Archive for the Hardware Category

RetroBit RetroGen Review

Posted in Hardware, Retro Gaming, Reviews, Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, SNES with tags , , , on June 9, 2012 by satoshimatrix

As videogame consoles from the late 80’s and early 90’s continue to age, there seems to be a never-ending cascade of clone hardware that reproduces the original experiences and replaces old, large, clunky and sometimes temperamental hardware.

One of the leading clone manufacturers in recent years has been RetroBit, who have been steadily gaining a foothold and showing up competitors like Yobo and Hyperkin when it comes to quality and reliability – concepts not commonly associated with Asian born clone hardware.

Previously I brought you guys a detailed look at the RetroBit RetroPort, an interesting self contained NOAC designed in a cartridge that can be fitted into an SNES and thus allow hundreds of additional titles to be played on that great console.

It seems RetroBit didn’t want to stop there, and recently also released another cartridge adapter that can be fitted into the SNES, a device they call the RetroGen – which allows Sega MegaDrive or Genesis games to played on a Nintendo SNES, Super Famicom or Super Famiclone.

If you grew up when these systems were fierce rivals, then prepare to have your mind blown by the very concept of this review. Continue reading

RetroBit RetroPort Review

Posted in Hardware, NES, Peripherals, Retro Gaming, Reviews, SNES on June 5, 2012 by satoshimatrix

We’ve been seeing a lot of NES clones on the market these days. Given the age of the NES hardware, many people have been turning to new clone hardware solutions to play their old favorites. There is certainly no shortage of choice – there are literally hundreds, if not thousands – of these devices that all play 8-bit Nintendo cartridges.

But what if you have an SNES or SNES clone and don’t have desire to buy a standalone clone unit to play NES games? It might seem strange but now, RetroBit has you covered with their standalone RetroPort for Super Famicom, Super NES or Super Famiclone systems that will allow you to do something never thought possible – play your NES games right on your SNES!

Continue reading

Retro Duo Video Review

Posted in Hardware, NES, Retro Gaming, Reviews, SNES on April 12, 2011 by satoshimatrix

In case you guys missed it, here’s my review/stress test lf the Retro Duo, a Famiclone/SNES that plays NES and SNES games and uses SNES 7pin controllers for both systems. Enjoy!


And here’s a bonus video, a stress test of even more games!

NES/Famicom Starting Guide

Posted in Editorials, Hardware, NES, Retro Gaming on April 6, 2011 by satoshimatrix

Thinking of getting into Nintendo 8-bit Retro Gaming? This Guide is for you!

Nintendo NES or Famicom games – regardless of where you live, you see them almost everywhere. Even after more than twenty years they’re still commonly found in game stores, garage sales, flea markets, swap meets, Craigslist and of course, e-bay. You start to think how great it would be to enjoy the games for the classic hardware, but then you start to worry about all the reliability issues that come with really old hardware, the front loading NES in particular.

If this common scenario sounds familiar to you, then I’m here to help. Despite what you might think, there are many different options for playing classic Nintendo games. Each option has its own unique individual strengths and weaknesses and there’s really no “best” answer for everyone. All I will do is give the facts. Rest assured you are getting honest information as I own every variant of the hardware listed below except for the specialty versions.

If you are thinking of exploring into the NES scene, keep this guide in your bookmarks for future reference.

Without further ado, here is detailed rundown of all of the options for today’s gamer to explore.

The Original Nintendo Entertainment System

Common Nicknames: NES, NES Toaster, Frontloader, ol’ gray box
Model Number: NES-001
Platform: 72 pin (NES cartridges)
Manufacturer: Nintendo
Price Range: $20-60

When you hear the name NES, this is probably the system you think of first. This is the original North American design form 1985 that set the western world on fire. It’s an iconic symbol of 1980’s console design and as such, highly desirable by retro gamers. The design of the system was radically different from other consoles of its day including it’s Japanese counterpart. The Nintendo Entertainment System NES-001 had a small lid which when flipped up, revealed a spring loaded cartridge bay that would apply pressure on the contact pins to create a solid connection. Due to the engulfing nature of the system, it is commonly referred to as the NES ‘toaster’.

Why you should choose the NES-001

The NES just screams and shouts retro. It’s boxy, VCR-like appearance makes it stand out on any shelf and attracts attention, or fit right in. It features somewhat forward-thinking composite video output as well as RF, making it still look fairly decent on tvs today. It’s power supply is a 9v AC plug, and the beast can be powered by just about anything you throw at it – AC, DC, 8v, 9v, 10v, 12v – the NES-001 cares not.

