HTML5 Pokemon Save File Viewer

This was a blog post originally published in 2014 on Blogger.
I have resurrected it for posterity, there are other posts from my Blogger that have since disappeared.
This repository is also one of my most popular ones on GitHub, a live version of the viewer can be seen here.

Note: I initially slated this blog post to be posted months ago but from the looks of it never got round to finishing it, as such some of the details might be slightly out of date or incomplete. I have gone through quickly and tried to make sure things make sense.

For quite a while I have been working on a personal project involving JavaScript, the new HTML5 File API and an interest in emulation using JavaScript and HTML5.

The project I have been working in is a Save File Reader written for the first generation of Pokémon games.

Initially I wanted to try my hand at writing a Game Boy emulator in JavaScript, but after a bit of research I decided I should probably start smaller. Having been familiar with the first generation of Pokémon games (I grew up with them) and having access to some references on the save file format used along with ROM copies of the cartridges I own I decided to put some of the research I had done into the HTML5 File API to use in the hopes that it would help me learn a bit more about how to use, how older games stored their save data and give me some practice at creating tools.

This blog post details my foray into the creation and development of my first generation Pokémon save file reader.

Preparation

The first thing I needed was a game to target and a save file to use, I chose Pokémon Yellow as I already had the ROM file and had played on and off with the original cartridge earlier in the year (exploring some of the bugs and exploits in the game).

The next thing I needed was a reference to the Save File format/structure used, luckily there are a lot of resources around in regards to the Pokémon franchise, the go to place from the look of it is called Bulbapedia; for a reference on the save file format specifically, this page.

The page in question maps out most of the important parts of the save file format and links to other relevant pages that describe how the Pokémon data structures work and many other mechanics and internals of the first generation of Pokémon games (a goldmine of information if you are into that sort of thing, or want to learn about some of the problems with the first generation and how they were addressed in later generations).

Armed with this reference, a hex editor (I use a free one called xvi32) I began a new game in Pokémon Yellow on an emulator (I used Visual Boy Advance, purely due to familiarity with it; for any real fiddling with gameboy game internals you should have a look at BGB). Using my hex editor I started poking and prodding the save files it made in an attempt to make sure the data was in the same place as described by the reference I was using (it always pays to be sure), once satisfied I started coding my HTML and JavaScript Files.

The Coding

Initially I decided not to make use of any external JavaScript libraries and only use functions and objects available to me in a browser environment. I quickly decided to go back on this and make use of jQuery since I wanted to familiarize myself with it and it had several capabilities that I wanted to take advantage of, still I wanted to divorce as much of the code as I could from the library so abstracted out my front end from the guts of the save file parser I wanted to create.

Loading the Save Files and Validating

The first thing I decided to program, for obvious reasons, was the choosing/loading of the save file. I opted to use the HTML5 File API since it allows me to get access to a given file on the user’s file system without the need to upload it to a server and write a server side parser (when I started this project I had not even considered node.js). This was as simple as checking that the user’s browser supported the HTML5 File API and if so binding an event to an input element. To read the file I needed to make use of a FileReader object and it’s method readAsBinaryString; this let’s you read the value of each byte in a file as a string, utilizing this and the offsets described in the reference I linked to earlier I was able to read the data from the save file correctly.

Using the HTML5 File API also gets around any legal issues that could arise from hosting the save files, although as far as I am aware there are none, it also means that I do not need to keep a copy of the uploaded save file, cutting down on space used.

Next up was validating that the given file was in fact a save file, I did this in two ways; first I check the size of the file is 32KB and then I check that the file ends with .sav. There is still a chance that you can use a bogus file, in which case you would get garbage data out (garbage in, garbage out), but these two simple conditions prevent the user from accidentally crashing their browser by choosing a huge file (as the project currently reads the entire file into a string as described above) and from choosing a file with the incorrect extension.

With validation done it was finally time to read some real data from the save file, so what did I think should be first? The player’s name!

