Here goes an Easter gift for the MSX community: Inspired by WYZ's drum kit fix patches for Nemesis-3 and other Konami games, MRC user sd_snatcher decided to try the same on another MSX2 classic: Valis II.

This patch enhances the drum kit of this game, both for the FM and PSG soundtracks, plus some extra enhancements:

  • Some of the sound effects were also enhanced
  • The PSG volume is adjusted to match the FM volume, finally fixing the obnoxiously loud PSG volume that this game originally had
  • Implements a workaround for the sound bug that happens at the 2nd part of the cutscene at the end of act 5
  • Because this game is so CPU heavy, it also enables the turbo on any machine that has the CHGCPU BIOS function on its BIOS, granting a much smoother experience and shorter loading times. This way the game will play at the same speed as the PC-88 version

For an even more pleasant music experience, be sure to check if your MSX computer needs a hardware sound fix at this page.

Relevant link: Valis II drumkit enhancement patch

Comments (28)

By Manuel

Ascended (14122)

Manuel's picture

01-04-2018, 00:14

Wow, that turbo stuff does help for this game! Smile Thanks FRS! The only thing bad about it is that the texts in the intros and cut scenes seem to go a bit too fast now.

Note that the cut scenes only have 8 colors. Points to a cheap conversion from PC-88 graphics, like was done in Snatcher.

By sd_snatcher

Prophet (2726)

sd_snatcher's picture

01-04-2018, 01:38

You're welcome! Smile

In the README I explain that this is not a turbofix. While the game engine natively supports faster CPUs, the cutscenes don't.

They seem to have been programmed by a different guy, and indeed get too fast. To fix this part will require a lot of work because the majority of the game code is obfuscated. IOW, to fix them I would have to extract and decrypt all the binaries, and probably make an HDD version as part of the process. It's a lot of work.

Meanwhile, the workaround is to hold the Z key pressed while the game boots, to prevent the turbo from being enabled.

By JohnHassink

Ambassador (5208)

JohnHassink's picture

01-04-2018, 07:26

Or: how to make an underrated classic even better.
Just found out about this and haven't tested it yet, but it's a given that sd_snatcher doesn't kid around with these kind of things, so this may warrant a soundtrack upload.
I was pondering about recording it with lowered PSG volume by emulation, but this is most probably a much better solution.
Thanks sd_snatcher! Smile

EDIT: Could you please elaborate a little bit on the differences between the driver used in the music test and the one actually used in-game?

By Victor

Champion (377)

Victor's picture

01-04-2018, 06:15

Yeahh!!! FRS did it again!!

Great work!!

By JohnHassink

Ambassador (5208)

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01-04-2018, 08:51

Having checked it, I have to be honest. The fix with the framerate doohickey, I like. It does play a lot smoother. It's a world of difference.
I see no reason however in altering the tone freqs of the PSG percussion like that.
I don't intend to disrespect your work, sd_snatcher, but it's impossible for me to agree with your choices.
Unless something went wrong witch patching the disks.

By Pippo

Champion (346)

Pippo's picture

01-04-2018, 11:19

I think those are wonderful enhancements, really! Big smile
The game is now more beautiful than before! Smile
Dear Snatcher, you are a Great Guy! Smile Smile

By Meits

Scribe (4923)

Meits's picture

01-04-2018, 12:58

Will I finally play this game now? I did so with previous FRS enhancements. It's so much fun to see an amateur perfecting the work of professionals over and over again. Great stuff Smile

By sd_snatcher

Prophet (2726)

sd_snatcher's picture

01-04-2018, 17:32

@JohnHassink

Here goes another TL;DR post, but there's no other way to provide the context for such a challenging project.

For any enhancement project, we have to face two main factors:

1) The technical factors
There are a lot of limitations to overcome:

- Technical restrictions of the MSX architecture
- Technical restrictions of the game itself, given to design decisions made by the original programmers. Otherwise you end up rewriting the whole game, or replacing whole parts like the replayer by new ones. And such integration is not always easy or possible

2) The human factor

We're dealing with people's passions here. There always will be someone who think that a translation ruined some nuances of the original, that a lot go lost in the translation, that a newly added FM (or SCC) soundtrack isn't faithful to the PSG original, or that the higher frequencies of a new FM LPF filter is making their ears bleed.

Even knowing this, once I finished the project I noticed I was afraid that it could be (again) controversial.

For this specific game, there are many technical restrictions:

- Software protections galore: As I mentioned before, this game has plenty of obfuscated code and all kind of software protections everywhere. I wish they did spend more time polishing it instead of creating so many annoying protections. A whole project on itself would be to clean up the game of all this junk so it would be easier to change its internals. Without this, is a nightmare to do any deeper changes in the game.

- The software architecture: they took many shortcut design decisions that made the replayer somewhat clunky. Instead of writing specific routines for the PSG in the FM replayer, they decided to reuse the same routines of the PSG replayer, with the same restrictions.