Why you should avoid the NES-001

The design of the cartridge bay is somewhat flawed for two main reasons: dust build up and the constant bending of the pins. Due to the distance the cartridge connector is from the user, household dust has a tendency to build up inside the cartridge bay interfering with normal usage. This is why generally speaking, blowing on cartridges helps to get your games to work. More effective treatments involve cleaning the contacts with Isopropanol alcohol and with a good pink eraser.In fact, I wrote a guide to do this this last fall. https://satoshimatrix.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/how-to-clean-cartridge-contacts/

Replacing the connector addresses this problem as well, but new production 72-pin connectors tend to grab rather tightly on cartridge connectors, preventing easy removal of cartridges.

Nintendo Entertainment System Toploader

Common Nicknames: NES 2, NES Toploader
Model Number: NES-101
Platform: 72 pin (NES cartridges)
Manufacturer: Nintendo
Price Range: $60-80

Released at the tail end of the NES’ lifespan, the NES-101, commonly called either the NES 2 or NES Toploader was a redesigned, sleek and compact budget-priced Nintendo Entertainment System for the 90s. It featured a 72 pin cartridge connector, two standard 7-pin NES controller ports, RF video, and came with one newly designed “dogbone” controller, so named for its overall shape and color. The redesigned controller was universally loved and resembled the great design of the SNES controller. The redesign NES-101 removed the 10-NES lockout chip and the unused expansion port featured on the NES-001.

Why you should choose the NES-101

The NES 101 uses a top-loading cartridge design which is mechanically simpler than the Zero Insertion Force design of the NES-001. The change results in less stress on the cartridge pins than the original tray design of the NES-001 and far better reliability. As long as your cartridges are clean, they should power on the first time you turn on the system. Like it’s older cousin, the NES-001 is powered by a 9v AC power supply which can be substituted for just about any other plug you may happen to have.

Why you should avoid the NES-101

In their efforts to reduce the cost of the NES, Nintendo decided to remove the composite video outputs found in their earlier model and include only an RF output, which is even worse quality than the RF signal found in the original model. The system was universally bashed for creating faint vertical lines that were visible in bright colors. Due to the limited number of the units sold, they now are considered fairly rare and can be sold used for often double what they were sold for when new.

I should note that modifications are possible to correct the video signal issues and restore composite video . I own an NES-101 that’s been extensively modified and it is my preferred method of playing North American NES game cartridges.

Nintendo Family Computer

Common Nicknames: Famicom, Japanese NES
Model Number: HVC-001
Platform: 60 pin (Famicom cartridges)
Manufacturer: Nintendo
Price Range: $20-60

The Nintendo Family Computer was released in Japan in July 1983 to an uncertain future. It was in this time period the videogame market was starting to crash in North America, and the consequences were felt even in Japan where the market was still strong. Despite the problems with the medium in the west, sales quickly grew and the Famicom was soon a major success. Two years later the system was redesigned for North America and the rest is history.

The Japanese fondness of creating short nicknames spread to the Family Computer quickly being nearly universally called “Famicom” instead. Although never called that by Nintendo themselves, the Famicom is still the universal name for the Japanese NES.

Why you should choose the Famicom HVC-001

What can be cooler than playing your favorite NES games on the very first model of the system? The Famicom’s white/red/gold coloring, small, compact design and permanently attached controllers make it one of the most instantly recognizable gaming consoles ever made.

Why you should avoid the Famicom HVC-001

The original Famicom HVC-001 uses permanently attached controllers with only 3 feet of cable. There was an expansion port in the front of the system that allowed gamers to use other third party controllers, but most such controllers could only be used for player one, and nearly all third party controllers had the same short three foot cables.  Due to the inclusion of the microphone, there are no Start or Select buttons on the second controller. The system is also RF only. Of course, there are plenty of composite video hacks available for the HVC-001 Famicom. Finally, while it doesn’t affect system performance, most HVC-001’s have badly discolored over the years, turning the once off-white plastic into a urine-like yellow shade.

New Nintendo Family Computer

Common Nicknames: AV Famicom, Composite Famicom
Model Number: HVC-101
Platform: 60 pin (Famicom cartridges)
Manufacturer: Nintendo
Price Range: $60-80

The”new Family Computer’ is the Japanese counterpart to the North American NES-101 ‘toploader’. the HVC-101 is the only version of the Nintendo without an RF modulator built in, making it composite video only. As such, it is commonly nicknamed the “AV Famicom”.  The system was released late in the Famicom’s lifespan, and was very successful in Japan. It isn’t entirely uncommon for some Japanese retailers to still even have them new in the box.

Why you should choose the AV Famicom HVC-101

The AV Famicom is downright stylish. It outputs composite video, can use North American NES controllers, still has the DB-15 expansion controller port, and works with all Famicom accessories including the Famicom Disk System. Best of all, the video signal it produces is among the cleanest you’ll get from any 8-bit Nintendo console. AV Famicoms were produced as late as 1998 in Japan, making them by far the newest and most reliable variant of the hardware.

