elis' HP reach a certain
threshold value. The odd-numbered phases correspond to the white (phase 1),
red-white (phase 3), and red (phase 5) sections of the health bar. However,
the next phase can only start at the end of each cycle, after a
Phase 2 simply teleports Elis back to her starting screen position of
(320, 144) and then advances to phase 3.
Phase 4 does the same as phase 2, but adds the initial bat form
transformation before advancing to phase 5.
Phase 5 replaces the teleport with a transformation to the bat form.
Rather than teleporting instantly to the target position, the bat gradually
flies there, firing a randomly selected looping pattern from the 4-pattern
bat pool on the way, before transforming back to the girl form.
This puts the earliest possible end of the fight at the first frame of phase
5. However, nothing prevents Elis' HP from reaching 0 before that point. You
can nicely see this in 📝 debug mode: Wait
until the HP bar has filled up to avoid heap corruption, hold ↵ Return
to reduce her HP to 0, and watch how Elis still goes through a total of
two patterns* and four
teleport animations before accepting defeat.
But wait, heap corruption? Yup, there's a bug in the HP bar that already
affected Konngara as well, and it isn't even just about the graphical
glitches generated by negative HP:
The initial fill-up animation is drawn to both VRAM pages at a rate of 1
HP per frame… by passing the current frame number as the
The target_hp is indicated by simply passing the current
… which, however, can be reduced in debug mode at an equal rate of up to
1 HP per frame.
The completion condition only checks if
((target_hp - 1) == current_hp). With the
right timing, both numbers can run past each other though.
In that case, the function is repeatedly called on every frame, backing
up the original VRAM contents for the current HP point before blitting
… until frame ((96 / 2) + 1), where the
.PTN slot pointer overflows the heap buffer and overwrites whatever comes
after. 📝 Sounds familiar, right?
Since Elis starts with 14 HP, which is an even number, this corruption is
trivial to cause: Simply hold ↵ Return from the beginning of the
fight, and the completion condition will never be true, as the
HP and frame numbers run past the off-by-one meeting point.
Regular gameplay, however, entirely prevents this due to the fixed start
positions of Reimu and the Orb, the Orb's fixed initial trajectory, and the
50 frames of delay until a bomb deals damage to a boss. These aspects make
it impossible to hit Elis within the first 14 frames of phase 1, and ensure
that her HP bar is always filled up completely. So ultimately, this bug ends
up comparable in seriousness to the
📝 recursion / stack overflow bug in the memory info screen.
These wavy teleport animations point to a quite frustrating architectural
issue in this fight. It's not even the fact that unblitting the yellow star
sprites rips temporary holes into Elis' sprite; that's almost expected from
TH01 at this point. Instead, it's all because of this unused frame of the
With this sprite still being part of BOSS5.BOS, Girl-Elis has a
total of 9 animation frames, 1 more than the
📝 8 per-entity sprites allowed by ZUN's architecture.
The quick and easy solution would have been to simply bump the sprite array
size by 1, but… nah, this would have added another 20 bytes to all 6 of the
.BOS image slots. Instead, ZUN wrote the manual
position synchronization code I mentioned in that 2020 blog post.
Ironically, he then copy-pasted this snippet of code often enough that it
ended up taking up more than 120 bytes in the Elis fight alone – with, you
guessed it, some of those copies being redundant. Not to mention that just
going from 8 to 9 sprites would have allowed ZUN to go down from 6 .BOS
image slots to 3. That would have actually saved 420 bytes in
addition to the manual synchronization trouble. Looking forward to SinGyoku,
that's going to be fun again…
As for the fight itself, it doesn't take long until we reach its most janky
danmaku pattern, right in phase 1:
For whatever reason, the lower-right quarter of the circle isn't
animated? This animation works by only drawing the new dots added with every
subsequent animation frame, expressed as a tiny arc of a dotted circle. This
arc starts at the animation's current 8-bit angle and ends on the sum of
that angle and a hardcoded constant. In every other (copy-pasted, and
correct) instance of this animation, ZUN uses 0x02 as the
constant, but this one uses… 0.05 for the lower-right quarter?
As in, a 64-bit double constant that truncates to 0 when added
to an 8-bit integer, thus leading to the start and end angles being
identical and the game not drawing anything.
