SNES Mod Performs Black Magic On Mode 7's Barfy Resolution

The Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 tech was impressive as hell in the early 90s, but all that spinning came at the cost of visual fidelity, with the backgrounds on games like Mario Kart and F-Zero looking like pixellated puke. Two decades on, a mod is trying to clean that up.

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Made by DerKoun, HD Mode 7 (for a SNES emulator) “performs Mode 7 transformations (incl. HDMA) at up to 4 times the horizontal and vertical resolution”. The effects are remarkable.

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Look at that! Those spinning maps/backgrounds were a mess, and this mod cleans ‘em right up.

And it’s not just Nintendo games benefiting. Obviously any game using Mode 7 now looks a lot sharper, like Dragon Quest III:

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This is magic.

You can download and try it out here. Now if you excuse me, I’ve got to track down a copy of Jurassic Park...

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

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DISCUSSION

The neat thing about this is it’s the opposite of black magic - it’s extremely easy to do and pretty straightforward. The hard part is just getting the idea.

First, the textures in your SNES games are pretty good- you’re seeing them as they’re ‘supposed’ to be now. What makes then look like smeary crap in your games is the limitations of the SNES’s mode 7 hardware (and normally the emulators try to reproduce those limitations).

The first fix here is to take your SNES textures and upscale them 4x using nearest neighbor, so one green pixel turns into 16 green pixels. Then it does the scaling and rotation on those higher resolution pixels. That makes a huge improvement (see below). The great thing is that this takes no high resolution packs or anything, you can just use the game’s own textures. No weirdness like neural network upscalers, it’s completely deterministic.

The next thing it does is use much better scaling and rotation math than the SNES could afford, so pixels go where they should be, rather than distorted - this was causing a lot of the ‘noise’ in the F-Zero shot up there.

That’s it!

Examples stolen from Krejlooc:

Here’s a normal SNES tile (the checker bits are transparent)

When you try to rotate it, it’s tough to get things looking good just by moving pixels without anti-aliasing.

It’d look even worse if we were scaling too, and just terrible if we were tilting the plane so the bottom of the tile is towards us and the top is away from us (like most Mode 7 games do).

So you just upscale BEFORE you do anything to it. Each pixel turns into 16.

Now when you rotate it it looks much better:

The more you upscale before rotating the better it looks.