Reading the Player’s name (and other Text Strings)

Text data in the first generation of Pokémon games is stored using a proprietary character set. Each character is represented by 1 byte in a range from 0x0 to 0xFF (that is 0 to 255 in regular, non hexadecimal numbers). The table below has been copied from Bulbapedia and describes what each character is mapped to in the character set.

-0 -1 -2 -3 -4 -5 -6 -7 -8 -9 -A -B -C -D -E -F
0-
1-
2-
3-
4-
5-
6-
7-
Unused, except for:
0x50 (terminator) and
0x7F (space)
8- A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P
9- Q R S T U V W X Y Z ( ) : ; [ ]
A- a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p
B- q r s t u v w x y z
C-
D-
Unused
E- PK MN ? ! .
F- × / , 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

So I had to create a map/table containing all these characters in my JavaScript code so I could translate the text in the save files to it’s UTF-8 counterpart. This was simple enough although it took longer than I liked (I was programming this at around midnight at the time). Once complete it was simple matter of reading the characters contained in the save file starting at the correct offset to get the player’s name and ending either when we encounter a terminator character or when we get past the set length of the string (this hearkened me back to learning C and how strings worked, and was just as simple to program and understand).

Now I could read the player’s name and any other string inside the save file using a simple method call, so I added reading the Rival’s name to the save file viewer.

Trainer ID and Other Number values

The next thing I decided to get working was reading the player’s Trainer ID. This was simply stored as a number occupying two bytes starting in a specific location in the save file. Because the save file had been loaded into memory as a text string with one character per byte I needed to read the value of two characters and convert them into the correct number. I did this using a simple method shown below:

function hex2int(offset, size) {
    var val = "";
    for(var i = 0; i < size; i ++) {
        var d = data.charCodeAt(offset + i).toString(16);
        if(d.length < 2) d = "0" + d; // append leading 0
        val += d;
    }
    return parseInt(val, 16);
}

(There may be a better way to do this but this worked well for me.)

This was then also used for all the other number values needed in the viewer, including; the time played, number of an item, and Pokémon stats.

So now I had the ability to read and interpret most of the data in file I cracked onto the more difficult parts of the save file data structure as well as the slightly obscure ways it stored data.

Show me the Money, and your Pokédex!

Money in the first generation of Pokémon games is not stored as a regular number, but instead stored as a binary-coded decimal (BCD), so I had to write a routine to read the correct value from the 3 bytes that represent each of the 6 digits.

I also had to write a routine to decode the Pokédex lists inside the save file as well. These were coded in a very neat way, each Pokémon was represented by a bit inside of 19 bytes (for a total of 152 values). So all I did was output these as a long binary string.

Items and Item Lists

There are two places items are stored in the first generation of Pokémon games; the PC and the players bag. Each share the same basic structure called an Item List, the only difference between them is their total capacity/length.

Offset Size Contents
0x00 1 Count
0x01 2 * Capacity Entries
… +0x00 1 Terminator

As you can see from this table (courtesy of bulbapedia again), the start of each Item List contains 1 byte that tells you how many unique items the list currently contains and another byte at the end of it used as a terminator.

Each item takes up 2 bytes in the table, the first tells you how many of that item are present in the list, and the second is the item ID which is used to determine what the item is called and what it does. As this is a save file viewer the ability to discern what items you have in the save file are probably quite relevant so I opted to create another table/map object similar to the before mentioned character set that contained all the named objects in the game and their corresponding IDs, as can be seen below.