Why you should avoid the AV Famicom HVC-101

The biggest detractor is the price. used, console only AV Famicoms hover between $60 to $80 plus the cost of shipping. Also keep in mind that as both controllers use the American style controller plug, early Famicom games specifically designed to take advantage of the HVC-001’s built in microphone in the second controller cannot be played. The biggest casualty is the Famicom Disk System version of The Legend of Zelda which requires you to shout loud noises into the mic to defeat Poles Vice (the jumping rabbits).

SHARP TWIN Famicom

Common Nicknames: SHARP Famicom, Twin NES
Model Number: AN-505 (model 1) AN-500R, AN-505-BK AN-505-RD (model 2)
Platform: 60 pin (Famicom cartridges)
Manufacturer: SHARP
Price Range: $80-140 (model 1) $350-600 (model 2)

Released in July of 1986 by electronics giant SHARP, the TWIN Famicom was an officially licensed Nintendo console that combined the functionality of the Nintendo Family Computer with the still fairly new Disk System attachment. It is the only model of the Family Computer to be officially called a Famicom. TWIN Famicoms came in multiple colors, with later models even featuring built in turbo fire buttons into the controllers.

Why you should choose the TWIN Famicom

The TWIN Famicom has the Disk System RAM Adapter built in, making it a perfect all-in-one Famicom player that can accept both disk and cartridge formats. If you are planning on building a large Famicom collection with a healthy number of Famicom Disk System games, this is the system of choice. Like the North American NES-001, the TWIN Famicom features composite and RF video output. Later models also included longer six foot cables and built-in turbo fire switches for the B and A buttons on both controllers.

Why you should avoid the TWIN Famicom

The addition of the disk drive assembly means the TWIN Famicom is rather large, especially compared to the compact design of the other Famicom models. It’s about the size of the the first DVD players or most a bit smaller than most VCRs, if you can remember that far back. It’s rarity coupled with its size and weight make it an expensive Famicom choice to import from Japan, and it still uses permanently attached controllers with only 3 feet of cable. The more desirable later versions with longer controller cords and turbo fire switches often sell for $400-600 USD without shipping charges. Like standalone Famicom Disk Systems, the intenral motor belt can break or melt, and although TWIN Famicoms take the same kind of belt as the standalone units, replacements are becoming increasingly uncommon.

SHARP Famicom Titler

Common Nicknames: RGB Famicom,
Model Number: AN-510
Platform: 60 pin (Famicom cartridges)
Manufacturer: SHARP Electronics
Price Range: $350-600

The Famicom Titler is a very rare Famicom variant that allowed users to play Famicom games as well as create custom title cards for businesses doing video-overlay either for commercial tapes, magazine photographs, and store displays. It features controls on the system as well as a small touch pad to write messages for custom titles. It is the only Famicom to offer native S-video output.

Why you should choose the Famicom Titler

S-video of course! S-video is cleaner, more vivid video format than composite, making the Titler capable of producing the best picture of any consumer level Famicom. Better yet, the Titler can even be modded for full true RGB support! RBG is a signal used in arcade machines and in Europe called SCART. RBG is better quality than S-video and is about on par with component. Pretty crazy when you consider you can get component quality video from a videogame console from the 1980s!

Why you should avoid the Famicom Titler

They’re very very expensive. You’ll probably never ever see one unless your LukeMorse1 or some other lucky bastard. Getting RGB to American TVs is pretty much impossible as very very few have the correct inputs.

 

Famiclones

Common Nicknames: NESclones, fake systems, new production systems
Model Number: Varies
Platform: 72 pin (mostly, but also 60 pin too)
Manufacturer: Varies
Price Range: $20-60

As soon as it was evident that the Japanese Nintendo Family Computer was a huge success in Japan, it spread to neighboring Asian countries and then around the world. By the late 1980s, the market was so large many slightly shady companies began to develop their own Famicoms through reverse engineering. Unlike the North American NES, neither the Japanese Famicom hardware nor game software had any copy protection, so the only avenue Nintendo had against these clones was legal action, which proved only moderately successful.

By about 1989, there were dozens of companies producing their own, bootleg Famicoms. These early clones often were direct hardware clones of the Famicom, chip for chip and component for component. Most even looked the same with only minor alterations.

As the years went by and the chipset required to construct clones became cheaper, Famiclones became even more prevalent, with more elaborate designs cropping up worldwide, often accompanied by bootleg “9999 in 1” cartridges. In the pursuit of further cost reductions, by about the mid 1990s, Chinese Famiclone manufactures had developed a single epoxy-based IC that would contain the equivalent processing ability of the entire Famicom chipset. These single chipped Famiclones became known as NOAC Famiclones – NOAC standing for Nintendo On A Chip.

Below are a few examples of common Famiclones you might want to consider if you or someone you know is just getting into the NES for the first time.

