Memory card

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SRAM memory card, showing the SRAM chip and voltage detection circuit. Picture by HPMAN

The NeoGeo home console and some MVS cabs can use JEIDA V3 memory cards to store game saves and/or high scores, allowing players to save their progress and continue on any system running the same game.

Even if the memory card address space can be freely used, games should only perform memory card operations through the CARD system ROM call to avoid data corruption.

Supported card types

The SP-S2 system ROM (and probably all the others) can handle 8 memory card sizes from 2KiB up to 16KiB, in 2KiB steps:

  • 2KiB
  • 4KiB
  • 6KiB
  • 8KiB
  • 10KiB
  • 14KiB
  • 16KiB

And 4 different card types:

  • 8 bits wide (only the low byte is used)
  • 16 bits wide
  • 16 bits wide "doubled"
  • "SNK ROM" cards

Original SNK card

The original SNK-branded memory card was a battery-backed 8-bit wide 2KiB card using a LH5116 SRAM chip and voltage switching circuitry.

Since it uses a battery, it may be prone to data loss if the voltage drops below 2V. It is unclear if the battery is charged up when plugged into a powered system or not.

CD systems

A "virtual" memory card is embedded in CD systems as a 8KiB battery-backed SRAM chip.

Data format

All cards use the same format regardless of capacity, only regions sizes differ. Since the JEIDA data bus is 16-bits wide, make sure to double the address for 8-bit cards if you choose to access their memory directly.

The data is referred to as "blocks", one block being 64 bytes. The header always occupies the first block. Eg. A 2KiB card can hold (2048/64)-1 = 31 blocks.

The data is split into 5 regions:

Header

Always 64 bytes.

Address Name Size Description
$0~$9 10 bytes Zeros or "SNK ROM " (development unit ?)

For 16 bits "doubled" cards, $6 is set to $0001

$A CARD_SIZE word Address space used by the memory card. Eg. A 2KiB 8-bit card is $1000.
$C byte 0
$D CARD_FAT_1_CHKSUM byte Checksum of FAT 1
$E CARD_FAT_2_CHKSUM byte Checksum of FAT 2
$F CARD_USERNAME_AVAILABLE byte 0 : Username unavailable, !0 : Username available
$10 CARD_USERNAME 16 bytes Card holder's username
$20 CARD_MAGIC 16 bytes $4E $XX $45 $XX $4F $XX $2D $XX $47 $XX $45 $XX $4F $XX $80 $XX ("NEO-GEO", $80)
$30 CARD_REGION byte Region of the system that formated the card, 0 = Japan, 1 = USA, 2 = Europe

Directory

List of saves of 32, 64, 96, 128, 160, 192, 224 or 256 entries. The size depends on the card's capacity.

Note that since the header occupies the first block, there will always be at least one unused directory entry.

Each entry is 4 bytes, with the following format:

Address Size Description
$0 byte Save sub-number (CARD_SUB), 0 to 15. $FF if entry is free.
$1 word Game's NGH number
$3 byte FAT entry index (see below)

FAT 1

List of used blocks of 64, 128, 192, or 256 entries. The size depends on the card's capacity.

  • $02 is a block reserved by the system ROM
  • $01 is a block used by a game
  • $00 is a free block

FAT 2

FAT 2 is simply a mirror of FAT 1.

If any of the FAT tables checksum is bad, the correct table is written over the other one. If both checksums are bad, the system ROM displays an error.

Game Data

Many games use only one block, but some may use more.

The first 20 bytes contain the data title (usually the game and stage name).

Registers

Pinout

See Memory card pinout.