The story of one man and his quest for an affordable Super Nintendo
Back in 2016, I was looking to purchase a second hand Super Nintendo. At the time, it was almost impossible to find one that was in reasonable condition for less than $70 AUD.
Looking at Ebay and Gumtree, I found it was cheaper to buy a Japanese Super Famicom than an Australian Super Nintendo. Although the two consoles can physically accept each other’s cartridges, the cartridge types are different (Japan = NTSC-J, Australia = PAL) and will not operate interchangeably.
Thankfully, the advantage of buying a console 26 years after its original release is that much of the console has been reverse engineered by people way smarter than me. One outcome of this is the ability to work around the CIC lockout chip which is responsible (in part) for ensuring PAL games will not run on a Super Famicom. A more thorough rundown of the CIC chip can be found in the following link – https://hackmii.com/2010/01/the-weird-and-wonderful-cic/
The mod I used is called the SuperCIC. The hack was designed by Wolfsoft.de with a full list of instructions found on their website – http://wolfsoft.de/wordpress/?p=603
Following the instructions from Wolfsoft, the mod is actually fairly simple. It essentially involves desoldering and removing the CIC chip, programming a PIC and soldering it to various points on the board. This was the my first hands on experience with a soldering iron (hence me accidentally melting the reset button) so I’m not overly proud of the solder jobs in the below images other than the fact that it worked.
A few components are required for this mod. Other than solder wire, solder wick/braid, you’ll also need:
– PIC 16F630-I/P
– 5mm Green/Red LED
– 2x 2200 Ohm Resistors
– 1x 10K Ohm Resistor
– A PIC Programmer
I had only a few of the parts so I ordered most of these off Element14 except for the programmer which was from ebay.
The PIC programming is relatively simple. You simply download the required code from here, insert the PIC into the programmer and program it with the downloaded code.
I won’t go into detail about the mod itself as this is well documented on the Wolfsoft website, but I will note the main connections that are required (in my case I completely removed the CIC and used a Red/Green Duo LED):
– Locate, desolder and remove the CIC chip (Labelled U8)
– Lift PPU2 Pin 30 and PPU1 Pin 24, and wire them together to Pin 12 of the PIC 16F630
– Solder a 10K resistor from CIC pin 8 to GND
– Solder the PIC as per the below image. +5V can be pulled from chip U1 Pin 1 and GND from chip U6 Pin 10.
CIC Chip Location
PIC Pinout (Image Credit: http://wolfsoft.de)
Bad photo quality for some very shoddy soldering
Finally, you need to put the LED in place. Remove the existing LED by gently heating the legs and pulling it out. The new LED can then be inserted in its place and soldered as per the following diagram. The GND (middle) leg can be soldered to the second trace on the controller port below it.
LED Pinout and soldering (Image Credit: http://wolfsoft.de)
Once complete, you should be able to give it a test.
There are 3 different modes (PAL, NTSC, AUTO) which can be changed by holding down the reset button for around 0.5 seconds.
PAL mode will start the game with 50Hz
NTSC mode will start the game with 60Hz
Auto will pick the appropriate refresh rate for the inserted game.
The modes are noted by the colour of the LED:
Red = NTSC
Green = PAL
Orange = Auto
Final testing before assembly
A few words of caution from my experience…
This was only the second project I’d done with any soldering so I was (and am) anything but professional.
The CIC chip is very small and so are the solder pads connecting it to the board. It is very easy to accidentally lift the pads when de-soldering the chip. In this circumstance, you can use a craft knife to scratch back some of the masking on the trace connecting to where the solder pad was, and solder to this. When working in a very tight area, it can be quite hard to do this. The other option (which is what I did) is use the schematics to follow the trace to the next exposed solder joint (usually on another chip) and solder the wire to this instead, ensuring not to damage the existing solder on that chip.
Ensure you have a fine tip soldering iron. I was blundering around with a rather large tipped soldering iron and it made this process much harder than it needed to be
Watch for the reset button! If you’re using a large soldering iron, watch for any plastic components such as the reset button which stick up high. It’s easy to accidentally lean the soldering iron against it and melt the plastic.