On Easy and Normal, the pattern then spawns 32 bullets along the outline
of the circle, no problem there. On Lunatic though, every one of these
bullets is instead turned into a narrow-angled 5-spread, resulting in 160
pellets… in a game with a pellet cap of 100.
Now, if Elis teleported herself to a position near the top of the playfield,
most of the capped pellets would have been clipped at that top edge anyway,
since the bullets are spawned in clockwise order starting at Elis' right
side with an angle of 0x00. On lower positions though, you can
definitely see a difference if the cap were high enough to allow all coded
pellets to actually be spawned.
The Hard version gets dangerously close to the cap by spawning a total of 96
pellets. Since this is the only pattern in phase 1 that fires pellets
though, you are guaranteed to see all of the unclipped ones.
The pellets also aren't spawned exactly on the telegraphed circle, but 4 pixels to the left.
Then again, it might very well be that all of this was intended, or, most
likely, just left in the game as a happy accident. The latter interpretation
would explain why ZUN didn't just delete the rendering calls for the
lower-right quarter of the circle, because seriously, how would you not spot
that? The phase 3 patterns continue with more minor graphical glitches that
aren't even worth talking about anymore.
And then Elis transforms into her bat form at the beginning of Phase 5,
which displays some rather unique hitboxes. The one against the Orb is fine,
but the one against player shots…
… uses the bat's X coordinate for both X and Y dimensions.
In regular gameplay, it's not too bad as most
of the bat patterns fire aimed pellets which typically don't allow you to
move below her sprite to begin with. But if you ever tried destroying these
pellets while standing near the middle of the playfield, now you know why
that didn't work. This video also nicely points out how the bat, like any
boss sprite, is only ever blitted at positions on the 8×1-pixel VRAM byte
grid, while collision detection uses the actual pixel position.
The bat form patterns are all relatively simple, with little variation
depending on the difficulty level, except for the "slow pellet spreads"
pattern. This one is almost easiest to dodge on Lunatic, where the 5-spreads
are not only always fired downwards, but also at the hardcoded narrow delta
angle, leaving plenty of room for the player to move out of the way:
Finally, we've got another potential timesave in the girl form's "safety
After the circle spawned completely, you lose a life by moving outside it,
but doing that immediately advances the pattern past
the circle part. This part takes 200 frames, but the defeat animation
only takes 82 frames, so you can save up to 118 frames there.
Final funny tidbit: As with all dynamic entities, this circle is only
blitted to VRAM page 0 to allow easy unblitting. However, it's also kind of
static, and there needs to be some way to keep the Orb, the player shots,
and the pellets from ripping holes into it. So, ZUN just re-blits the circle
every… 4 frames?! 🤪 The same is true for the Star of David and its
surrounding circle, but there you at least get a flash animation to justify
it. All the overlap is actually quite a good reason for not even attempting
to 📝 mess with the hardware color palette instead.
Reproducing the crash was the whole challenge here. Even after moving Elis
and Reimu to the exact positions seen in Pearl's video and setting Elis' HP
to 0 on the exact same frame, everything ran fine for me. It's definitely no
division by 0 this time, the function perfectly guards against that
possibility. The line specified in the function's parameters is always
clipped to the VRAM region as well, so we can also rule out illegal memory
… or can we? Stepping through it all reminded me of how this function brings
unblitting sloppiness to the next level: For each VRAM byte touched, ZUN
actually unblits the 4 surrounding bytes, adding one byte to the left
and two bytes to the right, and using a single 32-bit read and write per
bitplane. So what happens if the function tries to unblit the topmost byte
of VRAM, covering the pixel positions from (0, 0) to (7, 0)
inclusive? The VRAM offset of 0x0000 is decremented to
0xFFFF to cover the one byte to the left, 4 bytes are written
to this address, the CPU's internal offset overflows… and as it turns out,
that is illegal even in Real Mode as of the 80286, and will raise a General Protection
Fault. Which is… ignored by DOSBox-X,
every Neko Project II version in common use, the CSCP
emulators, SL9821, and T98-Next. Only Anex86 accurately emulates the
behavior of real hardware here.