function getItemNameFromHexIndex(hex) {
    var itemMap = {
        0x00 : "Nothing",
        0x01 : "Master Ball",
        0x02 : "Ultra Ball",
        0x03 : "Great Ball",
        0x04 : "Poké Ball",
        0x05 : "Town Map",
        0x06 : "Bicycle",
        0x07 : "?????",
        0x08 : "Safari Ball",
        0x09 : "Pokédex",
        0x0A : "Moon Stone",
        0x0B : "Antidote",
        0x0C : "Burn Heal",
        0x0D : "Ice Heal",
        0x0E : "Awakening",
        0x0F : "Parlyz Heal",
        0x10 : "Full Restore",
        0x11 : "Max Potion",
        0x12 : "Hyper Potion",
        0x13 : "Super Potion",
        0x14 : "Potion",
        0x15 : "BoulderBadge",
        0x16 : "CascadeBadge",
        0x17 : "ThunderBadge",
        0x18 : "RainbowBadge",
        0x19 : "SoulBadge",
        0x1A : "MarshBadge",
        0x1B : "VolcanoBadge",
        0x1C : "EarthBadge",
        0x1D : "Escape Rope",
        0x1E : "Repel",
        0x1F : "Old Amber",
        0x20 : "Fire Stone",
        0x21 : "Thunderstone",
        0x22 : "Water Stone",
        0x23 : "HP Up",
        0x24 : "Protein",
        0x25 : "Iron",
        0x26 : "Carbos",
        0x27 : "Calcium",
        0x28 : "Rare Candy",
        0x29 : "Dome Fossil",
        0x2A : "Helix Fossil",
        0x2B : "Secret Key",
        0x2C : "?????",
        0x2D : "Bike Voucher",
        0x2E : "X Accuracy",
        0x2F : "Leaf Stone",
        0x30 : "Card Key",
        0x31 : "Nugget",
        0x32 : "PP Up",
        0x33 : "Poké Doll",
        0x34 : "Full Heal",
        0x35 : "Revive",
        0x36 : "Max Revive",
        0x37 : "Guard Spec.",
        0x38 : "Super Repel",
        0x39 : "Max Repel",
        0x3A : "Dire Hit",
        0x3B : "Coin",
        0x3C : "Fresh Water",
        0x3D : "Soda Pop",
        0x3E : "Lemonade",
        0x3F : "S.S. Ticket",
        0x40 : "Gold Teeth",
        0x41 : "X Attack",
        0x42 : "X Defend",
        0x43 : "X Speed",
        0x44 : "X Special",
        0x45 : "Coin Case",
        0x46 : "Oak's Parcel",
        0x47 : "Itemfinder",
        0x48 : "Silph Scope",
        0x49 : "Poké Flute",
        0x4A : "Lift Key",
        0x4B : "Exp. All",
        0x4C : "Old Rod",
        0x4D : "Good Rod",
        0x4E : "Super Rod",
        0x4F : "PP Up",
        0x50 : "Ether",
        0x51 : "Max Ether",
        0x52 : "Elixir",
        0x53 : "Max Elixir"
    };
    // Add all 5 of the HMs
    for(var i = 0; i < 5; i ++) {
        itemMap[0xC4+i] = "HM0" + (1+i);
    }
    // Add all 55 og the TMs
    for(i = 0; i < 55; i ++) {
        var num = (1+i);
        if(num < 10) num = "0" + num;
        itemMap[0xC9+i] = "TM" + num;
    }
    return itemMap[hex];
}

I was later given advice on how to improve this code's performance.

That’s a lot of items, especially TMs, luckily all the TM items were stored in order so I could generate their entries automatically.

Armed with this function and the hex2int function previously shown I was able to write a function that could parse an item list of any given length.

Now I had the ability to see a Trainer’s name, Rival’s name, Money, Pokédex entries, and items in the trainers bag and PC, but something was missing…

The Pokémon!

Each Pokémon the player owns is saved within the save file (obviously) and each one in turn has many statistics associated with it that are also saved, making them take up the majority of the file. They are also organized in special separate lists. All of these factors consequently make them bit harder to parse.

There are in fact 14 Pokémon lists in the save file, 12 of which represent the PC Boxes in game, with 1 also being used to store data on the current open PC box and 1 being used for the Pokémon in the players party.

Pokémon Lists can vary in size and capacity but all follow the same structure:

Offset Size Contents
0x0000 1 Count
0x0001 Capacity + 1 Species
… + 0x0000 Capacity * Size Pokémon
… + 0x0000 Capacity * 11 OT Names
… + 0x0000 Capacity * 11 Names

Again this table comes from Bulbapedia. As you can see the first entry denotes how many Pokémon are present in the given list (between 0 and the list’s capacity; this is either 6 or 20).

