Retro Pickup: SNES + Zelda (Non Working)

Something I’ve had langushing at the bottom of a box for a while is this old SNES.  It was given to be (free) byt a friend a while back with a copy of Zelda – A Link To The Past (win).  However, I had no power, video cable or controller for it so I’d never been able to check it out.  Aditionally, my friend had no idea if it worked or not.  As you can see it’s not exactly in collectors condition.

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Yello, dirt and sticker residue… Yuck….

Recently though I’ve managed to buy a NES (which uses the same power brick) and a Gamecube which came with a SCART cable (which SHOULD work with this PAL SNES, although not in RGB mode).  I even found a controller in CEX for £10 (the first money I’ve spent on this).  This means I was able to connect it all up and  give it a test to see what I had.

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Will it work?

 

Naturally, it didnt work…  The power light came on but that was it.  No picture (running throught a composite video output on the SCART to be safe [some ‘universal’ Nintendo SCART cables arent actually compatible with the PAL SNES systems due to capacitors placed in line with the cable killing the signal].  So, was it the game, the cable or the console?  Well everything is chuffing filthy anyhow so I would not be at all surprised if problem number one is hust dirty contacts.  So, it’s time to take it apart and give every contact I can find a good clean, if only to remove that hideous sticker residue.

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The Opened SNES

I Love old consoles, they are so  easy to take apart!  Six screws and I’m in the the console  this reveals a lot of dust and dirt especially on the Cartridge contacts.  Everything else actually looks ok with no major rust or dampproblems that I could see.  It’s not perfect on the shielding but nothing on the main PCB seems to be in bad condition.  Time to clean.

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Very Dirty CART Slot

I split the cleaning in to two parts.  I used cotton buds (q-tips) and glasses cleaner to remove the dirt from the cart slot and any of the exposed contacts.  I did the video output jack (RCA) as well as the AV out port where the SCART plugs in.  Some times I had to use a thin Jay Cloth to get in to the tiny areas.  I’m pretty sure the only cleaning that would matter were the AV out and CART slot contacts but I got rid of the dust whilst I was there.

Secondly I wanted to clean up the exterior of the SNES to try and get it looking less aweful.  For this I simply used cotton cloths and lemon creme cleaner (the regular stuff you clean surfaces with).  This stuff is slightly acidic and usually cuts through grime.  I worked this stuff on to the surface of the console and left it for a minute or so before buffing it out with a damp cloth which takes off the grit etc.

Asthetically, as you can see below it scrubbed up pretty well for a first pass (the idea here was really to get it working, I was goingt o fully clean it later).  There’s still a lot of yellowing but it’s in MUCH better condition than before.  The question is… will it work now?  Time to turn it on and see…

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The answer?  Kind of…  I now have sound and picture (in glorious composite as the cable did, indeed, have the issue with RGB output I thought it would).  However, my controller either doesnt work or the controller port assembly is faulty as I can’t start a game or do anything input wise unless i take the controller out of the port (then it seems to send a START command but that’s it).

So, progress…. but not quite there yet.

UPDATE: After looking at the options I took a punt on some cheap replica controllers from eBay.  These worked and proved my offical controller was duff.  However, they felt horrible to use.  Luckily they really were copys of the official once inside so i took them apart and transplanted the innards of the new controllers in to the case of the official controllers.  Net result is a controller using new innards but with the look and, crucially, feel of the official ones.  Result!

So, the Free SNES is now fully working with Zelda and two controllers.  Total cost, £10 for a funky controller and £8 for 2 x working replicas.  Not bad at all!.

 

 

 

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The Konami Laser Scope: WHY!?

This is the Konami Laser Scope for the NES.  It’s also probably the single worst peripheral I’ve ever encountered.  It’s designed as an alternative to the rather good NES Zapper everyone is familiar with  when they’ve played Duck Hunt.  The idea is you plug this in, and you get a little laser sight via the HUD, sound piped in via earphones and you shout “fire!” to get it to emulate pulling the trigger and shoot the target.  The artwork and advertising makes this look super fun / mega awesome.  I even remeb=mber the adverts from back in the day and really wanting one!  But this is 2016 and I’ve tried it  I give you the glorious Konami Laser Scope…

Except, of course, it’s rubbish.  I’ll quickly pass over the things it gets right:

  1. The Laser sight:  It projects a little red crosshair on to the blue eyepiece.  This is accurate and does indeed help with aiming and picking a target on the screen.  Top marks.
  2. The Sound / earphones work:  It’s kind of immersive, you could wear earphones but, I guess, in the mid 80’s this was less of a thing.
  3. It works:  Technically, it does what it’s supposed to.  You aim, you shout, it fires.  BUT….