OK, but no laser fired by Elis ever reaches the top-left corner of the
screen. How can such a fault even happen in practice? That's where the
broken laser reset+unblit function comes in: Not only does it just flat out pass the wrong
parameters to the line unblitting function – describing the line
already traveled by the laser and stopping where the laser begins –
but it also passes them
wrongly, in the form of raw 32-bit fixed-point Q24.8 values, with no
conversion other than a truncation to the signed 16-bit pixels expected by
the function. What then follows is an attempt at interpolation and clipping
to find a line segment between those garbage coordinates that actually falls
within the boundaries of VRAM:
right/bottom correspond to a laser's origin position, and
left/top to the leftmost pixel of its moved-out top line. The
bug therefore only occurs with lasers that stopped growing and have started
Moreover, it will only happen if either (left % 256) or
(right % 256) is ≤ 127 and the other one of the two is ≥ 128.
The typecast to signed 16-bit integers then turns the former into a large
positive value and the latter into a large negative value, triggering the
function's clipping code.
The function then follows Bresenham's
algorithm: left is ensured to be smaller than right
by swapping the two values if necessary. If that happened, top
and bottom are also swapped, regardless of their value – the
algorithm does not care about their order.
The slope in the X dimension is calculated using an integer division of
((bottom - top) /
(right - left)). Both subtractions are done on signed
16-bit integers, and overflow accordingly.
(-left × slope_x) is added to top,
and left is set to 0.
If both top and bottom are < 0 or
≥ 640, there's nothing to be unblitted. Otherwise, the final
coordinates are clipped to the VRAM range of [(0, 0),
If the function got this far, the line to be unblitted is now very
likely to reach from
the top-left to the bottom-right corner, starting out at
(0, 0) right away, or
from the bottom-left corner to the top-right corner. In this case,
you'd expect unblitting to end at (639, 0), but thanks to an
it actually ends at (640, -1), which is equivalent to
(0, 0). Why add clipping to VRAM offset calculations when
everything else is clipped already, right?
tl;dr: TH01 has a high chance of freezing at a boss defeat sequence if there
are diagonally moving lasers on screen, and if your PC-98 system
raises a General Protection Fault on a 4-byte write to offset
0xFFFF, and if you don't run a TSR with an INT
0Dh handler that might handle this fault differently.
The easiest fix option would be to just remove the attempted laser
unblitting entirely, but that would also have an impact on this game's…
distinctive visual glitches, in addition to touching a whole lot of
code bytes. If I ever get funded to work on a hypothetical TH01 Anniversary
Edition that completely rearchitects the game to fix all these glitches, it
would be appropriate there, but not for something that purports to be the
(Sidenote to further hype up this Anniversary Edition idea for PC-98
hardware owners: With the amount of performance left on the table at every
corner of this game, I'm pretty confident that we can get it to work
decently on PC-98 models with just an 80286 CPU.)
Since we're in critical infrastructure territory once again, I went for the
most conservative fix with the least impact on the binary: Simply changing
any VRAM offsets >= 0xFFFD to 0x0000 to avoid
the GPF, and leaving all other bugs in place. Sure, it's rather lazy and
"incorrect"; the function still unblits a 32-pixel block there, but adding a
special case for blitting 24 pixels would add way too much code. And
seriously, it's not like anything happens in the 8 pixels between
(24, 0) and (31, 0) inclusive during gameplay to begin with.
To balance out the additional per-row if() branch, I inlined
the VRAM page change I/O, saving two function calls and one memory write per
That means it's time for a new community_choice_fixes
build, containing the new definitive bugfixed versions of these games:
Check the th01_critical_fixes
branch for the modified TH01 code. It also contains a fix for the HP bar
heap corruption in debug mode – simply changing the ==
comparison to <= is enough to avoid it, and negative HP will
still create aesthetic glitch art.
Once again, I then was left with ½ of a push, which I finally filled with
some FUUIN.EXE code, specifically the verdict screen. The most
interesting part here is the player title calculation, which is quite
sneaky: There are only 6 skill levels, but three groups of
titles for each level, and the title you'll see is picked from a random
group. It looks like this is the first time anyone has documented the
As for the levels, ZUN definitely didn't expect players to do particularly
well. With a 1cc being the standard goal for completing a Touhou game, it's
especially funny how TH01 expects you to continue a lot: The code has
branches for up to 21 continues, and the on-screen table explicitly leaves
room for 3 digits worth of continues per 5-stage scene. Heck, these
counts are even stored in 32-bit long variables.
