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Well, this will be my first scripted video review. Don’t fret though as I stated before I am not switching to all video but I am possibly staying video only for game reviews. This video review is for my annual Halloween special. This years game review. Beast Busters, the 1989 arcade shooter from SNK.

Happy Halloween!

UPDATE! I’ve tweaked the script and added some screenshots to also make the review into a good old fashioned article for those that prefer the written things in life, or that hate my voice.


well, its that time again, October and we all know what that means. a shoehorned Halloween themed game review for my otherwise hardware centric blog and now blog slash YouTube channel. I mean unless anyone out there knows of a Halloween themed PC I could review. I suppose i could paint a pumpkin on the side of a PC tower or something but…na. This years game  will be the 1989 arcade gun game beast busters.Beast Busters was developed by SNK and was their final game before the Neo Geo.

Beast Busters is generally referred to as an Operation Wolf clone with zombies and that is fairly accurate.The zombies in Beast Busters aren’t even your common mindless flesh eaters but are gun toting, knife flinging, motorcycle riding soldiers of the undead. This doesn’t help at all in dispelling the clone stigma.

The Beast Busters arcade cabinet allowed for three players and featured uzi gun controllers for all three players. Unlike many arcade games of the late 80s and early 90s Beast Busters was not ported to every home computer imaginable and only made an appearance on the 16 bit Amiga and Atari ST machines. The Amiga version was my first experience with the game as a child but I don’t recall ever getting past the first level due to either my incompetence on figuring out the mouse controls or my lack of a joystick I only remember I couldn’t get the gun sight to move acceptably and the game was just to much of a chore because of this despite my enthusiasm for a zombie shooter. My local arcade at the mall, Giggles, did feature the game for awhile back in the far forsaken corner and so I did get to play it in its original format some.

For this review I will be taking the unfortunate step of emulating but since I cant horde arcade cabinets and boards can be a little hard to come across I make an exception for arcade games.

The game starts off with a very vague plot about a random city overrun with the undead. You get to choose from three characters who as far as I can tell play identically in game. The names though just scream 80’s action cheese. Our hero’s go by Johnny Justice, Sammy Stately and Paul Patriot. Sammy Stately? that’s actually pretty clever. The writers must of been up all night patting themselves on the back over coming up with that one. I’m surprised we don’t get Reggie Regal and Patty Presidential as secret characters.


Like operation wolf and other games of the genre you automatically scroll through the levels in first person blasting everything that moves. other then your standard uzi you also have a grenade button that lobs an explosive damaging enemies in a wide area on screen. As you fire you can run out of bullets. If this happens your rate of fire slows down but ammo falling from the top of the screen is pretty abundant. grenade power ups such as rockets, napalm grenades and lightning grenades are also available as well as first aid kits and according to the intro bullet proof vests though I don’t recall seeing any in my play through.

As I mentioned earlier the bulk of the beasts you will be encountering in beast busters are zombies. Unlike your classical slow moving mindless variety though all these undead are packing heat and are rearing to pop a cap off in your stately a…derriere. These zombies also drive cars, pilot boats and the football player zombies even assault you from the air while being lifted airborne by what looks like undead owls. There are other enemies though as you traverse this city of the damned. zombie chihuahua dogs, sentient piles of scrape metal and aforementioned owls. The real highlight is the sometimes downright bizarre midboss and boss beasts. Some are fairly mild on the oddness chart such as the first boss, a switchblade flinging zombie punk rocker who transforms into a fire spitting dog mid fight. other not so odd bosses are a gang of zombie bikers and a pair of blue uzi toting zombies that look like a amalgamation of Jason Vorhees and Blaster from Mad Max and Thunderdome. some of the bosses get really…really odd. we have a river blob midboss that has the most serine look on his face.


He doesn’t even come close to the level boss though which is a floating eyeball encased within a sphere of finely toned naked blue men. As you inflict damage the hunky blue heart throbs fall off into the murky depths exposing the lurking horror within.


One boss battle also has you waiting your aim as you shoot this mad scientist type as he holds onto a hostage. after he dies you have to fight a second form which kind of looks like……..well I’m not really sure what it looks like but I find the dance like motion it continuously makes kind of disturbing. The boss that takes the cake though is without doubt the monster car. Later in the game your fighting in a parking garage when your suddenly attacked by a rocket launcher equipped jeep. not to strange yet right? how about as you damage the jeep parts start falling off revealing a disgusting jeep monster hybrid. The tires have claws, eyeballs look out where the headlights once were biological goo ozes out of the shattered windshield and a vicious fang filled mouth is where the front grill once was. The car not only serves as the levels midboss but also the main boss as it pulls itself up somehow on your elevator at the end of level for a final showdown. All and all its a pretty silly boss battle but definitely memorable.


The final level is nothing but a boss rush and ends up being pretty unsatisfying. The final boss himself though is a snarky looking mad scientist type in a techno eyeball throne. After dealing with his throne you get to face his true form. a cycloptian flying brain, because….obviously. even after slaying the eyeball brain things arn’t over yet as the final battle is against what I assume is some kind of alien machine bristling with weapons.

The ending is a bit lack luster but what can you expect from an arcade title. as your victorious dude bros celebrate amid the ruins a giant spaceship slowly descends and cue cliffhanger ending.


Visually the game isn’t horrible, at least the arcade version is not. there is some sprite scaling that goes on in a few levels as you go down a street or hallway though the effect is nothing to write home about.The environments are destructible is some places though obviously nothing like today’s games. The subway train in the first level can be shot up pretty thoroughly and I always enjoyed blasting fire hydrants in the street stage.



So what did I think of this game? Beast Busters is ultimately a fun but silly game. I never took the element of horror far enough for my tastes and in stead went in a more silly direction with simply taking gun wielding solders as enemies and giving them an undead sprite swap. Some moments are almost inspired, again in that silly kind of way such as the monster car boss and the floating eyeball surrounded by naked blue hard bodied zombies. Its certainly not the prettiest game but its fairly short and does not overstay its welcome making it a nice burst of short Halloween fun.


I came across Night Slashers as a young man at a local amusement parks arcade. I was immediately captivated by the amazing horror atmosphere and game play. Night Slashers is a 1993 Arcade release from Date East which has as far as I can tell no ports to any other system. The game is your basic beat-em-up where you scroll from left to right beating the hell out of everything in your path. What sets Night Slashers apart from other games is its excellently executed horror theme featuring various monsters such as zombies, werewolves and vampires. The game also has a pretty high gore level for the time as well as a pretty excellent sound track. There are two versions of this game, one released in Japan and then an oversees version with the various censoring that I’ll get into.

The plot of the game is pretty sparse as to be expected from a arcade game and especially a beat-em-up. The world has been overrun by the undead. Zombies, mutants and monsters of all sorts have overrun the earths armies and mankind is being slowly eradicated with only a few remaining outposts.

First lets take A look at our three intrepid hero’s which are all selectable playable characters. The “Night Slashers”, yea, sounds more like a trio of serial killers then monster slaying hero’s.


Christopher is a Billy Ray Cyrus look alike vampire hunter, hes the most balanced character.

Jake is a reject from a failed 80’s hair band that happened to have giant cyborg arms. hes the slow powerful one of the three.

Hong-Hua is the fast and agile female character that every beat-em-up of the era required.

The version I’ll be reviewing here is the Japanese version since I feel it is the superior of the two as far as atmosphere goes. Mostly they are identical games besides some superficial censoring. The oversees version had the gore turned down and most of the blood was colored from red to green. It doesn’t really effect much as far as game play goes but the over the top horror atmosphere takes a hit from it. other changes include missing between level cut screens and the censoring of the character Christopher’s move. In the Japanese version when he ends his attack he flashes a cross but in the oversees version the cross is changed to a blue gem. A lot of Japanese companies were concerned with offending anyone in America back then so this kind of censorship was very common.



Another change involves when the game prompts you to continue moving to the right to progress through the stage. In the oversees version its just a “GO” arrow but in the Japanese version the arrow flips over and reveals “TO HELL”, pretty clever.


The game itself has a good variety of creatures pulled from the stock of usual suspects. Zombies, werewolves, vampires giant executioners, mad scientists, golems, elementals. Everything is nicely animated with werewolves starting out as normal looking young guys standing around in jackets before transforming into leaping werewolves and vampires looking appropriately vampireish. The highlight though is the horde of zombies. we have regular guy zombies, fat man zombies, armless zombies and my favorite the decomposing skeletal zombies that heavily remind me of “Tar Man” from Return of the Living Dead.


Blood is everywhere, intestines hanging out, bones poking through its just very nicely done overall.

Theres also these guys that I guess are psycho’s with knives and hockey masks. They move around swiftly and do these sliding kick moves. I guess their undead though since if you look when they move their arms you can see ribs showing.


Dispatching any of these creatures results in lots of gore and bloody piles of body parts. Here is just a sampling of the death animations.


Bucking the trend of many games of this genre at the time there is an almost complete lack of any weaponry laying around to be used which is a shame because the nature of the game could of really benefited from it. From time to time you get knives, swords, fireball globes and brief cases to throw but its mostly a one time use weapon and is never very interesting overall.

So the game starts out with a brief summery about how the world has been overrun by monsters and the undead. At least in the English version. Since I’m playing the Japanese version I can just assume the text is basically saying the same things.


Japanese for “BRAINS!”?

The game starts out with your group assaulting an undead overrun hospital that apparently has been taken over by a mad scientist as a base for his inhuman experiments. This stage is possibly my favorite and really sets the tone for the game. The stage starts with you driving a kick ass 80’s style van straight through the front gate, over a horde of zombies and into the side wall. The hospital itself is nicely done and full of nice disturbing backgrounds like a caged area with humans crowded in and trapped presumably awaiting to be experimented on by the mad scientist. You have elevators that bring more zombies down and body bags that roll off the morgue shelves releasing even more undead.


I should also add that the stages to this game are in general pretty short but most do involve a sub boss fight sometimes right before the main boss battle. After a brief tour through the hospital you come across the very mad scientist. He always looked like Egon to me from Ghostbusters. I guess he took the breach of the containment unit pretty hard this time.


He first shows up riding in on a gurney slashing a zombie to bits with a knife/scalpel before a brief exchange of words and then a battle. Most boss and sub boss battles end with a particularly gory finish for the defeated monster and I’ve attempted to get screen shots of boss and said death together. You should be able to click on any of the images for an enlarged image. Directly following the death of the doctor you are greeted by the stage boss, a somewhat appropriate Frankenstein’s monster. The monster is well done and busts from his gurney in order to kill you. His death animation is particularly well done with a melting off the flesh to a skeleton that collapses to a pile.


The second stage is a creepy fog filled forest. This stage keeps up the atmosphere of dread as your assaulted by continuous hordes of foes.


After battling your way through the forest you come across a stage coach and a vampire who you suspect may be behind the recent apocalypse. Before taking off in his ghostly carriage though he tells his weird ass hunch back and Satan possessed Pinocchio puppet to murder you. The way the hunch back skips across the screen as well as the puppet is just genuinely creepy. You know when you see a doll and your thinking “that’s one creepy ass doll”. That’s this doll.


This fight is followed by a chase where your running to catch up to the carriage while werewolves are attempting to stop you. Apparently its common for monster hunters to be able to run at the same speed as a horse. Very handy indeed. Finally after NOT catching up to the carriage you come to a graveyard. The graveyard is pretty small and just has a handful of oversize generic R.I.P gravestones that fade away and turn into zombies if you touch them. It just feels like a wasted opportunity here as a great place for more atmosphere. The boss of this level is a golem. Hes actually pretty plain and boring.


I do have to say though that with his one eye kind of bulging out like it does he always reminded me of a rock golem version of Popeye.


Two things I need to point out at this point. One is the two mini games that you get as the game goes on in between stages. The first involves stepping on zombie heads as they emerge from the ground and the second is a zombie toss / zombie bowling where you try and toss a zombie into other zombies lined up like pins at a bowling alley. The highlight of these games is the zombie crowd watching in the background. Theres even a lady who has torn her head off. Their all in various states of decay. Along with the zombies there’s also bizarre adds plastered up like one for “Doctor Rippers hospital” who is the mad scientist of the hospital you just razed.


Next are the well done cut screen between stages that attempt to move the plot forward.


I love his vaguely disinterested pose and smug look here. I attempt to duplicate this look every time I drink a glass of red wine.

Anyways stage three is the head vampires castle and is filled with elevators, guillotine traps, hooded giant executioners and of course more zombies.


The mini boss is a ghostly knight and that smirking sword in a room with a few destructible Greek busts followed immediately by a battle with the head vampire. When you kill him he turns to stone and then to a pile of goo before the sun rises.



So with the vampire lord dead the world is saved and all is well……or not. You learn that the main menace is far more powerful so its off to South America. This stage is extremely short and takes place amid some Aztec themed ruins. There is no mini boss just a short stroll to the stage boss which is actually a pair of predators dressed as Mexican wrestlers? I dunno, its probably supposed to be demon Aztec shamans or something.


Stage 5 takes place aboard a large transport aircraft. You have discovered the source of the worlds evil and attempt to reach it but on the way your plane is assaulted by undead, or perhaps you stowed away on a plane of undead going to the island since your plane is stocked to the brim with monsters?


The fighting eventually leads to the roof of the plane where regardless of massive wind sheer and low oxygen you battle it out with a palette swapped undead knight just like the one you faced at the vampires castle as well as another aircraft that drops off mutants before you board it.


On board the second aircraft you meet the stage boss. A mummy. It was inevitable, you cant have werewolves, vampires and Frankenstein’s monster and not have a mummy. Though two things always came to mind with this boss. One is that he moves and fights like some professional MMA champion fighter with his fists up and his sidestep moments. Second is he always felt so misplaced to me here on a plane. It just feels like despite the cliche of it he would of been better faced in a tomb or a destroyed museum level or  something and that’s were I find one minor fault with this game. It seems after the first few stages it just kinda drops the ball on the overall horror atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong its still really good but I always wanted more and felt they could of pulled off so much more in that specific department.


The next and final stage takes place on a secret military base on a remote island. This is where whatever is causing this is based. Military experiment gone wrong is also cliche but in this case I like it.

When you crash land on the island base your faced with a sort of initial mini boss in the form of a Vietnam era ghost helicopter. Its somewhat transparent and you can see the dead and rotting corpses of the pilot through the cockpit and another dead soldier in the cabin. It fires at you with a nose cannon while creatures continuously attack from the sides. How to kill a ghost helicopter? punch it of course, that technique seems to work for a lot of things…..ghost helicopters, evil arch mages. When I was a kid playing this game this boss always stood out to me. I loved it and I don’t know why its not the most amazing boss in the game but it defiantly helped me remember this game as a kid.