 

Yobo FC Game Console

Common Nicknames: Yobo NES, US Neo-Fami
Model Number: OT-8008
Platform: 72 pin (NES cartridges)
Manufacturer: Yobo Gameware
Price Range: $20-30

The Yobo FC Game Console was released in 2005 when Famiclones first became legal due to the twenty year hardware patient of the NES expiring. This unit features a 72 pin cartridge connector for North American NES games, two standard 7-pin NES controller ports, composite video output, and comes with two controllers, power adapter and audio/video composite cables.

Why you should choose the Yobo FC Game Console

The Yobo FC Game Console is an extremely small console at only a tiny bit bigger than the very game cartridges its designed to run. The controllers it comes with are actually quite good; they are rounded like NES dogbone controllers but feature turbo fire B and A buttons as well as the mostly superfluous turbo Start. Still, if you prefer to use original Nintendo-made controllers, the system uses the same 7-pin standard allowing you to use any controller designed for the original NES-001 hardware.

Why you should avoid the Yobo FC game console

The Yobo FC Game Console is a NOAC-based Famiclone. As such, it produces audible pitch errors in many games, produce graphical glitches in others, and flat of refuse to play a handful of games. Still, you can usually find these for around $20, so you shouldn’t expect the world from the Yobo.

Generation NEX

Common Nicknames: NES NEX, New NES
Model Number: None
Platform: 72 & 60 pin (NES & Famicom cartridges)
Manufacturer: Messiah (bankrupt)
Price Range: $50-70

The Messiah Generation NEX is a Famiclone that was produced by a small California based company called Messiah Gameware in 2005. It offers both an NES 72pin connector as well as Famicom  60pin connector, wireless controller support, amplified mono sound, and a compact sleek design.

Why you should choose the Generation NEX

The Generation NEX is extremely attractive, mimicking the design of the NES-001 but with an over 50% reduction in size. The NEX outputs video via composite, and creates amplified mono audio by transferring the signals along both mono and stereo RCA jacks. The NEX features both an NES 72 pin connector and a Famicom 60 pin connector, eliminating the need for any adapters. It’s wired controller is seemingly designed after the Super NES pad, complete with shoulder buttons, turbo fire and rapid fire start slow-mo. The NEX also supports its own brand of wireless controllers and wireless arcade stick, both which work remarkably well.

Why you should avoid the Generation NEX

Despite all that it has going for it, the Generation NEX is at its very care, a  simple glob top NOAC that works no better than the other $20 clones out there. Typical NOAC sound issues, game glitches, and refusal to play some games are abound with the NEX. Given the high cost, the added features such as the duel cartridge port design and wireless controller support make this one hard to recommend over the real hardware. If you’re only looking for one Famiclone though, this is the one to get.

RetroDuo

Common Nicknames: NES Two-in-One
Model Number: None
Platform: 72 pin NES and 46 pin SNES/SFC
Manufacturer: Retro-Bit
Price Range: $50-70

The Retro Duo is a twin Famiclone/Super Famiclone that will play both NES and Super NES game cartridges. The system supports real SNES controllers that can be used for either SNES or NES. There’s compoite video as well as S-video cables included. The System is sleek and compact, powered by just a 5v power supply.

Why you should choose the RetroDuo

Honestly, I was quite shocked by the quality of the Retro Duo. It will play nearly all NES games including Castlevania 3, and the SNES side will play anything but later revision SA-1 games such as Super Mario RPG. The system has composite video output, amplified mono for NES and stereo for SNES, S-video for both (although the NES is pseudo S-video) and it’s controller ports are that of the SNES 7pin, meaning real SNES controllers can be used to play both SNES and NES games!

Why you should avoid the RetroDuo

Although using a SNES controller to play NES games is comfortable and novel, it somehow just doesn’t feel right. Unmodified, the NES daughterboard will produce rather horrid audio, but luckily this can be corrected by soldering in a single capacitor and resistor. $60 is kind of expensive for a Famiclone, even if it is for the best one on the market.

RetroN3

Common Nicknames: Hyperkin Tri System, Retron Three
Model Number: None
Platform: 72 pin NES and 46 pin SNES/SFC, Sega Genesis
Manufacturer: Hyperkin
Price Range: $50-70

The RetroN3 is a triple Famiclone/Super Famiclone/Genesis clone released in 2009 by Hyperkin. Like the Retro Duo, it will play both NES and Super NES game cartridges, as well as Sega Genesis carts. The system includes two IR based wireless controllers but also features six controller ports – two NES, two SNES, and two Genesis controller ports. There’s compoite video as well as S-video cables included. The System is sleek and compact, powered by 9v DC center pin positive PSU.

Why you should choose the RetroN3

I only own the first model RetroN3. Apparently the new version will play even more games than the one I have. The RetroN3 does what it says on the box – it plays games designed for the NES, SNES, or Genesis. It even supports the originally controllers designed for each system! There’s S-video output for both SNES and Genesis games, and games look rather excellent through the RetorN3.

