Why these exist (and how they could be found)

The first thing that needs to be set clear about ripped console games is the way they are found. These are often used for “portable” repacks of emulated games; while these kind of uploads would be straightforward with small sized games like 16-bit consoles and the sort, PS1, PS2 and Gamecube games were much bigger, which would mean that it would be less convenient to package in an self-extractable .exe file. For this reason, the games for these CD-based consoles would often get ripped in order to have an much smaller filesize and thus, be able to both share it and download it quickly under slow speeds, which is where it can be speculated about the conditions where these were uploaded and those who downloaded them. For example, here’s an screenshot of 2 repacks of Bloody Roar and Pong The Next Level, which have rather small filesizes:

PSXfin-powered repacks

Now, while there were people sharing ‘Ripkits’ for PSP games around 2005 and ripped Gamecube games onto certain sites around that year and on, ripped games can be commonly found on ‘portable repacks’ as previously mentioned, which often use an trimmed-down image of the original game, often with movies and music files being removed in order to make an smaller file, packaged with an certain emulator (which could be and PCSX2 or Dolphin build from back then, or pSXfin in the case of PS1 games) and a batch file that runs the emulator with the game, all inside an self-extracting executable file…which means that almost everytime you can right-click these and select “Extract to folder” if you have WinRAR installed since they tend to be just an self-extracting archive. Note that the portable repack case tends to be mostly just for PS1 games though, with PS2/GC games using an installer or an simple archive file instead.

Where they could be found

Now, something that needs to be noted is that almost all portable repacks out there come from Latinamerican communities or users, which means that the repackaged uploads tend to be in uploaded videos in Youtube; but in most cases of PS2 and Gamecube repacks, the actual origin of these are from either romman.net (which is defunct since some years ago) or tgbus, and the evidence behind his is that some ripped games had an file modified so that they have certain text replaced like “PRESS START” with “TGBUS.COM”, “WWW.ROMMAN.NET” or “JIM-POSSIBLE”; the last one assumed to be an author of these instead of an website, though nothing else is known about this supposed person.

On the other hand, the PS1 rips are often left unidentified, but in some cases the boot logo is either modified and identified by the responsible, or simply modified to change some text (without an extra logo); in some cases it is just an screen with the Playstation text and some slightly garbled letters instead of anything legible. Some of these can be still found floating around the internet, but several sources are currently non-functional due to the site where they were uploaded, specially for Gamecube: I remember having found years ago an repacked version of Naruto Gekitou Ninja Taisen! 3 with “Dolphin Extremum” and an ripped version that credited TGBUS, but I could no longer find it (and the ISO file I had for it was long lost).

The point is that these kind of uploads do indeed exist, as much as the people that upload them and that they still are around; and while posting the exact instructions on how to obtain these is not part of this article (for obvious reasons), it is time to go on the intriguing part of how these ripped games work:

Taking a look at how they work

In basic terms, these ripped games are as simple as an old PC game that is uploaded on the internet without any music or movie files; most of the time due to the music files being in Redbook audio format and being tied to the CD, but in any case they are quite small as music/movies are absent from the package. Now, while with old PC games it can be as simple as extracting the game files from the CD or image (and applying an no-CD exe if needed) in order to have an quick but lazy ripped PC game, this process for console games can involve an harder process, mainly associated to the way the games interact with files (in this case like many others, movie and music files) and the fact that they still need to be in image files instead of being extracted to a folder.

Now, before entering the danger zone, there should be an rundown of whatever the “portable repacks” do in order to make it run as intended. As it was shown in the first part of this article, these repacks often came up as .exe files, but ranging from 8 to 50MB filesize intead of being an >1MB .exe file (which is often an virus/adware installer like in some romsites), with an icon that often is taken from the game’s boxart.