Next up: 📝 Finally finishing the long
overdue Touhou Patch Center MediaWiki update work, while continuing with
Kikuri in the meantime. Originally I wasn't sure about what to do between
Elis and Seihou,
but with Ember2528's surprise
contribution last week, y'all have
demonstrated more than enough interest in the idea of getting TH01 done
sooner rather than later. And I agree – after all, we've got the 25th
anniversary of its first public release coming up on August 15, and I might
still manage to completely decompile this game by that point…
OK, TH01 missile bullets. Can we maybe have a well-behaved entity type,
without any weirdness? Just once?
Ehh, kinda. Apart from another 150 bytes wasted on unused structure members,
this code is indeed more on the low end in terms of overall jank. It does
become very obvious why dodging these missiles in the YuugenMagan, Mima, and
Elis fights feels so awful though: An unfair 46×46 pixel hitbox around
Reimu's center pixel, combined with the comeback of
📝 interlaced rendering, this time in every
stage. ZUN probably did this because missiles are the only 16×16 sprite in
TH01 that is blitted to unaligned X positions, which effectively ends up
touching a 32×16 area of VRAM per sprite.
But even if we assume VRAM writes to be the bottleneck here, it would
have been totally possible to render every missile in every frame at roughly
the same amount of CPU time that the original game uses for interlaced
Note that all missile sprites only use two colors, white and green.
Instead of naively going with the usual four bitplanes, extract the
pixels drawn in each of the two used colors into their own bitplanes.
master.lib calls this the "tiny format".
Use the GRCG to draw these two bitplanes in the intended white and green
colors, halving the amount of VRAM writes compared to the original
(Not using the .PTN format would have also avoided the inconsistency of
storing the missile sprites in boss-specific sprite slots.)
That's an optimization that would have significantly benefitted the game, in
contrast to all of the fake ones
introduced in later games. Then again, this optimization is
actually something that the later games do, and it might have in fact been
necessary to achieve their higher bullet counts without significant
After some effectively unused Mima sprite effect code that is so broken that
it's impossible to make sense out of it, we get to the final feature I
wanted to cover for all bosses in parallel before returning to Sariel: The
separate sprite background storage for moving or animated boss sprites in
the Mima, Elis, and Sariel fights. But, uh… why is this necessary to begin
with? Doesn't TH01 already reserve the other VRAM page for backgrounds?
Well, these sprites are quite big, and ZUN didn't want to blit them from
main memory on every frame. After all, TH01 and TH02 had a minimum required
clock speed of 33 MHz, half of the speed required for the later three games.
So, he simply blitted these boss sprites to both VRAM pages, leading
the usual unblitting calls to only remove the other sprites on top of the
boss. However, these bosses themselves want to move across the screen…
and this makes it necessary to save the stage background behind them
in some other way.
Enter .PTN, and its functions to capture a 16×16 or 32×32 square from VRAM
into a sprite slot. No problem with that approach in theory, as the size of
all these bigger sprites is a multiple of 32×32; splitting a larger sprite
into these smaller 32×32 chunks makes the code look just a little bit clumsy
(and, of course, slower).
But somewhere during the development of Mima's fight, ZUN apparently forgot
that those sprite backgrounds existed. And once Mima's 🚫 casting sprite is
blitted on top of her regular sprite, using just regular sprite
transparency, she ends up with her infamous third arm:
Ironically, there's an unused code path in Mima's unblit function where ZUN
assumes a height of 48 pixels for Mima's animation sprites rather than the
actual 64. This leads to even clumsier .PTN function calls for the bottom
128×16 pixels… Failing to unblit the bottom 16 pixels would have also
yielded that third arm, although it wouldn't have looked as natural. Still
wouldn't say that it was intentional; maybe this casting sprite was just
added pretty late in the game's development?