Why you should avoid the RetroDuo

At least on the version that I own, the NOAC based Famiclone that powers the NES portion is rather poor, about on par with the Yobo FC Game Console. It won’t play Castlevania 3, the Powerpak, or other higher end NES games. SNES is near perfect, but the lack of the SNES CIC lockout chip prevents later revisions of Super Mario RPG from running. Genesis games seem to run without too much problems, but there are noticeable differences in sound levels of the various channels used in Genesis game music. You’ll probably hear things you barely noticed on the real hardware. In standard composite, Genesis games look like absolute shit.

GameAxe Color

Common Nicknames: Pocket Famicom
Model Number: N/A
Platform: 60 pin (Famicom cartridges)
Manufacturer: Radiant (bankrupt)
Price Range: $130-160

The GameAxe Color is a reverse engineered hardware based Famiclone that reduces the system’s chipset into a handheld with a screen. It has built in turbo fire buttons and video output to a TV and requires six AA batteries to operate.

Why you should choose the GameAxe Color

Ever wanted to take your Famicom collection with you on a roadtrip? This device allows you to do just that. This system came from a time before NOAC Famiclones. As such, it works with every NES and Famicom game I own, from Castlevania 3 to Lagrange Point.

Why you should avoid the GameAxe Color

The performance of full color backlit LCDs from the early 1990s leaves a lot to be desired. The LCD on the GameAxe is somewhat blurry and the two miniature fluorescent tubes behind the LCD draw quite a bit of current, forcing the system to drain six AA batteries in around 2 hours. Also, compared to even the Lynx, Gamegear or TurboExpress, the GameAxe is absolutely massive

Wii Virtual Console

Common Nicknames: Nintendo emulator or sometimes lolz y would i PAY for romz?!
Model Number: None
Platform: Wii
Manufacturer: Nintendo
Price Range: $5-6 per game

The Wii Virtual Console is a channel on the Wii Shop that offers retro Nintendo games via download for a fee. Simply take your Wii online, enter the store, find a title you want to purchase with a creditcard, pay and download the software to the system.

Why you should choose the Wii Virtual Console

Many of today’s gamers don’t have working NES systems or even NES game cartridges. The Virtual Console provides today’s gamer with a way of playing NES classics in a new setting. This is a great way to play NES games in 480p. There are a number of controller solutions available, including The Wiimote, Classic Controller, Gamecube controller, even adapters that allow games to plug in original NES controllers to their Wii!

Why you should avoid the Wii Virtual Console

While $5 or $6 for some NES games is an absolute steal, it’s a total rip off for others. For instance,  according to the virtual console, Donkey Kong Jr. Math is equal value to Super Mario Bros. 3 or the Legend of Zelda.  Ultimately though, the biggest disadvantage is the total lack of something tangible. You send your money on a digital download that you can’t sell or trade at your leisure in the future. I’m not too big a fan of the VC.

NES Emulation

Emulation simply means one processor coping the performance of another. In this case, it means the ability to play NES games on much more powerful modern computers. There are NES emulators for PC, Mac, Dreamcast, Gamecube, PS2, Xbox, GBA, PSP, DS and many other machines.

Why you should choose emulation

Emulators are free, and legality issues aside, they allow gamers to play any and all NES games regardless of rarity. NES emulators on portables such as the PSP allow games to try out a game before purchase at a used game store. NES games look beautiful on a computer monitor or tv. They allow for savestates, you can take scrreenshots, add turbo fire, even remap games with backwards or otherwise broken controls.

Why you should avoid emulation

Even now, many emulators are not 100% perfect, owning ROMsets of games you don’t own is technically illegal, and as with the Wii Virtual Console, the lack of the tangible game cartridge diminishes the impact the games have on the player.

There you have it folks. While I covered most of the choices, there are still many many Famiclones I haven’t mentioned, but keep one thing in mind: if they’re from the mid 90s or newer, they are all NOAC based. Save your money and choose one of the system I listed above. I hope people will make good use of this guide. If you have a question or comment, feel free to leave them below.

RetroPorts from Retrozone Review

Posted in Gamecube, Hardware, NES, Peripherals, SNES on December 22, 2010 by satoshimatrix

Add NES/SNES ports to your Gamecube/Wii!

I love controller adapters that allow you to use dedicated controllers from old systems on completely different systems. I own at least a dozen such adapters, and some work better than others. I’ve been asked about Retrozone’s NES and SNES RetroPorts and feel its due time to give them each a proper, in depth review.
Retrozone has been selling what they called “Retroports” for several years now. Each RetroPort is advertised as allowing you to use either an NES or SNES controller on your Wii and play Virtual Console games “the way they were originally designed.” How well do they work? Any shortcomings? Let’s find out.

Overview

Despite claims that these adapters are for the Nintendo Wii, they really are just Gamecube adapters that map the NES/SNES controls to those of Gamecube buttons. As such, these adapters are 100% Gamecube compatible and also function on the Nintendo Wii via the Gamecube ports atop the system.

