Modding an NES – PAL-E console controller support hack

Posted by admin on June 05, 2021
DIY, General / No Comments

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!

Modding an NES – blue LED

Posted by admin on June 04, 2021
DIY, General / No Comments

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.

What Is LED? - Definition, Working Principle, Types, Uses

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!


Game streaming – part 2

Posted by admin on September 26, 2020
Games, News / No Comments

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.

Running xCloud from a compatible phone (in this case the OnePlus 7T) allows you to connect to a projector and get rid of the small screen altogether. Because why not.
This is Mortal Kombat streaming over 4G. Not bad at all.
A plague tale: Innocence streaming over 5GHz WiFi – cinematic
A plague tale: Innocence streaming over 5GHz WiFi – gameplay

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.

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