So, mission accomplished, Sariel unblocked… at 2¼ pushes. That's quite some time left for some smaller stage initialization
code, which bundles a bunch of random function calls in places where they
logically really don't belong. The stage opening animation then adds a bunch
of VRAM inter-page copies that are not only redundant but can't even be
understood without knowing the hidden internal state of the last VRAM page
accessed by previous ZUN code…
In better news though: Turbo C++ 4.0 really doesn't seem to have any
complexity limit on inlining arithmetic expressions, as long as they only
operate on compile-time constants. That's how we get macro-free,
compile-time Shift-JIS to JIS X 0208 conversion of the individual code
points in the 東方★靈異伝 string, in a compiler from 1994. As long as you
don't store any intermediate results in variables, that is…
But wait, there's more! With still ¼ of a push left, I also went for the
boss defeat animation, which includes the route selection after the SinGyoku
As in all other instances, the 2× scaled font is accomplished by first
rendering the text at regular 1× resolution to the other, invisible VRAM
page, and then scaled from there to the visible one. However, the route
selection is unique in that its scaled text is both drawn transparently on
top of the stage background (not onto a black one), and can also change
colors depending on the selection. It would have been no problem to unblit
and reblit the text by rendering the 1× version to a position on the
invisible VRAM page that isn't covered by the 2× version on the visible one,
but ZUN (needlessly) clears the invisible page before rendering any text.
Instead, he assigned a separate VRAM color for both
the 魔界 and 地獄 options, and only changed the palette value for
these colors to white or gray, depending on the correct selection. This is
another one of the
📝 rare cases where TH01 demonstrates good use of PC-98 hardware,
as the 魔界へ and 地獄へ strings don't need to be reblitted during the selection process, only the Orb "cursor" does.
Then, why does this still not count as good-code? When
changing palette colors, you kinda need to be aware of everything
else that can possibly be on screen, which colors are used there, and which
aren't and can therefore be used for such an effect without affecting other
sprites. In this case, well… hover over the image below, and notice how
Reimu's hair and the bomb sprites in the HUD light up when Makai is
This push did end on a high note though, with the generic, non-SinGyoku
version of the defeat animation being an easily parametrizable copy. And
that's how you decompile another 2.58% of TH01 in just slightly over three
Now, we're not only ready to decompile Sariel, but also Kikuri, Elis, and
SinGyoku without needing any more detours into non-boss code. Thanks to the
current TH01 funding subscriptions, I can plan to cover most, if not all, of
Sariel in a single push series, but the currently 3 pending pushes probably
won't suffice for Sariel's 8.10% of all remaining code in TH01. We've got
quite a lot of not specifically TH01-related funds in the backlog to pass
the time though.
Due to recent developments, it actually makes quite a lot of sense to take a
break from TH01: spaztron64 has
managed what every Touhou download site so far has failed to do: Bundling
all 5 game onto a single .HDI together with pre-configured PC-98
emulators and a nice boot menu, and hosting the resulting package on a
proper website. While this first release is already quite good (and much
better than my attempt from 2014), there is still a bit of room for
improvement to be gained from specific ReC98 research. Next up,
Researching how TH04 and TH05 use EMS memory, together with the cause
behind TH04's crash in Stage 5 when playing as Reimu without an EMS driver
reverse-engineering TH03's score data file format
(YUME.NEM), which hopefully also comes with a way of building a
file that unlocks all characters without any high scores.
And indeed, I got to end my vacation with a lot of image format and
blitting code, covering the final two formats, .GRC and .BOS. .GRC was
nothing noteworthy – one function for loading, one function for
byte-aligned blitting, and one function for freeing memory. That's it –
not even a unblitting function for this one. .BOS, on the other hand…
…has no generic (read: single/sane) implementation, and is only
implemented as methods of some boss entity class. And then again for
Sariel's dress and wand animations, and then again for Reimu's
animations, both of which weren't even part of these 4 pushes. Looking
forward to decompiling essentially the same algorithms all over again… And
that's how TH01 became the largest and most bloated PC-98 Touhou game. So
yeah, still not done with image formats, even at 44% RE.
This means I also had to reverse-engineer that "boss entity" class… yeah,
what else to call something a boss can have multiple of, that may or may
not be part of a larger boss sprite, may or may not be animated, and that
may or may not have an orb hitbox?