Build Quality

Both RetroPorts come in a beautiful package that shows off the product really well – not bad for a single sourced products like this.

Once out of the package, you’ll quickly grow to appreciate that these adapters are among the best out there in terms of built quality. No visible screws pleasing colors and durable plastics. SNES controllers slide easily into the port, but I found it somewhat difficult to correctly insert NES pads into its Retroport. In order to do it correctly you need to do it slowly and make sure it goes in flush; its a very tight connection. You may even wish to simply insert a controller and leave it plugged in permanently.

Button Mappings

the mappings for the SNES to Gamecube are as such:

SNES to GC

+pad — +pad
Start — Start
A —- A
B —- B
Y —- Y
X —- X
L —- L
R —- R
Select — Z

and NES to GC

+pad — +pad
Start — Start
Select —- Z
B —- B
A —- A

Performance

Both RetroPorts actually do their jobs exceedingly well – there is absolutely no lag when playing games using either adapter with original controllers. Every controller I’ve tried also works with it, front he NES-004 boxy pad to the NES Dogbone and the Advantage joystick, even third party controllers work! Same deal with the SNES – the RetroPorts allow all controllers for your old Nintendo systems to be used.

There are even some Gamecube and Wii games that greatly benefit from solid digital controllers. For instance, most people find Megaman Anniversary Collection for Gamecube to be utterly unplayable due to Atomic Planet “reversing” the controls – B now jumps while A shoots. When using a SNES RetroPort, you can slightly fix this problem. Anniversary Collection also maps Y to be turbo fire and X to be auto-slide. Since the button placement of the SNES controller puts Y where the Gamecube’s B button is, you now have natural reach to auto fire and standard jumping, making at least Megaman 1-6 playable.

Other examples where the SNES pad helps are in fighting games such as Soul Calibur II. Not only does the SNES pad fit the game beautifully, it also allows you to remap controls to be whatever you like. You can even use the NES controller to play Soul Calibur II for lulz.

As I see, here’s a short list of games that strongly benefit from these adapters:

NES RetroPort:

  • Any Wii Virtual Console NES game that doesn’t require select. Examples include Super Mario Bros. 3, Punch-Out!!, Megaman 2, Wario’s Woods, etc.
  • Any Wii Virtual Console game for Commodore 64, Sega Master System, or TurboGrafix-16, and a few early Genesis games such as any of the Sonic games.
  • Gamecube’s Gameboy Player playing any Gameboy or Gameboy Color game that doesn’t require select. Examples include Super Mario Land, Tetris, Megaman IV, Pokemon, Shantae, etc.
  • Sonic Mega Collection (Gamecube)
  • Sonic Gems Collection (Gamecube)
  • Nintendo Puzzle Collection (Gamecube)

SNES RetroPort:

  • Any Wii Virtual Console SNES game that deosn’t require select. Examples include F-Zero, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong Country 2, F-Zero, Axelay, Zombies ate my Neighbors, etc.
  • Any Wii Virtual Console Genesis and Neo-Geo games, as well as all arcade games that support Gamecube input
  • The Legend of Zelda Collection (Gamecube)
  • Soul Calibur II (Gamecube)
  • Capcom Vs SNK 2 EO (Gamecube)
  • Megaman Network Transmission (Gamecube)
  • Megaman X Collection (Gamecube)
  • Megaman Anniversary Collection (Gamecube)
  • Alien Hominod (Gamecube)
  • Namco Museum 50th Anniversary (Gamecube)
  • Resident Evil  (Gamecube)
  • Resident Evil 2 (Gamecube)
  • Resident Evil 3 (Gamecube)
  • Meramasa: The Demon Blade (Wii)
  • Castle of Shikigami 3 (Wii)
  • Cave Story (Wiiware)

Availability & Price

Each of the Retroports are exclusively available via Retrozone for $19 each. Remember, their site is retrousb.com, not retrozone.com. They have a great payment system are are trusthworthy. Shipping might be a bit high if you’ve not in North America, but these adapters are well worth the extra cost of shipping.
Overall

Good

  • Well built and durable
  • Excellent button mapping for the SNES controller
  • Both controller adapters are lag-free and completely responsive
  • A good number of supporting games makes these adapters a good investment

Bad

  • These are Gamecube adapters, not Wii; this is misleading on Retrozone’s part
  • They are sold separately from each other
  • NES RetroPort maps Select to Z rather than Select, meaning Select cannot be accessed with this controller
  • $19 plus shipping is somewhat pricey as these are barebones adapters

Conclusion

All in all, Retrozone’s RetroPorts do their jobs exceedingly well and greatly add to the playability of a number of games. I would even argue using a Genuine SNES controller is a better choice over the Wii Classic controller! The lack of using either controller’s Select button to play Virtual Console games does sort of suck, but the pros greatly outweigh the cons and seeing as these are Gamecube adapters, not Wii adapters, there’s nothing Retrozone could have done about this.