After this fight we enter the base proper and are faced with a sort of boss rush, or a part of a game where you have to face previous bosses one after another. Now if we follow the code of classic horror video games we can easily reach a logical conclusion of whose next. We’ve faces zombies, mad scientists, werewolves, vampires, golems, Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy…whose left? Medusa…well that’s a good guess but no. DEATH of course.


Death tells Christopher to “talk to the hand”

Also following the nature of horror video games (I’m looking at you Castlvania) we realize that Death himself is NOT behind the undead hordes and he is just playing second fiddle to a even more powerful entity…..the cyber devil! I don’t think that’s the main villains name, its actually King Zarutz. So after Death in the form of the Grim Reaper (what other form would he take) reveals his place in the scheme of things you release him from his shame by…punching and kicking him to….DEATH. He likes to hold his scythe out and spin around like a bozo. Its a little silly but hard to avoid.

Shortly after this fight we finally meet the dreaded cyber devil, err King Zarutz. Well technically he is a cyber devil I really don’t know since its not clearly explained. I always just assumed he was a military experiment of some sort..sort of like DOOM where hell was accidentally accessed…I don’t know


He’s not really all that impressive or gory. To be honest he was kind of a anti climatic moment. He does employ this shield that surrounds him and hurts you a lot which is really really annoying but then I’m sure he was designed to eat quarters.

Once you defeat him the base begins to self destruct and as you run to escape the flaming ruins the remains of king Z float at you. At least there’s no timer here forcing you to escape or defeat him in a specified time, I usually hate those.


That’s pretty much It. You escape the base, It explodes and you go home. All the undead go back to being dead and everyone is happy.


Each character has their own ending showing what they end up doing after saving the world but none of it is anything spectacular.

So overall what do I think of this game? Does it hold up from my childhood memories? well, yes. The game is just good. Even with my trivial gripes the atmosphere is pretty unique and done well. The characters all play well and have a variety of moves. I personally would of liked to see more. I wanted more levels like the first one depicting a ruined civilization overrun by monsters. I wanted usable weapons and monster placement that made more sense and just a longer overall experience would be nice as this game can be finished quite quickly. Despite that its still a great early 90’s beat-em-up and if your a fan of that kind of genre you need to check this game out.

Now normally things would end here but it seems someone was standing over my shoulder as a youngster reading my thoughts as I played this game because some years ago someone created a homebrew mod of this game that other then being unpolished and unfinished made Night Slashers everything it could of and should of been. That game is Night Slashers X

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Night Slashers X is a homebrew remake of the original Night Slashers by BonusJZ for openBOR. openBOR is an open source game engine. Its free to download and its kind of like a program that people can write games for and then play them with the program. There’s versions of it for many consoles and computer types. I actually had somewhat of a hard time finding a version and then the files for NSX itself that worked and even then I think my version may be a Beta since it crashes/ends on stage 3’s ending. I don’t know if this game was ever finished but I can say that what has been done turns Night Slashers into everything I ever wanted the game to be. There are now usable weapons, more enemy’s, a combo system, level rearrangement to make more sense, branching levels and all the stages have been touched up giving an even greater horror feel. Also bodies of enemies you kill do not flicker and fade away so at times you end up with piles of dead around you. The game does “barrow” spites from other games but for the most part its done well and only clashes with the art style of the main game rarely.

The first change you will likely notice is a bit of fan service as the conservatively dressed Hong-Hua has been replaced by the busty blond Jasmine. If your wondering her sprite is taken from the Japanese game Kurokishi from Guardians: Denjin Makai II.

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Asia’s most revered martial artist huh? I can probably think of two more reasons shes revered in Asia…….the fact shes the youngest graduating student of Tokyo University and her great contributions to preventing the spread of the Asian bird flu in China.

No, its her boobs.

NightSlashersX (XBOX & PC) - BOOBS

Another funny thing is that in all the between stage cut screens we still see Hong-Hua.

The touched up levels are really well done and add a lot from the original. More blood has been added. The numbers on the elevator in the hospital level light up as the elevator changes floors. Crows peck at the flesh of lying corpses and In certain areas you get lighting effects such as In the fight with Frankenstein’s monster.

Images from original on left and remake on right.




There’s also a great variety of weapons added that can be found in random barrels. Grenades, chainsaws, shotguns, assault rifles and battle axes. Its really adds a layer of fun that was missing in the original. Another great aspect is branching levels such as In the hospital stage (now stage 2) where you can enter the elevator to reach the mad scientists secret laboratory complete with giant computer terminal and a new battle where he uses a potion to transform into a monster. One highlight is the return of that kick ass 80’s van and a drive through a ruined city. If this game was finished and polished and the sprites taken from other games done with original art this game would be beyond a doubt the definitive version of Night Slashers. Here’s some images of the game showcasing some new levels, monsters and weapons.

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(The above monster really clashes with the games art style and that’s one problem you encounter time to time with this homebrew. The creature is a boss from Kishin Douji Zenki FX: Vajra Fight on the PC-FX)

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prehistoric isle flyer

Prehistoric Isle in 1930 is along with Time Pilot one of my favorite and earliest game memories. The game is from 1989 and features a biplane from the 1930’s being sent to investigate an island in the Bermuda triangle where shipping has been vanishing. Being a kid at the arcade this game always grabbed my attention with its colorful graphics and interesting theme. It kind of reminded me of one of my favorite movies growing up which was about a world war I German U-boat that gets stranded on a dinosaur and cave man infested island. The game play is fairly standard for a horizontal shooter but features the interesting mechanic of “pods” that act as power ups. You have your standard shot but when you get a pod power up the pod makes your standard shot more powerful. Also you have the ability to rotate the pod around your biplane changing its power depending on its position. For instance if in front of you it powers up your standard shot, angled diagonally in front of you it arcs bombs, directly above or below and it fires a sort of energy blanket and if placed directly to the rear of your plane it lays mines. Other then the theme it was always the variety of dinosaurs and monsters that grabbed my attention from giant bugs and cavemen to skeleton pterodactyls. There were also nice details for the time such as the cavemen grabbing onto your wings and weighing you down or flying under waterfalls and feeling the pressure of the water forcing your plane down.


before each level your shown a little map of the island and where you will be on said island. The game isn’t overly long and can be completed in something like 30 to 40 minutes or less but the levels are interesting and varied from jungles to underwater to the open skies.


The first level takes place in the jungle where you face various dino’s as well as cavemen that emerge from huts and leap up to latch onto your plane and drag it down. This stage like many feature a mid level boss as well as a level boss.


The first two bosses you encounter are a Brachiosaurus that lunges out at you with its long neck and an Allosaurus. before each boss encounter your greeted with a large “CAUTION!” on screen as well as the bosses species and length and weight stats. Its ultimately pointless but its a nice little touch for introducing the boss.


The second level mixes it up a bit sending you high up above the island where you battle various flying enemies such as pterodactyls and cavemen latched onto giant bats.


This level features no mid level boss but does have a huge pterodactyl as the level boss. Besides his standard fireballs that he fires at you he also creates mini tornadoes with his wings that grab your plane and fling it around the screen possibly right into a fireball or the giant flying terror.


The next stage takes you back down to the island. This stage is a little bland and seems to take place in rocky canyons over small lakes and in caves.


The bosses of this level are a little strange. The first one is even introduced as “unknown dinosaur” and looks like a some kind of flying green whale covered in giant pustules. The main boss is a giant insect that splits into smaller and smaller versions of itself as you weaken it.


The next level is my favorite of the game and sees your biplane transform into a submarine and go underwater off the islands coast fighting various undersea prehistoric monstrosities.


The mid level boss is a giant prehistoric turtle that fires baby giant turtles at you.


This level features some neat details such as the wreckage of all the ships that have gone missing in recent years. In one section of the stage as you begin to descend deeper into the depths a wrecked ship from above floats down and two heads and necks of the Brachiosaurus boss you faced earlier bust out of the wrecked ship and attempt to grab you. The effect used to create the dinosaurs neck is admittedly sort of cool for the time and its nice to see it used again.


The boss of this stage is a giant nautilus type monster that uses the same effect that the necks used for its to grasping tentacles. If you to happen to get grasped by one of the tentacles you are dragged to the mouth where you are chewed apart and pieces of wreckage are spewed out.


The final stage takes place in what appears to be a volcano but overall is not very interesting.


Your mid level boss is an angry Stegosaurus that jumps around and knocks stalactites on you. The “veggie” eating dino’s out for your blood and kind of the whole vibe I get from this game does kind of make me think of the island from King Kong, well at least the original version.


The final boss is actually kind of silly. Its a Tyrannosaurus but all you get to fight is his head as he comically bobs back and forth across the screen. I understand the fight is supposed to give you an impression of his massive scale and the bobbing is to awkwardly simulate his walking but it all just kind of comes off as comical. He breaths fire and gives off a Godzilla roar as well.


Defeating this final boss grants you an ending cinema and a job well done…and a horrible death. yep, that’s right, after defeating the fearsome and awkward Tyrannosaurus you dock with your mother aircraft which is then promptly attacked by a flock of pterodactyls and destroyed, your dead, the end…oh sorry. SPOILER!

I really enjoy this game. For the time it was released the sprites are nice and the levels and enemies are varied. I really enjoyed the theme and it made me feel like I was playing an interactive version of some of my favorite movies as a kid such as The Land That Time Forgot/The People That Time Forgot or exploring the dinosaur island from King Kong. As far as I know this game was never ported to other systems outside of the arcade. I think there was some kind of digital download version for the PSP but that’s really no different from just running the game on an arcade emulator. There was in fact a sequel created in 2000 by the title Prehistoric Isle 2 but in my opinion the game is horrible. The premise is okay and involves you flying either a Soviet Hind or American Apache helicopter against invading dinosaurs and rescuing civilians but the game turned out bland and lacking any charm the original had. Most of the enemies aren’t even recognizable dinosaurs but just generic monsters, most of the levels are pretty boring. The game is done in a sort of 3d style that has not aged well and that I find generally unpleasant.

Well this is the first article I’m writing of a series I’m calling “odds & ends”. basically just putting together a few things I think are kinda neat but don’t really have enough for an entire dedicated article. Its also decent filler till I write something more comprehensive. For this first one I’m going to go over the not so well know LS-120 “super drives”. The early 80’s Tandy portable game Hungry Monsters the 1967 Think-A-Tron…game? and lastly the Cryix 80mhz 486 CPU only because I like its green heat sink…really, only reason why.



The LS-120 and its larger capacity brother the LS-240 was the not so successful competition to the somewhat successful Iomega ZIP drives in mid 1990’s. Until recently finding one in a purchased PC I’ve never heard of these before. Like the ZIP drive these drives use special disks to store large amounts of data. This was before CD burning drives were extremely cheap and available. Unlike the ZIP drives though these things were more reliable, held slightly more data and here is the cool thing, could act as a standard 1.44mb or 720k floppy drive. Why these failed and Zip drives did not I don’t know (well I kinda do). I know it was not widely supported but many of my later socket 7 motherboards do support these drives in BIOS.


As you can see they use IDE just like the ZIP drive but use the mini four pin molex connector unlike the ZIP drives that use the large molex connector usually taken up by your CD and hard drives. Like I mentioned earlier these drives held 20MB more Data then the standard ZIP drives and also could read/write to standard 720k and 1.44mb floppy disks faster then conventional drives. ZIP drives COULD NOT read or write to standard 1.44mb or 720k disks.

And here is an external model I recently came across at the thrift for a few $$. It uses the parallel port like many external peripherals of the day.


The most likely reason these failed was that Iomega had a three year head start with the Zip drive and burnable CD media was on the horizon. Its a shame these weren’t more common.


In 1983 Tandy, the makers of the trs-80 and Tandy 1000 line of computers, among others released a portable hand held game, “Hungry Monster”. Its basically a Pac Man type clone but none the less its kinda fun.


I picked this unit up at a Goodwill for about $3-$4. Its in good shape and requires 4 AA batteries for operation though it does have a connection for using an external power supply at 6 volt DC, center positive. The unit is light and pretty easy to use. I was slightly impressed by the color from the lights on this game and was expecting something more basic before turning it on.


So yeah, Its really just a Pac Man clone down to the power pellets. But its a good Pac Man clone


The oldest computer like thing I own. From 1967 Its Hasbro’s Think-A-Tron modeled after the huge mainframes of the time.


Where were going we don’t need zip codes! I say that because there’s no zip code for the address on the box (non mandatory zip codes were introduced nation wide in 1963 but did not start to become mandatory until some time in 1967). Anyways I received this for free from a bulk lot of vintage computer stuff I also received for free as a donation.


Basically the machine uses punch hole cards and you feed it the question cards with the punch holes and it answers via lights on it light array. Kinda neat for the time.


The crank on mine is cracked but other then that its in decent condition.



This was in a computer I picked up. I really don’t have much of anything to say about it. I was never a big Cryix fan but I really really really like that heat sink. Though I guess any 486 over 66mhz is kinda neat-o.

Much like in my Ultimate guide to buying, restoring and modding the NES article were going to take a look at The Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Unlike that article though the scope of this one is going to be much smaller. There are a few reasons for this. first is that the cleaning procedures are largely the same as they were with the NES so we need not go over that ground again, just refer to the previous link. Second is the Modifications that can be done to the SNES are slightly more complex then those for the NES. the pins on the chips are much much smaller then the chip pins in the NES thus I prefer to pay a modest fee to have someone more qualified perform these things. In this article we will go over two very simple modifications though those being the tab removal to allow Japanese Super Nintendo games to be played as well as a simple LED light change.


Like the NES I used in a previous article I picked this SNES up at a Goodwill for $14.99. I didn’t find a power adapter with it but it did come with a controller. The condition is typical for a used SNES with some marker marks, some yellowing of the plastic and what appeared to be a few paint drops.


After a go over with the magic erasure.


The small blobs of white paint I gently scratched away with an Xacto knife and as for the top section of the SNES I removed it and thoroughly washed it with soap and water followed by the Retrobright treatment that I went over in my NES article.

If you want to play European games on more accurately any games from PAL territories (Europe, Australia, New Zealand and others) your going to need to do a few modifications I’m not going to go over here but a very simple modification does allow the playing of Japanese Super Nintendo or Super Famicom games. Since both the USA and Japan use the same NTSC video standard the lockout in place to prevent you from playing JP territory games is a simple physical lockout in the form of a few tabs in the cartridge slot.

snesg4Here we have the four tabs that will need to be removed.


Simple cutters and pliers that can be found at any hardware store, Walmart or dads garage are all that’s needed. Just cut away and twist off the sections of the SNES that have the tabs. I recommend doing this with the top part removed.


Very simple. With these tabs removed you should have no issues playing any Japanese games you wish.

