Console Collection


I thought I'd document the gear I've got (at the time of writing... I've learned that it changes a lot), what I've done to it and why. Just because there's so little here that's standard and it might prove interesting / useful.

Please note; being in the UK, we mostly mod-chip consoles to allow us to play US and Japanese titles. As we're the poor cousins of the two video game giants, we tend to miss out on a lot of things. Mainly English translated Japanese titles that get a release in the States, but not here. But also some of the quirkier Japanese titles that don't even make it out of the country. Now I accept that mod-chips have the side effect of being able to play non-original media. But I'm in no way advocating that. Likewise things like flash drives and mods that allow you to write games to SD/HDD, which I have many of. This is mostly for convenience, but also to allow the play of homebrew and fan translated material.


Atari

VCS - I went through a few 2600jr consoles before finally bagging a six switch VCS like I had when I was a kid. It was the usual spares or repair job that required a bit of work, but was otherwise a bit of a cracker. Being so good, I decided to spoil it by fitting Tim Worthington's most excellent RGB mod. Resulting in a picture that can only be described as perfect.

While musing why Atari fitted speaker grilles to the old VCS, I had a lightbulb moment and decided to fit an Atarivox inside the unit utilising one of these grilles to hide a speaker behind. I also used the old cutout for the RF lead to hide an 8-way slide switch that turns it off so you can use the 2nd controller.

7800 - This may be the most underrated console ever, having some of the best arcade conversions out there that there is. Some are even better than their arcade counterparts because they are more forgiving. There is however one one really big caveat: the PAL version has a god awful picture and currently there's no way of RGB modding it. The best you can get currently is a UAV or a Magic Knight S-Video board. I've had both and though they are a marked improvement, there is still a huge amount of dot crawl on solid colours. This led to a thread on Atari Age where we eventually track down why and look to ways to address the issues. There'll be a page on this soon once we're done.

Other than the arcade ports that make the console special there is the incredible homebrew scene. Indeed AtariAge is such a hotbed of homebrew activity across all atari platforms that I highly recommend retro gamers to get involved in. There's just so much good stuff and the 7800 gets a surprising amount of love there.

Jaguar - I picked up the Jaguar from a friend (cheers Mark!) for a very sensible amount of money. I simply wouldn't pay what they currently go for because there was one game I wanted for it which in all fairness, almost justifies it. Jeff Minter's Tempest 2000 is a true gaming masterpiece, even more so if you modify your controllers to add spinners, which I have. The only other mod is a 50/60hz switch. The Jag is region free as standard, and where T2K is a true 50hz game (ie runs full screen at 50hz unlike so many others), other games aren't so it's a simple enough mod to do.

There are a handful of good games on the Jag, though they are prohibitively expensive now. Flip Out is a great puzzler and is oddly cheaper here than the PC which is the only other place it's available. The others are all exclusives and though good games, I can't bring myself to spend the money they cost these days (annoyingly I had them back in the day and sold them for buttons...). The other worthy games (IMO) are: AvP, Super Burnout, Iron Soldier and Power Drive Rally.

So why keep it? Quite simply the homebrew scene. There's more good stuff happening for the Jag now than there ever was when I originally had one. I strongly believe Rebooteroids is as good a game as T2K and worth every penny of the cost of importing it. Then there's Saint's upcoming flash cart, that will hopefully make running homebrew even easier.


Binatone Colour TV Game

A 5 year old Juan and his 11 year old brother got one of these back in 1977. It was only a matter of time before I got my hands on the first console I ever had; the venerable Binatone Colour TV Game Model 01/4931. Catchy name, and it works on 'any size... any brand... colour OR black & white TV's!'.

These were very popular back in the day available from your local Woolworth's for 12.95 (they've held their value, worth about that now...), it's a pong machine on a chip (AY-3-8500 manufactured by General Instruments Corporation) that was used in just about everything at the time. Ours was the Colour TV Game model in drab beige, the B&W only one was bright orange and despite being the first one, was called the MkIV. The pong IC itself doesn't output colour, that was all done with some analogue jiggery pokery afterwards. Which wasn't working, nor was the sound. To be expected on a 41 year old made in Hong Kong machine.

The sound turned out to be some broken cables and some old dodgy solder joints (there were a few of those). The colour I decided to bypass completely. I'm not sure I ever even played ours back in the day on a colour tv anyhow. I *think* the player 2 bat is black and the background is green. Otherwise it's the same... Something like that. I actually prefer the traditional white on black for Pong as that's what I'm used to. Fettling was still required because it's not composite (turns out the next chip they did was, which would have been really handy). So, we've removed the modulator, disconnected all the colour circuitry, ran the 4 picture outputs (player one bat, player two bat, ball and score & playfield) each through a diode, then combined the sync out through a 20k resistor into a simple buffer circuit to get something resembling composite video out of it. It took a bit of experimentation, but in the end it's got a really solid and great picture. Way, way better than back in the day.


Microsoft

XBox - The OG Xbox is a overlooked gem of a machine. Mine's hard modded, but they are soft moddable. I've got a big drive in there with all my games installed onto it. But these really came into their own back into the day as XBMC machines and emulators. Xbox Media Centre went on to become Kodi and many still use them for running emulation.

Xbox 360 Slim - Not a lot to say here other than mine is a later slim model which in theory should be more reliable than my original 360 that succumbed to the red ring of death.

Xbox One X - Where the Xbone is easily the weakest console of the generation, the One X is by far the strongest. Still that couldn't save it from it's lack of console exclusives. Microsoft however took another tack and instead concentrated on backwards compatibility. How this thing runs older software is nothing short of incredible. Added to that, being the beefiest console of the group, it also tends to run current cross platform titles better than anything else most of the time. A beast of a machine.