One final note is how the RetroPorts compare to the 4-in-1 controller adapter you might find on ebay that also allows you to use Genesis and N64 controllers on your Gamecube/Wii. I don’t personally own one of these, but I’ve noticed all the problems the RetroPorts avoid: the 4-in-one is laggly, built cheaply, and it doesn’t even get the button mappings correct. Avoid and pick up the RetroPorts. You’ll be glad you did.

Hyperkin RetroN 3 Review

Posted in Hardware, Retro Gaming, Reviews on November 28, 2010 by satoshimatrix

Since console patients expire after twenty years, in the last few years we gamers have been seeing a lot of cloned hardware out there. From early examples such as the Yobo FC Game Console and Messiah Generation NEX to the Gen Mobile and FC-16 Go, clones have become more and more common with each passing year.

Now another company, Hyperkin, has released what they claim is the ultimate retro system for oldschool gamers. Let’s take a closer look at it.

Features

the Hyperkin RetroN 3 (pronounced either like a robot from transformers “Retron” or “Retro” with the letter “n” added to the end) has the following features:

-Three cartridge slots for NES, Genesis and SNES games
-Two included clone Genesis six-button style IR controllers that work with all three systems
-Six controller ports – two for each system
-Composite video output with stereo for all three and S-video output for SNES and Genesis
-NTSC and NTSC-J region switch for Japanese Megadrive titles
-Also includes good quality S-video cable, male t0 male composite cables and a decent quality Power Supply Unit

Description

The Retron 3 is a clone retro system that has plays Nintendo Entertainment System games, Sega Genesis games, and Super Nintendo games. It has three cartridge ports, a system selector dile, S-video output (SNES and Genesis only) and supports first party controllers for all three systems, meaning you can use real NES, SNES and Genesis controllers on this one clone.

Compatibility

NES

The RetroN 3’s NES board is just the same ol’ NOAC crap we’ve been seeing for years, so don’t expect to be able to to play your MMC5 games such as Castlevania 3 or Uncharted Waters. All games will have typical NOAC quality sound issues with none sounding as they should, some with quite pronounced differences. The cheapness of the NOAC rules the Powerpak out from working as well. When attempted, the Powerpak will boot, but say it cannot find the CF card. Grade: 6/10

SNES

The SNES side of things is pretty damn perfect. S-video output is clear and crisp and the audio is absolutely flawless. It will play almost anything you throw at it with the lone exception of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. All but the earliest revisions of Mario RPG will not play on systems lacking Nintendo’s lockout chip, which is still under patient and pirates dare not copy for legal wrath.

While the SNES Mouse works, the Super Scope doesn’t work at all, in S-video or Composite. I even went through the troubleshooting process by even setting my real SNES right next to it, plugging it on and turning it on and making sure it works, then seconds later trying it on the RetroN 3 to no avail. Super Scope games will load up fine, but you cannot use the scope itself as the receiver isn’t detected.

The SNES side will work with every commercial game I’ve tried (other than Mario RPG) and also works with my Star Fox 2 reproduction cartridge. All the enjoyment of the unreleased game can be had on the Retron 3. Surprisingly, the Retron 3 will even play the Super Powerpak from Retrozone! Grade: 9.5/10

Genesis

The Genesis is sort of a mixed bag. While S-video provides a clean clear video, the audio is a little wonky. Not AWFUL like AtGames attempts, it’s just that the volume levels are not what they should be, meaning some of the audio is twice as loud as it should be (some background music, some sound effects) while other music that should be louder is twice as quiet as usual (some lead music). It leads you to hear some things you probably would not have noticed on a real Genesis.

The Retron 3 will play every game I’ve tried with it except for Virtua Racing without any problem. The system even has a region switch on the back of the system for Japanese Megadrive games! PAL Megadrive games will not work on it however. The cartridge slot is designed to allow both the small and sleek US Genesis cartridges and the slightly more bulky Japanese Megadrive carts to fit.  I’ve heard unconfirmed reports that the EverDrive Flash cart doesn’t function. Grade: 7/10

Build Quality

The Retron 3 has a light mat finish that is reasonably scratch resistant and cartridges are easier to get out than on some clones. While it’s not something I’d want to toss around carelessly, the Retron 3 is actually a fairly sturdy piece of hardware for being a clone system. The system is not nearly as light as you’d expect from a clone and the included S-video cable is actually rather heavy duty. The Power Supply Unit it comes with is 9v DC center pin negative, and can be substituted for  a Model 1 Genesis PSU if you wish.

