Book Review: The Book of CP-System


The Book of CP-System book cover

Title: The Book of CP-System

Author(s): Fabien Sanglard

As videogames became mainstream and gaming consoles took over the world, Arcades became almost extinct. But during the 80s and 90s, many of us grew playing them at least from time to time. For a while, they were the highest quality gaming devices you could find, with impressive graphics, amazing sound, and frenetic gameplay (and also, insane difficulty past the first level or first few minutes of play). One of the companies that created many of the most famous titles of that era was Capcom, which is still alive and creating games as of 2024.

This book is a remarkable journey into how Capcom arcade games were built at all levels: From the motherboards and chips, to how they were developed, how data was stored, sounds made and played... Almost everything. Quoting the author: "If you want to learn about the hardware powering titles such as Street Fighter II, Ghouls’n Ghosts, or Final Fight, then "The Book of CP-System" is for you. Inside you will find the "Capcom System" (a.k.a CPS-1) explained in excruciating details, along more than one hundred explanatory drawings.

To give a more visual example of what you will find, and the nice detail it goes into, here are two screenshots of book pages; one depicting the CPS-1 logical architecture, and the other showcasing how smart sprites and palettes can make up for limited resources:

Example diagram from the book

Example graphics data explanation from the book

Even if you don't go deep into the lowest levels (circuitry, assembler language, basics of sound wave generation, ...) it is a well worth reading, and I think the most exhaustive source I know about "how 2D arcade games worked". Many other titles, internet articles and retro magazines tell you bits and pieces, but never a full picture. This book not only does that, but even provides you with a small C SDK, CPSS, to tinker around with building CP-S ROMs.

A highly recommended book.

Tags: Reviews Videogames Game Dev

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