Now, here’s an screenshot of how WinRAR options appear when right-clicking the Pong executable, as it is an self-extracting archive (SFX for short, at least here) and thus, it actually works with WinRAR:

PSXFin repack- options avaliable after right click

In this case, by SFX archive, it means that it is an archive file, like an common RAR, except that it works as an standalone extractor instead of needing WinRAR, and while an common SFX archive does ask you where you want to extract the archive, these use an silent parameter so that it doesn’t open any window when opened; and also uses an parameter to run an file inside the archive when opened, which is where the batch file inside the archive gets opened. Speaking of the archive, here’s an screenshots of a folder where the Pong SFX archive contents were extracted to:

PSXFin-powered repack example contents

As it can be seen, it includes an batch file, an copy of pSXfin emulator, the image or icon used for the SFX archive icon, an single BIOS file inside the bios folder to run the emulator, and the game image in .cdz, which is an format made and supported by pSXfin itself that pretty much compresses an PS1 image for usage in the emulator. An side effect of making these portable games work as self-extracting archives is that any savegames created by the emulator get wiped when the emulator is closed (unless you prompt it to create an memory card file somewhere in your hard drive through the settings), as normally the memory card files would be saved inside the temporal folder for the archive that gets deleted after the emulator gets closed.

In the case of PS1 and PS2 games, this was mostly achievable with any program that allowed to modify image files like .BIN, .NRG or .IMG, such as PowerISO. However, upon opening the image, whatever you stumbled with could vary a lot depending of the game, from the game file structure, to what files are absent, replaced or dummied out. Some PS1 games being decompressed from .CDZ to .BIN through pSXfin just have an small size bump, around 20mb; but some others could output to much bigger filesizes, possibly from dumming out certain file contents instead of replacing them with dummy files. In some cases, the content size displayed inside the image would both mismatch with the estimated file size given by the program, and the filesize the actual image has. Here’s an example with Pong: The Next Level (the contents of the repack’s Game.bin file on PowerISO), where the .PCM files make the program show that the total filesize would be much bigger than the actual image size:

PSXFin Pong contents

Now, what needs to be done does depend of the game; as for example with Pong The Next Level, turns out that the game contains redbook tracks, which means that the first track contains data, and all other tracks are raw uncompressed audio, which is burned into the original disc to make an Mixed-Mode CD (Data + Audio). What this means is that this game’s size mostly comes from the audio tracks, and the data for the game itself comes off in a 36MB data track (the .PCM files are actually not raw audio, but possibly samples for most of the game sequenced music, and the compression ratio for these files is almost 0%). Some of the game music is sequenced, while other areas used the redbook audio, but this means that music in the gameplay actually was still present even when removing the redbook tracks; this can be seen with this screenshot, where the .bin files from both the repack AND the first track from an proper source of the game have almost the same size (and the .RAR files show that the Game.bin compresses a bit more as the small .STR movie files inside one of the game folders were dummied out in the rip):


Now, for an sample that doesn’t use multiple tracks/redbook audio, here’s an screenshot of a folder with an .CDZ rip of Marvel Super Heroes VS Street Fighter (taken from an repack), along with its uncompressed .bin file, an .RAR file made of the aforementioned .bin file, and for reference/comparison, an .7z & .bin file of an proper/unmodified dump of the game:


Note that while that both .bin files are identical, the compressed .RARs have an larger difference. Now here’s an screenshot that shows the contents of both .bin files in PowerISO (note that the .STR file in the ripped version is replaced with an much shorter movie, something done often, but that only reflects in the compression ratio of said file):


While both seem to have the same contents, here PowerISO gives different results for the total size of the image contents, as there is actually an visible difference: the XA folder.


The .XAP files, which can be assumed to be where the prerecorded music for the game is stored, are dummied out to 0kb in the ripped version, which is why it is much smaller than the original. Essentially, it all comes down to stripping the game from the redbood audio tracks (if it has any), and dummying or replacing any music/movie files.