This is why everything is squeezed into a single channel of the PSG: all pieces of the drumkit, and all sound effects, everything. Because for the PSG soundtrack this was a requirement.
On the FM version, OTOH, the channel-9 of the FM is never used, and the channels 7 and 8 are seldom used. They could certainly have helped with that. To try to disguise the problem that the drumkit disappears when the game plays an SFX, they seem to have castrated the drumkit presets.

Given the way that the music was heartily composed with many different drum pieces, it seems to me that this castration was a decision made as a last minute decision in the project, by the programmer, and not by the musician. And given the prevalence of 6 FM channels, the musician probably composed most of the soundtrack with the OPNA in mind.

The PSG code seems to also have be written with the PC-88 OPN in mind too (where the PSG/FM balance is always correct), and hastily ported to the MSX. So it relies too much in the PSG hardware envelopes to produce many sounds. And you know that the PSG hardware envelopes do not allow volume control (damn you, GI).

You are also aware that, to make things worse, the PSG has no specific volume control for the noise channel (damn you again, GI). If at least the Telenet programmers had used a 2nd PSG channel for the noise generation, things would have been easier. But they insisted on squeezing everything into a single PSG channel, remember?

At least the replayer allowed me to disable the hardware envelopes per instrument preset. But once you disable the hardware envelopes, it has very primitive software envelope control.

Then I had only one choice: either I would disable the hardware envelopes of the drum pieces that sounded too loud, or I would have to replace the entire replayer with a new one with proper software ADSR envelopes and separate noise volume control. Well, the 3rd choice was to do nothing, and still have the PSG screaming like hell. But, again, if someone prefers this they can still play the original game, right?

As you can imagine, what happened to many of the drum pieces after I disabled their hardware envelope is that they sounded totally different. The noise/tone balance changed, the decay curves are totally different. The drum pieces just sounded like crap, with the harsh noise frequencies they had picked becoming even harsher than they where originally.

There was no way to try to preserve the rest of the instrument original settings, as the whole piece just crumbled apart. Some even didn't stop producing sound, and kept a note hanging forever.

The challenge I had to face then was to create new drum pieces from scratch that could fit into the replayer restrictions for software envelopes. And you know how things are in music: once you change certain instruments, others must be adjusted to be in harmony. This was the case of the bass drum, where I had to reduce its harshness to match the smoothness of the new drum kit pieces.

After fiddling a lot with the settings mostly getting horrible results to the point of almost giving up on the project, found out that for many of the base pieces I could somewhat mimic the settings that Compile used for their FM drum kit in many their games, and some of the MSX-BASIC drum kit presets. And given that this was being done with the PSG instead of the FM, I got very surprised! This was my base for my new drum kit. I finally had a direction to go!

The 2nd stage was to find solutions for the remaining pieces that were still troublesome. Then I really had to be creative and improvise. The restrictions were a PITA, and when I couldn't just find any settings close to what I wanted, decided to try something that sounded completely different so I could at least force the replayer to play something that was ear pleasant.

As you can imagine, it was just the same bag of hurt with the sound effects, since they're basically played as drum presets.

And this is the background story of this project. It's really sad that you didn't like it, since I know how much you love this game and you were one of the persons I kept in mind while trying to steer this wild horse where I needed. But it was the best I could produce with such agonizing restrictions. I'm happy I could at least bring the long hidden drum pieces to life, so they are clearly noticeable now.

By Grauw

Enlighted (7010)

Grauw's picture

01-04-2018, 17:17

Nice elaboration! Sounds like it was a fun project to tinker with Smile.

By syn

Paragon (1794)

syn's picture

01-04-2018, 17:42

The first thing that ran through my mind when reading the title of the news post was "why?". back in the days (when I first played valis 2) I though the sound track was great because of the fantastic thumping bombastic psg drums. It was so much better than the crappy default fm drums everything else used. So at first I felt it was odd that someone wants to change that.

I gave it a quick listen, and i would say the new drums range from decent to great. So from sounddesign point of view id say its a good job.

However, i feel the music may have lost a bit of its impact with the newer drums. Maybe due to lower volume or whatever. Or maybe because I feel the old original drums fit the soundtrack better because im used to them.

But this opinion is based on a brief 20 minutes listening /comparison session. Perhaps i just need to get used to the new sounds.

By sd_snatcher

Prophet (2726)

sd_snatcher's picture

01-04-2018, 18:03

JohnHassink wrote:

Could you please elaborate a little bit on the differences between the driver used in the music test and the one actually used in-game?

I forgot to answer this question. The main differences are that the newer ingame replayer:

- Has more drum pieces, and they're used only by the ingame soundtrack
- The PSG software envelopes behave slightly different and are bit more refined. But that also makes it another PITA to calibrate the common presets to sound somewhat the same between the two versions

By Victor

Champion (377)

Victor's picture

01-04-2018, 23:32

sd_snatcher wrote:

It's really sad that you didn't like it, since I know how much you love this game and you were one of the persons I kept in mind while trying to steer this wild horse where I needed. But it was the best I could produce with such agonizing restrictions. I'm happy I could at least bring the long hidden drum pieces to life, so they are clearly noticeable now.

