Since we started modding the Master System 2 on the previous post, I thought I should go ahead and fix another omission of the system. A freaking power led! How would you know when the system is on without one? Well, that’s an easy fix but, since I already mentioned in the previous post that I don’t like modifying these old consoles in a irreversible way, I decided to go the extra mile and 3d print a new power button with the necessary space to let a led shine through it, so I could save the original part. Link here: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4915513
So first thing is first. I already had a bunch of color cycling 5mm leds lying around from my NES mod, so I decided to use one of these as my power led for the SMS2. These are quite fun, since they automatically cycle through many different colors when power is applied.
The way you connect the led is by using 2 pins of this little thingy (which is a Voltage Regulator), which is accessible inside the Master System 2 even without removing the metal shield:
The led fits nicely inside the 3d printed power button that replaced the original one and the pins and wire come out of the side, so it does not affect its usage which is to actually, well, power the system on and on by flipping the switch below it.
And that is all you need to do. Here is a video of the result, in real life it does not shine so brightly and it looks very nice when powered on.
The Master System was SEGA’s answer to the Nintendo Entertainment System’s success but in the early 1980s. While it had some success, especially in Europe, the NES prevailed mostly due to more iconic characters and game designs but also due to the fact that it arrived a bit earlier in most markets. The second iteration of the Master System hardware, the Master System 2, was a cheaper version that lacked a couple of things compared to the original, namely the Sega Card and, most importantly, it could only output video using an RF output. Not ideal. Far from it actually. Funnily enough, the hardware inside can produce the signals needed for composite video and even RGB, but the necessary plugs and wiring were removed from this version.
But today we will fix that! I have all of my retro consoles connected using composite video, with a huge composite video-stereo audio switch and I wanted my newly acquired Master System 2 to be the same. Most mods I saw though required drilling holes in the original plastic body, which I did not want to do (I never do irreversible mods to these old systems). Instead, I decided to use an external small plastic hobby box, attach it on the back of the machine and keep my composite and audio outputs there. The SMS does not produce stereo sound, but I installed 2 RCA jacks connected together so I at least have the option of outputting the same audio from both.
The mod itself is pretty easy to pull off. All you need are the aforementioned RCA female plugs, one 220 uF capacitor, one 100 ohm resistor and a few wires. You need to open up the SMS2 and find the chip marked below:
I have used a white cable for ground, a yellow for audio and a red for video. The white cable is connected to all 3 of the RCA plugs inside the little box, the yellow to the two audio inside and the red, through the resistor and the capacitor to the video RCA as shown below:
You can get the cables out using the RF hole, it’s big enough. I will most likely never use RF anyway.
This is how the final system looks from the back. Works and plays great (much better than RF of course).
A little known fact about the NES is that there are versions of the console that do not support all the controllers out there. The PAL version that came with controllers that have the NES-004E engraved on the back ONLY support controllers with this engraving and nothing else. Controllers from the NTSC version will not work and nor will any knock-off controllers from China.
I recently replaced my controller’s insides with the excellent DIY kit from 8BitDo that turns the original controller into a wireless version that works just as well.
I am using this with the also excellent NES retro receiver and works flawlessly. Since I am using the original chassis and buttons, the feeling is almost identical to the original controller sans the cable. The system worked fine on my PAL NES-E console as well.
But all that changed when I bought a couple of (admittedly very nicely built) knock-off controllers from China. I plugged both on either port on my NES and nothing seemed to work. It would be a huge coincidence for both the controllers to be faulty (I knew the console and both ports worked) so I investigated further.
It turns out that my console only supported NES-004E controllers (the 8bitdo receiver obviously is handling the issue fine). By disassembling the console, I noticed that each controller port was connected to some kind of board which in turn was connected to the main board. These boards had several diodes that obviously prevented other versions of the NES controller to work.
The solution turned out to be surprisingly easy. All one needs to do is bridge all the diodes (essentially bypassing them). You could also remove the whole board and connect the cables directly on the port but I felt this solution was easier to do and more elegant.