Next we need to do the LED change. The red LED looks fine but I prefer blue, unfortunately I did not have any blue LED’s on me so I’ve used a green one here. The SNES does not use standard screws like the NES so your going to need a 4.55mm gambit screwdriver for this. I got mine cheap off eBay. There are six screws you will need to remove from the bottom of the console.


Here’s what your going to initially see. The white power strip connecting the PCB on the controller and the motherboard should easily disconnect with a few gentle tugs. You should now be able to remove the PCB with the LED light on it but if you want to take a look at the motherboard and perhaps clean it of dust or dead (hopefully dead) bugs the eject assembly should also easily come out. The metal RF shield will need to be unscrewed and removed. It used regular Phillips head screws. You will also need to unscrew the power switch on the left.


Here’s the PCB that as the LED as well as controller ports attached. your going to need to remove the green PCB board from the controller ports so first thing you want to do is desolder all 14 of the controller solder points. Once that is done you can squeeze the plastic tabs and it should easily come apart into two parts.

I recommend one of these for this job.



Its a solder remover and it works great for unobstructed pins. While squeezing the bulb you just place the tip on the pins and it melts the solder on it. Then let go of the bulb and it sucks the melted solder away.



At this point take notice of the LED and how it is oriented. Desolder the two points on the rear of the PCB and remove the old LED and replace it with any LED of 5mm and 3.7 volt .


Here’s my green LED after being soldered onto the board. Now simply solder the PCB back to the controller ports. make sure you reattach the power strip correctly between the ports section with your LED and the SNES motherboard and power it up. Make sure to reconnect and test to see if the new LED comes on as well as if your controllers are working before completely reassembling. Sometimes if your not getting the LED to come on or the controller is unresponsive you may need to resolder and make sure you have a good connections on the solder points and that the solder is not touching adjacent points.

These simple mods should cost you nearly nothing and take an hour at most to preform. Again if you want to play some great games from PAL territories that never made it to the US I would recommend paying an experienced modder but if you have a pile of SNES systems around or feel your good with a soldering iron there are plenty of great guides available via a Google search with further advanced modding instructions. Enjoy.


Yhea, I did forget to clean that eject button…….

If you would like to read about what I think is the best revision of the SNES console continue reading here.

*NOTE TO READERS* I’ve copied this article to my other site “Random Battles: my life long level grind” where I find it to be more appropriate. I may delete it from this page entirely in the future. If your interested in RPG’s and my thoughts on various ones as I attempt to complete as many as I can before the Grim Reaper finds me please check it out.


Well I said to myself when I started this blog “no game reviews”. Its just way overdone and usually done somewhere by someone else much better then I could do it. You have written reviews, game faqs, wiki articles and video reviews from a slew of people on everything from obscure DOS games (as one may expect here) to great and horrible console games. I simply felt there was nothing I could add. Then I decided….who cares, I need filler sometimes anyways. I’m pretty confident this isn’t going to make up any bulk of content here but I figured I would do a little write up on a game here and there if it happened to tickle my fancy. So without further delay, The Elder Scrolls: Arena


I Just recently completed this computer RPG and for people who do not know this is the 1994 first entry into the Elder Scrolls series whom most recently (when this was written) released Skyrim. Now I could write several pages on the background and controls and world of this game but that information is already out there. If your interested in details, history and all that feel free to Google the game as there is a lot of information on it. I’m just going to briefly go over my experiences with the game.

This game as I said is a DOS RPG and for the platform of DOS its a pretty demanding game. Your going to want to play it on a faster DOS machine (preferably a Pentium) if you want the smoothest results though it claims to work on a 25mhz 386 with 4MB of RAM. The biggest problem with this game is it requires a lot of conventional memory to run. Over 600k. now conventional memory is the first 640k of memory and usually DOS and all your programs like the mouse controller and stuff gets loaded in there. Generally when I load up a fresh install of DOS I have 550ish of conventional memory available but usualy simply running the memmaker command will free up over 600kb and create enough space to play games like Arena. load as much as you can to HIGHDOS (this may help) and lower your LASTDRIVE letter under the confg.sys file. Anyways without getting to technical its really not that hard to get it running though this game does seem to come up often as a difficult game to get running correctly (and this includes in emulators like DOSBOX). I did fiddle with running this game in an emulator (shame on me) but never got it to run right but I had very little problems installing and running it on the real deal. The most common issue when trying to run this game is “not enough conventional memory” error followed by the “not enough EMS memory” error. The answer to these is to free up more conventional or EMS memory.

The computer specs. I used to play this game were: DOS 6.22, Pentium 200mhz MMX, 128MB RAM, Trio64V2/DX, Sound blaster 16 with a NEC XR385 for general midi. and I played it on a CRT flat screen (not flat panel) computer monitor. The general midi in this game is nothing fantastic. I actually played the game on an AWE32 prior to getting a midi card and it pretty much sounded the same.

I had very little trouble running the game on this machine (besides the regular Arena issues) and game play was pretty smooth throughout. One issue I noticed though was movements of NPC’s in towns were very fast. Kinda like everyone was chugging Red Bulls and Speed. After doing some research I discovered this was more or less normal for the game and did not effect game play except for making townspeople look ridicules at times. I did find a video of a game running slower NPC (None Player Characters) animations but I noticed the sound was a bit staggered and off so I think It was running to slow. The hyper NPC animations effect nothing as I said and did not effect my player or monsters.

Speaking of speed. This game is an experiment in frustration. Every thing, even on a fast PC is slow when it comes to switching screens, loading, saving, and entering exiting buildings and changing dungeon levels. Even looting corpses is painfully delayed and you do all these actions a lot. Basically you need eight staff pieces to create a staff to kill the final boss. acquiring every piece goes like this.

Find specific province then town then person via asking around. Said person gives you quest for item and asks you to retrieve item in exchange for location of dungeon that has staff piece. – Dungeon Crawl – return to town, repair armor/weapon/rest – return item get staff piece location – Dungeon Crawl – go back to town repair armor/weapon, rest. Repeat 8 times then do last dungeon. To its credit the dungeons are a little varied but the process is still monotonous and soul crushing. The dungeons are also sprinkled with riddles you are required to answer to get to key items. Of course these days you can just look up the answers on the internet but I strived very hard to figure them out and it was a sort of fun distraction from “open door, kill monster”.

And then we have sweet character creation.


My character is a spellsword or a mage/warrior. Being able to only wear lighter armor but having the ability to use magic. In this game having spells like Passwall and Heal is a real life saver. I also try to make my characters look like Rambo if he was in a rock’in 80’s metal hair band whenever I can.


Sweet. I like to pretend when hes not slogging through dungeons hes playing with his band Cold Slither in some tavern rocking out sweet Bon Jovi power ballads.

So if you do decide to take on this game and see where more recent games like Morrowwind, Oblivion and Skyrim got their beginnings there’s two screens your going to be seeing a lot of.


First you have this douche. Every time you die he pops up and gives you some speech about how you have failed and he will reanimate your corpse to serve him. Believe me you’ll be seeing him a lot. So much in fact even though you die quite often it took some time to get this image because I was so trained to immediately hit enter when this screen poped up I kept skipping it when I died. If there’s any tip anyone can give its to SAVE OFTEN AND USE SEVERAL SAVE SLOTS. Speaking of the last guy, Jager Thorne or however you spell it. Really your supposed to avoid him and grab the mithral key then open the sealed room and smash his life gem but you can also defeat him in combat and take the key off him. Naturally I wanted to defeat him but no matter how hard I tried and prepared my character I couldn’t seem to hurt  him. Finally though I discovered if I de-equipped my sword he could be fairly easily punched to 0 HP. Go figure.


And this is the second sight you’ll see pretty often. You cant avoid it, it simply happens. There’s an error with the game that leaks memory and eventually at some point your bound to get this error and a game lock up. Sometimes it takes hours and sometimes not. It didn’t occur so much to be infuriating but it is another reason to SAVE OFTEN. Keep in mind I had 128MB of RAM installed. Well over 600k of conventional memory and plenty of EMS. Having high conventional memory helps lesson this error. Also try to make sure you have the latest version of the game. Ver. 1.07. My CD version that I bough new at Electronics Boutique in the mid/late 90’s was already patched to this version. Besides this error The game was mostly stable for me. I had one random computer restart and maybe two random game freezes through the whole experience.

The monsters are pretty varied for this game and the world is massive but there is one particular monster that not only frustrated the hell out of me but just freaked me the hell out.



These have to be one of the worst monsters in the game. They paralyze you as a ranged attack then move in and quite literally B%#ch slap you to death with odd spastic slaps and that disquieting buck toothed face. I think those are supposed to be vicious fangs but I just cant help imagining these things living in run down trailer parks in the deep south with a piece of straw dangling between thier two last good teeth on their days off from dungeon patrol duty.


How that face haunts me. And if that’s not enough.


If being slapped to death by Salley-May Medusa isn’t bad enough you have to be subjected to their green saggy terribly pixelated boobs. Actually they kind of look like man boobs. Like being constantly flashed by the corpse of Jack Nicholson.

So in the end did I have fun with the game? Well, sort of. I defiantly wouldn’t recommend it to most people unless you really love old school repetitive dungeon crawlers. It is pretty unique for its time with a huge world and it can be sort of charming in a way. The riddles add a nice change of pace but ultimately are just an inconvenience if you plan to just use a FAQ to get answers. The sequel, The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall is next for me. I can only pray the Medusa all stayed home after a hard weekend of off-roading and hard core Pabst Blue Ribbon drinking.


*Since I do not currently have with me or own some systems mentioned in this article I have used images from wiki commons. these images are used under public domain or by permission under license agreement*


The Nintendo Entertainment System or NES is one of the most beloved classic gaming machines in the USA. There are already a slew of fan sites on the web describing its attributes and reviewing its massive game catalog. In my opinion It is also one of the easiest systems to modify for a beginner. Its durable construction and simple design aid in this respect. It is usually extremely simple to repair and maintain. The NES also tends to pop up time to time at outrageous prices mostly due to nostalgia or a market fueled by the idea of “OMG its old so it must be worth its weight in gold” but remember, literally millions of these machines were made and due to there simple design many are still working just fine. With this guide I intend to help those looking to claim a NES system by finding one for a reasonable price as well as restore and if so desired modify their NES to maximize enjoyment.


First I want to briefly go over the various models available of the NES in Japan and the US. The European NES is cosmetically and functionally the same as the US model but is designed to work on the PAL video standard and really an American has no benefit from importing an EU model. I also want to point out to anyone that’s read my article on Choosing the right TV for classic gaming in the US That the NES is one of the few systems that DOES NOT (with a few rare exceptions) output RGB but I’ll get into that detail more at the mod section. I’m just going to go over the models very briefly so I recommend doing more research if any particular model catches your eye.


Many Japanese units are superior in design to their US counterpart. There were also many games released in Japan and not the US. Also of note the Japanese NES has extra sound channels meaning more sound effects, this sound channel was left disconnected on all US models. Many JP games also have features or effects that were left out of their American releases. Japanese games can be played on US systems and vise versa via cheap converters.


This is the Japanese NES known as the Famicom or Family Computer. Japanese NES games are much smaller then their US counterparts and the machine also loads from the top. That big red box under the Famicom is the Famicom Disk Drive, an add on disk drive. some NES/Fami games were only released in this format. The disk system was never released in the US and the disk system is incompatible with the US NES.


This is the Twin Famicom made under license by Sharp. Its basically just a Famicom and disk system combined.


This is a really weird one. The Famicom Titler. Basically one day some exec in Japan said “hey I know! lets combine that popular video game machine with a machine that adds subtitles to VHS movies!” And that’s what it is, a Famicom combined with a Titleling machine used to add subtitles to movies. One very notable thing to point out about this unit is that it actually has an S-video out and internally outputs RGB. No other NES of any region does this without massive modification making this a very sought after and usually pricey system.


The A/V Famicom is really the “to have” import NES. It resembles the US NES 2 but is far better. This unit is top loading but unlike its US counterpart has composite video out as well as being compatible with the Famicom Disk System.


There were two NES models released in the US. The first model everyone is familiar with but a later model the NES 2 was released late in the NES’s life and has both good and bad attributes.


This is the US NES 2 released in 1993. Its much smaller then the regular NES. It is also top loading making it very reliable compared to the slot loading NES. A few negative issues though are the lack of a power LED, No composite out (without modification) and the hump makes the unit incompatible with importing a Famicom Disk System. The NES 2 did come with “dog bone” controllers which most feel are a lot more comfortable then the stock controllers. Of course you can use either controller with either system.


I’ll also take a minute to address the clone systems. They are basically “rip-off” systems that for the most part emulate the NES. Some are very well made and cosmetically appealing like the Generation Nex and the Retro Duo but most also use a “NES on a chip” which emulates the NES. Some games and peripherals will not work on these systems, especially games that may use special chips like Castlvania III. Personally I would stay away.

So now with that out of the way we will focus on the NES most of us know and grew up with, the NES-001. DISCLAIMER *I am not responsible if you mess up your own system doing anything described here. Perform any cleaning, repairing or modding at your own risk*



Despite what eBay and other sources may lead you to believe the NES is neither rare or expensive and if you have a little patience and know where to look you can snag one for next to nothing. Many times resellers will attempt to sell NES units at outrageous prices claiming there rare vintage machines. Let me help enlighten you. From what research I did it appears Nintendo sold 34 million units in the US. Think about that number for a minute….that’s A LOT. Take into account the system is fairly durable and you can bet a lot of those 34 million units are still out there. Even if half were to be gone that’s still 17 million machines. In short regardless of what anyone may tell you the NES is NOT rare.

The trick then is where to look. eBay is probably a bad choice though sometimes you can snag a rare deal. Craigslist I’ve found is even worse at times with people asking absolutely ludicrous amounts of money. Quickly checking my local Craigslist I came up with three adds selling NES systems. the first one is a loose system for $85, way more then anyone should pay even for one in perfect shape but not insane, $225 for a complete boxed system, insane……and a somewhat but still not reasonable $50 for a loose system with no power supply. In my opinion you should never pay more then $30 for a good condition loose console with power supply and controller. I mean even the rare import Twin Famicom and Famicom Titler only go for between $300 and $500 give or take a hundred. If I can import a kinda uncommon Turbo version of a Twin Famicom complete in the box for about $300 (and I did) I sure as hell am not paying that amount for a boxed common US system.

If your lucky enough to have a classic video game store in your area you can always try there. I have several where I currently live and it seems the price for an NES at these places is around the $60 mark. In my opinion that’s still a little much but at least you usually have the benefit  at these places to knowing the system is in good working condition and can return it if its busted. usually if its a half decent shop the pin connector has been replaced with a new one.

