Gameboy Bootstrap ROM

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The DMG bootstrap

On July 17, 2003, neviksti published that he had been able to extract the contents of the Gameboy boot ROM from a DMG-01 on the forums. The boot ROM is a bootstrap program which is a 256 bytes big piece of code which checks the cartridge header is correct, scrolls the Nintendo bootup graphics and plays the "po-ling" sound.

When the Gameboy is turned on, the bootstrap ROM is situated in a memory page at positions $0-$FF (0-255). The CPU enters at $0 at startup, and the last two instructions of the code writes to a special register which disables the internal ROM page, thus making the lower 256 bytes of the cartridge ROM readable. The last instruction is situated at position $FE and is two bytes big, which means that right after that instruction has finished, the CPU executes the instruction at $100, which is the entry point code on a cartridge.

Neviksti managed to read out this memory area by opening the CPU of a Gameboy he got from Duo, and looking at it with a microscope. That way he managed to read the code bit by bit.

The SGB bootstrap

On September 16th, 2009, Costis Sideris was able to extract the Super Gameboy bootrom using a form of clock glitching involving an FPGA. See Costis's page describing the dumping. The clock crystal for the SGB was disconnected and instead controlled by the FPGA. After viewing an address bus trace (which shows the address as the bootrom is reading/writing to the $FFxx i/o space, but not the data), he found which exact clock cycle the write to the $FF50 register (which disables the bootrom) was. He then caused the FPGA to clock the SGB CPU at 4 times the normal speed for that write cycle only. This caused the CPU to glitch, the disable write to fail to properly occur, and the program counter to continue past there to $100 and onward, into cartridge rom space. A program was placed in that area which wrote the bootrom out byte by byte to the FPGA (using a bogus cartridge-address-space address which the FPGA recognized).

When the Super Gameboy is turned on, the first part of the bootrom is not very different from the DMG one; it sets up sound registers and clears vram, but also writes 0x30 to the $ff00 keypad port (which the sgb uses as a bit-banged serial output port in addition to its keypad reading function). After that however, it clears WRAM bytes $c05f to $c058, and then copies the cartridge header ($104 to $14f) to WRAM at $c000-$c057, placing count and sum bytes at $c000-$c001, $c010-$c011, $c020-$c021, $c030-$c031, $c040-$c041 and $c050-$c051. This data is then bit-banged as a giant packet over the $ff00 port to the snes. See Just Dessert's disassembly at the MESS forums. Unlike the DMG and CGB bootroms, the bootrom does NOT lock out the cartridge if the header sum or logo is wrong; its the SNES which does that!

The CGB bootstrap

Neviksti has also tried to extract the bootstrap from a Gameboy Color (CGB-01) CPU. However, because that CPU uses NAND ROM and is laid out in a different way, he had no success in extracting that ROM. Based on some limited preliminary decapsulation work done by Dr. Decapsulator, it was determined that the CGB CPU die has three roms on it: one 256 bytes, one 512 bytes, and one 1792 bytes.

The 'Pokemon' CGB bootstrap

An interesting 'prototype' version of the CGB bootrom can be found ?accidentally? included in the "Pokemon Stadium" N64 cartridge rom. This might possibly have been a leftover from an earlier prototype "Pokemon Stadium" cartridge which actually had a variant CGB CPU on it which would retrieve its rom from the n64 rom. The final n64 cartridge does not have a CGB CPU on it; it just retrieves pokemon data from the gameboy cart SRAM.


Apart from amazement, the dumping of the DMG bootrom led to the inclusion of a feature to emulate the bootstrap ROM in the emulators KiGB and BGB. The dumping of the SGB bootrom led to the inclusion of support for it in the MESS emulator.

Other findings

As a result of the process, neviksti also published pictures of the rest of the chip. All material published in conjunction with the hack can be found here: [1]


The following invention is claimed for the bootstrap:

Contents of the ROM

Below is the disassembled code of the bootstrap ROM, together with Neviksti's comments. A binary file of the 256 byte area can be downloaded here: [2]. The disassembled ROM file can also be found here: [3].

	LD SP,$fffe		; $0000  Setup Stack

	XOR A			; $0003  Zero the memory from $8000-$9FFF (VRAM)
	LD HL,$9fff		; $0004
	LD (HL-),A		; $0007
	BIT 7,H		; $0008
	JR NZ, Addr_0007	; $000a

	LD HL,$ff26		; $000c  Setup Audio
	LD C,$11		; $000f
	LD A,$80		; $0011 
	LD (HL-),A		; $0013
	LD ($FF00+C),A	; $0014
	INC C			; $0015
	LD A,$f3		; $0016
	LD ($FF00+C),A	; $0018
	LD (HL-),A		; $0019
	LD A,$77		; $001a
	LD (HL),A		; $001c

	LD A,$fc		; $001d  Setup BG palette
	LD ($FF00+$47),A	; $001f

	LD DE,$0104		; $0021  Convert and load logo data from cart into Video RAM
	LD HL,$8010		; $0024
	LD A,(DE)		; $0027
	CALL $0095		; $0028
	CALL $0096		; $002b
	INC DE		; $002e
	LD A,E		; $002f
	CP $34		; $0030
	JR NZ, Addr_0027	; $0032

