SA-1 Pack is a package of patches for activating and using SA-1 in SMW Hacks
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README.md

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   by Vitor Vilela                 Version 1.XX

The SA-1 Pack is a package of patches for activating and optimizing the SA-1 system for the SMW ROM, with emphasis on eliminating slowdown, game limitations and accelerating the engine to the maximum possible.

What is it?

SA-1 is a co-processor used on some special SNES games, made to work together with the Super NES CPU and enhance its processing speed, graphics and memory.

With its base 10.74 MHz clock, the SA-1 CPU is four times faster than the normal SNES CPU processing. The SA-1 CPU and SNES CPU also runs simultaneously, which can result in five times faster processing over game with a standard cart setup. With that much power, the Super Accelerator System (SAS) can be used to handle the SMW engine much faster than the normal, allowing more sprites to be processed at once, more in-game effects, faster level loading and much more.

SA-1 Pack not just activates the co-processor, but also modifies a good part of the game engine to use and explore the chip features, which gives an extreme boost to the overall performance of the game.

Game Features

  • Makes the game run up to four times faster.
  • Increase the maximum amount of sprites at once on screen to 22.
  • Increase the maximum amount of sprites on a single sub-level to 255.
  • Reduces loading time of all levels and maps.
  • Increase the maximum ROM size to 8 MB.
  • Offers enhanced bitmap and arithmetic capabilities for better graphics performance.

System Features

  • 16-bit 65c816 processor clocked at 10.74 MHz.
  • 2 kB fast internal work memory (I-RAM), clocked at 10.74 MHz.
  • Multi-processor processing, with parallel operating mode and memory sharing control.
  • Large capacity memory, with a total capability of 8 MB of ROM clocked at 10.74 MHz and 256 kB of BW-RAM, clocked at 5.37 MHz.
  • High speed arithmetic hardware of multiplication, division and cumulative sum.
  • Bitmap and Character Conversion functions for fast graphics manipulation.
  • Custom DMA circuit for fast transfers between ROM, I-RAM and BW-RAM.
  • Variable-Length Bit data processing for enhanced algorithms such as graphics and data compression.
  • Super MMC memory mapping capabilities for BW-RAM and bank switching for multiple ROM image access and mirroring.

Compatibility

SA-1 Pack is the most complex patch ever made to Super Mario World. It modifies pretty much the entire game, because the patch moves most of the game logic memory to another region which the SA-1 system can access and modify. In addition to that, a lot of the game routines are slight edited to call the SA-1 CPU during the most heavy operations and even make some of the routines run in parallel (SNES and SA-1 executing code at the same time, in parallel). Together that, some of the game enhancements involves some more deep modifying of the game engine, for example, the More Sprites enhancement, which expands the maximum number of sprites to 22 or the level limits expander, which makes it possible to have up to 255 sprites on a single level and much more...

Fortunately, that does not mean there will be game bugs. Although the patch is extremely complex, extensive tests and verifications have been done and the patch is stable and completely functional. In addition to that, when bugs are found they can be easily fixed without requiring making a new ROM port and updates are warranted to come quickly, as soon as possible when one finds a certain bug in most of the games.

The main implications when using the SA-1 patches are resource and emulator incompatibilities.

Resource Compatibility

Any patch or tool made for editing Super Mario World must be designed to detect the presence of the SA-1 Pack and behave properly when the system is present on the ROM. The resource is responsible for using the correct memory mapping, RAM remapping and for calling the SA-1 CPU on its code, without having to the user manually modify it.

Tools made for editing graphics and music are exempt from this, unless if they edit the ROM directly as well.

Sprites and blocks must be converted for SA-1 compatibility as well, but you can download the SA-1 Convert Tool which allows converting them automatically for you.

Overall, the most important is checking for patch and tool compatibility. On SMW Central, you can verify if a certain resource is compatible or not with SA-1 by checking for thesa-1tag in the submission information.

Lunar Magic has native SA-1 support since version 2.20.

For more information about converting a certain resource to SA-1 compatibility manually, check the docs folder and the technical files included, specially the Memory Map Summary.

Emulator Compatibility

SA-1 is an enhancement chip used on many SNES games. Although quite popular, unfortunately the SA-1 chip lacks proper emulation support for some of the known emulators available to download. Older emulators may not have some of the chip features implemented or may have unstable, slow emulation which can make the game slower, unstable or even completely unplayable. It's extremely important to use an accurate and updated emulator when playing not just regular SA-1 games, but any SMW hack with SA-1 Pack applied. Currently it's strongly recommended to play SA-1 games with Snes9x 1.56 and bsnes/higan. Older or different emulators may not work properly.

ZSNES in particular, while an extremely popular emulator (specially on the last decade), it lacks many SA-1 features and support, which makes it strongly not recommended to play games with. Although I still make (many) efforts for keeping reasonable compatibility with ZSNES, there's absolutely no warranty of performance and stability when playing SMW SA-1 games with it.

SA-1 Pack is fully compatible with real hardware. It works on both hacked SA-1 carts and sd2snes, with a good performance.

For more information about emulator and hardware compatibility, check out the Known Issues document.

Installation

As far working with SA-1 can be tedious at start (specially checking for resource compatibility), with the current development and available compatible resources, it's already doable to pretty much anyone who got a fair experience with SMW Hacking to use it.

In order to get started, grab a new clean ROM. Japanese or European versions will not work.

