Nintendo’s Cardboard Piano Becomes A Real Working Instrument

Nintendo’s LABO piano is a strange kind of instrument. Hewn out of cardboard and used in combination with some advanced software, it’s entirely passive, with all the sound generation and smarts coming from the Switch console which slots into the body. [Simon the Magpie] decided that this simply wouldn’t do, and set about turning the LABO piano into a real synthesizer (Youtube link, embedded below).

In order to pull off this feat, [Simon] sourced an OKAY synth kit– a basic monophonic synthesizer designed to fit inside a 3D printed case. Instead, here it’s built inside the LABO’s roomy cardboard housing. The keyboard is reinforced with duct tape and tweaked to accept those common and horrible red SPST buttons, and the front panel is fitted with control dials where the Switch would usually sit.

After some careful crafting, the piano is ready to rock. It’s not the most responsive instrument, with the flexible cardboard struggling to reliably trigger the installed buttons, but it does work. [Simon] performs a small instrumental piece over a drum track to demonstrate that you don’t need a Nintendo Switch to have fun with the LABO piano.

Expect to see similar builds on stage at chiptune shows in the next few years – at least until mold gets the better of them. There are other ways to hack the LABO piano, too. Video after the break.

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ESP32 Adds Bluetooth to GameCube Controllers

While it might not be the most traditional design, there’s no debating that Nintendo created something truly special when they unleashed the GameCube controller on an unsuspecting world back in 2001. Hardcore fans are still using the controller to this day with current-generation Nintendo consoles, and there’s considerable interest in adding modern conveniences like USB support to the nearly 20-year-old design.

One particularly promising project is the BlueCubeMod created by [Nathan Reeves]. He’s developed a small custom PCB that can be installed into an official GameCube controller to turn it into a Bluetooth device. You do have to sacrifice the original cord and force feedback for this mod, but we think many will see the ability to use this iconic controller with their computer or phone as a pretty fair trade.

The PCB holds an ESP32-PICO-D4 which is operating as a standard Bluetooth HID controller for maximum compatibility with modern systems. Control signals are pulled directly from the controller’s original PCB with just two wires, making the installation very simple. Wondering where the power comes from? As the rumble motor isn’t supported anyway, that gets tossed and in its places goes a 700 mAh battery which powers the controller for up to six hours. Overall it’s a very clean modification that [Nathan] believes even beginners will be capable of, and he ultimately plans to turn this design into a commercial kit.

Currently you still need a receiver if you want to use the BlueCubeMod with the Nintendo Switch, but [Nathan] says he’s working on a way to get around that requirement by potentially switching out the ESP32 for a STM32 with a CC256x radio. He says this will give him more direct control over the Bluetooth communications, which should allow him to take into tackle the intricacies of talking to the Switch directly.

Of course, the GameCube did have an official wireless controller back in the day. We’ve seen modifications to get the WaveBird to get it talking to modern systems as well, but there’s something to be said for slimmer form factor of the original edition.

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SNES Mode 7 Gets An HD Upgrade

Emulating SNES games hits us right in the nostalgic feels, but playing SNES games on an 1920×1080 monitor is a painful reminder of the limitations of SNES hardware. [DerKoun] felt the same consternation, and decided to do something about it. He realized that some SNES games have much higher resolution textures that weren’t being taken advantage of. The SNES had a revolutionary video mode, mode 7, that allowed a game to set a relatively high resolution background, and then rotate and scale that background during gameplay.

This pseudo 3d effect was amazing for its time, but taking a high resolution image and squashing it into a 320 by 240 pixel viewport makes for some painful artefacts. This is where [DerKoun]’s hack comes in. He wrote a modification to the bsnes emulator, allowing those rotations and scaling to happen in full resolution, vastly improving the visuals of mode 7 games.

The latest teaser for what’s to come is shown above, mapping the mode 7 backgrounds onto a widescreen viewport, as well as HD.

Come back after the break for some mind blowing SNES HD PilotWings action!

Update: Development discussion has continued in a new thread. Start with link above to get origin story and continue to the new dev thread for recent updates.
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A Chandelier Guaranteed To Make Some Retro Game Hardware Collectors Wince

If there’s one thing our community is good at, it’s re-imagining redundant old hardware, particularly in the field of classic gaming consoles and their peripherals. Dead consoles have become new ones, Powergloves have ventured into virtual reality, and light guns, well, they’ve become novelty light fittings.

