By now, most of us have had some experience getting ROMs from classic video games to run on new hardware. Whether that’s just on a personal computer with the keyboard as a controller, or if it’s a more refined RetrioPie in a custom-built cabinet, it has become relatively mainstream. What isn’t mainstream, however, is building custom hardware that can run classic video games on the original console (translated). The finished project looks amazing, but the prototype blows us away with it’s beauty and complexity.
[phanick]’s project is a cartridge that is able to run games on the Polish Famicon clone called the Pegasus. The games are stored on an SD card but rather than run in an emulator, an FPGA loads the ROMs and presents the data through the normal edge-connector in the cartridge slot of the console. The game is played from the retro hardware itself. It takes a few seconds to load in each ROM, but after that the Pegasus can’t tell any difference between this and an original cartridge.
The original prototype shown here was built back in 2012. Since then it’s been through a few iterations that have reduced the size. PCBs were designed and built in-house, and the latest revision also includes a 3D-printed case that is closer to the size of the original Famicon cartridges.
Even if you don’t have an interest in classic video games or emulation, the video below is worth checking out. (Be sure to turn on the subtitles if you don’t speak Polish.) [phanick] has put in a huge amount of time getting all of the details exactly right, and the level of polish shows in the final product. In fact, we’ve featured him before for building his own Famicom clone.
The Nintendo Entertainment System, or Famicom depending on where in the world you live, is a console that occupies a special place in the hearts of people of a certain age. If you lived in a country that Nintendo didn’t ship its consoles to in the late ’80s and early ’90s though, you might think that it would be an experience that would have passed you by. Eastern Europeans for instance didn’t officially meet Mario for years.
Fortunately for them there was an industry of Chinese and Taiwanese clone makers whose products were readily available in those markets. For the countries without official Nintendo products it is these consoles and their brand names that have achieved cult gaming status rather than the real thing.
But he wasn’t just satisfied with building a Pegasus clone. Along the way the project expanded to include support for 72-pin NES cartridges as well as the 60-pin Pegasus ones, and the ability to play both PAL and NTSC games. For this dual-system support he had to include both sets of processor and graphics chip variants, along with logic to switch between them. He goes into some detail on the tribulations of achieving this switch.
The result is a very impressive and well-executed piece of work. The PAL games have a letterbox effect with black bars at top and bottom of the screen, while the NTSC games have slightly washed-out colours. But if you were a gamer of the day you’ll see these as simply part of the genuine experience.
He’s posted a descriptive video which we’ve embedded below the break, but with non-English commentary. It is however still worth watching even without understanding the audio, for its view of the completed board and gameplay.