We don't always like being nonplussed

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Emulation, the hard way! My Raspberry Pi project.

As you might know, we here at Flailthroughs tend to like retro gaming (shock!) It was after Christmas this year that I finally came to the sad, sad conclusion that it was impossible for me to own every video game that I had ever wanted, that being all of them.

So I set out with an idea in mind, that being that even if I cannot own all of the games I love for their original system, I might be able to duplicate the retro gaming experience. And so I pulled down my little Raspberry Pi, and started thinking.


For those of you who aren't aware of what the Raspberry Pi is, it is a small linux computer. The model B which I have comes with 512 megs of ram, and a 700mhz processor, which can be overclocked up to 900mhz (though I suggest both a heatsink and a fan, to be safe) and that there is a GIANT fan community out there with the goal of turning it into one of the best emulation computers on the market.

For those who might like to know, I used version 2.3.

So far it can emulate:
    Apple II
    Atari 800
    Atari 2600
    Atari ST/STE/TT/Falcon
    Game Boy Advance
    Game Boy Color
    Game Gear
    Sega Master System
    Sega Megadrive/Genesis
    Nintendo Entertainment System
    PC Engine / Turbo Grafx 16
    Playstation 1
    Super Nintendo Entertainment System
    Sinclair ZX Spectrum
    Z Machine emulator

And that's not bad for a $35 computer, isn't it?

But I just felt that this tiny little circuit board didn't QUITE have the right feel to it, for what I wanted. I needed something to make it look right, to feed that nostalgia. And I had a great idea.

For $40 I was able to buy a super Famicom that was in a fairly advanced state of disrepair, to the point where not even my best attempts with Retr0bright would restore it. Thankfully, I finally gave into common sense, and gave it a light sanding with steel wool, which returned the color to a like new state, if not the texture.

for this project I also purchased these:
Which for all they might not be perfect, certainly feel right in my hands.

Other things I needed for this project included:
    1 Small keyboard

    1 HDMI extension cable (as short as possible.)

    2 USB extender cables (as short as I could find.)

    1 Shielded Ethernet network screw panel (also as short as I could find.)

    1 16 gig SD card
    1 SD card extension cable (Way longer than I needed)

    1 POWERED USB hub, (You need about 2 amps, if not higher.)

    1 busted copy of any Super Famicom game you want.

Now I would like to say that I was smart and wrote a step by step guide for all of this, but I am in fact a very bad liar. The only thing I can say is that you're all likely much smarter than me, and if you ever choose to do this yourselves, you can likely work out what goes where, and why.

I'm sad to admit it, but there was a fairly big part of me that felt physically pained for the amount I had to alter/destroy the shell for the old SFC, but all in all I'm pretty much thrilled with the results.

 I decided not to clean the name plate, because the sanding would have completely removed the logo. While I'm alright with the body not looking perfect, that was something I simply couldn't sacrifice. Note the SD card sticking out of the top of the cartridge. That was a pain in the ass to get right, and involved sawing off the bottom half of the game cart below the locking groove.

The on/off switch is actually the original from the SFC, since it worked well and was still in great shape. I wired it between the USB hub and the Raspberry Pi, so all it turns off is the Pi itself, and leaves the hub on. This is because the hub takes a few seconds to start up, and this was a perfect way to get around a minor technical annoyance.

The ports were actually the easiest part, with the aid of a good old Dremel, and the AV cable port actually didn't need to be changed at all. It looks a bit more rough in the picture than it actually looks in real life, and I am horrible at lighting.

I have dubbed my creation the FamiPie, and it is a good creation. I feel like I am playing an original game system, but with FULL HD OUTPUT!

There's really not a lot more I could have hoped for, but I do have to admit that there are some bugs with the RetroPie image. For instance, if I press left on the menu screen, it may freeze. This is a pretty big bug, but I seem to be the only person affected by it, so I'm going to assume that it's something wrong with the cheap USB controllers I used.

But, for under $100 in extra parts (since I already had the Raspberry Pi and keyboard,) I would say it was well worth it. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and try to figure out how in the fuck you beat the castle sieges in Defender of the Crown. I have save states!

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