	LD DE,$00d8		; $0034  Load 8 additional bytes into Video RAM
	LD B,$08		; $0037
	LD A,(DE)		; $0039
	INC DE		; $003a
	LD (HL+),A		; $003b
	INC HL		; $003c
	DEC B			; $003d
	JR NZ, Addr_0039	; $003e

	LD A,$19		; $0040  Setup background tilemap
	LD ($9910),A	; $0042
	LD HL,$992f		; $0045
	LD C,$0c		; $0048
	DEC A			; $004a
	JR Z, Addr_0055	; $004b
	LD (HL-),A		; $004d
	DEC C			; $004e
	JR NZ, Addr_004A	; $004f
	LD L,$0f		; $0051
	JR Addr_0048	; $0053

	; === Scroll logo on screen, and play logo sound===

	LD H,A		; $0055  Initialize scroll count, H=0
	LD A,$64		; $0056
	LD D,A		; $0058  set loop count, D=$64
	LD ($FF00+$42),A	; $0059  Set vertical scroll register
	LD A,$91		; $005b
	LD ($FF00+$40),A	; $005d  Turn on LCD, showing Background
	INC B			; $005f  Set B=1
	LD E,$02		; $0060
	LD C,$0c		; $0062
	LD A,($FF00+$44)	; $0064  wait for screen frame
	CP $90		; $0066
	JR NZ, Addr_0064	; $0068
	DEC C			; $006a
	JR NZ, Addr_0064	; $006b
	DEC E			; $006d
	JR NZ, Addr_0062	; $006e

	LD C,$13		; $0070
	INC H			; $0072  increment scroll count
	LD A,H		; $0073
	LD E,$83		; $0074
	CP $62		; $0076  $62 counts in, play sound #1
	JR Z, Addr_0080	; $0078
	LD E,$c1		; $007a
	CP $64		; $007c
	JR NZ, Addr_0086	; $007e  $64 counts in, play sound #2
	LD A,E		; $0080  play sound
	LD ($FF00+C),A	; $0081
	INC C			; $0082
	LD A,$87		; $0083
	LD ($FF00+C),A	; $0085
	LD A,($FF00+$42)	; $0086
	SUB B			; $0088
	LD ($FF00+$42),A	; $0089  scroll logo up if B=1
	DEC D			; $008b  
	JR NZ, Addr_0060	; $008c

	DEC B			; $008e  set B=0 first time
	JR NZ, Addr_00E0	; $008f    ... next time, cause jump to "Nintendo Logo check"

	LD D,$20		; $0091  use scrolling loop to pause
	JR Addr_0060	; $0093

	; ==== Graphic routine ====

	LD C,A		; $0095  "Double up" all the bits of the graphics data
	LD B,$04		; $0096     and store in Video RAM
	PUSH BC		; $0098
	RL C			; $0099
	RLA			; $009b
	POP BC		; $009c
	RL C			; $009d
	RLA			; $009f
	DEC B			; $00a0
	JR NZ, Addr_0098	; $00a1
	LD (HL+),A		; $00a3
	INC HL		; $00a4
	LD (HL+),A		; $00a5
	INC HL		; $00a6
	RET			; $00a7

	;Nintendo Logo
	.DB $CE,$ED,$66,$66,$CC,$0D,$00,$0B,$03,$73,$00,$83,$00,$0C,$00,$0D 
	.DB $00,$08,$11,$1F,$88,$89,$00,$0E,$DC,$CC,$6E,$E6,$DD,$DD,$D9,$99 
	.DB $BB,$BB,$67,$63,$6E,$0E,$EC,$CC,$DD,$DC,$99,$9F,$BB,$B9,$33,$3E 

	;More video data
	.DB $3C,$42,$B9,$A5,$B9,$A5,$42,$3C

	; ===== Nintendo logo comparison routine =====

	LD HL,$0104		; $00e0	; point HL to Nintendo logo in cart
	LD DE,$00a8		; $00e3	; point DE to Nintendo logo in DMG rom

	LD A,(DE)		; $00e6
	INC DE		; $00e7
	CP (HL)		; $00e8	;compare logo data in cart to DMG rom
	JR NZ,$fe		; $00e9	;if not a match, lock up here
	INC HL		; $00eb
	LD A,L		; $00ec
	CP $34		; $00ed	;do this for $30 bytes
	JR NZ, Addr_00E6	; $00ef

	LD B,$19		; $00f1
	LD A,B		; $00f3
	ADD (HL)		; $00f4
	INC HL		; $00f5
	DEC B			; $00f6
	JR NZ, Addr_00F4	; $00f7
	ADD (HL)		; $00f9
	JR NZ,$fe		; $00fa	; if $19 + bytes from $0134-$014D  don't add to $00
						;  ... lock up

	LD A,$01		; $00fc
	LD ($FF00+$50),A	; $00fe	;turn off DMG rom


Mirror of the original Cherryroms thread on