An important update about PAL games on Mega Drive

Throughout our project’s lifespan, people have raised doubts and concerns about using NTSC 60Hz consoles to play back all games, even those that were made in Europe where 50Hz PAL was the standard and, as such, could have been marketed towards their own countries, which ultimately meant that they should have been played at 50Hz (just like JP/US games were meant to be played at 60Hz).

Up until now, 16bap has always made the assumption that, with US/JP being the dominant market making it the most important target for any Mega Drive game released, 60Hz was the standard which developers and composers targeted and developed for.
As a side note, we are still unaware if there are any Mega Drive dev kits made exclusively for the PAL market which run at 50Hz.

Still, this possibility bugged me to the point where I decided to try my luck and reach out to one of the most prolific videogame music composers based in the UK: Matt Furniss.
One more reason for trying to find out whether games developed in Europe should be played back at 50Hz was that due to recent discoveries we have to log all the VGMs again with blast’em, so it would be the perfect moment to try and solve this mystery.

To my surprise and delight, Matt replied to my inquiry and finally the truth I’ve been dreading for all this time was uncovered: all games he composed on Mega Drive were to be played back on a PAL 50Hz system.
I took this chance to hopefully discover whether this was true with all the other European composers and while he said he wasn’t 100% sure, he added that it’s probable that other UK composers used 50Hz to make their tracks on the Mega Drive.
This would make sense and, at this point, it could probably be applied to all other European composers.

It was time to go back to the drawing board and start doing research again. From scratch.
All that we’ve been doing that concerned games developed or composed by European composers has been wrong and 16bap needed a plan.

First and foremost, we needed a list of games which were made in Europe and/or had European composers.
Project2612‘s database came to help as well as SegaRetro and various Wikipedia articles.
After a first draft was finished, I got a lot of help from other very knowledgeable members such as Valleybell and ctr001 who helped me figuring out how certain sound drivers worked and which were most likely meant to be played back at 50Hz (one example is the Krisalis sound driver which, as Valleybell stated, “the sound driver pauses every 6th frame in NTSC mode”).

This took at least a month of everyday work to put together, but in the end I managed with the help of various other contributors of both vgmrips and Project2612 to create a comprehensive wiki entry in the vgmrips wiki about which games should be played at 50Hz.

I would love to say that the list is definitive and 100% accurate, but at this point I can’t make any statements about its accuracy.
The only thing we know for sure is this: if a game was made by Matt Furniss and developed by an European developer, then it must be played on a PAL 50Hz console.

This is where the second and most important part comes in: 16bap needs help in verifying that the games listed in the wiki are indeed to be played at 50Hz.
Right now the list works as follows: if a game was developed by a European developer and its music composed by a European composer, than it is highly likely that the game must be played at 50Hz.
All the other cases (EU dev + non-EU composer or EU composer + non-EU dev) need to be studied and need further research.

And this is pretty much where we’re standing right now: we have a tentative list with only a bunch of games we are certain that need to be played at 50Hz and the rest are pretty much up for debate.

Again, I must stress that any help in verifying the games listed in the vgmrips wiki page I made is more than welcome and we’re in dire need of people to help us logging the VGMs with blast’em.

As for 16bap, I’ll be making amends to our contributor guidelines and I’ll work on a revised version of the Deadfish VGM Player tailored for 50Hz playback.
I’ll make another post when I’ll have finished updating it.

Finally, I’d like to apologize to all people who have been following us for this huge mistake we’ve made.
I’d love to say that this is going to be the last time we mess up, but the reality of things is that even with all the tools at our disposal, there’s still an immense amount of guesswork involved and while we’ll always keep striving to document all our findings and sharing them with the community, we can’t assure that our work is ever going to be 100% accurate, despite our best efforts.

Thank you all so much for sticking with us through the years, it’s been quite a journey, and I’ll be back with a couple more posts in the following weeks, as we have a new updated and improved VGM logging guide in the works which is going to be hosted on the vgmrips wiki to help guide newbies in the process of logging, trimming and looping VGMs properly with blast’em.