Sega Light Phaser to Atari XG-1 Adapter


The Sega Master System was released in 1986 in North America. It came with a light gun called the Sega Light Phaser. In 1987 Atari released the XE Game System, which is technically a repackaged Atari 8 bit computer with a detachable keyboard and it was marketed as a video game console. It also came with a light gun, the Atari XG-1.

Both systems were the direct competitors of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), which started its life in 1983 as the Nintendo Family Computer in Japan, and was later redesigned and released in the rest of the world as the NES in 1985.

The NES came with a light gun known as the NES Zapper and a pack-in game Duck Hunt, which used the light gun. As direct competitors, Atari and Sega’s offerings also came with light guns and light gun games.

While Nintendo’s gun is a simple light detector, both Atari and Sega guns are specialized light pens. They work by detecting the passing of the electron beam in front of their sights, sending an electric pulse to the computer when this happens, allowing it to determine the exact screen coordinates where the gun is pointed at. Sega games like Shooting Gallery take advantage of this superior detection method by displaying bullet holes on the background to represent your misfired shots in their exact positions. Nintendo’s gun can only detect if you’ve hit the (lit up) target, and nothing else. Read the rest of this entry »

Famicom Compatible Printer Port Interface


Also Featured on Hack A Day! Wow! I’m flattered!

If you live anywhere in the world (except the US maybe) you may have seen one of these:

Famicom compatible 8 bit computer

You can seem to find them in any place that sells imported crap from China, usually along with more traditional Famicom clones like the Polystation with its countless variations and piles of pirate cartridges. They can be yours for 10 to 20 US dollars, complete with two joypads, a light gun, a mouse and an operating system cartridge.

These are basically another Famicom clone with a keyboard built in. They tend to come with “educational” software like typing and math games, sometimes they even come with a mediocre knockoff of a popular graphical operating system like Microsoft™ Windows, and of course a plethora of unlicensed 1st generation Famicom games.

One of the peculiarities is that they usually come with word processing software. If you’ve actually used it you’ll notice that the software contains a Print option in its menus, and if you select it the computer seems to try to establish a connection with a printer. You might be wondering why is that even there, since these cheap computer knockoffs don’t have any means of interfacing with other devices save for game controllers (they can’t even save your data!). You might have heard vague legends about some of these machines actually having a built-in printer port, but they’re nowhere to be seen. Until now! Read the rest of this entry »

Restoring a Nice Famiclone Part 2


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.

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Dream Mary on a Budget


Dream Mary (also called Fancy Mario) is a “special” version of the 1985 NES/Famicom classic game Super Mario Bros. It can be commonly found on pirate Famicom multicarts as Fancy Mario, and rarely on single game cartridges as Dream Mary. It has a bizarre scrolling effect in which the screen splits in half: the right half is unchanged but the left half of the screen displays what’s way ahead of you, on the next screen.

This gives for an interesting and bizarre gameplay experience. Every element that appears on the left half of the screen isn’t solid – you can fall down into ghost pits, seemingly stand up in midair, inside pipes or knock on invisible blocks.

Mario's having a bad dream, and it's not because of Wart.
Mario’s having a bad dream, and it’s not because of Wart.

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Restoring a Nice Famiclone Part 1


Last Sunday I was checking out the Buy/Sell/Trade section of one of my favorite Internet communities besides Famicom World – Forums. Some guy was selling a bunch of gaming stuff for cheap, and I was fortunate enough to see the post just minutes after it was created, giving me the ultimate lead to snag stuff before anyone else.

Among the stuff that I bought from him, I got this nice looking Famiclone for about $5,  system + box + manual, untested.

Family Game Box

Family Game by NTDEC

I like these Famicom-shaped clones, and this one is in fact my very first one. I couldn’t resist getting it even if it was in rough/unknown condition, since these clones have several advantages over the newer ones.
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Murphy’s Law applied to Video Game Collecting


Ah, Murphy’s Law. It rules every aspect of our universe. In its simplest form it can be stated like this:

“If anything can go wrong, it will.”

More comprehensively,

“Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way.”

Nobody’s exempt from Murphy’s Law. Everybody’s got their story about how a quick and simple problem turned into an eternal and impossible one, or how something that was very unlikely to happen, happened – with disastrous consequences. Study hard for a test, and the teacher won’t show up.

Murphy’s Law has been applied into almost every field of  science and knowledge, like electronics, aerospace engineering, etc. Inspired by a recent thread on Famicom World, I’m going to use my personal experience to apply Murphy’s Law into one of my favorite hobbies: Video Game Collecting.
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GameBoy Style Reset Mechanism for the NES


Remember how the Nintendo GameBoy series lacked a reset button, but you could do a soft reset by holding B + A + Select + Start? Sadly, none of Nintendo’s home consoles had this feature, but it wasn’t really needed, provided that you had a physical reset button on the console itself. So I added this feature to my NES. Why?

I’m a really lazy person. I like to automate stuff as much as I can with my electronics skills to avoid unnecessary efforts. I have a wall-mounted TV, so one of my favorite things to do is lying down on my bed and play some classic NES games. I think that the American NES was designed with the couch potato in mind, since the controller cables are really really long, especially when compared to its Japanese counterpart.

I own lots of Famicom multicarts which I play on my NES with a converter. I’ve got some really good multicarts with a respectable number of unique games, saving me the hassle of repeatedly shuffling through cartridges when I want to play several games, all I need to do is push the Reset button and choose another game from the menu.

But wait, I have to get up from my comfortable position and go all the way to push the Reset button on the console, then back! That kind of negates the purpose of the multicart in the first place. There’s no easy way to return to the menu screen other than resetting the console. I’ve seen some mods where people physically extend their system’s reset button using wire and a toggle pushbutton, and also modified controllers with reset buttons on them. I don’t like any of these approaches because I like to preserve my system’s original aesthetics and also because I want a solution that works independently of the controller used. I was thinking how could I extend the reset function in a non-invasive way, when I recalled the GameBoy series using B + A + Select + Start as a soft reset sequence. Eureka! an idea was born.
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