Pokemon ROM Hacks Brought To The Real World

If you were a kid anywhere in the last 30 years, it was nearly impossible to avoid at least some exposure to the Pokemon franchise. Whether that’s through games like Red and Blue to Scarlet and Violet, the brief summer everyone played Pokemon Go, or to other media such as the trading card game or anime, it seems to have transcended generations and cultures fairly thoroughly. And, if you’ve consumed all there is of official Pokemon video gaming, you may be surprised to know there are a number of slightly modified games floating around out there that can be translated onto game carts just like their official counterparts.

[imablisy] has played a lot of these ROM hack games but always within something like a virtual console or emulator, so he wanted something physical which would work on original hardware of the era. For this he’s making physical copies of Flora Sky and Vega, which are based on Pokemon Emerald and Fire Red originally for the Game Boy Advance. To get the cart he found a bunch of Mother 3 cartridges to use as the donor. From there he backed up his Emerald and Fire Red cartridges, modified the ROMs with the modifications, and then sent those new ROMs to overwrite the data on the Mother 3 cartridges.

A playable cartridge is only half of the build, though. He wants these to look and feel like real Pokemon games, so he added a color-appropriate translucent case and also printed custom holographic labels for each. It might seem straightforward, but from the style of [imablisy]’s video it’s clear he is very familiar with processes like these, from the artwork all the way to the hardware and software side. We’re also pleased no classic hardware was damaged during this build, much like this version of Doom on an NES cart which used a common game for the donor to upset the least number of collectors.

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DIY GameTank Game Console Gets Upgraded Cartridge

Over the summer, you might recall seeing a homebrew 6502 game console called the GameTank grace these pages. The product of [Clyde Shaffer], the system was impressively complete, very well documented, and even had a budding library of games.

Recently, [Clyde] took to the r/electronics subreddit to show off the latest improvement to the GameTank: a revised removable cartridge. The biggest change this time around is the addition of 32 KB of battery-backed SRAM that gives games (or any other software that might be on the cartridge) some persistent storage to work with. Continue reading “DIY GameTank Game Console Gets Upgraded Cartridge”

A Pokemon Silver Cartridge Made Of Pure Silver

The big problem with Pokemon Silver is that it came in a cartridge made of only-slightly-sparkly grey plastic. [Modified] decided to fix all that, making an all-silver cartridge instead.

The cartridge was first modeled to match the original as closely as possible, and 3D printed for a fit check. From there, a test cartridge was machined out of a block of aluminium to verify everything was correct. It’s a wise step, given the build relies on a 1-kilogram bar of silver worth roughly $750.

With everything checked and double-checked, machining the silver could go ahead. Every scrap of silver that could be saved from the CNC machining was captured in a box so that it could be recycled. Approximately 28 grams of silver was lost during the process. WD40 was used as a coolant during the machining process, as without it, the silver didn’t machine cleanly. The final cart weighed 164 grams.

It’s not a particularly hard project for an experienced CNC operator, but it is an expensive one. Primary expenses are the cost of the silver bar and the Pokemon cart itself, which can be had for around $50 on the usual auction sites.

However, the “heft and shine” of the finished product is unarguably glorious. Imagine handing that over to a friend to plug into their Game Boy! Just don’t forget to ask for it back. If you’re rich enough to do the same thing with Pokemon Gold or Platinum, don’t hesitate to drop us a line. 

We love a good casemod, and this one reminds us of a brilliant crystal PlayStation 2 from years past.

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HitClips Cartridge Hack

HitClips Custom Cartridge Hack Will Never Give Up, Let Down, Or Turn Around

In August 2000, Tiger Electronics released HitClips: Music cartridges and players designed to easily share 60 second low quality Clips of a youngster’s favorite Hits. Various players were available, and individual cartridges were inexpensive enough to collect. And it’s these toy music players that [Guy Dupont] has been hacking quite successfully on as you can see in the video after the break and on [Guy]’s Hackaday.io page.

HitClips Cartridge Hack
Two PCB’s make up the new cartridge

[Guy]’s main goal was to make cartridges of his own that could not just hold more music than the short clips in the commercially made product, but could make use of modern technology that has matured since HitClips came onto the scene more than 20 years go.

The project’s components are relatively simple, but beautifully executed. An ATTINY84 didn’t work out, so a SAM D09 controller was put it place to to read files from a microSD card and translate the WAV file into the HitClips player’s format. 3d printed cartridges and custom PCB’s complete the hack, ensuring that you can use any of the many HitClips players to play something new for a change.

