General Information[edit]

Chrono Cross[edit]

1. Introduction

A few files in Chrono Cross (fewer of them than I would have expected, actually) are compressed using a classic version of the LZSS, AKA ~Lempel-Ziv-Storer-Szymanski, algorithm. Squeenix was actually rather fond of LZSS during the Playstation period, and used it in many of their games, including the Final Fantasy series. The implementation of the algorithm in Final Fantasy VII, which is almost-but-not-quite identical to the version used in Chrono Cross, is documented in the wiki at qhimm.com

2. About LZSS in General

LZSS is a type of dictionary encoding technique which attempts to reduce the length of a file by replacing some bytes with pointers back to an earlier part of the file, plus numbers representing the number of bytes to be copied from this point. A single-bit flag is used to indicate whether the next item in the file is a literal byte or a pointer + length. Depending on the ratio of pointers to literal bytes, an ~LZSS-encoded file may be anywhere from ~12% to 112.5% of the size of the original. (Yes, it can actually make the file bigger than it originally was, because it takes 9 bits to encode an 8-bit literal byte.)

Trivia: LZSS forms one-half of the compression algorithm most commonly used in zip files.

3. Buffer

The Chrono Cross LZSS implementation uses a 4K ring buffer—that is, it stores 4096 bytes of the decompressed file for use in back references, and when the data reaches the end of the buffer, the write loops back around to the beginning. The buffer is initialized with zero bytes.

4. LZSS File Header

Chrono Cross presents LZSS files with a twelve-byte header, which can be divided into 4-byte sections.

The first four bytes are always 73 73 7A 6C—"sszl".

The next four bytes are the expected length in bytes of the decoded file, presented as a little-endian value. Experimentation suggests that this number may not be 100% accurate.

The purpose of the next four bytes is currently unknown.

5. LZSS File Bitstream

The remainder of the file must be assessed as a sequence of bits, rather than bytes. It contains two types of values: 9-bit literals, and 17-bit references.

A literal consists of a "1" flag bit, followed by eight bits which define a literal byte which should be written to the decoded file (and the buffer).

Examples: 1 10110011 is a B3 byte. 1 00000100 is a literal 04 byte.

A reference consists of a "0" flag bit, followed by a 12-bit pointer indicating a position in the ring buffer and a 4-bit value indicating the number of bytes to be copied. Since copying 0 or 1 bytes wouldn't result in any compression, it's necessary to add 2 to those last four bits to get the actual number of copied bytes (this is the main point on which the CC and FFVII algorithms differ—FFVII adds 3). The bytes are read from the buffer starting from the position the pointer indicates, and then written to the decoded file (and the later part of the buffer).

Referenced bytes should be copied one at a time, because occasionally the compressed file will contain instructions to, frex, go back 3 bytes into the buffer and then copy 10 bytes, in which case the 4th and subsequent bytes are expected to be set before they're copied.

Examples: 0 000000000100 0010 is an instruction to copy (2 + 2 =) 4 bytes starting from position 4 in the buffer. 0 010111101100 0000 is an instruction to copy (0 + 2 =) 2 bytes from position 1516 in the buffer.

From: Modification