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Plug-In Prototypes

Plug-in circuit boards and raw shell

Assembled and with sticky labels

At last, I have managed to find some time and prepare a set of plug-in prototypes! Those beauties are already pretty close to the real production run that is planned for later this year. The three models are as follows:

  • Game Boy (GB/GBC/GBA) plug-in with additional unpopulated N64 slot because, well, why not? :)
  • Nintendo 64 (N64) plug-in
  • Master System (SMS) plug-in

These are plug-ins for the three cartridge systems for which we managed to source connectors. Always eager to hear about potential suppliers for historic cartridge connectors so we can grow our plug-in range! Since people keep on asking: We currently do NOT plan for a commercial NES plug-in since technical limitations of the NES cartridge system would not make it a lot of fun to use anyway.

Those of you who have been following the project closely may notice that there are a few design changes compared to earlier versions. The GBx and N64 combo plug-in was split into two separate boards (although the GBx one still has the soldering pads for a N64 slot because it doesn’t cost anything extra). The SMS plug-in in its current revision does not feature solder pads for an optional Game Gear connector (had been planned as a user retrofit but didn’t make it into this prototype for lack of space).

And now, tell me: Are they not lovely? :)

61 comments to Plug-In Prototypes

  • I noticed on the page where you listed the blueprints for plugins you mentioned a slight voltage difference which could pose a danger to gameboy and N64 carts. Have you altered the design to correct this? If so how did you achieve this?

  • Trevor Gulliver

    For the elusive nes plugin, could you just use a NOAC as part of the plug in to deal with the complicated parts?

  • PAtrick

    Is it possible to save the Gameboy savegames aswell like on SNES?

    Im wantet to change my battery but since nintendo doesnt gives any celebi’s (pokemon) out anymore im aware for replacing the battery. Now im hoping that would be possible!

  • Charles

    Any idea on a possible release date for the 64 adapter? I know it’s still a prototype currently.

    • Absolutely! May 31, 2018 is a possible release date for the 64 adapter. If you want to know more possible dates, let me know and I’ll think of some :)

  • Trevor G.

    would you mind if I got UGC covers made for these like the ones on the coverproject?

  • Robert

    They look great :)

    Will you be able to purchase N64 cartridge connectors seperately so that they can be soldered on to the GBx plug-in PCB? I only ask as I noticed that the new N64 plug-in uses a right angle N64 connector, but i’m guessing the GBx plug-in will require a straight N64 connector like the older version?

    Also, would you ever consider selling spare cartridge connectors for other projects? I only ask as I remember reading that someone wanted to design a new USB Action Replay/GameShark for the N64, but they had trouble finding a supplier for the cartridge connectors.

    • In fact, I do have a huge box of straight N64 connectors sitting on the shelf that I had ordered for the old plug-in version. Maybe I can arrange for the parts to be packaged with GB plug-ins for a nominal surcharge. I’m currently on a different continent, though, so that may have to wait.

  • dadopson

    Great to see the progress. Cant wait to purchase these.

  • Damien

    I wished the Nintendo adapters were plugged in the Nintendo slot. Oh well :(

  • i kinda dont like the n64 one. its not bad though

  • Jonathan Reeves

    Both GBx and N64 plugins look absolutely killer. I will be squealing like a little girl the day these are available. Can’t freakin’ wait.

  • These look great Matthias, nice work! Will you be offering a bundle of all three for sale?

  • Ed Powell

    Oh man, for some reason I expected only GB/GBC support on that adapter. Having GBA support too will be killer. :D I’m also pretty excited for that N64 one.

    Now I realize I’m probably in the minority on this one, but what are the odds of a PCE/TG16 adapter? I understand the science behind the pin layout (listed in the adapters section), but don’t even know where I’d begin with constructing such an adapter. =S

  • Ness and Sonic

    They look pretty good. My question is: Do you have any idea on the pricing?

  • Peter C

    Those look awesome. I can’t wait to give you money for the production version.

    Out of curiosity what were the technical limitations for NES plugin that you mentioned?

    PC

    • None of the autodetection would work. You would have to manually specify PRG ROM size, CHR ROM size, mapper chip and SRAM size for each cartridge you put in. Doesn’t sound like you’d actually want to do that — and if you would, you could probably build your own plug-in too.

      • Ness and Sonic

        I can see your point about NES being a pain. If anyone’s wanting an idea about the games and their mappers, I came across this incomplete database: http://tuxnes.sourceforge.net/nesmapper.txt

        • Yeah, I’m aware of this database. Still, I can’t seem to think of a smart way to look up table entries without knowing the game title. A camera + OCR processor integrated into the plug-in (to read cartridge labels) seems like a bit of overkill.