FRS... I understand you perfectly... This is the bad side of this... In a few days I will show "Nemesis 3 Enhanded".. and I'm afraid with the answers with that.... not for the evalutaion of my job, propetly.. but for the dedication and the love that I have dedicated with that.... I'm afraid of loose my motivation...

By fernando.collazo.5682

Master (212)

fernando.collazo.5682's picture

02-04-2018, 06:12

@ sd_snatcher: Wow, fantastic job! I like how the music sound now, I can hear more sounds and the psg drum kit is very well balanced with FM music. Thank you man...

@ Victor: I hope you never loose your motivation, your work is simply superb! Thanks

By J-War

Champion (411)

J-War's picture

02-04-2018, 07:06

Great job ! it sounds wayyyyy better and that's a great improvement to the gameplay. Running Naked in a Field of Flowers Running Naked in a Field of Flowers Running Naked in a Field of Flowers

By JohnHassink

Ambassador (5208)

JohnHassink's picture

02-04-2018, 10:46

My comment was absolutely not meant to demotivate anyone. I'm sorry if it came across like that. I just wanted to be honest about it. I truly deeply respect the huge amount of work and dedication that goes into enhancements like these.

By syn

Paragon (1794)

syn's picture

02-04-2018, 11:28

No offense but it is your opinion, why apologize for it? You didn't say anything bad about anything, you were not flaming, you were just pointing out things you did not like (like I did). You also pointed out things you did like about the patch. You are not obliged to like everything everybody releases. Imho, people should never have to apologize about how they personally feel about things, as long as they share it in a "mature" manner.

By Manuel

Ascended (14122)

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02-04-2018, 14:14

Whoever changes a classic game should be prepared that not everyone will like the changes...

By valkyre

Champion (347)

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02-04-2018, 14:20

@victor- I absolutely can't wait to see your enhancements to nemesis 3.

By Manuel

Ascended (14122)

Manuel's picture

02-04-2018, 15:55

Smooth scrolling nemesis games will always make me smile Smile

By wolf_

Ambassador_ (9644)

wolf_'s picture

02-04-2018, 16:16

Let's make Space Manbow scroll blocky! ^_^

By sd_snatcher

Prophet (2726)

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02-04-2018, 22:49

@Victor

I've seen some sneak peek images you have posted in the Spanish sites, and they looked awesome to me. I'm sure it will be a great enhancement for this classic. Looking forward to the release! Smile

By Victor

Champion (377)

Victor's picture

02-04-2018, 22:52

sd_snatcher wrote:

@Victor

I've seen some sneak peek images you have posted in the Spanish sites, and they looked awesome to me. I'm sure it will be a great enhancement for this classic. Looking forward to the release! Smile

I haven't been able to do it without your help... Thanks my friend!!!

And congratulations again for this patch!!

By sd_snatcher

Prophet (2726)

sd_snatcher's picture

03-04-2018, 01:14

Thank you, everyone! Smile

I made a small update to the patch, to make one of the cymbals punchier. This is drum piece very noticeable in the song that plays in the title screen (Sacred Sacrifice). You might want to re-download.

By journey

Master (215)

journey's picture

03-04-2018, 09:01

I'm not ablt to find the right files (with the proper SH1)... Crying
Someones could help me?
Thank you

By journey

Master (215)

journey's picture

03-04-2018, 16:20

journey wrote:

I'm not ablt to find the right files (with the proper SH1)... Crying
Someones could help me?
Thank you

Ok, the patch seems work with different SH1 DSK also..

By Pippo

Champion (346)

Pippo's picture

03-04-2018, 20:51

Thank you very much for your update, Snatcher! Smile
You are a Great Msx Fan, really! Big smile

By ren

Paragon (1101)

ren's picture

05-04-2018, 22:19

Thanks FRS, overall it's an improvement I think!

The OPLL at some places is still overpowered by the PSG I feel.
Check e.g. 魔の波動 (Aura of Evil) (aka. 'Wave The Demon' (ACT 6-3))
(I only discovered just now that the PC-88 OPNA version is a f*ing tune actually.. ;-)) (Kajihara FTW! ;-))

Some other of my faves (for comparison):
Sacred Sacrifice (PC-88, OPNA)
Sentimental Soldier (PC-88, OPNA)
Constellation of Mirage (X68000)

Seems every version of the soundtrack has it's quirks. E.g. they seemed to have dropped the ball a bit on the OPNA version of Const. of Mirage. And Aura of Evil for OPLL MSX doesn't seem to have gotten that much love.. ;-)

Curious though about the difference in-game & the music test. (Just played a little bit..)

Thanks!

By sd_snatcher

Prophet (2726)

sd_snatcher's picture

06-04-2018, 01:50

Thank you, ren! Smile

ren wrote:

The OPLL at some places is still overpowered by the PSG I feel.

Try it on an MSX model with a good PSG/FM volume balance, like the FS-A1WX or a Turbo-R that has the sound-fix. I noticed that openMSX PSG volume is a bit too loud in this case when compared with those machines.

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