What are complete garbage are the included controllers. They are modeled after Genesis 6-button style and work with all three systems, even providing turbo fire for NES games. Unfortunetely, the buttons are stiff, the controller feels cheap, requires 2 AAA batteries and operates not on 2.4 GHz wireless, but IR Infrared like you would find in a standard TV remote. This means the controllers need to be more or less level with the console itself and a distance of less than six feet. Even under these conditions, the response times aren’t very good. Just use original controllers and either throw these out, keep them in the box or use them for parts.

Availability & Price

The Retron 3 is available on ebay, stoneage gamer and a few other shops for around $65-75. The SNES side is so good it makes a great substitute for a real SNES for that special someone who might  be into oldschool SNES gaming.

History

Hyperkin, a small manufacturer of affordable niche gaming products has been around for several years now, first selling products for the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox. In time though, they began to develop more products and now offer a few clone systems including the Retron1 which is a standalone Famiclone. The Retron 3 is one of their best selling products to date.

Overall

Good

-S-Video output for Genesis and SNES is simply excellent
-Extremely high compatibility with most NES games, nearly all Genesis/Megadrive games and 100% compatibility with SNES and Super Famciom games
-Controller ports for real controllers mean no puppies get skinned as punishment against nature for using crappy clone controllers
-Region switch for Genesis and Japanese Megadrive games
-Super Powerpak works with it

Bad

-Poor composite quality for all three systems
-A 2004 quality NOAC for the NES. Expect all the problems associated with NOAC’s.
-Genesis produces audio at incorrect volumes. Often sound effects are WAY too loud while FM Synthesis is 50% softer than it should be.
-Doesn’t support SNES specialty controllers including the Super Scope
-A bit too pricey to comfortably recommend to everyone looking for a retro gaming solution

Conclusion

With the S-video output and a real first party controllers, there’s literally no difference from the real hardware in any game you throw at it when you play SNES games. Even with some sound volume issues, the S-video provides Genesis games with a beautiful picture you couldn’t get out of a Genesis unless you were to mod one. The biggest problem I have with it though is the NOAC Famiclone. It’s little better than a 2005 Yobo FC Game Console. Inaccurate sound, wrong colors, displays glitches on some games, doesn’t play advanced stuff like Castlevania 3 or the NES Powerpak.

All this said though,the Retron 3 is a great system for people who are into oldschool gaming. While it might not be the true answer to your Retro gaming prayers, the Retron 3 is still a great product that comes recommended as long as you buy knowing what you’re getting into.

Make sure you buy from a seller willing to accept returns or exchanges. As you can probably imagine, this is a system from China and carries no real quality guarantee. While mine has been fine, I’ve heard reports of systems being broken or defective, parts not working, stereo sound being reversed, controller ports not working, etc. Not sure how much of a real concern this is, but just be ready for a plan B should the worst happen to you.

How to: Clean cartridge contacts

Posted in Hardware, NES, Retro Gaming, Tutorials on November 27, 2010 by satoshimatrix

As an oldschool gamer, I have a great many games in original cartridge format. From the 2600 to the GBA, all cartridges can become dirty and require cleaning every now and then.

 

I’ve tried various methods of removing dirt, grime or just plain corrosion from cartridges, but what I’ve found to work the best is simply using a clean large pink school eraser. Use a standalone eraser, not one at the end of a pencil. If you have a large collection of cartridges, you’ll need a big eraser.

 

Tools required

  • Dirty cartridges
  • Large pink eraser (can be found at any stationary store)
  • Paper Towel and Tissue Paper
  • Tool to open your cartridges: Most require security screws that can be found on ebay for a few bucks. Invest in a set that includes all the screwheads you’ll need
  • Screwdriver with changeable screwhead

 

1. Set up a clear area on the surface of a table or other flat surface. Lay out at least two sheets of paper towel as a “bed” to work on.

2. For the sake of this tutorial, I’ll focus on how to clean NES games, but the process is more or less the same for any other cartridge games. Use your security screw to open your game cartridge. Do this by flipping the cartridge over and unscrewing the three screws that hold it in place. For early run NES games, you will see five screws that can simply be unscrewed using a flat-head screwdriver.

3. Remove the backing of the shell and place the screws in a bowl so you don’t lose them.

4. Make sure to ground yourself to avoid any potential damage to your games. Once done, remove the game PCB from the front shell and place it on the paper towel bed.

5. Be mindful of the sharpness of the pins that sick out from the soldered chips. Without hurting yourself, hold down the PCB firmly with one hand and vigorously rub the pink eraser back and forth across the grime and corrosion on the pins. After only a few seconds, you will notice a dramatic difference. Flip the PCB over and repeat the process on the other side.

6. Using a tissue paper, remove the eraser bits mixed witht he loosened grime onto a corner of the paper towel bed you will not be directly working over.

7. Replace the game PCB inside the shell. Remember that all NES games are placed chip side facing towards the front of the shell. Reassemble the game.

8. Repeat the process for each game you have.

Follow these steps and all your cartridges should work first time you try them, no matter how old they are!