Fixed Dreamcast Gun/Controller Unplugged Message

Posted on September 12th, 2013 by JMT.
Categories: Articles.

My totally awesome handgun shaped 3rd party (probably illegal) Dreamcast light gun was giving me the “controller not plugged in” message all the time. Tugging on the cable seemed to be related.

I opened it up, expecting to find a break on one of the connector pins soldered to the board. But that didn’t seem to be the cause.

I ended up pinching all the wires while it was plugged in to see if I could find a spot that was causing it to go “unplugged” and back. It seemed that pinching the controller cable itself caused it, so I assumed there was a break somewhere in the cable.

Not surprisingly the break turned out to be right under a tight plastic tiedown cable that was being used to prevent the cable from being pulled out from the bottom hole. There wasn’t any traditional strain relief, just a plastic tiedown cable.

I didin’t find the actual break, but there was an obvious crink in the yellow wire right under the tiedown, and it seemed extra flexible there. So I just cut it at that point and then stripped both ends. Then I soldered to two ends together.

And viola, the gun now reports connected all the time with no issues.

Dreamcast gun fix
Dreamcast gun fix

Unfortunately it doesn’t help the fact that for whatever reason, Dreamcast light guns are the worst light guns ever made. My NES Zapper and Master System Phaser will work on any CRT TV, in any lighting conditions, with any picture control settings, from 10 feet away, perfect every time. But Dreamcast guns will only hit about 2/3rds of the center of the screen if your lucky only with a TV made before 1985 with the picture controls cranked all the way up to 11 and if you stand 2 inches from the screen and it’s a full moon.

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Fixing Genesis 2 Power Supply

Posted on April 7th, 2013 by JMT.
Categories: Articles.

It’s a relatively common problem for Genesis Model 2 owners. The DC power jack becomes loose over time, and eventually light jiggles or movements of the power plug or system can result in power cycles or loss of power.

Luckily, it turns out to be a relatively easy fix. The issue is simply the solder joints of the DC jack to the main board. They’ve become loose over time from stress. Especially if you’ve ever yanked on the power cable sideways a few times.

To fix, simply open up the unit, which is just a matter of removing 4 screws from the bottom that hold the two shell halves together. Then remove about 10 screws that hold the metal shield over the main board. Then remove the two screws on each side of the cartridge slot to dislodge the main board.

Now locate the power jack on the mainboard. Simply flip the mainboard over and you’ll see right below the power jack are three through-hole solder joints. They are circled below:

Genesis 2 power fix

They are quite large solder joints which is what makes this so easy. All you really have to do is reflow the solder joint. Press a solder iron to the solder to solften it, then get the tip all the way in so it touches both the jack pin and the pad. This will heat both up and allow the solder to make a good contact all around. Add some extra solder to the mess to help things out. Then pull out and if done right it should show quickly solidify into a nice concave-in sloped solder joint. If it looks concave out/bubble, or has a visible gap in solder between the leg and then pad, then it didn’t flow right, and repeat.

Do this for all three joints. It should only take about 2 minutes for all three. Making this entire fix something you can do in under 10 minutes.

To test, plug in your favorite card, and start wiggling the power cable while it’s running to make sure it isn’t very easily rebooted. Sure if you yank on it enough you’ll probably kill it again. But we just want to make sure normal movements of the jack and unit aren’t going to cause you to lose 2 hours of progress in a game.

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Permanently renewing cartridge slot pins, never blow again!

Posted on April 15th, 2012 by JMT.
Categories: Articles.

Last week I finally went about modding my NES to play imports. You can find the details on the web fairly easily, all you have to do is flip pin 4 on the region lockout chip. I also did the solder to pin 11 (gnd) for safety.

While I was at it, I was going to replace my cartridge slot assembly. My NES is at the point where even after multiple slot cleanings and cart cleanings, you still have to play the reset game for about 3 minutes to get any cart to play.

I had picked up a replacement cartslot a while back and it’s just a slide-on piece, no soldering required. But while reading up on the mod, I also read about using a pin to bend the cart pins back up to improve contact and fix the cart playing issues.

I tried that. At one point I accidentally inverted one of the pins but luckily managed to get it back together correctly. If you’re not careful it’s an easy way to brick your current cart slot.

Well, it didn’t work. Even after even more cleanings, it still requires 3 minutes of powercycle and cart shuffling to get anything to play (though my region-mod did worked, and I can now play those codemasters games).

The codemasters and other 3rd party games, even though they have that A/B switch on the back that’s supposed to make it work with any NES, it would NEVER work with my particular model of NES. But now it works.

But I still wanted to fix the cart playing issues. I finally came up with another idea. I have this electrical contact cleaner that I got from Radio Shack a while back. It’s in a spray can like those computer airdusters. I use it to fix Atari paddle controllers. You just spray into the pot inside the controller and wiggle it around a while and poof it’s as good as new.

So I sprayed the electrical contact cleaner on my eliminator cart slot cleaner (you know the big pink cart with the rubber tab), and started making sweat love to my NES with it.