So with eBay and Craigslist as poor options where do you look? local Thrift stores, Goodwill’s and yard sales are a decent option but can be a real crap shoot. The yard sales are really the best bets as flea markets are usually full of resellers. Goodwill’s prices vary by store and you need to be their at the right times. I was very lucky and happened to be at a Goodwill when the NES I used for this article was brought out from the back room. I paid $12 for mine and that’s including the controller, light gun, power unit and RF box. The best option I think for quickly getting a NES at reasonable prices are online Video game forums such as The Digital Press or the Neo Geo Forums. These forums are full of Video game enthusiasts and collectors that know the actual value of the units and usually have NES’s and are willing to sale them at reasonable prices.

Do not be discouraged if you cant find one right away, they are out there and please try to not overpay as they really are not worth more then about $30 in my opinion. As i said I found one at Goodwill for $12. I also frequently saw them at a local flea market loose for $20 and also at that same flea market picked up a complete boxed NES for $30. Ask friends and relatives who may have one sitting in the closet collecting dust and maybe you will get one for free, I have. The later NES 2 does go for a higher price due to its slight rarity and top loading function. Expect to pay $50 to $80 as a reasonable price for a loose NES 2 unit.


They’re a few things you want to look for that should come with your NES in order to use and connect it to your TV. The first is the AC adapter.


The AC adapter is on the right and is what you use to plug your NES in, I know ridiculously basic and hardly worth mentioning but an important piece of your system none the less. The official power brick is 9V AC 1 amp. If you don’t have an original NES AC adapter a Genesis AC adapter should work okay. An SNES AC adapter is not recommended as the ma are a bit low for the NES, it may work but perhaps not for to long and you may get all kind of weird issues from lack of proper voltage.

The grey box on the right is an RF module that seems to almost always come with an NES when I find one. That’s how myself and most people I knew hooked their NES up back in the day because we didn’t know any better or gamed on an ancient TV. The NES is capable of composite so use that for a better picture.

The next essential thing we need to enjoy our NES is a controller.


Most NES systems your going to find will come with at least one but probably two original style controller (on right in above image). If your lucky you’ll also come across an NES advantage controller (on left). These arn’t rare by any means but make a nice addition to an NES set up. The NES advantage is more like an old school joystick and it great for the more arcade like games. It also has a built in turbo feature as well as slow down feature.

The original box controllers generally work great and hold a lot of nostalgia value for most people but I do tend to prefer the “dog bone” style controller that came with the later NES revision. Its just a more comfortable controller to use overall. Unfortunately they can be a little hard to find “in the wild” and official ones can be pricy for just a controller.


Personally I use this replica controller manufactured by Tomee. It claims to be a 1:1 replica of the official controller and although it feels a little light and “cheap” I’ve been using one for awhile now and it works very well. The buttons feel solid and responsive which is an issue I’ve had with some other replica controllers. They’re also cheap at under $10 and available at many local retro game stores.


So you finally got a hold of your shiny (or not so shiny) NES unit for hopefully a reasonable price and you cant wait to hook it up but you notice cosmetically its not in the greatest shape. It’s dirty, smells and the plastic is faded and yellowed from smokers or sun exposure and little Casey has drawn all over the case with his sharpie. Don’t worry as we can have that NES looking like it practically rolled off the assembly line in…well not no time but not to long.

The NES were going to use here for the example is a unit I lucked into as it was being carted out from the back room at a Goodwill. I bought it for $12. The guy bringing it out was even awesome enough to go back and price the games for me and give me first crack at them. The unit had no apparent cracks in the case but was obviously used and slightly faded.

nesr2Here’s the bottom view and as you can see some red marker as well as tape residue. The tape can be easily peeled off. First thing you do want to do if your restoring your unit is separate the top and bottom. You can do this by unscrewing them via the 6 screws on the bottom. A normal Phillips head will work fine.


Here is the top half of my NES. As you can see its pretty scratched up. The top half should come off easily after the screws are removed and its completely plastic so the first thing you want to do is give it a good cleaning with water and soap. As for the bottom of the board mine wasn’t to dirty so I didn’t go through the trouble of removing the motherboard completely from the shell to wash it. It is also a darker color plastic that seems more resilient to fading or tar.


The tape residue was easy enough to peel off. The trick for getting rid of stubborn marks on your unit or in this case magic marker is any kind of cleaning pad. Nothing to coarse though. I used Mr. Clean magic erasure here and it worked perfectly at removing marker and stains without damaging the plastic or leaving hideous scratches. So now your case is clean of dirt and marker but The top plastic is still yellowed from time and tar. Many systems from the time used ABS plastic. ABS helped retard the plastic from fire but had the side effect of turning a gross kind of yellow or tared color over time. Fortuitously some smart people came up with a concoction called Retrobright that you can make yourself that reverses the yellowing effect!


Retrobright requires a few cheap and easy to obtain materials. The two main ingredients are Hydrogen Peroxide available at any pharmacy for $1 and Oxy which can be found in a variety of cleaners. Here I used Awesome Oxygen cleaner. Some recipes call for Glycerine as well. I forgot it here and my Retrobright still worked but in the future I intend to add glycerine as well (also found cheap at any pharmacy). Here is an official page for the compound Retrobright. You also want to use common corn starch as a thickening agent. All together the materials cost $5-$10 and this works on any ABS plastic (good bye horribly yellowed SNES systems). Note the Hydrogen Peroxide though. I used the common 3% solution but ideally you want a 10%-15% concentration. Peroxide in these levels is a little harder to find and costs more. They can commonly be found as a hair bleaching component and you may need to ask around at beauty saloons. Also note that Peroxide at that high a level is hazardous so gloves and goggles may be a good idea.

I didn’t strictly use a measured amount of peroxide but I did use a few cups since it was a lower concentration followed by about 2 spoon fulls of corn starch. after this I put the concoction in the microwave and heated for 10 to 30 seconds or until it reached a gel texture. After it reached a gel state I added the Oxy.


After adding the Oxy it should start to fizzle and bubble at this point as well as give off heat from the chemical reaction. This is when I applied the gel to the plastic top half of my yellowed NES. I used a small paint brush for this task. You really want to paint it on and get a good coat on every part. At this point you want to expose the gel covered plastic to UV light. If you live in a sun deprived area a UV light should work fine but for me the blazing Arizona desert sun does the job nicely.


Here we have the coated unit sitting outside. I used tin foil to help reflect more light back onto the unit and get at areas that were not receiving direct sunlight. After awhile the coating will dry and can be washed off. Usually this requires several reapplications to significantly reduce yellowing and return the plastic to its normal color. The weaker the Hydrogen Peroxide concentration the more reapplications it will take. I did a good 6 or 7 applications and my unit wasn’t even badly yellowed.


So here is my unit all cleaned up (except for that speck I missed on the right in that crevice). But seriously, In person it looks practically new and much better then the state I bought it in.

Okay, So you finally have your NES looking near new and your gushing with nostalgia. You plug it in and hook it up to your TV (hopefully via composite to an SDTV, read ), insert your favorite game cartrige close the lid and hit the power button and…….flashing grey or blue screen and a blinking power LED. You pull out the cart, blow in it, reinsert it and…same issue.


This is a made up statistic but I would estimate that about 90% of NES’s can be fixed for $0 to $10. I’ve never came across an NES where the reason it wasn’t working was not a bad pin connector. Maybe I’m just really lucky but to me it seems the bulk of the time an NES will power on but not play any games is the Pin connector. The problem stems from a design flaw with the front loader NES. In most models the game cartridges load from the top so there is no issue but on the US NES-001 front loader system the game cartridges load from the front and are then pressed down to make contact with the pins. Over time these Pins bend and get dirty creating a bad connection and thus the blinking power light. Fortunitly this problem is easily and cheaply fixed. My NES from Goodwill had this very problem in a very bad way.


Once you have the top cover removed from your NES this is what you should be looking at. The metal covering is the RF shielding to prevent RF interference. There’s really not a lot of delicate parts inside an NES so don’t be scared of breaking things. Another thing is there are a lot of screws. I really need not point them out as most are obvious but working inside an NES your going to be doing a lot of screwing (hold your snickers) and unscrewing. All the screws use a regular Phillips Head driver so no worries. Once you remove the metal RF shielding there is a black spring thing that the game carts go into. Unscrew it and pull it gently toward you and up till it slides out.


Now you should see this. The green board is the main part of the NES. All the chips are on its opposite side. The black plastic thing to the top of the board is the pin connector and also our problem. Its gripping a pin connector on the motherboard. Simply unscrew it and pull it off the board. You may need to apply some light force. At this point you can either spend some money on a new pin adapter or try and repair the old one. Sometimes it can be fixed with a simple cleaning. I usually try to clean all the metal connectors on the motherboard and the adapter with a  cotton swab and rubbing alcohol. Let everything dry before attempting to reassemble and test. Another method is boiling the adapter in water and adding dish washing liquid. Ive had fairly good results. You can also use a safety pin to careful bend the pins on the adapter back up but I’ve had terrible luck with doing this. Sometimes despite all the cleaning The old connector just will no longer give a suitable connection. This is when you need to find a new connector. Again luck is with us since they are both fairly cheap and easily available. In this situation I do turn to eBay where they can be easily found new for about $7 – $10. Sometimes you can even get a deal on multiple connectors/adapters…whatever you want to call the thing. This is what I had to do with mine after attempts to repair the connector failed.


After a short wait my new connector arrived in the mail. I installed it and low and behold my NES not only looked but operated like new. The only problem I have sometimes with the new connectors is they need to be “broken in” and can be very tight at first and for some time afterwards. This makes it a little hard to insert and especially remove carts and sometimes it takes a good pull to remove a game cart.


So at this point you have a nice looking fully working NES that hopefully you paid little to or nothing for. Now you need to ask yourself the question if your willing to go a little further and modify your system. Mods can be done for several reasons such as increasing playability, expanding available games library by eliminating region lock out or simple cosmetic mods like a new color power LED. In my opinion the NES is a good system to start modding on. The mods themselves add a lot to the experience and are relatively easy to perform. You could also send out your NES to a more seasoned console modder who could do the mods themselves for a price but if you think you have the skills and want to keep costs down as well as eliminate the shipping and waiting period you will need a few items.


The most important things you will need is solder and a solder gun. I also have a solder removing thing…the thing with the bulb on it. A scalpel, wire cutters/strippers. wire is also needed. I am no professional modifier nor did I invent these systems mods but I found the modification simple enough for the most part and those with little experience should not have much trouble. Before doing any mods its surely helpful to look up soldering techniques and perhaps watch some how to solder videos on YouTube. Practicing on any junk electronic boards before doing any real soldering work would also be helpful.


The first modification/repair you may want to try is either replacing a dead/dim LED or replacing the LED with a different color. I for one am sick of Red power LED’s so I decided to replace my NES’s LED with a nice bright blue one. The specs for my LED and for that matter any LED you want to use to replace even if its red are 5mm, 3.7 volt – 20mA – 2600mcd. You can use an LED with a lower mcd number if you prefer a dimmer light but I like mine nice and vibrant. I got my blue version at Radio Shack for a highway robbery price of about $5 but I’m sure a bulk amount of them can be found on eBay for $1 shipped from Hong Kong. I though decided to pay a premium to avoid the wait. The LED can be found next to the power and reset buttons in the lower left corner of the case.


Unscrewing those two screws on the right and left frees the section from the case and allows you to get to the underside where the solder points are. What you want to do in unsolder the two points on the back where the LED is then gently pull the led out of the LED holder. Once this is done its only a matter of replacing the LED you just removed with the new one and soldering the new LED in. Keep in mind LED’s can be inserted incorrectly and they have a – and + leg called Anode and Cathode. Make sure to look this up if needed and take note on how the original LED was inserted.

The LED mod is really as simple as that and if you have a good hand and patience its pretty hard to screw up. The next mod is completely optional and depend on if you own or intend to own and NES Powerpak.


As I mentioned earlier the Japanese versions of the NES has extra sound channels and several games took advantage of this in either enhanced music via special added chips or extra sound effects. The extra channels were left disconnected from US NES systems. The problem happened when Nintendo changed the pins from 60 in the Famicom to 72 on the US NES. How the information traveled between the game cart and the NES was changed and rerouted and in that process those in the US and EU lost the extra sound channels. Now there is a slightly complicated way to reinstate those channels in general I find the easiest way is with a simple mod and by using the super useful NES flash cart the Powerpack. The Powerpack allows you to load ROMs onto a flash cart then play them on an actual NES. This saves wear and tear on your actual games. Please note this mod only reinstates the extra Famicom sounds when playing games that support the extra sounds through the NES Powerpack.

At this point you may want to completely remove the motherboard from the NES case. after unscrewing everything gently disconnect the three cable bundles from the board.

Here’s the board removed


And here’s the case without the board.


Ok, now keep the motherboard face down.


The circled part is are the solder points to the expansion board and also the points we need to look at for this simple mod. All you need is a 47k resistor available in a pack at Radio shack for a few dollars. Then all you need to do it trim the legs down and then solder the resister to pins 3 and 9 on the above circled expansion port points.


And that’s seriously It. With that quick mod you just enabled the extra sound channels on Famicom games that support it when using the Powerpak. This does not interfear with other games that do not use the sound channels at all so you cant harm your compatibility by performing this modification. One notable game that uses the extra sound is Castlvania III which most believe to have far superior music in its Famicom version. Interestingly The US version of Castlvania III does not function on the Powerpak at the time of this writing but the largely regarded as superior Japanese version does work. One thing to note is some sound effects are more quiet on games that support the extra sounds when using this mod but this is a minor thing.

Here’s a video of the opening and a small bit of game play from the Japanese Castlvania III on my modded NES so you can hear the extra sound.


With this modification we are going to add a reset button to to the standard NES controller. This is a mildly helpful mod for certain instances in a game when you just want to reset but are to lazy to get up. It actually becomes very helpful when you have a NES Powerpak in use since saving to the Powerpack requires hitting the reset button. You also need to hit reset in order to go out of a game and back to the main menu. I can take some personal credit for fine tuning this mod. When I originally seen it done on the internet a larger 1/8 jack was used as well as no button on the controller, just a loose wire so i refined it a little. There also seems to be a wireless mod out there that allows you to reset the NES by a certain button combination. I believe this is a rather professional mod that needs an extra circuit board installed. I could be wrong but if your interested look it up. This mod though works fine and is more in the spirit of easy “do it yourself”.

First off were going to need to install the jack for our new connection. I find the most convenient spot is the front of the case nest to the controller ports. The part your going to need is a 1/4 stereo headphone jack, available online or at Radio Shack.


Looks like that. so what we want to do is drill a small hole next to the controller ports. I use a small drill then widen the hole as needed with a scaple testing now and then if the jack will fit. Once it does I secure it with a healthy application of super glue then hot glue to the sides.