This brings us on to the things wrong with it…

  1. It’s NOT Standalone:  For this thing to work AT ALL you have to have a NES Zapper plugged in to port 1 and this thing plugged in to port 2.  Yes, you have to plug in a BETTER controller to use this, WORSE, controller.
  2. It’s Uncomfortable: hard plastic, minimal adjustment and seemingly designed for the smallest of all children, wearing this feels like a mild form of medieveil torture.
  3. It’s a Stupid Idea:  You have to move your head around to aim.  Sounds cool right?  Actually it’s slower than pointing a Zapper and it’s uncomfortable / painfull.
  4. The Chord is really short:  Play this on a bigger than 24″ TV?  then you’ll be moving you head a lot as the cable is so short you’re only a few feet from the TV!
  5. It’s Hyper sensitive:  You are supposed to shout “fire” to trigger a shot.  In reality breathing near the mic triggers the shot.  A seagul outside can trigger the shot.  it’s terrible.
  6. It’s simply not as good as the included Zapperyou already have to have to use this thing.  You aim slower (unless you neck is superhuman) and you go cross eyed from loking at the crosshair in the HUD vs the TV screen in the distance.

So,  a very interesting pickup (was part of a bundle when I found a NES to buy). but not something I want to use ever again.

 

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I’m Not Dead, I’m Just Moving

Actual restoration posts on this blog have been a bit thin on the ground for the last 6 months.  I know this but it’s because I’m FINALLY moving to a bigger place and the Blast City and all the games are kinda obscured by boxes and not near anything like a power socket at the moment.  However, this means that when it is moved I’ll have it in a much better location to be able to do some of the fine tuning I’ve wanted to do for AGES.  This includes:

  • A guide on tuning the Monitor for convergence issues.
    • My monitor is fine but the corners are getting more and more colour drift and  moving it will give me a chance to rectify this and document the process as I go.
  • Removal of the monitor and quick check up.
    • I’ve not had it out in about 3 years so I thought I’d be able to do a tour
  • Giving the internals a proper clean.
    • When I got the cab it was dirty.  I only ever semi cleaned it.  the inside isn’t super clean and, if I want to get it back to factory fresh I need to touch it up a little.
  • Make that damn Naomi 2 as quiet as I know it can be.
    • the fans cause case rattle when on so I need to work out a way of dampening the vibration more permanently (the blue-tac method fails quite quickly) without modding it from stuck in a permanent way.

Anyway, I have to actually move first….  See ya in a month or so!

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The Collecting Off-Season

It’s that time of the year again!  The time when, myself, I get to pay a load of games and relax for a little.  It’s also the time when the forums and ebay seem to go totally deadwith regards to collectable retrogames.  There’s been nothing of any note for about 2 months now.  A shame…  Hpefully it’ll start to pick up in the new year.  Until then… back to the games!

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The Frustration Of A Quiet eBay

I’ve generally been buying my arcade / JAMMA games through eBay for a number of years but, recently, there seems to have been a very dry period for anything interesting.  It’s all still out there being listed BUT it’s all coming on as Buy It Now and for a price that’s probably close to double what the item would fetch if placed up for auction or even it’s probable forum sale value (probably a 1/3rd more on average?).

I get why people do this.  They have an item and a perceived value and want to get that value for or they are running a business and are charging premium retail pricing (often without the premium product).  However it seems to have had a sideeffect in that no one is putting items up for genuine auction any more as the same items appear in BIN format all the time (i.e. perceived as nothing selling) discouraging sellers.  It can’t be that, compared to 18 months ago, every game ever on all systems has suddenly become super rare?

The only exception to this seems to be vanilla JAMMA boards. There are still loads of them flying around.  I just with the market for MVS / STV / F3 / Naomi etc was a little more interesting at the moment.

I guess I’ll keep looking…

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Novus is Amazing (Removing Plastic Bezel Scratches)

When I got the Blast City cab there was an annoyingly large scrape mark on the top left of the monitor bezel.  Annoying but not exactly detrimental to the performance of the cab, so I lived with it.

However, it has always bugged me and  I do want to restore the cab to full glory as much as possible.  I just didn’t know how to fix THIS issue.  I was reading a Pinball forum one day and people were talking about a product called Novus.  A three stage  “Plastic restorer” product that is, supposedly, awesome.  I figured I’d give it a go as no one reported major issues using it.  The results (shown below) are amazing. I could even get the final marks out with a bit more time but this is the result of a little work (and a lot of elbow grease).