That's not to say it's all peachy. Both the PS4 and the Xbone are by far my least loved consoles because of the behaviour it's facilitated in game developers and publishers. Games on disc might still be a thing, but they're usually unfinished buggy messes in need of a day one patch. Some games aren't even on the disc and it just acts as a glorified key to download it. Finally there is an increasing requirement for online. All of which means that when the servers are gone, if my HDDs fail (of which there are three equalling 5tb of storage, games are stupidly big now...) then these are likely gone forever. Not good for preservation or future enjoyment.


NEC PC-Engine Duo

The Duo's are notorious for having bad SMD caps. To the point that, a cap job is mandatory and I just happened to luck on a pre-modded one. A very nice job the fella made of it too. It's re-capped, RGB modded and de-jailbarred. It produces a lovely picture and looks pretty damned solid.

Interestingly the Duo-R and RX have through hole caps and they're of high quality so they don't tend to suffer from the issues above, and if they do need swapping it's an easy job. If you can try and snag one of those.


Nintendo

Super Nintendo Entertainment System - I have two of these currently, one is a region switchable UK machine, the other is a UK OneChip. The latter is my main machine purely down to the fact that the picture on the OneChip is dramatically better than the earlier ones that are prone to being blurry as hell. I did modify it slightly. Because I run a SD2SNES in there, I wanted to run in NTSC, so I've swapped the PAL crystal out, and had to lift and ground one of the pins to switch it into NTSC. As this one purely runs the flash cart, it's not a problem that I didn't disable the region lockout.

Nintendo 64 - I had so much bother with the UK model trying to get it to play nice with my TV I bought a Japanese console, jammed a UK PSU in the back (nice and easy on an N64) and RGB modded it (also much easier on a Japanese/US console than a PAL one) which seems to have fixed all the issues I was having. I am also running Raphnet Gamecube to N64 gamepad adapters because I hate N64 controllers with a passion.

Nintendo Wii - I bought this one by accident as it was just so cheap. I never really wanted one as I thought it was all Just Dance bollocks and what have you. Turns out it's actually one of the best consoles ever made, and once hacked, possibly THE best. When it comes to emulating old stuff this thing is unsurpassed, especially as most things output 240p. Couple that to a lovely RGB output to a CRT and it's just a perfect thing.

Nintendo Wii U - The unloved Nintendo. With a few very good reasons; it was bloody expensive, as were the accessories, and you needed a load of them. Shame really as the games on it were really rather brilliant. Indeed they've redeemed themselves on the Nintendo Switch as very few people had a Wii U so don't realise they're just ports.

For the U though, that big ass controller has piss poor battery life. You can get a bigger battery from Nintendo that it should have come with it as standard given the cost of the thing. It didn't and it needs it if you plan to play Xenoblade for the sorts of lengths of time that I did. Of course, it's expensive. It also doesn't have a network port on the back, there's an adapter, it's expensive (my WiFi doesn't get to it). Then there's the matter of the controllers if you want to use it for Wii backwards compatibility. So... many... controllers... All of which cost a bloody fortune.

All that said, I love the thing. I really think it had so many strong games on it, and it's one of my favourite consoles. Sadly I can't see the prices of any of it coming down soon given how few of them sold.


Sega

Megadrive - Sega's definition of Asian seems to be anything west of Japan and east of Europe. So I guess mine might be a Hong Kong model given it's got a 240V PSU, but it's standard system is PAL-I. Either way, it's got a region switch on the back to flip between PAL at 50hz, NTSC/J and NTSC/U at 60hz. Another idiosyncrasy of the Megadrive is that though it's RGB on board, if you get a standard RGB lead, the sound will be in mono. If you want stereo you need one that has a break out lead to go to the stereo headphone jack on the front of the console. Retro Gaming Cables to the rescue.

Saturn - Another Asian Sega. Same deal as above in that it's 240V, but this one outputs NTSC-J. I went a bit to town on this as it's got both a mod chip and a region switch. The latter of which I really didn't need to do as later I bought an Action Replay cartridge that does that for you. It was an easy mod anyhow, so it's no biggy.

Dreamcast - The only console that I never sold and my favourite console of all time. This has seen a lot of use and had gone a particularly nasty shade of yellow. I re-cased it with a US box with a view to retrobriting my original case at some point. Though I like the red swirl so I might not do that.

It's also not escaped the soldering iron. One of the annoying things with the Dreamcast is that as standard it'll play copied games, but it won't play other region originals. Something I wanted to be able to do. So it's now got a region free bios in there, which is a chip swap and a couple of wires. While in there I swapped out the rechargeable battery for a socketed rechargeable. It still doesn't keep the date and time particularly long, but it's better than it was. Finally mine was starting to sound like a tornado, so I got a Noctua fan and a friend 3D printed me a new fan cowl and switch mechanism to fit it in there.


Sony

Playstation 2 Slim - A mod-chipped PS2. I'm not entirely sure why I did this other than the chip was a fiver and it looked a challenge to fit (it was). It also runs FreeMcBoot (soft mod) and will essentially play anything. Though it doesn't like PS1 games, as this model was annoyingly known for frying it's laser trying. It's an odd bug that I could have fixed had I not installed the mod chip where the fix needs doing. The good thing is that it can now run PS1 games from USB, comfortably side-stepping the issue.

Playstation 3 slim - 1TB HDD, otherwise standard.

Playstation 4 slim - 2TB HDD, otherwise standard. The rant about modern game practices applies here also.


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