“But can it run Doom?” is perhaps the final test of hacking a platform. From calculators to thermostats, we’ve seen Doom shoehorned into a lot of different pieces of hardware. Many times we’re left scratching our heads at the mashup, and this is no exception.
[TheRasteri] wasn’t satisfied with the existing ports of Doom, so he decided to bring the classic game to a classic console, the NES. In the video embedded after the break, he helpfully points out the system requirements for running Doom, and compares them with the specifications of the NES. Spoilers: not nearly enough.
How did he manage the feat? Taking inspiration from Nintendo’s own SuperFX chip, he embedded a co-processor in the cartridge, and fed the video stream from the cartridge back into the NES. It might not be fair to call it a co-processor, since it’s a Raspberry Pi with thousands of times the processing power of the 6502 that powers the NES. The idea might seem familiar, and in fact it was partially inspired by [Tom7]’s similar hack last year.
Using a Cypress USB controller to feed the graphics bus, [TheRasteri] is able to run Doom on the Raspberry Pi, take the visuals from the game, and convert them into blocks of graphics the NES expects to load from the cartridge. The best trick is that he apparently managed to squeeze everything into a normal NES cartridge. He plans to release a build video on his channel, so keep an eye out.
Rather than work with an original NES, [kevtris] chose to instead work with the NT Mini, an FPGA-based clone of his own design. Having picked up an EL640.480-AA1 screen, formerly from a DEK 265LT pick-and-place machine, he hunted down a data sheet and got to work. With the document outlining the required video input specifications, it was a simple matter of whipping up some Verilog and an adapter cable to get things working.
Mario, Kirby and friends can now run around, looking resplendent in the 9 colors of the red/green EL display. [kevtris] notes that the screen performs well with fast motion, and estimates the refresh rate to be in the vicinity of 60Hz. For those of you playing along at home, such screens are available online, though they’re not exactly cheap.
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.
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.
The Zelda series of games are known for their exciting gameplay, compelling story, but also their soundtracks. From fast-paced boss battles, to scenes of emotional turmoil, these tunes have been pumped out millions of Nintendo consoles over the years. [Tyler Barnes] has been a fan for a long time, and decided to produce a compilation of some of these tracks – delivering it on cartridge, of course.
The music was created using the Music Macro Language, and encoded into the NSF format ready to play on the Nintendo Entertainment System. [Tyler] has coded a menu system that allows the user to pick which tracks they wish to listen to. There’s some pretty parallax animations as well, along with an easter egg for those who know the games well enough to unlock it.
[Tyler] hopes to burn a few EEPROMs and send out some custom carts, either using donor carts or fresh builds. If you’re a fan of NES music but need your C64 fix as well, there’s a solution for that too. Video after the break.
Emulation of classic consoles has long been a solved problem. It’s now possible to run thousands of vintage games on a computer the size of a stick of gum, and to do so with all the benefits emulation brings. [M-Parks] isn’t the biggest fan, however – and decided to build a slimline NES handheld instead. The goal was to produce a portable NES in as compact a package as possible.
Things have come a long way in the handheld console modding scene in the last ten years. 3D printing has largely replaced vacuum forming, and it’s no different here. [M-Parks] modeled up a case and sent it off to be 3D printed in PLA, somewhat mimicking the general layout of the original Game Boy. It’s a little larger, but given that it accepts full-size original NES carts, it can only be so small.
A Retro-bit NES-on-a-chip console was used to provide the motherboard and cartridge connector for the build. Rounding this out is a power supply from Adafruit, an LM386 audio amplifier, as well as a digital volume control which is a nice touch.
While such a build may sound daunting to the absolute beginner, all it takes is a soldering iron, some hot glue, and a willingness to have a go. There’s nothing wild or groundbreaking about this build, but to dwell on that would be missing the point. [M-Parks] now has a portable NES to play on those long train rides, and learned some great skills doing it – a solid result for any project!
What do you do when you’re working with some vintage ICs and one of the tiny legs pops off? That’s what happened to [Kotomi] when working with an old Super Nintendo. A single lead for the sound chip just snapped off, leaving [Kotomi] one pin short of a working system (the Google Translatrix). This is something that can be fixed, provided you have a steady hand and a rotary tool that’s spinning at thousands of RPM.
Fixing this problem relies on a little bit of knowledge of how integrated circuits are built. There’s a small square of silicon in there, but this tiny die is bonded to a metal leadframe, which looks like the ribcage of a robotic centipede. This leadframe is covered in epoxy, the pins are bent down, and you have an IC. Removing just a tiny bit of epoxy grants access to the leadframe which you can then solder to. Don’t breathe the repair, it’s not pretty, but it does work.
While this technique makes use of a Dremel to break into the chewy nougat center of a vintage chip, and in some ways this could be called decapsulation, it really isn’t. We’ve seen people drop acid to get to the center of a chip and a really hot torch will get to the middle of a ceramic chip, but this technique is just accessing the lead frame of the IC. All ICs have a stamped (or photoetched) metal frame to which the silicone die is bonded. Running a Dremel against some epoxy doesn’t access the silicon, but it does grant access to the signals coming off the chip.