Finally! Here’s Part 2 of the Restoring a Nice Famiclone Saga. Go read Part 1 if you haven’t done so yet.
The NTDEC Family Game is a nice discrete Famicom clone which was probably manufactured around 1990. It’s very sturdy in comparison with later Famiclones, and thanks to its discrete design it can run software like Castlevania III and the Famicom Disk System with no problems at all. Unfortunately it suffers from the incorrect sound syndrome that plagues the vast majority of Famicom clones. Two of the duty cycle registers are swapped inside the audio generator unit, producing different sounds and music.
Unfortunately the audio processing unit is inside the CPU die, which means that it’s uncorrectable short of replacing the entire CPU (something you cannot done on NoAC based Famiclones), and it’s really annoying when you know how the games are supposed to be like. In this case I’ll replace both the CPU and PPU chips on the Family Game console with original Ricoh parts to turn it into a 100% accurate, 100% compatible Famicom system.
I had this NES motherboard lying around, a perfect source of original CPU and PPU chips. Being lazy, (what a surprise!) I removed both chips using a hot air gun instead of taking the time to properly desolder 80 pins one by one.
I don’t own a proper chip puller tool, so I folded a long, thin stripe of paper and managed to squeeze it under the chips. You can then grab onto both ends of the paper and cleanly pull out the chips while heating the board with the hot air gun from the other side. When done well, the results are quick, clean and the components don’t receive any damage.
I decided to install chip sockets on the NES motherboard so I could use it to test other CPU/PPU chips and do some other experiments in the future. The sockets were $1 a pop and soldering them was a breeze.
With the 2A03 CPU and the 2C02 PPU out of the NES, it’s time to remove the cloned chips from the Family game and drop the original replacements in.
Since the CPU and PPU chips on this board are already socketed, swapping them with original parts is extremely straightforward. I have labeled the chips prior to removal so that I can still use them without knowing their codes.
How nice of the pirates to label the correct part numbers under the chips. They are in the exact same position and orientation as the original Nintendo Famicom motherboard.
Pirate chips on the left, original ones on the right. Now let’s drop ‘em in shall we?
And that’s it! Here’s the final result:
Now my Family Game has nothing to envy to an original Famicom system. Built-in AV out, turbo controllers, and now 100% compatibility and accuracy! To be fair, the compatibility and accuracy were pretty high with the cloned chips, but I can’t stand NoAC-ish sound in my games, especially when the fix is so easy.
But what happened to the NES motherboard and the cloned chips? They now live together!
This effectively turns the NES into a clone system, with all its quirks and flaws.
And this marks the end of the short Restoring a Nice Famiclone series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I did. Stay tuned for other interesting bits from my Famicom collection.