This modification is only useful if your NES has this board between each controller port and the main board and you have controllers you want to use that are not recognized. It can also be done in the same way on both ports. Doing this mod does not have any drawbacks, the original controller work just fine. But now, your NES is controller-region-free!
This is the first of a series of old consoles modding posts, some to add functionality and some purely cosmetic. I will start with the simplest of them all, changing the power LED of a Nintendo Entertainment System.
When the NES came out in 1985, electronic power LEDs used colors that were available at the time, red or green ones. Blue LEDs were not around at the time. They were invented relatively recent and they gave their inventors Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura, the Nobel prize in 2014.
Changing the NES power LED to blue, in my opinion gives the 80s device a more 21st century feel and it’s super easy to do. All you have to do is unscrew the NES, remove the mainboard and get to the POWER and RESET board on the left. Use a soldering iron to remove the existing LED, while bending it a bit to the back to remove it from the plastic clear channel.
At this point you are ready to put the new LED in. Just be careful with polarity. LEDs, as the D in their name suggests are diodes, which means there is a correct way and a wrong way to put them in the circuit.
The LED symbol shows you the way. The Anode is where you need to use the long leg of the LED (positive) and the Cathode where you use the short one (negative). If you mess it up, it doesn’t hurt anything, but it will not light up, which is the whole point of a LED.
Solder the two legs at the bottom and bend the LED back in the clear channel like in the picture below.
If you get everything correctly and try to power up the NES, you will be greeted with a beautiful LED light. Put back everything and you should be done. Enjoy the 21st century light show!
On my previous post, I wrote about my thoughts on game streaming services as a whole. Since them, Microsoft launched the xCloud, which is their take on game streaming and they also bundled it with Game Pass Ultimate. If you are not familiar with the subscription, it includes 100+ games which you can download and install on your PC or Xbox One (and soon Xbox Series S/X) and play as much as you like, as long as you are subscribed to Game Pass Ultimate. It also includes Xbox Live Gold so you can play online. And recently EA added all of their games in there!
So all in all, with one subscription, you have 100s of games to play which get new games all the time (as a matter of fact, all first party new releases always get added on launch date – and since Microsoft recently bought ZeniMax, the parent company of studios behind Doom, Wolfenstein, Elder Scrolls and many more) expect to see many many more added in the coming months. Some games are also removed from time to time, Netflix style, but you always have stuff to play no matter the screen you have in front of you.
Getting back to streaming, Microsoft has launched their Android client so you can use and Android device, paired with a bluetooth Xbox controller, to play most of the games mentioned above.
I have already played for some hours using both WiFi and 4G connections on my phone and I can attest to the following:
-The streaming is superb. Seriously, the encoding they use seem to be custom tailored for games and I have not seen any serious issues on either type of connection. Even when packets are dropped, because they will, the system seems to compensate in a way that does not impact the gaming session.
-I stand behind what I said about latency and “master race” PC gamers. You will NOT get high resolutions and high frame rates here. So games that do not rely on these, and would run fine at 30fps anyway (e.g. A Plague Tale), are you best bet here. Of course, forget competitive gaming on these systems.
-Convenience is awesome. I have fired quite a few sessions when I was not near a PC or console, and tried many games I never installed on either and I had an awesome time every time. Comparing the experience to either the PC or the Xbox One X it was of course inferior, but given the small screen and the fact that I was streaming it for convenience in a situation where the alternative would be Candy Crush, this is a good trade off.
-It will never replace gaming on a real gaming system. Never, ever. But that is ok, because the target audience is NOT hardcore games. When you DO have a choice, you will, and you should, pick the alternative. The streaming service is a very nice alternative to have though.
So should you get xCloud? Well, that is the best part! It’s included in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate which was an awesome offering even before that! Just keep in mind that if you don’t have a gaming PC or an Xbox One (or better) console it might not be the best gaming experience compared to these. I would highly recommend getting at least a cheap Xbox Series S + Xbox Game Pass as the best way to play the Xbox Game Pass games. Just keep in mind that xCloud is included only in the Ultimate version and not the Console only or PC only versions.