Mr. Saturn Says, “This is a test.”
In the past I’ve made videos and written plenty of articles about EarthBound’s copy protection. That’s all old news, but recently the question was asked, “How does EarthBound know if it’s on a bootleg cartridge, and why aren’t ROMs affected by this?”
Here was my quick answer, which I later realized might be worth sharing here on EB Central. I tried to explain without talking about SRAM, memory addresses, or other complicated stuff like that, so it’s a bit simplified from what’s actually going on but hopefully it makes sense:
Here’s how the piracy detection works in simple terms.
Each SNES cartridge that has save data in it has a “box” (actually a special chip but let’s just call it a box) for saving data. Different games have different-sized boxes – some games might need to put a lot of stuff in its box, other games might only need to put a few things in its box. Because of this, boxes come in different sizes, and the smaller the box the cheaper it was for companies to use them.
Bootleg cartridges in the 90s would basically just use big boxes ALL the time. It was just easier to do it that way and most games don’t care of the size of the box, all that matters is that the box is big enough.
EarthBound/Mother 2’s piracy detection works by saying, “Okay, we know what the size our box SHOULD be, so let’s try throwing stuff outside of where the box should be. If the stuff still goes into the box, though, that means the box on this cart is actually bigger than it should be, which means it’s almost certainly pirated.”
Hopefully that makes some sense.
Anyway, emulators don’t trip this because there technically ISN’T a box at all. Modern emulators know how to handle box sizes properly automatically. There’s more to it than that but that’s the simple terms.
Of course, not being an emulator author myself I’m sure the emulator part can be explained much better than that, but hopefully that gives the gist of how EarthBound tries to identify a bootleg cartridge.
Also, I’m 99.9% sure MOTHER 2 has this copy protection too, I’ll have to go back and mess around with it one of these days to find out for sure.
Other Related Posts:
24 Comments to How EarthBound Identifies a Bootleg Cartridge
Featured Item on eBay:
EARTHBOUND Mother (NINTENDO FAMICOM 1989) VGA 85 ARCHIVAL CASE
- Leeaux: This is cool. Man it must have taken forever for him to do all these though. Geez! Bless you Tomato! This is all I have while I wait on...
- KingOfSwords: The Memories civer looks beautiful ;.;
- BoaTransistor: I got the Memories cover this year. In my factual opinion, it is the best-looking EarthBound cover they’ve released yet.
- Globulous: I picked up the Memories cover and planner while I was in Japan, it should be interesting to note that the pocket on the back of the...
- RalahTama: This thread is bad, I’m making it about Talah Rama now. My favorite thing about Talah Rama is his wise, knowing eyes. What’s...