The [JJGames] Nintendo light gun chandelier will probably make collectors wince who prefer their retro hardware pristine, but it’s certainly an eye-catching conversation piece. The twelve guns are carefully disassembled and the Nintendo electronics removed, before a bulb holder and teardrop lamp is installed. Wiring is completed with twist caps,  the guns are joined at the grip with some metal strips and glue, and a chain for ceiling attachment completes the ensemble. A dozen pieces of ireplacable retro hardware sacrificed for a novelty, or a masterpiece of interior decoration? You decide, though we’d opt for the latter in the context of the retro games based business in which it sits.

Our favourite NES lightgun hack ever has to be [Seb Lee-Delisle]’s one that fires a real laser. Meanwhile [JJGames] have made it here before in a similarly wanton use of classic Nintendo plastic, with their urinal made from SNES cartridges.

Manufacturing SimCity For The NES

Late last year, news broke of impossibly rare artifact from the age of the Nintendo Entertainment System. SimCity was the classic simulation game for PC and just about every other console, and it was written for the NES but never released. Now one guy finally got around to digging out his copy, which was dumped at the Portland Retro Gaming Expos and finally put on the Internet. It’s an unfinished game but it’s mostly playable, even if it is a bit more primitive than the PC version.

[Matt] wanted to build his own copy of SimCity for the NES, so that’s what he did. It’s a project that took months of work and a ton of research, but finally there’s a professional-looking cartridge version of SimCity.

With the ROM for SimCity loose on the Internet, that part of the build was relatively easy. You can still get EPROMs or EEPROMs, UV erasers, and a good programmer will run you fifty bucks through the usual vendors. There are even places on the Internet that will split up the emulator-compatible ROM file into two files for the character and program ROM in each NES cartridge. The trick here is finding the right cartridge with the right mapper. It turns out there are only four games that you can simply drop SimCity ROM chips into and expect everything to work. All of these games cost a small fortune, but their Famicom versions are cheap.

After carefully desoldering the Famicom game, soldering in the new chips, and applying a fancy professional label, [Matt] had his cartridge version of SimCity for the NES. It’s for a Famicom, though, but you can get adapters for that. Check out the video below.

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Mods Keep The WaveBird Kicking In The Switch Era

Nintendo made some questionable decisions during the early 2000’s, but developing the WaveBird certainly wasn’t one of them. Years before wireless controllers were the standard on home game consoles, the WaveBird gave GameCube owners a glimpse into the future. It managed to deliver lag-free gaming without resorting to easily-blocked infrared, and had a battery life and range long enough that there was really no downside to cutting the cord aside from the lack of rumble support.

In fact, the WaveBird was such a good controller that some fans just can’t put the thing down even in 2019. [Bill Paxton] loves his so much that he decided to modify it so he could use it on Nintendo’s latest money printing machine, the Switch, without having to fiddle with any adapters. While he was at it, he decided to fix the only serious drawback of the controller and hack in some rumble motors; arguably making his re-imagined WaveBird superior in just about every way to the original.

It might be counter-intuitive, but the trick here is that [Bill] actually took the internals from a standard wired GameCube controller and fitted it all into the case for the WaveBird. That’s how he got the rumble support back, but where does the signature wireless capability come from?

For that, he took apart a “GBros. Wireless Adapter” from 8BitDo. This gadget is intended to let you use your existing GameCube controllers on the Switch wirelessly, so all he had to do was shove its PCB inside the controller and wire it directly to the pads on the controller’s board. Thankfully, the WaveBird was rather husky to begin with, so there’s enough space inside to add all the extra hardware without much fuss.

Between modifications like this and efforts to reverse engineer the controller’s wireless protocol, hackers aren’t about to let this revolutionary accessory go gently into that good night. You might see a GameCube slaughtered for a meme, but WaveBirds never die.

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It’s (Almost) Two Keytars In One!

All the best retro-1980s chiptune acts should possess a keytar. It’s the Law, or something. [Theremin Hero] has reminded us of this with a new video we’ve shown below featuring an instrument he had a part in creating alongside [Sam Wray] and [Siddharth Vadgama] a few years ago. The Blade is a 3D-printed keytar featuring two Guitar Hero necks and an integrated pair of Game Boys to provide the sound from the authentic silicon.

To describe it in those terms though is to miss a wealth of other components and featured. The keyboard itself is from a Rock Band keytar which feeds MIDI to a Raspberry Pi running PD Extended that handles all the button press mappings. An Arduino Mega performs the same task for the two Guitar Hero necks. Midi from the various sources is processed by an Arduino Boy which then feeds the Game Boys that make the sounds. Oh – and there’s a Leap Motion 3D motion controller in the mix as well, though that doesn’t seem to be used directly in the chiptune synth functionality.

We’ve had a few keytars here over the years, but this one makes us think of the Commodore 64 instrument created by [Jeri Ellsworth].

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