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Before Application and after

This is after a short 30 minute application of the products in the order they specify:

3: Abrasive heavy scratch remover.
2: Medium light scratch remover.
1: Polisher and shine solution.

As you can see, there are still a few scratches that show up under camera flash but it’s way, way better than before and  this was my first time using it.  Brilliant product. recommended to anyone with plastic issues!

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Changing The Backup Battery On Neo Geo MVS (1 Slot)

I recently picked up this Neo Geo MV1FZ single slot board off eBay for a reasonable price (So many seem to be up there for £65+ and anything on an auction has a problem). simply because I have one working MVS board already but it’s got it’s original battery and MVS board batteries have a nasty habit of leaking and destroying the PCB leading to the dreaded “Calendar Error” message that I’ve had happen to a board of mine before.

It came, it was a little dusty but it worked. Nice.  Now, my soldering skills are a bit suspect and I killed the last thing I tried to fix so this board was bought as an insurance policy in case I messed up again.

MV1-FZ

MV1-FZ

Taking off the cover of an MVS board is dead easy.  4 screws (3 in this case) and the plastic lifts off to reveal the PCB.  Again. it’s a little dusty but actually in pretty good shape for a old PCB.

A Bit Dusty but pretty good!

A Bit Dusty but pretty good!

Usually around the backup battery RAM area (where the battery lives) there is fur from where the acid has leaked from the button cell.  Amazingly this wasn’t the case on this board!  Looking at this and my existing MVS I think this one is actually in better shape so I thought I’d change the battery on this one and make it my main board.

Old battery area

Old battery area

The batteries on MVS boards look like Lithium Button Cell batteries but these are rechargeable.  I have heard of people removing the originals and then cutting the recharge circuit to enable the replacement with a regular 3V battery that doesn’t recharge.  I’m more of a purist so I don’t like to hack off bits of an original board for no reason and I do like to keep things as close to functional as possible.

With that in mind I found this little beauty! It’s made by Panasonic, has a sealant around the edge for safety and, crucially the legs are exactly the same distance apart as the holes on the motherboard so it’s a drop in replacement.  Overall it’s a little smaller in size but I believe the capacity is roughly equivalent to the old, original battery.

The only place I found them is RS components. This is the link to the product. At this time they are a a reasonable £3.07 each.  Cheap for another 20 years of battery backup on your MVS.

In case you wan to search elsewhere or that link breaks the  description is “Panasonic 3V, VL2020 Lithium Vanadium Pentoxide Rechargeable Coin Cell Battery, PCB Pin Terminal, 20mAh”

New Rechargable Lithium Battery

New Rechargable Lithium Battery

To remove the existing cell from the PCB we must first deal with one of my most hated things….  STICKY BACK FOAM PADS!  these things are horrible to remove as foam rips and gets stuck to the board.  This time I’m going to be really, really careful.

Sticky Foam

Sticky Foam

And, even after 5 careful minutes of pulling, I still didn’t manage a clean job.  However, the old battery terminals are now visible and clean enough that I can get to the  solder points.  I’m holding the pad back with Sellotape and I think there’s enough stick left to get the pad back down again once finished.

Taped Back Foam

Taped Back Foam

To remove the battery is pretty simple.  Take the soldering iron that’s warmed up and melt the solder on the two joints shown (one at a time).  Have one hand on the battery so that when the solder melts you can pull the battery leg through the PCB.  Doing this one at a time should make the job easy.  Once the battery is out you can clean up the left over solder with solder wick or similar.

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I didn’t take any pics of actually removing the old cell as I was concentrating too much on not breaking anything this time. However, above is with the old battery and below is with the new one.   Attaching the new battery is as simple as placing the feet through the PCB and then soldering down.  It’s a fairly big solder joint so is pretty easy to do.   As you can see, the solder joint closest to the board edge is a bit poor but I’m happy enough with the other one.

I hate this stuff

Flipping the board over this is what the new battery looks like in place.  Nice and secure and, if it turns on, ready for another few years of operation whilst being as close to stock as possible.

The new battery in place

The new battery in place

Connecting the board up and turning it on reveals success!  Games boot and settings can be changed.  I left the system running for 20 minutes as the recharge rate on these batterys is really slow.  turning it on later I still have my single high score and settings backed up.

Working after the surgery

Working after the surgery

I’m pretty sure this is my first 100% successful solder job. Even the foam pad whent back down again.

Protective foam pad

Protective foam pad

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