If you’re into the original Xbox, then you probably know that Microsoft released several different hardware revisions over the console’s lifespan. These revisions were released under the covers, with no outside differences between, say, a 1.2 console and a 1.6 console. But the variations are meaningful, impacting both longevity and reliability. CRTGAMER over at Racketboy wrote up a pretty thorough rundown of the various revisions. If you want to know more, that’s your introductory course.
Today, however, I’m wanting to talk about a very specific problem that afflicts the final revision, 1.6. The gist is that Microsoft changed the video encoder to the “Xcalibur” chip in order to combat modding and piracy. The unintended (?) side effect was that the Xcalibur chip broke 480p support for several games. It’s a fairly notorious issue for several reasons. Partly because the 1.6 Xbox is durable and commonly found, but also because two of the broken games are among the console’s top exclusives – Panzer Dragoon Orta and GunValkyrie.
Unlike other games that had their 480p modes broken on the Xcalibur (such as Serious Sam), these two cult-favorite Sega titles are still best experienced on the original Xbox. Panzer has performance issues when played on the 360, and Valkyrie never even got a backwards compatibility patch. Clearly, this sucks for 1.6 Xbox owners. Until now, we’ve been forced to choose between older Xbox hardware or the ability to play these brilliant games in crystal-clear progressive scan.
João Luiz posted a video on YouTube showing an easy workaround for 480p Panzer on the 1.6 Xbox. First, he memorized the button presses needed to launch the original Panzer Dragoon from the “Pandora’s Box” option in Orta. He then executed these inputs blind, despite the corrupted Xcalibur encoding. For some reason, the Panzer Dragoon port runs just fine in 480p . Better yet, upon exiting, Orta does as well! Another user – André Marques – then used a hex editor to inspect the differences between the Orta .XBE before and after the workaround. He was then able to produce a set of .XBE files that allow Orta to run in 480p on Xcalibur/1.6 Xbox consoles without having to go through the Pandora’s Box workaround. He also brought these changes over to GunValkyrie.
I’m not going to go into detail on how to mod your system or set up the toolchain, but here’s what you’ll need:
- Panzer Dragoon Orta
- A modded 1.6 Xbox
- FTP software
- DVD2XBOX (Also available at ‘the usual places’.)
- The patched .XBEs. (These work on PAL and NTSC systems.)
After that, it’s a fairly simple process. My Xbox is softmodded and has a large replacement HDD, so I’ll be summarizing the steps needed to run the games off the HDD. If you want to burn patched copies to DVD, then that’s entirely doable. You’ll just need to rip the game to your computer, remove the original .XBE and replace with the patched files, then burn the game back to disk. But for HDD users:
- Rip Orta and Valkyrie to your Xbox HDD with DVD2XBOX.
- FTP into your console with Filezilla.
- Rename the original “default.xbe” files to “default.xbe_bak”, etc.
- Copy in the patched “Default.xbe” and “Gamefix.xbe”.
- On your console, run the “Default.xbe” file.
- Voila! 480p Sega goodness on your 1.6 Xbox!
I don’t know how you guys feel, but this has been a major pet peeve of mine over the years. I didn’t want to throw out my modded 1.6, didn’t want to buy another Xbox for two games, hated enabling/disabling 480p between play sessions, and hated ruining Panzer‘s gorgeous art with interlacing. Now I’m that much closer to being a happy camper. Enjoy!