I did that a few times, and POOF the contacts are now clean as new, and it plays games first try easy now!

All those years of suffering are over. In fact I plan to try it all all my cartridge based systems. It’ll no longer be an expected requirement that I need to use the eliminator fluid and felt stick on every game before I play it anymore!

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Jeux Video

Posted on March 17th, 2012 by JMT.
Categories: Articles.

I was in Paris recently on business and stopped at a used video game store I saw while driving downtown.

It was called “Jeux Video” but I think that’s some generic term for used video game stores.

It turned out there were three used video game stores within a couple blocks on the same street. Of course I had to look since it’s fun, but figured I wasn’t going to be buying any PAL games anyway. But I was surprised to see that all three had a selection of import Japanese games, which I do collect. And on top of that, one of them had a large selection, as well as just a flat out amazing museum-quality exhibit of gaming retroness!

Jeux Video 1
Jeux Video 2
Jeux Video 3

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Road Rash Sega CD Blue Screen of Death

Posted on February 2nd, 2012 by JMT.
Categories: Articles.

LOL I couldn’t believe it when it happened. I booted up Road Rash for the Sega CD and got a blue screen of death!

It was just a blue screen with the word “placeholder”.

Well it didn’t take too long of tinkering to figure out it was a backup ram issue. I deleted some files and it booted fine. I surfed the web and apparently it’s a well known design flaw. The game won’t boot unless you have sufficient free space in your backup ram. Luckily I have a back-up ram cart.

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SNES Pocky & Rocky Sprite Issues over S-Video

Posted on December 14th, 2011 by JMT.
Categories: Articles.

I just got Pocky & Rocky for the SNES. The character sprites where all weird, cropped, moved, compressed.

I tried everything, but eventually tracked it down to the use of an s-video cable.

Now the weird thing is that I had tried to rule that out by using an old fashioned NES style RF adapter. But it turns out that as long as the s-video cable end of the a/v adapter is plugged in to something, even if you are actually viewing the video over the RF port instead, the sprites in the game are messed up!

What in the world could cause that?

So in order to play I just have to unplug the s-video end from the av cable, to make sure only the composite video end is connected.

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Super Fantasy Zone Megadrive

Posted on December 12th, 2011 by JMT.
Categories: Articles.

I just got super fantasy zone for the megadrive to complete my genesis collection. My genesis/segacd/32x want list is all checked off now! (not a *complete* collection, just everything I want).

Anyway, just some interesting things. As usually I popped it in first without throwing my region switch just to see what happens (game genie for physical connection), and the game has no problem running. I think I’ve only actually encountered one or two imports that actually require the switch. But while watching the intro, I realized it was all in english!

So for run, I restarted the game, this time with the japan switch thrown, and sure enough, now all the story text was in japanese.

It seems very clear to me that they did parallel development for world release of super fantasy zone. The game was basically ready to release for US (barring some questionable translations, but nothing like zero wing). So I wonder why they didn’t? Especially since fantasy zone had been a fairly successful franchise on both the Master System and NES. I mean they released crap like last battle and shaq-fu and x-perts and time killers and sword of sodan.

Even with the genesis ruling the scene for a time, I just think of how much better it would have fared if some of the more late-era japanese games that pushed the genesis to its limit had been released stateside. The genesis was already known as THE system for shooters. Truxton, thunderforce, lightningforce, hellfire, m.u.s.h.a. I see no reason why gleylancer, eliminate down, super fantasy zone, and panorama cotton (with a standard issue sprite swap to turn it into a sonic-themed game or something just so the US gamers would buy it) never made it. I’d think throwing some of the DBZ fighting games over would have gone over well as well. I mean those DBZ fighting games have been on an endless streak since the playstation. The genesis could have owned that as well.

(FYI, I know super fantasy zone got a european release, so they did get use of the english mode. But still it was ready for US release).

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Arcade Original or the Port

Posted on September 9th, 2011 by JMT.
Categories: Articles.

Typically video games (in the past anyway) started out as an arcade game, and were later ported to multiple consoles. At the time, consoles were vastly inferior to arcade machines, and thus ports ranged from inferior to terrible. Eventually as consoles got more powerful, “arcade perfect” ports were possible. Later, “original” modes were spawned, where they would actually improve upon the arcade, or fix known issues.

It seems to be the general consensus that the arcade version is always superior. But I don’t know if I always agree.

How much is based on nostalgia? And it goes both ways. If you played the arcade first, the port will never be exactly the same, so you’ll always deride it. But if you played the console port first, you don’t have that preconception.