Now, PS2 portable repacks are much rare to come by, specially as the amount of work needed would be bigger when the games can be up to 4GB in size, but there are still some few ones out there on the wild. One of these is Battle Stadium D.O.N., that came on an archive package instead of an self-extracting archive or installer, and its contents looked like this:


The “Battle Stadium D.O.N.” executable file is just PCSX2 0.9.8, but renamed and with an altered icon (this can be guessed from the folders related to it being present as well). Now, the interesting part as always comes from the file that the emulator uses to run the game, in this case “Data.iso”, which can be seen in this screenshot compared with an compressed an uncompressed archive of an proper/unmodified version of the game:


Something to note is that, while the game size is actually around 240MB, the PS2 version has an 500MB-ish dummy file that bumps up the total size to 700MB (and the properties of PS2 image files probably being responsible of the rest); and the Gamecube version also has the same 240MB size when compressed; but doesn’t have the dummy file (though untouched Gamecube ISOs are always of an 1.3GB size). This ripped version is intersting as, while it does replace the intro/ending movies for something smaller, it does also do some few things like removing some announcer clips on menus, remove some music tracks AND alter ones to be present but with lower quality, and the files used are different than usual:


I checked the executable file (SLPS_256.75) with HxD to see that it was modified to be linked with the renamed/modified .afs files (bgm.afs is now NOW.DAT, movie.afs is now JIM.DAT, and data.afs/se.afs just had their extension changed), and AFSExplorer still can open the .DAT files; the evidence of audio files being dummied out being present in its contents (when checking NOW.DAT).

Now, an interesting one I found was for Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 3; which used the Japanese version (called Dragon Ball Z Sparking Meteor), something that always was the case with Jimpossible rips (some PSX rips also used European games instead of American ones). This one came in an installer, and, for what happens to be the case with pretty much all of the PS2 ones, while Jimpossible is the self-credited responsible for making the edited/ripped ISO files, the repacks often are from someone else, but use these modified ISO images. Here’s an screenshot of the installer (and an compressed archive of the .ISO file that is used in this repack, which is 300MB):


After having installed this one, the contents were the following (note the presence of an JimPossible .DLL file):


The .ISO file here would be “gamedata.maikolik”, and while the size of it is 1,44GB, it compresses to 300MB, as shown in the screenshot above. Now, DBZBT3 is another game that uses AFS files for storing the game contents, and here it seems that they were also renamed as well (Note the presence of an TGBUS.DAT file):

This ripped version chops the intro (which stays in a buggy loop from the very beginning until you skip it), removes several menu voice clips (and some from gameplay) and replaces music with lower quality music.

Now, yet another example is Bloody Roar 3; the one where I got the first screenshots from. Taken from yet another “PC repack” bundled with an emulator, the one where I got from was in a .nrg format instead of being renamed to something weird. Here’s an screenshot of said .nrg file alongside an proper unmodified image file of the game:


Now, just like with the last 2 games, the ripped game contents show the main archive file being renamed, as well as BLOOD3.DAT files being present (which could be an dummy file just to indicate the game, as with STADIUM.DAT/ZMETEOR.DAT in the previous cases); and the executable file being modified to link to the renamed files. (note that on the comparison, the proper image is from a different version than the one used for the rip, which was 2.01)

The second image is important as, the original version has an STR folder with the music files on PCM, as well as the movie files (the .PSS files). This folder however doesn’t exist in the ripped version, instead there being an JIM folder with NOW.DAT and WOW.DAT files. Taking in mind that this ripped game just plays over and over the Game Over music in every stage and menu (except the character select screen), it can be noticed that M13.PCM has the same size as WOW.DAT, assuming that it happens to be that music track, and that the executable was modified to link all music files to that single file.

Now, while I no longer have any Gamecube ripped games from TGBUS, the process for ripping a Gamecube game would involve processes similar to this, replacing any music/movie files with much smaller ones; and as Gamecube file formats are much more investigated (or use common ones like ADX, SFD, H4M, etc), it can be much easier to create or find dummy files to use as replacement.

So…whew, that was an mouthful. This topic always had intrigued me with the topic of those who took their time to open the games and modify them to have lower sizes while sacrificing other aspects, in order to upload them to the internet (for either Chinese or Latinamerican communities, taking in mind the sources these could be found), and while it could be impractical if you have enough space for the proper game, there could end up drawing interest of others that, as I mentioned, downloaded these repacks to pop em on their computers. I think I don’t have anything else left to say, as probably this topic just intrigues me just a bit rather than what it did before, after getting used to mess with image files for games. In any case, thanks for reading this, and I hope that you enjoyed it!