All bosses except for Kikuri share the same 5 global instances of this
class. Since renaming all these variables in ASM land is tedious anyway, I
went the extra mile and directly defined separate, meaningful names for
the entities of all bosses. These also now document the natural order in
which the bosses will ultimately be decompiled. So, unless a backer
requests anything else, this order will be:
(code for regular card-flipping stages)
As everyone kind of expects from TH01 by now, this class reveals yet
another… um, unique and quirky piece of code architecture. In
addition to the position and hitbox members you'd expect from a class like
this, the game also stores the .BOS metadata – width, height, animation
frame count, and 📝 bitplane pointer slot
number – inside the same class. But if each of those still corresponds to
one individual on-screen sprite, how can YuugenMagan have 5 eye sprites,
or Kikuri have more than one soul and tear sprite? By duplicating that
metadata, of course! And copying it from one entity to another
At this point, I feel like I even have to congratulate the game for not
actually loading YuugenMagan's eye sprites 5 times. But then again, 53,760
bytes of waste would have definitely been noticeable in the DOS days.
Makes much more sense to waste that amount of space on an unused C++
exception handler, and a bunch of redundant, unoptimized blitting
(Thinking about it, YuugenMagan fits this entire system perfectly. And
together with its position in the game's code – last to be decompiled
means first on the linker command line – we might speculate that
YuugenMagan was the first boss to be programmed for TH01?)
So if a boss wants to use sprites with different sizes, there's no way
around using another entity. And that's why Girl-Elis and Bat-Elis are two
distinct entities internally, and have to manually sync their position.
Except that there's also a third one for Attacking-Girl-Elis,
because Girl-Elis has 9 frames of animation in total, and the global .BOS
bitplane pointers are divided into 4 slots of only 8 images each.
Same for SinGyoku, who is split into a sphere entity, a
person entity, and a… white flash entity for all three forms,
all at the same resolution. Or Konngara's facial expressions, which also
require two entities just for themselves.
And once you decompile all this code, you notice just how much of it the
game didn't even use. 13 of the 50 bytes of the boss entity class are
outright unused, and 10 bytes are used for a movement clamping and lock
system that would have been nice if ZUN also used it outside of
Kikuri's soul sprites. Instead, all other bosses ignore this system
completely, and just
the X/Y coordinates of the boss entities directly.
As for the rendering functions, 5 out of 10 are unused. And while those
definitely make up less than half of the code, I still must have
spent at least 1 of those 4 pushes on effectively unused functionality.
Only one of these functions lends itself to some speculation. For Elis'
entrance animation, the class provides functions for wavy blitting and
unblitting, which use a separate X coordinate for every line of the
sprite. But there's also an unused and sort of broken one for unblitting
two overlapping wavy sprites, located at the same Y coordinate. This might
indicate that Elis could originally split herself into two sprites,
similar to TH04 Stage 6 Yuuka? Or it might just have been some other kind
of animation effect, who knows.
After over 3 months of TH01 progress though, it's finally time to look at
other games, to cover the rest of the crowdfunding backlog. Next up: Going
back to TH05, and getting rid of those last PI false positives. And since
I can potentially spend the next 7 weeks on almost full-time ReC98 work,
I've also re-opened the store until October!
Well, make that three days. Trying to figure out all the details behind
the sprite flickering was absolutely dreadful…
It started out easy enough, though. Unsurprisingly, TH01 had a quite
limited pellet system compared to TH04 and TH05:
The cap is 100, rather than 240 in TH04 or 180 in TH05.
Only 6 special motion functions (with one of them broken and unused)
instead of 10. This is where you find the code that generates SinGyoku's
chase pellets, Kikuri's small spinning multi-pellet circles, and
Konngara's rain pellets that bounce down from the top of the playfield.
A tiny selection of preconfigured multi-pellet groups. Rather than
TH04's and TH05's freely configurable n-way spreads, stacks, and rings,
TH01 only provides abstractions for 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5- way spreads (yup,
no 6-way or beyond), with a fixed narrow or wide angle between the
individual pellets. The resulting pellets are also hardcoded to linear
motion, and can't use the special motion functions. Maybe not the best
code, but still kind of cute, since the generated groups do follow a
As expected from TH01, the code comes with its fair share of smaller,
insignificant ZUN bugs and oversights. As you would also expect
though, the sprite flickering points to the biggest and most consequential
flaw in all of this.