I never played arcades. I used to go to Chuck-E-Cheeze Circus Circus all the time, but I always played skee bowl, and rode in a helicopter or truck that went up and down. I always thought it was absurd to pay 25c to 1$ per play when I could play all I wanted for free at home (and most of my games came from garage sales for <5$). The only time I played an arcade game was if it had some cool gimmic you couldn't do at home, like a moving chair or some other interactive environment (like Galaxy Force, and there was some afterburner-like game were you actually moved the whole thing around 360 degrees to aim). Oh, and I loved the ball pits! Funnest thing ever when you are 5. But now that I think about what was probably down there I'm not sure I'd do it again. But it was damn fun in my ignorant youth. So I had an atari 2600, and my first experience with games like millipede, moon patrol, joust, mario bros., etc. was on that. And those were my favorite games for the system. To me, the arcade perfect ports look better, sound better, but the simply don't "play" right. The simpler control and patterns on the atari ports just created a lot more replay value. I remember practicing joust constantly to learn where to start each round to get instant kills. For instance, you can time falling off the top ledge just right to get two instant egg hits in the bonus round. Or knock out the first two birds right as they fly into view. The best was if you stood at the right place on the ledge, when the ledge disappears as the next level begins you'll fall and hit a bird. On the other hand, some games, even playing the port first, I much preferred the arcade version afterwards. For instance, the 32X arcade versions of afterburner and space harrier are far better to me, even though I played the NES and SMS versions first. And then there's original modes. Typically when there is an original mode in conjunction with an arcade mode, well actually typically I'm not savvy enough to notice the minute details (like changes in a fighting game engine), but for the more obvious once I prefer the original, as it usually adds extra stages, ships, or makes things easier. Speaking of which, one thing that makes port better than arcade usually is the difficulty. Arcade games are designed to eat quarters. Not to be beaten in under 3 continues. I much prefer a more sane level of difficulty. Dying every 3 seconds isn't quite my idea of fun. Usually ports are easier, or give unlimited continues. Some people actually complain and say that spoils it, but I much prefer it that way.

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Sonic Games Ranked List

Posted on September 6th, 2011 by JMT.
Categories: Articles.

Maybe this has been done a gazillion times. But thought it might be fun to list out all the sonic games and rank them top to bottom.

I’m going to discard all fake sonic games (games that are only “sonic” to take advantage of the brand, not to be an actual sonic game, like sonic tennis or sonic kart racing or something).

1. Sonic 1 (Genesis)
– I know everyone says Sonic 2 is the best, and maybe it is, but there’s just something magical about the first one, the more simple, methodical gameplay.
2. Sonic 3 (Genesis)
3. Sonic 2 (Genesis)
– So I’m going to buck the system and not put sonic 2 first for a change. It’s not worth starting a topic to repeat what everyone else does.
4. Sonic Adventure (Dreamcast)
– I like what the did for 3D sonic in the dreamcast games
5. Sonic and knuckles (Genesis)
6. Sonic CD (Sega CD)
– I’m also miss putting this in the top 5, though some say it is the best sonic game of all time. It is good, good music and colorful. But something about how the levels are just a bit shorter horizontally. They did that to compensate for having to go through the whole level 3 times (present, past, future), but in the end it makes the levels seem a bit small. And the forces repeating of the same parts of the level 3 times (for good ending) is a bit annoying at times. I will admit to being a huge sega CD fan, favorite console.
7. Sonic Advance 3 (GBA)
8. Sonic Advance 2 (GBA)
9. Sonic Advance (GBA)
10. Sonic Adventure 2 (Dreamcast)
10. Sonic Triple Trouble (Game Gear)
11. Sonic Chaos (Game Gear/SMS)
12. Knuckles Chaotix (32X)
13. Sonic 2 (Game Gear/SMS)
14. Sonic 1 (Game Gear/SMS)
15. Sonic 3D Blast (Genesis/Saturn)

Now I haven’t played the PS2 afterwards sonics yet (Heroes, Rush, sonic 4, shadow, etc) so I’m hoping others can advice me where to insert them into the list.

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New duo-consoles good for sega or bad?

Posted on September 4th, 2011 by JMT.
Categories: Articles.

What impact does the proliferation of those new aftermarket multi-console systems have on retro sega gaming?

There’s a couple of different perspectives. One is for spreading the games. The other is for the used market.

Clearly the more people who have systems to play the games, the more people will experience the old sega games. Bundling the NES/SNES/Genesis on one console can help, because some people just remember the SNES as their favorite, and this piggy-backs the genesis onto their console, so they might then pick up some of those games and see firsthand that the genesis was in fact far superior to the SNES in terms of capabilities and games.

If it convinces people to buy more games, or they need to buy any games for a new console, that helps the secondary used market for games. As you know I vend used video games a bit. I can’t say I specifically have ever made a sale of a game I know went to someone who had one of these new duo/triple systems. I’m not really sure I know anyone who’s bought one.

I would expect that at the minimum it would hurt console system sales. Since it’s cheaper (50$) to get three consoles in one than to buy them all separate. Plus only one power supply instead of three wall bricks. Plus the pins are probably better so you don’t have to clean it all every time you play a game.

But in fact I’ve sold 2 genesis systems this summer at flea markets already, which is actually a lot as far as genesis is concerned (and consider I’m a small player, and only have like 4 in stock for the year).

I personally kind of don’t like them, just because I think people should buy the “real thing” and not a knock off. But at the same time, I think if it gets someone to play Sonic who might not have otherwise played sonic, we all win.

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