The second entry tells you the type of each Pokémon in the list based on an index ID (you can see the list here), so I had to create another map with the corresponding names in it (I wont show it here since it would be very long). After doing this I was able to get out the species of each Pokémon in a list (I started first with the party list), but not the actual names/nicknames of each Pokémon in question.

The last set of entries in the table is a set of names, 1 for each Pokémon in the list. These are stored in the same way as Item names and the trainer name, as a text string using the correct character set. All Pokémon have an entry here, even those without nicknames; their entries will be equal to their species name (Note: Because of this if you nickname your Pokémon it’s own species name, in upper case, it will change upon evolving).

The OT Names list is simply a list of names referring to the original trainer who caught the Pokémon.

So that leaves the actual Pokémon entries inside the list. These store the actual Pokémon data structures and varies in length based on whether the list represents a PC Box or the player’s party.

For this I created a constructor that took in the starting offset for the Pokémon in question and a boolean value that flagged it as a party member or not. The difference between a party member Pokémon and PC Pokémon in terms of storage was simply that the party member Pokémon stored extra values compared to the PC Pokémon; this created a clever exploit in the first generation of games known as the box trick, as these extra values were recalculated upon removing a Pokémon from the PC and could be manipulated in certain ways.

Below is the code for the constructor method:

function Pokemon(startOffset, isPartyMember) {
    this.index = hex2int(startOffset, 1);
    this.species = getSpeciesFromIndex(this.index); // derived from index
    this.currentHp = hex2int(startOffset + 0x01, 2);
    this.level = hex2int(startOffset + 0x03, 1);
    this.status = hex2int(startOffset + 0x04, 1);
    this.type1Index = hex2int(startOffset + 0x05, 1);
    this.type2Index = hex2int(startOffset + 0x06, 1);
    this.type1 = getPokemonType(this.type1Index);
    this.type2 = getPokemonType(this.type2Index);
    this.catchRate = hex2int(startOffset + 0x07, 1);
    this.move1Index = hex2int(startOffset + 0x08, 1);
    this.move2Index = hex2int(startOffset + 0x09, 1);
    this.move3Index = hex2int(startOffset + 0x0A, 1);
    this.move4Index = hex2int(startOffset + 0x0B, 1);
    this.ownerID = hex2int(startOffset + 0x0C, 2);
    this.exp = hex2int(startOffset + 0x0E, 3);
    this.hpEV = hex2int(startOffset + 0x11, 2);
    this.attackEV = hex2int(startOffset + 0x13, 2);
    this.defenseEV = hex2int(startOffset + 0x15, 2);
    this.speedEV = hex2int(startOffset + 0x17, 2);
    this.specialEV = hex2int(startOffset + 0x19, 2);
    this.IV = hex2int(startOffset + 0x1B, 2);
    this.move1PP = hex2int(startOffset + 0x1D, 1);
    this.move2PP = hex2int(startOffset + 0x1E, 1);
    this.move3PP = hex2int(startOffset + 0x1F, 1);
    this.move4PP = hex2int(startOffset + 0x20, 1);
    if(isPartyMember) {
        this.partyLevel = hex2int(startOffset + 0x21, 1);
        this.partyMaxHp = hex2int(startOffset + 0x22, 2);
        this.partyAttack = hex2int(startOffset + 0x24, 2);
        this.partyDefense = hex2int(startOffset + 0x26, 2);
        this.partySpeed = hex2int(startOffset + 0x28, 2);
        this.partySpecial = hex2int(startOffset + 0x2A, 2);
        this.isParty = true;
    }
    else {
        this.isParty = false;
    }
}

And Beyond

That basically summarizes all the interesting parts of this project. You can download the save file viewer from GitHub here. I did have a few interesting comments when I originally posted about it on Reddit in 2013, one comment I really need to work on mentioned moving the maps outside of the functions as it speeds up time considerably, see http://jsperf.com/map-inside-vs-outside-of-function for details.

Upon getting some more free time I’d also like to see if I could get it working in node.js and allow for uploads of sav files to work.

There is a live version of this viewer here.

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