          • Ness and Sonic

            I wonder if there’s anyone as dedicated to NES games as byuu is to SNES games. That’s probably the kind of person who should be working on an NES plug-in adapter.

          • Muzer

            Is there no game title in some easy-to-access place in the ROM, then? Or any other uniquely identifiable information?

            Actually, just looked it up a bit more – looks like you should be able to checksum the first few KB of the NES ROMs (which, the internet implies, are read in the same way), and compare it with a list that someone (could be me) has generated. The only issue is, would such a database actually fit into the limited memory capacity of the Retrode device?

            • Memory shouldn’t be an issue – the plug-in itself could contain an additional flash ROM / EEPROM chip for this purpose. Still, sounds like a horrible lot of work to me.

              • Muzer

                Generating the DB shouldn’t be particularly hard, though – I think I’ll give it a try some time soon. I’ll just use some simple checksum on the first couple of kilobytes, hopefully enough to be unique.

              • andwhyisit

                I can see this creating any number of false positives. Plus a database would be annoying to maintain.

                Just dump only the first bank by default, place the checksum in the filename, then allow up to 10 NES filename/PRG ROM size/CHR ROM size/mapper chip number/SRAM size configurations in the config file. You can check what the generated filename would be, then you can look up the configuration to see if the filename was recorded and then load the associated configuration for dumping the file. This preserves the plug and play aspect for up to 10 different carts.

                • Muzer

                  Annoying to maintain? How many NES games are being released nowadays?

                  Your suggestion would work, but I don’t see how a database would be much harder. It will be relatively-speaking trivial for me to generate one without any human input.

                  • andwhyisit

                    To obtain the checksums for the database you would have to dump the beginning of the game, calculate the checksums yourself, send it to Matthias, and wait for him to submit an update to the plugin’s firmware, which would now be much more expensive because of the additional hardware to store the required database. It’s inefficient. If you want a database then how about adding one to the site? This way retrode users can look up their NES configuation sets and can just copy them to their retrode config.

                    Matthias certainly isn’t going to go out and buy or pirate the entire NES library for the sake of creating a database, nor will he accept a dump of the first bank of a game to calculate checksums, so it is down to users to dump the first bank and calculate the checksums, so the database will always be incomplete.

                    The way I suggested is more efficient, cheaper, easier to implement, flexible, more user friendly, doesn’t require constant updates to some database (which may or may not be possible under the current retrode hardware) that will fail you the moment you insert some cart into the retrode that shares its checksum with more than one database entry, and will work for every single cart whose mapper is supported by the retrode.

                    Plus, unlicenced NES games are still released to this day if that answers your question.

                    • Muzer

                      I never at any point stated nor implied that Matthias would be the one making the initial database. In fact, I’ve already said that I will try to make one at some point in the near future.

                      Homebrew NES games have been released, true, but few on actual cartridges – and besides, those aren’t exactly in the scope of what the Retrode was intended for.

                    • andwhyisit

                      I wasn’t only talking about homebrew titles but also the stuff that is churned out of taiwan or china. But regardless the problem is, as I said before, that the database requires additional hardware (so it would be more expensive to produce the plugin), that we don’t even know how the damn thing would be updated, the risk of false positives in the database, and if the game isn’t in the database or you get a false positive then you would have to override default plug and play functionality with your own settings, rendering the whole exercise useless since you would need to mess with settings to switch between games, a notion that Matthias was trying to avoid.

                      Can you state even one flaw with my suggestion?

                    • Guys. This fistfight of yours could amuse a much larger audience if presented in the right venue. Why don’t you take it to the forum? ;)

  • FelixV

    nice ! well done dude :)

  • Muzer

    They do look VERY pretty. I would have preferred there to be Game Gear solder pads on the SMS adaptor, but it’s still great work :D

    • Maybe I can squeeze it back in there for mass production. Right now, all I wanted was a prototype in cartridge form factor, and fast :)

    • Teancum

      Ditto on the Game Gear Solder pads or even a separate board with case and label where a user can add one in.

      • If GG pads can be included without increasing the cost, I’ll gladly do it (chances are quite high). I wouldn’t want everyone to have to pay extra for an option that only a tiny fraction of all users is ever going to use.

  • Vince K.

    Those do look really nice! Can’t wait to get my hands on the production version!

    So, does the design change mean there is no chance for adding on a Game Gear slot? If not, is there going to be a barebones version where we can? I am very interested in dumping Game Gear games.