The end result is quite good, considering that it’s still just 8 bit audio on a 20 year old toy player. Tiger Electronics made another toy that’s quite popular with hackers of the musical kind.

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DIY Handheld Game Puts Its Brains On A Removable Cart

Over the years we’ve seen plenty of homebrew handheld game systems that combine an AVR microcontroller, a few buttons, and an small OLED display. Some of them have even been turned into commercial products, such as the Arduboy. They’re simple, cheap, and with the right software, a lot of fun. But being based on an MCU, most of them share the same limitation of only being able to hold a single game at any one time.

But not the Game Card, by [Dylan Turner]. This handheld was specifically designed so that games could be easily swapped out using physical cartridges. But rather than trying to get the system’s microcontroller to boot code from an external flash chip, the system relocates the MCU to the removable cartridge. That might seem a bit overkill, but given how cheap the ATTINY84A on each cartridge is, it’s not exactly going to break the bank.

With the microcontroller on the cartridge, the only hardware that stays behind on the Game Card is the SSD1306 128×64 OLED display, buttons, and the battery. That means the handheld is effectively non-functional unless a game is slotted in, but that could be said of most early cartridge-based game systems as well. On the other hand, it also opens up the possibility of producing cartridges with more powerful microcontrollers down the line.

Using a different microcontroller for each game is a neat hack, but it’s not the only solution to the problem. We previously saw a community effort to add expandable storage to the Arduboy in the form of a DIY cartridge, which ultimately led to the development of an official flash chip upgrade for the handheld.

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Detergent DRM Defeated On Diminutive Dishwasher

Has it really come to this? Are we really at the point that dishwashers have proprietary detergent cartridges that you’re locked into buying at inflated prices?

Apparently so, at least for some species of the common kitchen appliance. The particular unit in question goes by the friendly name of Bob, and is a compact, countertop unit that’s aimed at the very small kitchen market. [dekuNukem] picked one of these units up recently, and was appalled to learn that new detergent cartridges would cost an arm and a leg. So naturally, he hacked the detergent cartridges. A small PCB with an edge connector and a 256-byte EEPROM sprouts from each Bob cartridge; a little reverse engineering revealed the right bits to twiddle to reset the cartridge to its full 30-wash count, leading to a dongle to attach to the cartridge when it’s time for a reset and a refill.

With the electronics figured out, [dekuNukem] worked on the detergent refill. This seems like it was the more difficult part, aided though it was by some fairly detailed specs on the cartridge contents. A little math revealed the right concentrations to shoot for, and the ingredients in the OEM cartridges were easily — and cheaply — sourced from commercial dishwashing detergents. The cartridges can be refilled with a properly diluted solution using a syringe; the result is that each wash costs 1/75-th of what it would if he stuck with OEM cartridges.

For as much as we despise the “give away the printer, charge for the ink” model, Bob’s scheme somehow seems even worse. We’ve seen this technique used to lock people into everything from refrigerator water filters to cat litter, so we really like the way [dekuNukem] figured everything out here, and that he saw fit to share his solution.

It’s Not A Computer If It Doesn’t Have A Cartridge Slot

For viewers of sci-fi TV and films from the 1960s onwards, the miniaturisation of computer hardware has been something of a disappointment. Yes, it’s amazing that we can get 1.21 Jigabytes onto a memory card that fits comfortably under a postage stamp, but we were promised a different future. One of satisfyingly chunky data modules that activated everything from starships to handheld data recorders to malevolent rogue supercomputers, and one that has so far only materialised in the form of cartridges for game consoles.

Our colleague [Tom Nardi] has the solution for his cyberdeck though, in the form of 3D-printed cartridge shells that hide regular USB hardware and mate with a concealed USB socket in the slot. So far he’s designed cartridges for Flash drives, WiFi and Bluetooth adapters, a Wemos D1 Mini, a receptacle, and a parametric reference design.

It’s a bit of pleasing retro fun, but behind it all could be a surprisingly practical and useful expansion system. Each cartridge contains enough space for a lot of extra electronics, so it’s almost the ideal format for building a USB-driven project inside. Best of all since the interface is USB, it still works with conventional USB plugs and sockets. We like the idea, and it’s one that would be a good addition to any cyberdeck project.

We’re far more used to seeing home-made cartridges on game consoles.

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