Apparently, it started with ZUN getting the impression that it's only
possible to use the PC-98 EGC for fast blitting of all 4 bitplanes in one
CPU instruction if you blit 16 horizontal pixels (= 2 bytes) at a time.
Consequently, he only wrote one function for EGC-accelerated sprite
unblitting, which can only operate on a "grid" of 16×1 tiles in VRAM. But
wait, pellets are not only just 8×8, but can also be placed at any
unaligned X position…
… yet the game still insists on using this 16-dot-aligned function to
unblit pellets, forcing itself into using a super sloppy 16×8 rectangle
for the job. 🤦 ZUN then tried to mitigate the resulting flickering in two
hilarious ways that just make it worse:
An… "interlaced rendering" mode? This one's activated for all Stage 15
and 20 fights, and separates pellets into two halves that are rendered on
alternating frames. Collision detection with the Yin-Yang Orb and the
player is only done for the visible half, but collision detection with
player shots is still done for all pellets every frame, as are
motion updates – so that pellets don't end up moving half as fast as they
So yeah, your eyes weren't deceiving you. The game does effectively
drop its perceived frame rate in the Elis, Kikuri, Sariel, and Konngara
fights, and it does so deliberately.
📝 Just like player shots, pellets
are also unblitted, moved, and rendered in a single function.
Thanks to the 16×8 rectangle, there's now the (completely unnecessary)
possibility of accidentally unblitting parts of a sprite that was
previously drawn into the 8 pixels right of a pellet. And this
is where ZUN went full and went "oh, I
know, let's test the entire 16 pixels, and in case we got an entity
there, we simply make the pellet invisible for this frame! Then
we don't even have to unblit it later!"
Except that this is only done for the first 3 elements of the player
shot array…?! Which don't even necessarily have to contain the 3 shots
fired last. It's not done for the player sprite, the Orb, or, heck,
other pellets that come earlier in the pellet array. (At least
we avoided going 𝑂(𝑛²) there?)
Actually, and I'm only realizing this now as I type this blog post:
This test is done even if the shots at those array elements aren't
active. So, pellets tend to be made invisible based on comparisons
with garbage data.
And then you notice that the player shot
unblit/move/render function is actually only ever called from the
pellet unblit/move/render function on the one global instance
of the player shot manager class, after pellets were unblitted. So, we
end up with a sequence of
which means that we can't ever unblit a previously rendered shot
with a pellet. Sure, as terrible as this one function call is from
a software architecture perspective, it was enough to fix this issue.
Yet we don't even get the intended positive effect, and walk away with
pellets that are made temporarily invisible for no reason at all. So,
uh, maybe it all just was an attempt at increasing the
ramerate on lower spec PC-98 models?
Yup, that's it, we've found the most stupid piece of code in this game,
period. It'll be hard to top this.
I'm confident that it's possible to turn TH01 into a well-written, fluid
PC-98 game, with no flickering, and no perceived lag, once it's
position-independent. With some more in-depth knowledge and documentation
on the EGC (remember, there's still
📝 this one TH03 push waiting to be funded),
you might even be able to continue using that piece of blitter hardware.
And no, you certainly won't need ASM micro-optimizations – just a bit of
knowledge about which optimizations Turbo C++ does on its own, and what
you'd have to improve in your own code. It'd be very hard to write
worse code than what you find in TH01 itself.
(Godbolt for Turbo C++ 4.0J when?
Seriously though, that would 📝 also be a
great project for outside contributors!)
Oh well. In contrast to TH04 and TH05, where 4 pushes only covered all the
involved data types, they were enough to completely cover all of
the pellet code in TH01. Everything's already decompiled, and we never
have to look at it again. 😌 And with that, TH01 has also gone from by far
the least RE'd to the most RE'd game within ReC98, in just half a year! 🎉
Still, that was enough TH01 game logic for a while.
Next up: Making up for the delay with some
more relaxing and easy pieces of TH01 code, that hopefully make just a
bit more sense than all this garbage. More image formats, mainly.