It should look like this now.


Now we need to connect the solder points of the reset button with the two metal prongs of the headphone jack. I use a slightly thicker gauge of wire for this.  First go back to the piece where we did the LED change. Take out the little piece that holds the LED, power and reset button, turn it over.


Here I have illustrated where the LED and reset button solder points are. In between are the solder points for the power button. I’m assuming you can hook up a second extra button for a controller power switch as well but I’ve never attempted it. Anyways you want to take your two strips of wire and solder them from the two reset points to the two looped metal prongs on the headphone jack. Give a light tug to make sure its connected securely and your all done with the NES internal part. Very simple.


It should look something like this.

Now that we have a port for the new line we need to modify an NES controller. First we need a stereo 1/4 jack about of 6ft. At the end the two lines need to be split and preferably “tinned” or covered with a little solder. I simply cut the cord off an old pair of $1 headphones. Now we need a small (preferably smallest you can find) push button with two prongs. Again these can be found at Radio Shack or online. Solder the button onto the two exposed wires.


Here is a button closeup.


Ok, now we need to modify the NES controller itself. On the back of the controller are six small Phillips head screws. Your going to need a smaller + head screwdriver to get at them like one made for eyeglasses or a jewelers screw.


Inside the NES controller is pretty cramped. Before I modify the controller I like to take the pieces apart and clean the plastic button parts.


Now we want to do two things. Make the existing hole where the wire leaves the controller a little wider to allow room for our second wire as well as make another small hole for the new button next to the existing hole. You may need to snap off any plastic legs on the controller to make room. Try to trim down the button if you can as there is not much room at all.


Mine looked something like this afterwords. So now position the new button and close up the controller. You may need to attempt this several times widening the hole and trimming the button if you can before you get a fit. If the controller is bulging sometimes this has no effect but other times it makes the control pad very had to press to get a response so keep trying until you get an acceptable fit.



And here we have our extra reset button. With a little more time you can make this look as clean and professional or half-assed as you like. Screw it all closed and now you have a modified NES controller for your modified NES. Also note this effects nothing if you decide to not plug the jack in you simply will not have a reset button but the controller will function normally as well as the NES. You can still you regular unmodified controllers as well.


This is another simple mod that disables the lock out chip in your NES. This allows you to play NES games from any region. You still need a pin adapter for Japanese games though since they are physically different. A side effect of this mod is that you no longer get a blinking power LED when a cart isn’t making contact but instead a solid screen. I prefer this to the slightly epileptic seizure inducing blinking screen. This modification will require us to flip the motherboard and cut a pin on a chip. fortunately even if you mess this modification up (like I actually did) it still sort of succeeds.

Here is the flip side of the motherboard with all the chips. I’ve circled the three main chips will be working with for the next two mods so refer back to this picture if needed. The lockout chip that we need to be looking at now is the smallest circled chip in the lower right corner with CIC labeled above it.


Now that we have identified and located the Lockout chip all we need to do is snip pin four. Its a tight fit but usually a combination of wire cutters and a scalpel works. You can try desoldering as well. So disabling the chip is as easy as snipping the lower fourth pin from the left and either pulling it off or raising it away from the board so it does not make a connection. Preferably you would want to take a thin wire and solder the raised pin to a ground but you don’t have to and I’ve never heard of any ill effects of not doing this step. Even more preferably you would want to make a switch to be able to turn the lockout chip on/off. A switch is preferable because there are supposedly a handful of unlicensed games that actually need the lockout chip enabled to work but I have never come across any game that refused to work with the lockout chip disabled on an NES. Unfortunately for me I was planning to show you how to make this switch but the pin is very small and I was impatient at the time and the entire leg was pulled off hence disabling the lockout chip but disallowing me to perform a switch mod. It still can be considered a success though since the lose of a few most likely terrible unlicensed games is a small price to pay for enabling many many excellent Japanese and European NES games.



There is my lockout chip with the pin removed hence disabling the NES lockout. Remember pin four or forth pin from the bottom left. as the board faces you and the writing is not upside down.


The CPU overclock modification to the NES is both the hardest of the mods here and the one most likely to kill your NES if you screw it up. That being said I am no modding expert and I succeeded on my first attempts. First thing is you defiantly are going to want a switch for this mod in order to enable and disable the overclock. Overclocking the NES helps with areas in some games that may bog down because of a lot going on in the screen. The good think about overclocking the NES is that it does not throw off timings in games and only boosts frame smoothness. On the negative the Overclock does create extra heat and stress on the CPU as well as raise the pitch of sounds and music and for this reason its best to build in a switch so you can enable the overclock at only parts that would benefit from the speed boost. I originally got the idea for an overclock as well as described directions here.

We first need a switch for our Mod. Your going to want an SPDT or single pole double throw switch which are available at Radio Shack or online for a few dollars. These switches have three connectors on the reverse side.

Here’s a picture of my switch installation. Its not a very clean looking install and I think I just wanted to get things done at the time. If you take more time or are better at such things you can get a very clean professional looking switch install.


I used a small drill and scalpel to cut out the holes for the switches. I placed them on the lower side of the NES case. Accessible yet out of the way and not spoiling the NES classic look much. These switches usually have small holes you can use to insert holding screws. You can also use super glue and hot glue. You can also notice in the picture I have two switches installed. One was for the previous lockout chip which I bungled on by snapping the pin off so its basically useless on this system.

Now we want to decide how much we want to overclock the NES CPU. The stock speed for the NES is 1.79mhz and even a modest speed boost helps in many games. As my first time doing this mod I wanted to choose a modest overclock and decided on an overclock of 2.08mhz. If I do this modification again though I may try for 3mhz. at about 4mhz overclock the NES begins to become very unstable so I would suggest an overclock of between 2 and 3mhz. Once you have decided on the overclock speed your going to need to buy a crystal oscillator. The speed on the oscillator determines the overclock. The NES CPU divides the speed of the oscillator by 12 so this is how you determine your overclock speed. For example I needed a 25mhz crystal oscillator to get an overclock of 2.08 (25 / 12 = 2.083333333333333. basically 2.08) so for a future 3.0mhz overclock my oscillator will need to be 36mhz.

Here is said oscillator. It has four legs and I bought it off eBay for a few dollars. Look for one that mentions it can handle 5V in the description.


So now that we have our oscillator we can start. I would also recommend you use very thin and small gauge wire for this mod. Now that we have the new oscillator and wire its time we do the actual mod.

Like the lockout chip modification we are going to need to lift two different pins, one on the CPU and one on the PPU (reference image above). Unlike the lockout chip mod if you break the pins you have effectively killed your NES, unless you can somehow reattach the pin which I assume would be difficult but I don’t care to find out. TAKE YOUR TIME cutting and lifting the pins and DO NOT break them off.

It really doesn’t matter what pin you lift first but I would start with the CPU. The CPU is the large chip to the left labeled RP2A03G. The pin you want to lift is pin 29. Its the 9th pin from the right on the top of the chip as the board faces you. The second pin you want to lift is on the PPU which is the large chip in the upper right labeled RP2C02G-0. The pin you want to lift on the PPU is pin 18. It is the 3rd pin on the right on the bottom row as the board faces you. These pins are both small and very hard to get to. This is the hardest and riskiest part of the mod. Take you time here. Gently snip with a small pair of cutters and if needed saw the bottom of the pins away with a scalpel then very gently lift the legs up and away from the board. If you accomplish this congratulations as this is the most difficult part.

Now what you want to do is solder a wire on each lifted pin. Next solder the wire from the CPU to the middle prong on the switch then solder the wire from the PPU to one of the other side poles on the switch. Doesn’t particularly matter which one.

Here is a terribly blurry image of the wires soldered onto the two lifted pins.


It should look like this at this point.


Now we need to attach the oscillator. The oscillator should have four legs. Leg one is in the corner that should be marked with a small dot. The legs then go in order counter clockwise so to the right of leg one is leg two. Above leg two is leg three and to the right of three is leg four. Now you want to take the third prong on the switch and solder a wire from it to leg three on the oscillator.

Now we need to solder a wire from leg four on the oscillator to a +5v DC source. I used the voltage regulator on the NES. Make absolutely sure your connecting to the right spot or you could potentially fry everything killing the NES. There should be three solder points on the voltage regulator (the big metal square on the motherboard. If the board is facing you you want to solder the wire to the point to the far right. Here is a blurry picture as an example.


Finally you want to solder a wire from pin two to a ground point. This can be any metal part of the case such as the metal borders. Pin one on the oscillator doesn’t need to be connected to anything.

After its all done it should looks like this.



And that’s it. All that’s left is to put your NES back together and test to see if it all works. At times I have found that if you flip the OC switch during game play it can glitch the system and end your game so just be aware of that.

Here is the unit mostly reassembled. You can see I used that glob of solder at the ground for the oscillator.


I would also advise securing the oscillator down, maybe with some electrical tape.

Here is a video of the overclock in action. In some parts of Super Mario Three if there are several enemies on screen at one time it can really bog the game down but the overclock eliminates virtually all slowdown. this video starts out with the game in overclock mode but it becomes very evident when switching back to stock speed.


NES Stereo sound modification – I gave doing this mod a lot of thought but in the end I decided to pass on it at least for now. What it does is allow your NES to output its sound in a (sort of) simulated stereo or really split mono. The NES usually takes all its sound channels and routes then through the RF or audio out in mono. A mod can be done to effectively split these sound channels into two channels effectively giving you a sort of stereo. Ideally you want a knob to adjust the split as different games will require adjustments. Some games sound very good like this but others not so much. You also want some kind of dials to adjust the sound output. No game was ever made for the NES to take any advantage of stereo sound since the NES was never made to output audio in that matter. That being the case I decided to pass on the mod at least for the time being. If you want to try the stereo mod here’s a link to a how to guide here.

If you want a “quick and easy” fix you can always invest a few dollars and buy a simple RCA Y splitter, this though won’t give you any sort of “simulated stereo” as a modification would but it will give you duel mono output from both speakers.

NES RGB mod – The NES is one of the few systems that does not natively output an RGB video signal. Contrary to what the port says or anyone else French NES units also do NOT output RGB. This is a shame since it means the best you can get is composite, with two exceptions. First is the Famicom Titler that was mentioned earlier. This unit has a special RGB video chip and an S-video port. Since this unit does output RGB it can also be modded with component out or an RGB port. The other option to mod your existing NES requires a complicated and expensive mod. At some point Nintendo put out Playchoice 10 units which were Nintendo arcade machines that played NES games. Since arcade machines used RGB monitors Nintendo made a special RGB PPU for these arcade units. That said, doing a RGB mod to a stock NES requires tracking down said Playchoice arcade board, extracting certain RGB PPU’s then finding someone with the correct expertise to install that PPU into your NES. The results are beautiful as I’ve seen screenshots but the effort and cost involved have kept me from having the modification done.

And that’s it. I will be updating this post if i decide to perform any other modifications or go back and perform some “cleaner” mods. As i said earlier I think the NES is a great system overall and It can be very rewarding to restore and/or enhance them if you so choose.



Many times Its not the fault of a faulty NES connector for a game not working but many times its the contacts on the carts themselves. Heres a real brief guide to some simple cleaning meathods for your NES carts. Note that these also work with pretty much any cart based games from SNES to Genesis.


Here are two NES carts I happened to have close by. There may be more variations then here but this is what I’ve found. The cart on the left with three screws is a later manufactured cart and the screws require a gambit screwdriver to remove. The cart on the right with five screws is an earlier cart and these can be removed with a small flat-tip screwdriver.


Here’s what you see on opening up a cart. Not much going on inside there, more then fifty percent just wasted space. Keep in mind that the original Japanese Famicom (NES) carts were very small. I’m thinking the larger sized carts are to accommodate the front loading NES units.


Here on the left is the innards of an NES cart and just for comparison I have the inside of an SNES cart on the right. What you want to clean are the gold colored contacts on the bottom. My first cleaning method is usually just a q-tip and some rubbing alcohol. Just dip one end into the alcohol and rub the contacts firmly. if their dirty your probably going to quickly notice the grim on the q-tip. after cleaning both sides I like to give it some time to dry and perhaps use a dry q-tip to help. This seems to usually do the trick as far as cleaning but if it fails you can also use a regular pencial erasure. just firmly rub the erasure on the contacts wiping off any erasure bits afterwards. Most of the time this works for me in getting a game to play though in a few cases the contacts seem just to far gone and no amount of alcohol or erasure rubbing seem to help.

Choosing the right display for playing our classic games isn’t as straight forward as it may seem at first. If you want to get the best quality picture there are a variety of things to take into account. This fact is compounded in the USA by the myriad of different video transmission methods we have gone through each of ascending video quality. This is a guide designed to help those that want the best video quality out of there “classic” systems (pre PS3 for the sake of this article).

Before we can talk about the correct displays to use we need to have a basic understanding of how the video signal is sent and the various connection methods used to deliver the video signal to the TV. Since we are talking about classic systems here were going to focus on analog video and not digital methods like DVI or HDMI. The difference between Analog and Digital is beyond the scope of this article so its enough to understand that classic systems output their video signals via analog. The first thing to understand is that the color video signal is split into two basic parts, Luma, or the brightness and Chroma or the color. the chroma is separated into red, green and blue which together blend to create the other colors.


Here’s the back plate of a typical modern TV (a CRT HDTV in this case). In this picture we can see virtually the entire progression of video standards America has gone through up to the digital high definition era with the HDMI port on the far right. So now will go through all the standards one by one from the connection that provides the worst picture when hooked up with a game console or movie player to the one that gives the best quality image.


First we have RF and this is the type of connection most of us grew up with using early on, its also undoubtedly the worst quality connection. Without modification this is the only way most early consoles like the Atari 2600 can be hooked up. Many of us used to daisy chain systems with RF switch boxes, set the TV to channel 3 and didn’t know the difference. Basically what RF does is trick your TV into thinking your game console output is a television show. RF mixes both the Luma and the Chroma together along with the sound as well. All these signals being sent together with no separation makes for a terrible fuzzy image. This input despite its terrible quality is widely available and is present on almost all televisions. This is also due to the fact this would be where your cable line would input to the TV.


Composite is a slight step up from RF. What composite did was separate the sound from the image signal helping improve image quality a small amount. This connection was found on higher end TV’s in the late 80’s and on almost all TV’s from the 90’s up. Image quality when using a console hooked up is also dependent on the TV. TV’s have filters which separate the Luma and Chroma when the signal comes in on the composite line and the better the filter the better the image quality. Most TV’s from the early 2000’s have very good filters in my opinion for composite video.

If you find the specifications of your TV or the TV your thinking about buying for classic gaming and want to know the quality of the comb filter used to separate the signals in a composite line in the three types of common comb filters are 2 line comb filter < 3 line comb filter < 3d comb filter. try to find a TV with the 3D filter or at least a 3 line filter.


S-video takes the next logical step and separates the Luma and the Chroma. This separation creates a noticeable improvement in quality of image. S-video became fairly standard in the mid 90’s and was widely available on most TV’s from 2000 up. some older Commodore monitors are S-video capable but the jack is different and is composed of two RCA jacks as opposed to a specialized S-video jack.


Component again goes one step further then S-video. what component does is have three separate jacks. one transmitting the Luma as well as the vertical and horizontal synchronization (the green jack) and the other two transmitting the blue and the red color signal. Since the display knows the correct Luma levels as well as where the red and blue goes it can fill in the other areas with green. Component creates a image of excellent quality and in the USA is generally thought of as the best connection as far as analog video goes. It really became common around the early 2000’s first on high end TV’s and later became a common standard. One great advantage of component is it can support a progressive scan signal so It can transmit ED and HD images from 480p up to 1080i making it the connection of choice for systems that support those modes such as the Playstation 2 and up. Component CAN also transmit a 1080p signal as well but this is very uncommon. most TV displays only support up to 1080i over component and most devices will not transmit a 1080p signal over them as well. The Xbox 360 is one example of a device that will transmit 1080p over component but again your display must also support this.

*Toshiba marketed component as “color stream” on some Toshiba TV sets and used different jack colors. This is the exact same connection and quality as component and was just a marketing move by Toshiba so don’t be confused.


I’ll just be blunt, America got screwed. Component delivers an excellent picture but there is a method that delivers a slightly better one. this is commonly known as RGB or red,blue,green. Its the full separation of the Luma and all three sub signals of the Chroma. unfortunately the RGB standard was never really adopted in the US and in the states we have very limited options if you want to obtain an RGB capable monitor.


that is a euro SCART connector. its the standard connector found on many European TV’s and it is capable of transmitting pure RGB (most of the time, some cables lack it but its the individual cables not the standard). Japan also had a version usually known as Japanese RGB or 21 pin RGB. It wasn’t as standard as SCART RGB but at least they had some kind of RGB standard over their. (keep in mind Japanese and euro RGB cables are NOT compatible).

so in short the quality chart for the connections goes like this


Technically Component IS a form of RGB of which there is several. keep in mind component also supports enhanced definition and high definition signals so it is generally the connection of choice for post Playstation systems where RGB is best used for pre Playstation 2 systems. A very common form is RGBS or composite sync where four wires are used. Its very much like component except the forth wire carried the vertical and horizontal synchronization data, In component this information is transmitted on the same cable as the Luma (green cable). RGBHV goes even further and used five wires separating the sync into its own separate horizontal and vertical cables.

Euro SCART cables use the RGBS method.

One option to at least get component video out of your older consoles that do not output component but do output RGB is an external converter. I’ve heard and read a lot of good things about the csy-2100 RGB to component converter. what this does is take the RGB signal outputted by your console via a Euro SCART cable and translates it into component. there’s a converter and extra connections involved so some negligible signal loss is expected but from what Ive seen at least the csy-2100 is of good quality and will allow you to get a good component image on your TV without having to do an internal component modification to your systems. The downside (besides the very small signal loss) is having to buy separate RGB SCART cables for the systems you wish to use as well as the converter itself usually retailing for over $100.

yhea, its a little confusing. heres a video that touches the subject by “My Life in Gaming” here.


I’ve put together a few examples to give a loose idea about the different qualities of video connections. I do need to point out I didn’t exactly use the scientific method here. The image you get from pointing a camera at a screen and taking a picture is different from what your going to see with the naked eye but since I lack a screen capture device that’s the best were going to get right now.

First example I’m going to use is a close up of Quick Man from Mega Man II on the NES but the only system I have on hand that will run the entire gambit of video standards is my PlayStation 2 so these images are coming from the Mega Man II PS2 port.


As you can see the image in RF is very blurry, especially notice the V on Quick mans head and how very undefined it is, especially at the point. Also notice all the color bleed as red bleeds into everything around it. Keep in mind this is even using a high quality official Sony RF box. I originally used a third party RF switch and the image rolled on the TV. Composite helped a good deal with the color bleeding. S-video you can start to see a little bit more detail such as the Quick mans mouth is a little more defined as well as the faint yellow line in the middle of Quick mans ear piece. Finally the component image looks really good and sharp. You can make out all the details and the shading around Quick mans mouth is more defined.

Next is an example from the PS2 game Mega Man X8.

mmex(click to enlarge)


Wrong, with the exception of very few game consoles (the NES and 3DO come to mind) all consoles such as the PlayStation, Genesis, Sega Master System, SNES, Ect… output RGB. Most consoles at their core output the images via RGB but depending on the jack connected the signal is downgraded to accommodate the method used to display the video signal. An RGB signal can be turned into any type below it. An example would be the Sega Genesis, it can output RGB. It used a proprietary video jack though so only composite cables were made in the US but in Europe they made RGB cables. An American, if they owned an RGB capable display could simply order an RGB Genesis (or mega drive as its known elsewhere) cable and enjoy their Genny in RGB. Alternatively since the Genesis can natively output RGB modifications can be made to the Genesis to provide output jacks for either S-video or component.


VGA commonly used by IBM PC’s since the late 80’s is indeed a method of analog RGB widely used in the USA and typically uses the RGBHV method to transmit RGB data. unfortunately it sends its signal at a much higher frequency then the frequency outputted by older game consoles. Ive seen 15htz RGB to VGA converters on eBay but I cant attest to their compatibility or quality. I can say I’ve never heard good things about them in my gaming experience.

Most of the Sega Dreamcast games can output via VGA by way of a mod to the system or using a Dreamcast VGA box but other then that only more modern systems like the Xbox360 can output RGB via the VGA standard.

Now that we have a basic understanding of how video is transmitted in classic game consoles we can start looking at what type of displays we want to use that will provide the best image and compatibility for some classic gaming. Before we look at the best options lets first look at the worst.


HD or High Definition displays in general but worst are LCD, LED, Plasma or really any flat displays. Wouldn’t it be great to play NES Punch Out on your new 55 inch HD LED TV? well you can but its going to look like crap. First of all these old consoles were made to work on older CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) or “tube televisions” at certain native resolutions. When displayed on widescreen HDTV’s (even when using black bars to the right and left) the image can be stretched and distorted. The quality can differ depending on the TV but usually it looks pretty bad.

Also old standard definition televisions had something called scan lines. if you look very closely at an image displayed on an older SDTV you will notice a thin black line every other line. Here is an example from a Super Nintendo connected to an older CRT SDTV. Keep in mind this image looks much sharper in person, the act of simply taking a picture by pointing it a screen creates many distortions.


notice the thin black lines every other line? Those lines are not present on HDTV’s so the TV stretches the lines to fill those gaps, the pixels end up looking blocky and smeared.

Lastly we have the problem of “ghosting” on an LCD, Plasma or LED HDTV. this happens because the TV cant upscale the video being outputted from the game console fast enough and a delay is created. this is not a problem on older CRT TV’s. This may throw timing of jumps off in certain games or create a ghost image behind objects in a game moving quickly. some TV’s have “game modes” that help alleviate this issue.  many flat screen HDTV’s have a rendering speed specification displayed when you purchase them. the lower the better. 5ms or less is desirable.

It should also be noted that most LCD, Plasma and LED TV’s still do not give deep black levels or dark colors as well as older CRT’s.


Yes, but neither of them are as good as getting a dedicated standard definition CRT in my opinion. The first option is to get a device called an upscan converter. What an upscan converter does is upscale the image to the native resolution of the HDTV far faster then the scaler in the TV can. This helps with the blocky pixels as well as the ghosting/timing issue. There is also usually an option for the upscaler to create artificial scan lines simulating an older CRT TV. There are issues inherent to the upscaler option though. One is the language barrier. Most of these units like the XRGB which is very popular among gamers is Japan only and requires importing as well as finding the sometimes hard to locate 21 pin JP RGB cables. They can also be rather expensive, usually around the $300 mark making it far more economical to simply find an SDTV at goodwill for $1. I owned a XRGB2 plus in the past and I wasn’t to impressed. I much preferred using a true RGB non HD monitor. I ended up selling the unit off after a year of use. There are some rather expensive upscale converters such as one released by Ancher Bay that retailed for near $1000. I assume these would give much better upscaleing abilities.

Luckily there is a sort of middle ground. Before the widespread adaptation of flat LED, Plasma and LED type HDTV’s a number of manufacturers produced CRT HDTV’s. these TV’s used the tried and true CRT technology to display HD images and the best part is currently they can be obtained for free in some cases. mine was $14 at a thrift store.


The current TV I’m using is an off brand Sanyo but CRT HDTV’s were produced by many diffrent companies. Many CRT enthusiasts do not recommend the Samsung “Slimfit” line of CRT HD sets due to poor components and bad geometry issues but from personnel experience I feel this may be overblown plus you get the benefits of a lighter set. Sony CRT HD sets are generally recommended as they tend to produce the best image quality but I personally have experienced high failure rates with Sony HD CRT sets. Toshiba sets also regularly come up as being worth checking out. Many of the problems found in the flat screen HDTV’s are far less troubling here and some games look absolutely brilliant. There are still issues though. These TV’s still lack scanlines and the images produced still look chunky or off at times. This is especially noticeable when you scroll the screen. Many times the image looked great but upon scrolling the screen things looked noticeably not right. It by no means makes the game unplayable but it can be distracting if your a video perfectionist. Also some games were made using scanlines to create certain effects.

here is an example of “ghosting” which occurs even on the CRT variety of HDTV. watch the area behind Mario as he runs to see it. Its more noticeable to the naked eye when playing.

here is an example from the SNES game UN Squadron. the connection on both TV’s is via S-Video. The first TV is a modern CRT SDTV and the second is a CRT HDTV.


unshdHD CRT

The picture isn’t bad on either but you can notice the blockyness in the HD TV with the lack of scan lines. this is especially noticeable in the large A in U.N. SQUADRON. Also the pixels seem to blend better in the Unicorns hair on the SD TV.

many times on HD displays when any sort of “checkered” effect is used it looks very disorienting on an HD set. This setup will allow the use of HD gaming from newer consoles and HD movies/TV but be aware that even though many of these TV’s have HDMI ports for video no CRT HDTV was ever produced that was capable of 1080P resolution but many do go up to 1080i.


Now that all of that is out of the way lets discuss the best option available for classic gaming.

1) Import a RGB capable SDTV from Europe or Japan. This is actually the most impractical method for those of us living in the US. Japan used the same video standard and voltage (well 10v difference but its still compatible) but there RGB capable TV’s are a little rarer. RGB SCART on the other hand is fairly common on European TV’s and most EU TV’s can do our video standard (NTSC) as well as there’s (PAL). You would need a power converter though. Either of these TV’s would give you an SDTV CRT display for old games plus an RGB input for the best possible image. As a plus the EU TV would allow you to display PAL images if you ever imported any EU game consoles. Unfortunately this would cost a fortune. Consider that shipping even a smaller heavy CRT TV across the US can easily cost $100 or more. A heavy TV, even a small one from Europe or Japan would run several hundred dollars let alone the time involved and the effort in finding one and purchasing it. Although this is an option its not really a reasonable option.

2) Buy a later model SDTV. This would be the path most people take. SD or standard definition TV’s of various sizes are widely available for cheap or free. Goodwill routinely runs $1 TV sales (as of now Goodwill has stopped accepting CRT sets but various thrift shops still carry them). A lot of people favor older TV’s such as large console sets but many times the picture can look washed out on these sets from years and years of use. Some may even have images such as TV station logos burned into the screen so look out for this. Many of the earlier TV’s also lack a variety of higher quality video inputs and only offer RF and composite. My suggestion would be to look for something from around 2000 or later preferably Samsung or a Sony Trinitron. Later Sony CRT HDTV’s had reliability issues but the quality of their SD sets is very good and has high reliability.

Older sets with curved screens are also a fine option and many prefer them for a more nostalgic look. Many of the same people will claim that newer SD CRTs with flat screens will have geometry issues. This may also be severely overblown as I have not encountered any geometry issues that could not be easily fixed via a service menu nor have I noticed it being any more of an issue then with older sets with curved screens. I also asked a friend I know that routinely works on CRT sets and he felt the same way. This common conception may be attributed to the people buying very cheap flat screen CRT sets from off brands near the end of the SD CRT era. These cheap sets likely had more geometry issues due to poor construction thus leading to a larger amount of people claiming all flat screen sets suffer from poor geometry. The second claim people make with later flat screen SD sets is that light guns will not work. This is largely a myth. Light guns will not work on HD CRT sets but WILL WORK on SD CRT sets regardless on if they have a flat or curved screen. There may be some rarer SD sets that attempted to use different refresh rates later on which created incompatibilities with light guns but I have never encountered any of these sets and the vast majority of TV’s with flat screens should work without issue.

These TV’s will of course have RF, usually two or more composite inputs and at least one S-video and one component input. make sure you have an s-video and component though if you want to get the best out of SD systems like the PS2 and Wii. Classic systems should look great on these TV’s with no issues, especially the higher end Samsung or Sony displays. One thing you will be missing though is RGB  input for the very highest quality image as well as Progressive scan or 480P resolution (a method that gives a sharper image and is referenced as the “P” in resolutions, ex, 480p, 720p, 1080p) which isn’t a big loss but SD systems like the Wii support it as well as some games on the Xbox and PS2. here is the current TV I use. Its an off brand but offers the entire range (minus RGB) of inputs. I am currently looking for a higher quality set though.


Here’s another TV that I actually recently acquired to replace the Ilo TV. Its a Samsung SD CRT and although the screen is slightly smaller the picture quality is better.


If your looking for the very best SD sets though Toshiba and JVC (especially the D-series) commonly come up but the most suggested is the Sony line of SD sets namely the Trinitron brand and XRB brands

Perhaps the finest line ever produced is the the Sony KV-xxFV310 line with the xx being substituted for either 27, 32 or 36 to designate screen size. These sets are one of the last SD sets and feature everything from RF up to two component inputs as well as features such as a 3D comb filter (the best available), Dynablack technology, a built in subwoofer and a high voltage regulator to prevent color blooming. The voltage regulator is a feature not found on any other consumer SDTV.

I recently acquired the 32 inch version of this TV. despite the hype of it being so good it was almost “PVM like” I would have to disagree. The picture is very nice and it handles 480i and 240p wonderfully it didn’t quite live up to the hype for me. I calibrated my set as well as I could but it could probably use a good professional color and geometry calibration (something no TV repair service offers anymore for CRT’s). Although I don’t think this set comes close to touching an image on a quality PVM via RGB it still is about as good as its going to get for a consumer SD set and and offers some advantages over a PVM such as greater screen size, availability and price. Mine was found for free locally.

3) The 3rd option would be to find the elusive CRT EDTV or Enhanced Definition TV. these sets ARE NOT HD but are capable of progressive scan at 480p. this means it gives all the benefits of a SDTV but with the added ability to display progressive scan for those older systems that support it such as Xbox, PS2 and Wii. The biggest issues with EDTV’s is finding them. Some of them are labeled EDTV in the corner but a number do not so without researching the model numbers its hard to tell. Also production of these TV’s was brief and they are hard to come across. In my time looking at different TV’s and all my thrifting trips I have come across exactly one EDTV in all my life. It was my friends who bought it around 2006 at a Kmart. I have never encountered one since but in my opinion this would be an excellent option for classic gaming since you get a newer vibrant SD set with the bonus of 480p capability. Again though these TV’s lack any RGB input ability.

Well after years of checking out every TV I come across at Goodwills, thrifts and flea markets I finally found one. Yes, they really do exist


Took this image with my phone. Ironically I didn’t buy it since it was a really small screen and way overpriced but my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. This particular TV was one of those not quite flat screen TV’s. It was way to thin to be a CRT TV but still pretty thick so maybe an early LCD TV.


If you really want to experience RGB video your options are limited in the US. As I stated before the method was never standardized in the US and connections among the specialized monitors vary. The first option would be an older computer monitor that supports 15khz RGB. The most common is the old Amiga 1084 monitors. Before VGA caught on many older computers in the 80’s used RGB. Many times these monitors can be had for relatively cheap if you can find one. Your going to need to make or have someone make for you special RGB commodore cables though, or as a better route a commodore RGB to SCART adapter cable. That way you can plug in the cable and then just buy the cheap RGB SCART cables for various systems and interface that way.


One other downside to this monitor is the size. At only 12 inches its a rather small monitor but if you find one in working order they can give a very good image.

Finally the best option for a RGB monitor in the US would be the PVM or professional video monitor. The most well known are the Sony PVM’s but NEC and Mitsubishi also produced RGB monitors. These monitors were designed for use in professional settings such as broadcast studios and hospitals. they offer very good image quality, a variety of input options and also come in larger sizes then the commodore monitor. Mine is a larger 20 inch screen Sony PVM that offers composite, S-video and RGB. but other models offer more inputs such as component and even VGA.


Keep in mind these were not built with TV tuners installed so if you want to watch TV on them you need a separate TV tuner. They can be a little hard to come by and generally sale on EBay or Craigslist for between $75 and $150 depending on model. They also do not have speakers on many models so you’ll need to find some external speakers and speaker wires like I have setup in the above picture. This can actually be a positive though since your free to find some really nice quality speakers if you wish. One thing to look out for though is screen burns or images burned into the screen or washed out screens. some of these monitors were subject to endless hours of continuous use so degradation of the unit may of resulted. If you do find a lesser used one though the image can be fantastic. Many of the PVM units also use BIN connectors on the back. They look kind of like RF connectors and are used primarily by professionals. No worries though as they all should be labeled and you can easily and cheaply find BIN to RCA style adapters that just screw into the BIN ports. The style of RGB ports on these monitors can also vary from model to model.


Mine uses this parallel port looking RGB connector and the “sync on green” method of producing RGB, there are various methods its just Sony was partial to SOG, This method transmits the vertical and horizontal sync data on the same wire that transmits the green color data.  Also notice the BIN connectors to the right. these would be where you would screw in your yellow adapters for composite video. What I had done with my PVM is have someone make me a PVM to SCART cable. the standards of RGB are completely compatible but the physical connectors are different. using a female DB-25 connector for the PVM some wiring skill and a male SCART head I had an adapter made. this adapter allowed me to use easily attainable SCART RGB cables for my systems and then play them in full RGB on the PVM.

Since the PVM above was left in my storage unit I recently acquired an even newer Sony PVM made in 2005. The PVM-14L5


This monitor is capable of doing composite, S-video and even component via the Y Pb Pr bin connectors at the rear but can also do 15khz RGBS via the same bin connectors for component (which double as RGB) plus the added forth connector to the right labeled  EXT SYNC. The monitor is capable of running both NTSC and PAL formats as well as progressive scan at 480P. It would probibly be just about perfect if only the screen was a little bigger. Mine here is 14 inches which is barely OK but a 20 inch model is out there.

here are some images I took, keep in mind this is via a digital camera just pointed at the screen so they really don’t do it justice but I feel they convey the message.

Ecco the Dolphin via S-video on a late model Samsung SD CRT TV


Ecco the Dolphin via RGB on a Sony BVM



bvmcomsggHere is a short guide I put together on setting up and using the Sony PVM-14L5

If you can only have one display for classic gaming I would probably pick a large PVM. If you find one that hasn’t seen a lot of use any classic system hooked up via RGB will look astoundingly good. even the other A/V ports tend to give a better quality image then a standard TV set. Many of these monitors are also capable of other region formats such as PAL or SECAM in case you were into importing Euro games and consoles. The only real downside is the lack of 480p on most PVM models. Defiantly worth the effort to track one down.

Here is my latest PVM a PVM-20M2U. This set has a larger screen then the 14 incher and is of similar quality overall but it lacks the ability to display 480p or up which is fine by me since I’m going to use it for pre 480P consoles. I particularly like the easy to reach controls on the front and two RGB/component inputs on the rear

Here are a few more CRT centric videos I have put together.

If your interested in learning more here’s a great article I highly recommend reading

I’ve never been a huge fan of emulation, or using another system (most commonly a PC) to emulate or “think” its something else such as a SNES or Genesis or even a different type of PC. I know it has its uses but I’ve always found the real hardware to run smoother with less issues. a lot of games use certain nuances or quirks in its native system that are either very hard or sometimes virtually impossible to emulate, games sometimes run at incorrect speeds, sounds wrong or even looks wrong and that’s not taking into account the pure feel of playing on actual hardware. To be honest though physical media tends to wear out and die. This is where flash carts and copiers come in. Basically a flash cart or copier takes a ROM or the data that is on your SNES or NES cart and by some means, either a flash storage device or a floppy makes it playable on actual hardware. a ROM is the actual game you play, the chips it is written on inside a cartridge or on a CD/DVD is the physical means we use to store and access that game data. At times flash carts have created some controversy over copyright and piracy issues and it would be naive to say that this does not happen but there is also a HUGE amount of legitimate use that can be had from these devices. being able to access your entire legitimately owned games via a single cart and a PC without having to get out and cause wear and tear on your originals is a huge advantage let alone not having to store every game you own within hands reach. another great advantage is the ability to play games that were never officially translated and released to the USA. Several individuals and groups over the years have created excellent English fan translated ROMS of games that never got to be released stateside and if you import the actual game a flash cart lets you play those unseen classics on actual hardware in English. I should also take the time to point out that even these flash cart/copier devices are not perfect. some games use special chips built into the actual game carts that are not physically present in the flash carts or encoded in the ROM data. An example of this would be the famous Super FX chip in some SNES games that allowed polygons and 3D on the SNES. The NES is also infamous for its use of a variety of special chips inside carts and “mappers”.


Above is a Chinese manufactured Game Doctor 7, a rather well known SNES copier from the early 90’s. this was my first experience with a copier which I had purchased around 2005 and i hated it. What you did was find your particular game ROM on the internet and then copy that ROM to a 1.44MB floppy disk. Usually the game was far larger than 1.44MB in size and required several floppies. The interface was a little awkward but manageable. From what I’ve gathered these devices were very popular but I just felt it was way to cumbersome and archaic not to mention it looked kinda unflattering humping my SNES all day. I should add the unit also took up a wall socket with a big AC adaptor box and I never did figure out how to save a games save file to disk, only the built in RAM which ment if I ever lost power to the system or accidentally unplugged it my save was gone.


I knew there had to be a better method out there. From a little research I had found an answer, the flash cart. How the flash cart differs from the earlier copiers is it does away with the hardware and unreliable floppies and using flash storage like the type found in your flash drive condenses the process down to a flashable cartridge (requiring no external power, simply insert in your system) and a small interface device and software program for your PC. Another bonus was that these devices were relatively cheap and were created for many old school systems such as the Genesis, SNES, TG-16, Master System and so on. there were still some problems though. I once read as a comment on a forum I can not recall that the people who make flash devices love antiquated hardware and would “make us use 5 1/4 floppies if they could”. Amusing but not to far from the truth, the earlier flash carts were still somewhat archaic and require some rather unintuitive methods. A non computer savoy individual may indeed end up having a hard time setting up these early flash carts. Also they tend to only be able to hold 1-4 games in memory at a time with only 1 able to use the save function. A reliable webpage based in Hong Kong that still sells these devices is Tototek. I’ve bough several affordable flash devices off them over the years and I can personally vouch for their reliable products and good customer service.

First off make sure you have a running PC that has one of these

A parallel Printer port. I don’t think they are standard anymore but PC’s were still commonly sporting them in the mid 2000’s so put that old Pentium 4 or AMD 3500+ to use. Also be SURE to go into the computers BIOS and set the printer port to EPP mode or it won’t work. You can usually access the BIOS on startup before Windows or whatever your running boots, press the del key or F8 key after powering on. Also I’m fairly sure the cable used must be bi-directional else the cable won’t transfer the information correctly.

So, you have your flash cart itself (I put mine inside an old extra cart of Super Mario World) and your small green board you connect to the PC. the board connects via a USB cable (for power) and a parallel printer cable. your also going to need a program such as Super Flasher that can be downloaded free from the above Tototek website, keep in mind the flashing software is different for different flash carts. The Genesis flash cart uses different software also available from the site.

It’s all rather self explanatory at this point. Insert the cart to the board, turn on the board via the power switch and use the software to load your ROM file. The Tototek carts are nice because you don’t have to do any goofy things with your game saves. it saves in game via a battery on the flash cart but keep in mind you can only save with one game at a time if you load multiple games onto the cart. Wait a few minutes for your game to load to the cart, pop it in your SNES (or whatever system you have a flash cart for) and

look at you, your playing an English translated Japan only strategy RPG on your actual SNES, yay!


As convenient as these style flash devices are over the older copiers technology moves on and flash carts of the present (2012) have evolved beyond the need for either clunky interfaces or limited space. enter the modern flash cart.

This is a modern example of a flash cart. This specific one is for the NES system but they are also made for a variety of cart based systems. This cart as well as its SNES version can be purchased here at Retrozone. The modern flash cart consists of the cart itself and usually either a Compact Flash card or in some devices an SD flash card. Everything you need is in 2 devices. For the NES you just buy a compact flash card, mine is 512MB in size. Insert it into the CF slot on your PC which most have them now and if not you can get USB adaptors for only a few dollars on eBay. drag and drop your ROM files into the folders you easily set up on the flash card and that’s it.Insert the card with your ROMS into the cart, insert cart into system and there you go, access to hundreds of games if you so choose. I need to point out again though that not all games work as I stated earlier many games on the NES use special hardware in the form of chips on the games. Good news is updates are always being worked on and as time passes more games are becoming playable via software updates to the carts available freely via the website. The one real downside I find, at least with the Retrozone version, is that the method of saving in game is somewhat clunky. You create a separate .sav file for whatever particular game you wish to save in. In order to save in game you have to get up and hold the RESET button down 5 seconds and let go and hopefully you get a little screen asking if you would like to save. its awkward but manageable. Another drawback is price, these style carts tend to go for well over $100 where the older Tototek style carts can be had for under $80. And that’s it for flash carts. A very useful way to have all your collection on hand and still use the acual hardware.

Continuing with the “Anatomy of” series we will be looking at perhaps the quintessential computer and CPU of the early to mid 90’s and a DOS mainstay. The 486 CPU was introduced in 1989 and continued to be refined and made faster. It stuck around well into the Pentium era of the mid 90’s. The PC were looking at today is based around the 486 and designed to run virtually any DOS game and program from the late 80’s up until the mid 90’s. it’s a little to fast and overkill for mid and early 80’s games and although certainly playable,  just a tad to slow for later DOS games such as Duke 3D or Doom. I find this setup to really be the perfect type for most DOS gaming in both compatibility and time specific feel (if that makes sense). It’s a little harder to find the parts for and maybe slightly more expensive than building a Pentium based DOS PC but the effort is worth it. I’ll be attempting to explain the parts necessary to put together a 486 PC but as always the suggestions are my opinions and there are many, many choices available. For quick reference I also have a page explaining various PC ports and slot types here.


I chose a desktop style case, I feel it better conveys the era and I personally like the form factor but you can just as easily chose a tower type configuration. This case is slightly larger than most I have seen on the market and has 3 5.25″ drive bays where most I have seen have 2. make sure you get an AT style case as your motherboard is going to be an AT form factor with most likely an AT power connector. Most of these cases can be found for less than $20 and many times come with a AT power supply. A lot of these cases have little slots for keys, don’t worry about them, you don’t need the key. this was so owners or businesses could lock the case to protect the insides from unwanted modifications or pilfering I assume. they usually come with 3 buttons, your standard power and reset as well as a “turbo” button. contrary to what you may think the “turbo” button actually slows the CPU down. This is to help with compatibility with older games that require a slower CPU. It’s a mostly useless feature but I suppose its nice to have to somewhat increase compatibility.


One thing you’ll notice about the back is that there are no PS/2 ports for keyboards or mice. The PS/2 standard had not taken hold yet and a  majority of 486 based motherboards did not have or support the connection, you will even find these AT style keyboard connections on early Pentium based boards.

1) AT keyboard connection. Finding an AT keyboard shouldn’t be hard. I spot them a lot at Goodwill in the piles of boards they usually have in one corner. the bulk will be USB or PS/2 but look for older off white colored boards and check the end connectors for the larger AT plug. The good news is that the AT connector is compatible with the PS/2 standard by way of an adapter plug. these can be found online for a few dollars and let you use a PS/2 type keyboard with the AT plug.

2) serial ports, The mouse is slightly more tricky. Serial mice are almost always the older style “ball mice”. They aren’t to rare and almost never more than $5. Unfortunately the connection is not electronically compatible with PS/2 so even with an adapter your PS/2 mouse may still not work. You need to look for serial/PS/2 compatible mice. sometimes this feature is stated on the mouse, usually it is not. You’re most likely better off just using a serial mouse. The other port is a 25 pin serial.

3) Parallel port, generally this is where you would plug in a printer to interface or a external Zip drive.

4) External SCSI port

5) Video port

6) Midi port

7) Gravis Ultrasound ACE

8) Sound Blaster 16 and joystick port

now to get into the meat of the setup.



1) the PSU or power unit. almost all 486 motherboards are going to have an older style AT power connector so you’re going to need a AT power supply. You don’t need one that’s very powerful 200 watts should suffice. Unfortunately these power units are getting a little hard to come by but on the plus side there is ATX to AT converter cables available for a few dollars. You’re also probably going to have to wire the PSU to the power button on the case unless you bought a case with the PSU already hooked up. this isn’t difficult and it’s just plugging 2 connectors. Mine is 250 Watts which should be enough for a machine of this time.

2) these are the larger 5.25′ drive bays. your almost defiantly going to want a CD-ROM drive installed. A lot of games in the era did have a CD release with enhanced sound and graphics. I’m using a CD-RW drive simply because I didn’t have a regular drive available at the time. these drives work fine for playing CD’s in DOS. there is no need to have a DVD drive since this format did not exist at the time. A DVD drive will also work and should operate just like a CD-ROM drive when installed.

The second drive I have installed is a 1.2MB 5 1/4 inch floppy drive. Almost all games of this era came on 1.44MB 3 1/2 floppies or CD so this drive really isn’t completely necessary but it you have an extra there’s no harm adding it on. It adds compatibility for some older games and also greatly enhances that classic PC look. I’ve also learned recently that there may be a few games that actually had content CUT to fit on a 1.44MB 3 1/2 floppy version. Tongue of the Fat Man is one such game with more content on the 5 1/4 floppy version.

Lastly I have my 500MB IDE hard drive installed in a removable Hard Drive caddy. Usually these caddy’s have a small fan for extra cooling and can be easily pulled out if you need to swap hard drives or your drive fails. I have my boot drive installed here and my games installed on my secondary hard drive. This way if my main drive fails I can easily swap in a new one.


3) The 2 3 1/2″ bays I have installed a IDE 500MB hard drive and a 1.44 MB 3 1/2″ floppy drive. a larger hard drive will work fine but as stated in earlier “Anatomy of” articles DOS only sees about 500MB without using partitions or tricks. the 1.44MB floppy drive is a must since many games were released on this format.

Under the 1.44mb drive I have my 100MB SCSI Zip drive. The SCSI variant is defiantly a little rarer and harder to find then the IDE based drives but i have noticed its a little faster, uses a smaller floppy type power connector and does not take up a space on my IDE chain since IDE only supports 2 devices per cable and SCSI can support over seven. It did take me a little time to hunt one down.

Finally under the Zip drive I have my secondary 1.4GB SCSI hard drive for my games.

4) The motherboard or MB. You’re really going to want a socket 3 motherboard to support the later 486 CPU’s. There all going to come with several 16 bit ISA slots but I highly recommend you find one that also has 1 or 2 VLB slots. you can look up this slot type on Wikipedia for more detail but they are longer connector slots usually a light brown in color. they were prevalent in the late 486 era and are faster at transferring information then the older ISA slots, roughly equivalent in speed to the later PCI type slot. PCI was still having the bugs worked out of it at this point so I don’t recommend a 486 board with PCI slots. My board has 2 VLB slots which is about the standard number. also make sure to note the MB type and do some research. MB’s of this era usually required jumper switches to change settings for things like CPU types and speed. fortunately though most 486 era MB’s do have the IDE and floppy connectors built in. I’m using a UM 486V AIO motherboard. It’s okay and serves the purpose though there are others out there that support more RAM and have more slots. mine has 256k cache as well as 2 VLB slots and 4 16 bit ISA slots.

Take note of the cache slots when buying a motherboard of this era as well. cache is very fast memory that the CPU makes use of. it is much faster then your standard system RAM and at the time was much more expensive so there were issues at the time with motherboards coming with empty cache sockets or even worse fake cache. L1 cache is located on the CPU itself but in the 486 days the L2 cache was on the motherboard. your board will operate with no L2 cache but it will take a stability as well as performance hit. My board can handle up to 256k of L2 cache which is plenty for the time period. You really want between 128k and 256k L2 cache. Some boards offer 512k or on high end boards 1mb but after 256k you really start to notice diminishing results so its not really necessary.


5) RAM. Most if not all of these era motherboards are going to use old 30 pin ram simms. there a little hard to find but not terribly expensive online. the MB I am using has 32MB which is also the most allowed, high end 486 MB’s could allow up to 64MB using 16MB simms. 32MB and defiantly 64MB is complete overkill for the era of gaming we are making this PC for. The majority of games from the time will happily run smoothly on as little as 8MB RAM. also make sure you research the RAM your MB needs, all 30 pin RAM is not the same and some boards are very picky on only accepting high or low density ram or things like EDO. for instance. most old PC’s use parity 9 chip ram in 30 pin simms. If the ram simm has 8 chips its non-parity and for a MAC. some MB’s you can adjust a setting in BIOS to allow the use of 8 chip RAM but many do not so make sure your using the correct type of RAM.

 6) CPU. The CPU I suggest and perhaps the all time classic 486 is the Intel 486DX2 66mhz CPU. I know there are several 486 CPU’s that were faster but the 66mhtz is without a doubt one of the most widespread and reliable of the time.  The 66mhtz was very widely used by DOS games and also gets along well with the VLB ports. make sure to couple the CPU with a heatsink/fan combo to extend the life of your system.

(image taken from Wikipedia as public domain)

7) serial port bracket and parallel port bracket. A lot of these older boards only have the keyboard connector built in so your going to need a diagram of your board (commonly available on-line if you know your MB type) and a bracket with the serial ports/parallel port and cable. If your lucky these will come with the 486 MB. You’re going to need the 9-pin male serial port for your mouse.

8) battery. The CMOS battery saves your BIOS settings. without it your going to be constantly configuring your drives and HDD on startup. 486 boards use a variety of battery’s from battery chips to barrel nickle-cadnium battery’s to lithium batteries on the higher end MB’s. My MB was very weird in the fact that the only battery connection available was a 4 pin external battery. these look like little bricks with a wire coming off and a connector on the end. they can go average for about $14. they usually have a side with adhesive so you can stick it to the side or inside case. I simply allow mine to dangle out the back.

9) SCSI card. I’m using a BusLogic BT-445S VLB SCSI card to handle any SCSI devices I use on this machine. SCSI or Small Computer System Interface is the alternative to IDE. In general its considered a little faster and more reliable then IDE but can be a headache to set up at times and the devices can be harder to find and costlier then IDE equivalents that’s why I like to use it in addition to my IDE. On my setup I have my secondary hard drive running on the SCSI bus. It is a newer 7200 RPM IBM SCSI hard drive detected as 1.4GB capacity. I primarily use this drive for my games. Another benefit of SCSI is that its not as size limited due to BIOS issues as drives connected to the IDE bus. You can also connect tape drives and CD-Rom drives to the SCSI bus and there is also an external connection. I believe I can connect up to 7 devices on this particular card. I originally had an Adaptec VLB card but it had a faulty BIOS chip so I switched over to this SiiG card which has worked well but was a sort of “bare bones” controller. I finally settled on the BusLogic card since it was a fair price and feature rich. Try to get a card that has features such as asynchronous transfer, large drive capability, DMA and bus mastering as these features will speed up your HDD access. Take note though if your using as later 486 motherboard and have your ram set to “write-back” you’re almost assuredly going to have bus conflict issues when adding a vlb SCSI device. As far as I know there’s no way around it. Its either write back RAM or the VLB SCSI but using a ISA SCSI card should work fine though it will be slower. Adding a SCSI card is completely optional but I think it improves your device options and ups the “coolness” factor.


10) graphics card. There are many options available for graphics cards in this era. since 3D accelerations is really not a consideration for this era we need an excellent 2D card. since our board should have at least 1 VLB slot we should focus on a VLB card. as I said before PCI was still having the bugs worked out of it at this point so I don’t recommend a 486 board with PCI cards. Previously I was running a Diamond Speedster Pro VLB card with 1MB of onboard RAM. 1MB for the most part is all the video RAM you need. there are some reported issues with sound interference or crackling when using a Speedster Pro VLB with a Sound Blaster 16 but the number of games is limited and I have never personally come across this issue. If you must have the top of the line though and the current card I am using hunt down a Tseng Labs ET4000 VLB card. It’s widely regarded as the fastest VLB card. Mine came with 1MB of RAM but I added more to make a 2MB card. Buying the RAM individually can be a little pricey so look for an old cheap Trident card and harvest its RAM, just be careful which way you inset it. These cards can be a little pricy but they are very compatible and very fast.


11) Midi card. The midi card I currently have installed is a Roland mpu-401-T. I use this card to run all my external Midi devices such as the MT-32. Prior to this card I used my Sound Blaster 16 to control my midi devices but That setup was prone to games not working because they required a true midi interface card or they fell victim to the dreaded “hanging midi note” bug that effects midi modules connected via sound blaster midi ports. These are 8 bit ISA cards but work just fine in a 486 16 bit slot. keep in mind there are several versions of the card and mine is the 401-T version. You will also require a “midi breakout box” to interface with your external modules. make sure your box is the same as the ISA card your using or it will not work. They are wired differently and I found that out the hard way.



Connected to my breakout box and Midi interface card is my Roland MT-32 module. The MT-32 sound module really deserves an article of its own on its features and how to set one up so I’m just going to briefly go over it here. There is a revision of this module that’s almost identical except for a rear headphone jack and internal updates. There are a small number of games that work incorrectly with the old version but correctly on the new version and a small number that work incorrectly with the new revision but correctly on the old one so the ultimate setup would include both modules. there is also an internal version the LAPC-I that I believe is based on the old module. Basically this was the Cadillac of sound devises and was capable of sound quality far ahead of the cards available at the time. A lot of games support the MT-32 standard and most sound brilliant for music. I urge you to go on YouTube and look up “MT-32” comparison videos and hear for yourself the difference. For maximum compatibility I have my MT-32 paired with the SB16. To avoid conflict my SB16’s midi port is set to port 300 and my midi card is set to port 330 which is the default port that most games look for. The MT-32 handles music when the option is available and the SB16 the digital sound effects. Many games will allow for the SB16 to be used for sound effects while the MT-32 handles the in-game music.


Another indispensable midi module would be a Roland Sound Canvas SC-55 or SC-55 MKII. These modules support general midi and Roland midi which many later DOS games support. These games may support general midi but NOT MT-32. Th SC-55 can also emulate the MT-32 but may not sound perfect compared to a actual MT-32. The earlier SC-55 is said to be slightly more compatible with older DOS games while the SC-55 MKII may perform better with a few late DOS titles.

12) Gravis Ultrasound ACE. The Gravis Ultrasound was a competitor to the sound Blaster. Although it wasn’t as widely supported as the SB it was still supported in a variety of games and offered much higher quality sound and at times even improved game performance. The card I’m using is the ACE which is a stripped down version of the regular card. I’m using this card because Sound Blaster emulation on a Gravis was not very good and the ACE was designed to work in a machine alongside a Sound Blaster. Unlike regular cards you can disable the adlib emulation on an ACE and with the Ultrasound initialization program v. 2.26a available here, you can also disable the game port option so you have no conflicts with the Sound Blaster.


13) Sound card. I’m using a later model Sound Blaster 16 Vibra ISA card for FM sound and digital effects. The Sound Blaster 16 or SB16 is really a no brainier for this era in PC gaming. It is backwards compatible with the Adlib standard and almost every game of the period supported Sound Blaster sound. They are fairly cheap and easy to find giving the best compatibility and performance for the early to mid 90’s era. There are more capable cards like the AWE series or the Gravis Ultrasound but I feel you sacrifice compatibility and these cards are better suited for faster Pentium based PC’s.

Also a strong argument can be made to use a earlier 8-bit Sound Blaster Pro or sound blaster. The Sound Blaster 16 is NOT fully compatible with the sound blaster and older software often sound better on it. with the exception of perhaps the Vibra model SB16 cards the Sound Blaster pro has a lower sound to nose ratio. keep in mind that the sound blasters before the SB16 do not have midi ports compatible with the MPU-401 standard meaning you cannot use them to hook up external midi modules. I have recently debated replacing my sound blaster 16 with a older sound blaster but since I have some older PC’s that I can use for that purpose I’ll stick with the good all around Sound Blaster16 card.

The SB16 model I am using is the CT2900. it uses the VIBRA chip but also has the Yamaha OPL FM chip. try to use a SB with the OPL FM chip as many later models lack this chip.  and without it some sounds that use FM end up sounding off. If your observant you’ll notice in the full picture of the open 486 above the sound card is different, shortly after taking that picture I found the better model CT2900. the model I was using prior lacked the Yamaha OPL chip.

14) MPEG decoder card. (not pictured above) This is the newest edition to my 486 and thus not in the motherboard images above. It is a 16 bit ISA RealMagic MPEG decoder card. This card allows a 386 or 486 CPU machine to decode MPEG video which otherwise would be to taxing to the CPU. I plan to use this card for playing RealMagic enhanced games. admittedly the games that support these cards are few and rare and have to be a special version supporting the card. I believe there are RealMagic enhanced versions of Dragons Lair, Space Ace, Return to ZORK and The Horde as well as possibly a few others. Using the card allows for smoother  and better looking full motion video scenes as well as possibly other effects.



There are cards that connect via a external passthrough such as this card and others that connect directly to your video card via a VESA connector cable internally. The VESA connector cards tend to produce a better image quality but are less compatible then the passthrough cable cards.


For a joystick I’m using the Microsoft Sidewinder 3d pro. this joystick is a duel digital/analog joystick that works in DOS as well as Windows 95 and has a little switch underneath the base to choose modes. I previously was using a Seitek joystick which although was very compatible was very stiff and not so much fun to use. So far the sidewinder has been a great joystick and tends to do the job quite well in whatever flight/flight shooter I throw at it in DOS. Not the best when compared to some Thrustmaster flight controllers but I think it makes an excellent all around stick.


For games where I would rather use a more conventional gamepad rather then a joystick I go with the Gravis Gamepad. Its comfortable and compatible. The joystick bar can be unscrewed if desired and they can be found cheap at thrift stores, commonly under $5.

I run DOS 6.22 on my 486 PC and use no navigators or Windows 3.1. A navigator shouldn’t cause any issues but I’m aware of a small number of games that Windows 3.1 may cause compatibility issues with. All in all the 486 based DOS PC is going to be a little more expensive and require a little more effort to put together than a Pentium based one, perhaps $50 to $100 unless you can find one cheap on Craigslist or a yard sale. In my opinion its worth it as it gives you access to a vast collection of excellent early 90’s games without having to worry about CPU speed issues as well as the satisfaction of gaming on an all time classic PC setup.

Things I still need to add to this setup

*add more external sound modules (Roland cm-32,)

Here’s some older images of this machine playing some games.

article updated 10/30/2015


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