Now, open the ROM in Lunar Magic and expand it to at least 2MB. Don't save any level nor do any action on the editor.

After expanding, apply sa1.asm to your ROM, using Asar.

Then feel free to test it with your preferred emulator. If it works properly, somewhere in your emulator it should display SA-1, e.g. ROM+RAM+BAT+SA-1 in Snes9x. If you're unsure, try editing level 106, change sprite header memory to 0x10 and insert 20 koopas in the level. If all of them display correctly, SA-1 Pack was successfully inserted.

Now you can apply all other patches/tools that should run before Lunar Magic. Remember that they should have SA-1 compatibility or else they will likely corrupt your ROM.

After it, you can finally use Lunar Magic with your ROM. Remember to use at least version 2.20+.

To enable the double (22 sprites) system, don't forget to change your sprite header memory to 0x10, except in vanilla boss battles, they won't work correctly because of the new sprite memory system.

Important: If you change the decompression option on Lunar Magic, you must reapply sa1.asm to your ROM so the proper fast GFX decompression routine is used. This is important for fast level decompression and compatibility wit advanced resources.

Bowser battles: You must go to level 1C7 and change sprite header to 0x00, because the default sprite header (0x10) doesn't work with it and the player will get some sprite glitches and stuck after beating the boss (fireworks won't work).

F.A.Q

Q: Is it really hard to work with SA-1 Pack?
A: The main difficulty is at converting .asm resources manually, which is only required if your desired resource is not available. Other than that, today it's reasonable easy to use SA-1 Pack.
Q: After editing my ROM on Lunar Magic, the ROM crashes or glitches before the title screen. What's going on?
A: Your Lunar Magic version isn't compatible with SA-1 Pack. Please update to at least version 2.20.
Q: After expanding my ROM to 8MB, ZSNES won't open the ROM anymore.
A: ZSNES doesn't support 8MB ROMs, only up to 6MB. Try restoring your ROM to a previous state using Lunar Magic or with a backup. You can also try FuSoYa's custom ZSNES build.
Q: Whenever I apply a patch to my ROM, it starts crashing.
A: Make sure that the patch is SA-1 compatible. Patches that are not designed to work with SA-1 Pack will 99% likely crash your ROM.
Q: Whenever I use a certain tool, the ROM crashes as well...
A: Make sure that the tool is SA-1 compatible. Compatible tools will have the "sa-1" tag on the SMW Central sections. If the tool you're looking for is not compatible with SA-1, try asking for help in the forums for assistance or alternatives.
Q: If I insert a custom block or custom sprite, the ROM crashes or glitches when the block/sprite is present.
A: Blocks and sprites may need to be converted to SA-1. If case the one you downloaded is not compatible with SA-1, you can use the SA-1 Convert tool to automatically convert them for you.
Q: How I can make something compatible with SA-1?
A: Check out the [Programming](/docs/programming.md) section for more information. You will need some ASM knowledge to edit .asm files beforehand.
Q: If I change "Compression Options for this ROM" on Lunar Magic, the ROM gets a little slower on loading screens. Why?
A: You have to reapply sa1.asm after you change the compression option, since SA-1 processes that specific part and it needs a specific decompresser to work property.

Credits

SA-1 Pack wouldn't be that awesome without help from these people:

  • 33953YoShI (LZ2 patch, original Japanese patch inspiration)
  • Adam (testing)
  • Arujus (More Sprites patch)
  • Alcaro (ZSNES detection code)
  • edit1724 (LZ2/3 patches)
  • Ersanio (LZ2 patch)
  • FuSoYa (6-8MB mapping support/idea, LZ3 patch, LM support)
  • Koopster (testing and documentation)
  • Lui37 (testing)
  • Min (LZ2 patch)
  • smkdan (LZ2 patches and assistance for fixing VRAM patch)
  • Ripperon-X (testing)
  • Vitor Vilela (that crazy author that did most of the things)
  • You (for using it :D)

Read More

There's more documents and information available in the docs sub-folder:

Programming is a full guide about the wonderland SA-1 Pack programming and many special features you can use in your ROM hack. Additionally, how to convert any incompatible resource to SA-1 Pack compatible resource.

Notable Changes is a list of notable changes between a normal, SlowROM SMW ROM and a SA-1 Pack SMW ROM.

Known Issues is a list of currently known SA-1 Pack issues for each known SNES emulator and hardware. Issues varies between emulator bugs and SA-1 Pack bugs, which are properly marked for each case.

Memory Map Summary contains a summary about all memory changes between the normal SMW ROM and the SA-1 SMW ROM, either because of the SA-1 ROM mapping or SA-1 Pack memory remaps. Worth reading for who is interested in converting resources to SA-1 format or is interested in understanding how the patch works.

BW-RAM contains the map of all BW-RAM related addresses and information about its mapping capabilities.

I-RAM contains the map of all I-RAM related addresses and information about its mapping capabilities.

W-RAM contains the map of all SNES WRAM related addresses, focused in the differences between normal SMW WRAM map and SA-1 Pack WRAM map.

Sprite Remap is a summary about all the sprite table remaps made by More Sprites patch.

remap.asm contains an .asm macro containing all SA-1 Pack related remaps for using in patches, blocks and sprites.

Useful Links

Technical documents

Useful documents for understanding SA-1:

Personal

You can contact make though the following links: