Famicom World

Misc. => Other Gaming => Topic started by: 133MHz on September 23, 2007, 01:46:28 am

Title: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on September 23, 2007, 01:46:28 am
Hi everybody! ;D

This was actually a while ago (like between July and August 2007), but I remodeled my room so I had to put my gaming stuff aside for a while, and now I'm getting everything back to order, so I present you my poor man's NES flash cart.

The story: I was in the mood of playing some Antarctic Adventure (LOVE that game seriously, I'll never get tired of it, even the music :P) but on the real NES, I first saw that game around 2000, when I was in middle school and a classmate lent me a Famicom pirate cart (a very good one) with that game in. Returned the cart a week later, never saw her again. But the game stood in my memory for years ;D. So I wanted to play it again on the console and not emulation.

But I'm out of money, so no original game/repro/multicart/EPROM burner-eraser/Powerpak for me, I have to do it without spending a single cent. Actually that's most (if not all) of my philosophy ;D. I'm always making ghetto McGyver-esque electronics stuff because I'm a cheap bastard ;D

I tend to accumulate lots of electronics junk (mostly from computers, TVs and monitors) so I had to do it with parts lying around here, and with zero money.

Enough about history, now to the game :D:

Antarctic Adventure is Mapper zero, 24KB game : 16KB PRG and 8KB CHR (if my memory serves me well). That makes things a lot easier. So I search for a mapper 0 cart for sacrifice and I find...
(http://usuarios.lycos.es/dogbert/img/flashcart/small/DSCN2729.jpg)
...this Elevator Action cart.

So now all I have to do is replace the PRG and CHR ROM from the cart with my own chips with the Antarctic Adventure data burned on them. I have lots of EPROMs lying around but no programmer and eraser to work with them, and that kind of equipment is expensive. I have some Pentium motherboards lying around with 128KB Flash ROM chips for the BIOS. Yeah, I actually junked a pair of motherboards just to play Antarctic Adventure on my NES ;D.

I used Translhextion (an hex editor) to strip the iNES header, and separate PRG and CHR data, also to repeat each one several times to fill each chip. Ended up with two 128KB files, one for the PRG chip and one for the CHR one. Put them in a 200MB hard drive with MS-DOS and Uniflash (an universal BIOS flashing program) and improvised a rig with a Pentium motherboard to flash the chips.

This is the flashing rig:
(http://usuarios.lycos.es/dogbert/img/flashcart/small/DSCN2705.jpg)
Notice the piece of paper passed under the BIOS chip for easy removal :P

The procedure is simple: Boot the Pentium based computer, let it load DOS, load Uniflash, tell it to flash the computer's BIOS, point it to use your PRG ROM file, let it flash. When it's complete, swap the chip (with the computer still on), then flash the CHR ROM file onto the second chip, turn off computer, et voila! Now you have your ROMs and the motherboard is trashed since there's no BIOS so it will not boot anymore!

Here you can see the Uniflash user interface, yeah that's a 9" monochrome monitor I got like for 3 bucks at the flea market.
(http://usuarios.lycos.es/dogbert/img/flashcart/small/DSCN2706.jpg)

So now with the chips ready, I have to adapt them to the board since they're much bigger in size and pin count, also the pin count is not standard and some pins (particularly the programming ones) are not needed. I removed the Elevator Action ROMs from the board, ripped two IC sockets from some junk boards and stripped some old IDE cable to make the connections.

Here you can see the first socket done. Note the notebook on the back, which I use to match the corresponding pins and mark the connected ones. Since I'm only using the first 32KB of the 128KB chips, the higher address lines must be grounded or put to +5V (doesn't matter, since the data is repeated all over the chip) just don't leave them floating or it will produce unpredictable results.
(http://usuarios.lycos.es/dogbert/img/flashcart/small/DSCN2657.jpg)

I broke a trace when removing one of the chips, but some hot glue fixed that. Now the chips are ready to install:
(http://usuarios.lycos.es/dogbert/img/flashcart/small/DSCN2701.jpg)

Chips installed, ready to go. Cutting, stripping, tinning, matching, soldering all those wires was a pain in the ass. I did one chip in one day, and the other chip the day after:
(http://usuarios.lycos.es/dogbert/img/flashcart/small/DSCN2737.jpg)

I hope the cart closes now, those things bulge a lot ;D:
(http://usuarios.lycos.es/dogbert/img/flashcart/small/DSCN2734.jpg)

Now it's time to try the thing:

(http://usuarios.lycos.es/dogbert/img/flashcart/small/DSCN2723.jpg)
IT VERKS! IT VERKS! :D :D :D :D :D

Now excuse me, It is my intention to sit down and play some Antarctic Adventure ;)
(http://usuarios.lycos.es/dogbert/img/flashcart/small/DSCN2724.jpg)

Conclusions:

* Total cost of the project: $0.000
* Fun provided by Antarctic Adventure: Lots, lots of it.
* Computer motherboards trashed in the process: 2
* Making a flashable NES cart with junk lying around my house: Priceless.

One day (when I get a printer) I'll make a proper label for the cart. Also as you see there is possibility for expansion, even if it's just a Mapper 0 cart. With no mapper the max. amount of storage directly accessible for the NES is 32KB, I can 'divide' the 128KB chips in 4 32KB 'segments' by putting switches on the higher address lines, that way I can make a 4 game multicart, and the games are selected by flipping a pair of switches. I know there are not a good lot of mapper 0 games to choose around, most of them are in multicarts anyway, but there is some interesting homebrew and ROM hacks which fit on those 32KB, like Super Mario Forever (also known as the hardest SMB hack ever, widely known by its Youtube video), the NES test cart, etc.

Supersize pics coming soon!
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: manuel on September 23, 2007, 02:50:09 am
What can I - who knows less than NOTHING about this stuff - say more than WOW?
If I had the skills I would probably do the same, but I haven't, so I just sit here and amazedly wonder about what other guys can do with old electronics. ;D
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: FamicomFreak on September 23, 2007, 07:58:04 am
That's some great stuff and it was worth it for such a great game! We are lucky to have a guy like you in this forum to show us your great awesome projects!
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: Doc on September 23, 2007, 09:10:16 am
*Faints because Antarctic Adventure is his favorite Famicom game ever.* :o
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: Har the cat on September 23, 2007, 09:44:05 am
How can someone be so technic!?   :o
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: NationalGameDepot on September 23, 2007, 09:45:40 am
Very cool project.  I wish I had techy skills to do anything :-\
~~NGD
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on September 23, 2007, 04:19:26 pm
Thanks guys for all the great comments ^_^

Actually I got a replacement BIOS chip (from a similar but burnt mobo) so I can boot the sucker again and flash my cart as many times as I want ;D. Maybe in the near future I'll convert it into a four game multicart.
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: FamicomFreak on September 23, 2007, 05:26:41 pm
Quote from: 133MHz on September 23, 2007, 04:19:26 pm
Thanks guys for all the great comments ^_^

Actually I got a replacement BIOS chip (from a similar but burnt mobo) so I can boot the sucker again and flash my cart as many times as I want ;D. Maybe in the near future I'll convert it into a four game multicart.


haha I was about to mention about the four game multicart thing. It would be really kewl to have NES multi carts hey you can even make a business with it!! wekekkekee
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on September 25, 2007, 12:02:03 am
If I ever do the 4 game multicart thing, this is my set list for now:

* Antarctic Adventure
* Elevator Action (the cart's original game)
* Super Mario Forever (aka the hardest mario hack ever - putting it on a cart is pure evil)
* ????

Any other recommendations for mapper 0 games? ;D
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: manuel on September 25, 2007, 01:25:41 am
How about Excitebike or Pac Man?
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: keiffer01 on September 25, 2007, 04:22:59 pm
Super mario lost levels maybe? ;D
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on September 25, 2007, 05:25:07 pm
Excitebike and Pacman are on my pirate multicarts, and I have a SMB2j pirate cart ;D
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: MarioMania on September 26, 2007, 01:25:27 pm
Witch SMB2J Cart you have...the No Title Srceen one,  I have that one

Can you do like a NES SMB hacked one
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on September 27, 2007, 12:26:45 pm
Quote from: MarioMania on September 26, 2007, 01:25:27 pm
Witch SMB2J Cart you have...the No Title Srceen one,  I have that one


Yup, that one.

Quote from: MarioMania on September 26, 2007, 01:25:27 pm
Can you do like a NES SMB hacked one


Yeah, that's what Super Mario Forever is! (well there's a PC game called the same by Buziol Games), look for 'super mario frustration' on youtube/google video and you'll see it.
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: Paul-FC on March 13, 2008, 08:15:49 pm
is there an easier way?
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on March 13, 2008, 08:25:00 pm
If you have proper (E)EPROM erasing and burning equipment it's a piece of cake. But then it's not cheap anymore.
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: Paul-FC on March 13, 2008, 08:27:15 pm
Quote from: 133MHz on March 13, 2008, 08:25:00 pm
If you have proper (E)EPROM erasing and burning equipment it's a piece of cake. But then it's not cheap anymore.

is this a good burner?
http://cgi.ebay.com/Top2007-Universal-Programmer-EPROM-AVR-PIC_W0QQitemZ130204595561QQihZ003QQcategoryZ4661QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem (http://cgi.ebay.com/Top2007-Universal-Programmer-EPROM-AVR-PIC_W0QQitemZ130204595561QQihZ003QQcategoryZ4661QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem)
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on March 13, 2008, 08:32:30 pm
Everything seems OK (USB, Windows XP support, ZIF socket, etc) BUT...

QuoteFeatures:

       Support 2.5~6.5V device;


Most chips are between 5 and 15V (12V being the most common), so I say it's pretty limited on the range of chips you can burn with it.
Also if you're looking to burn your own EPROMs you need an EPROM eraser (meaning more $$$ to spend).
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: Paul-FC on March 13, 2008, 08:35:11 pm
Quote from: 133MHz on March 13, 2008, 08:32:30 pm
Everything seems OK (USB, Windows XP support, ZIF socket, etc) BUT...

QuoteFeatures:

       Support 2.5~6.5V device;


Most chips are between 5 and 15V (12V being the most common), so I say it's pretty limited on the range of chips you can burn with it.
Also if you're looking to burn your own EPROMs you need an EPROM eraser (meaning more $$$ to spend).

can you recommend a burner?
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on March 13, 2008, 08:46:10 pm
If you're looking to buy one, look for the following:

* USB connection (if your computer doesn't have a serial port, otherwise it doesn't matter)
* Windows XP support
* External power adapter (that way you can program chips with a high programming voltage, when they draw power from the USB or serial port they're limited by the teeny weeny 5V that the port provides).
* Good list of supported chips (to make your own NES/Famicom carts you're looking for 27xxx EPROMs).

In fact the type of programmer is not very critical, you can even build your own for 5 bucks worth of parts (search for five dollar eprom programmer). Most important is the EPROM eraser, which is an enclosed UV fluorescent lamp, its light erases EPROMs when exposed to it, and no, those counterfeit bill detectors won't work. In fact, the light from the EPROM eraser is dangerous to the skin and eyes! That's why it's enclosed. See if you can get a cheap EPROM eraser first, then look for a programmer.
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: Paul-FC on March 13, 2008, 08:49:10 pm
Quote from: 133MHz on March 13, 2008, 08:46:10 pm
If you're looking to buy one, look for the following:

* USB connection (if your computer doesn't have a serial port, otherwise it doesn't matter)
* Windows XP support
* External power adapter (that way you can program chips with a high programming voltage, when they draw power from the USB or serial port they're limited by the teeny weeny 5V that the port provides).
* Good list of supported chips (to make your own NES/Famicom carts you're looking for 27xxx EPROMs).

In fact the type of programmer is not very critical, you can even build your own for 5 bucks worth of parts (search for five dollar eprom programmer). Most important is the EPROM eraser, which is an enclosed UV fluorescent lamp, its light erases EPROMs when exposed to it, and no, those counterfeit bill detectors won't work. In fact, the light from the EPROM eraser is dangerous to the skin and eyes! That's why it's enclosed. See if you can get a cheap EPROM eraser first, then look for a programmer.

ok is it easier to do famicom or NES
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on March 13, 2008, 08:52:50 pm
NES. Carts are easier to open, lots of room for extra chips and stuff, and lots of information on the internets on how to do it ;).
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: MaxXimus on March 13, 2008, 08:54:48 pm
But besides that, it
s the exact same.....
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on March 13, 2008, 08:57:21 pm
Quote from: MaxXimus on March 13, 2008, 08:54:48 pm
But besides that, its the exact same.....


True. But NES mapper boards are more well documented than Famicom ones. So if you're a beginner it's wiser to begin with NES since you'll find much more information.
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on March 14, 2008, 09:11:32 am
Those games have crazy-ass mappers which are almost impossible to replicate without extensive ROM hacking.
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on March 14, 2008, 09:31:04 am
If you're some kind of hardcore NES dev, then yeah :P.
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on March 14, 2008, 11:13:20 am
AFAIK NESReproductions does it already.
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: UglyJoe on March 14, 2008, 11:51:18 am
Reproduction sites require donor carts (either user or shop supplied).  Those donor carts have the same mappers as the game that is going to be reproduced. 

If they wanted to reproduce some weird pirate cart, then they would need a donor cart that used the same weird mapper used by the pirate cart.  In these cases, it's likely that the only donor carts available would be carts that already had that pirate on it  :P

The easiest option would probably be that flash cart that Retrousb makes (http://retrousb.com/index.php?productID=133).  The "mapper" that it uses is really running software that emulates whatever mapper the given rom needs.  If he's written the software to support a wacky pirate mapper, then it would work.
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on March 14, 2008, 11:56:27 am
Quote from: UglyJoe on March 14, 2008, 11:51:18 am
If they wanted to reproduce some weird pirate cart, then they would need a donor cart that used the same weird mapper used by the pirate cart.  In these cases, it's likely that the only donor carts available would be carts that already had that pirate on it  :P


I agree, but there's also the option of hacking the pirate game to make it work with a standard mapper. Take for example SMB2j - a disk only release. Loopy's MMC3 hack allows you to put SMB2j on any MMC3 compatible cart (such as SMB2 USA or SMB3) instead of replicating the kludgy hacks the pirates invented. Just burn your PRG and CHR and there you go!. But to do this you need to be some NES dev wizard :P.

Quote from: UglyJoe on March 14, 2008, 11:51:18 am
The easiest option would probably be that flash cart that Retrousb makes (http://retrousb.com/index.php?productID=133).  The "mapper" that it uses is really running software that emulates whatever mapper the given rom needs.  If he's written the software to support a wacky pirate mapper, then it would work.


Yeah, that's the easiest option of all.
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: Profeta Yoshitake on March 19, 2008, 04:32:10 am
Quote from: 133MHz on March 13, 2008, 08:52:50 pm
NES. Carts are easier to open, lots of room for extra chips and stuff, and lots of information on the internets on how to do it ;).


More than that, my friend.
Famicom games were projected to never be opened!
On 99% of the tries you're going to break your Famicom cart FOREVER!

Man!
Did you choose your fourth game?
If so, tell me what!
If you don't, I would suggest CITY CONNECTION!
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: siudym on April 04, 2008, 02:47:13 pm
Quote from: popibros1 on March 13, 2008, 08:15:49 pm
is there an easier way?


Buy eprom/flash programmer, like WILLEM and some flash memory. Easy modifi pirated famicom carts that have eprom compatible mask ROMS:
(http://img78.imageshack.us/img78/1136/obraz003lu2.jpg)
(http://img87.imageshack.us/img87/4893/obraz002rv2.jpg)
(http://img441.imageshack.us/img441/2259/vrc6devoy6.jpg)
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on April 05, 2008, 12:44:50 am
Nice carts! :D
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: siudym on April 05, 2008, 09:27:24 am
My "special" cart ;D - FME-7/SUNSOFT 5B flash cart ;D Contain AY-3-8910 chip for additional sound channels used in Gimmick game ;D
(http://img512.imageshack.us/img512/4651/ay3fme7fine2dx0.jpg)
(http://img512.imageshack.us/img512/3286/ay3fme7fine1zs6.jpg)
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: nurd on April 05, 2008, 11:51:36 am
Looks very very complicated.
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: 133MHz on April 05, 2008, 11:54:56 am
Lots of wirewrap always look complicated, but if you look at the schematic it's not that much. It's more tedious than anything else. Imagine yourself soldering such quantity of wires? I did!

Also siudym, it may be a good idea to install a 3.5mm jack on your NES-to-Famicom converter, and a 3.5mm miniplug to your special cart, so you can connect/disconnect them at will without being one tied to the other. You can use the 'shorting' feature of the jack to make normal Famicom audio pass through when there's no special cart inserted.


Your carts look awesome! Thanks for reviving my thread with such awesome devcarts :D
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: siudym on April 06, 2008, 01:25:16 am
Quote from: 133MHz on April 05, 2008, 11:54:56 am
Also siudym, it may be a good idea to install a 3.5mm jack on your NES-to-Famicom converter, and a 3.5mm miniplug to your special cart, so you can connect/disconnect them at will without being one tied to the other. You can use the 'shorting' feature of the jack to make normal Famicom audio pass through when there's no special cart inserted.
Your carts look awesome! Thanks for reviving my thread with such awesome devcarts :D


ok, but i have lots of NES->FC adapters, that one i use permanently in this dev-cart. :)
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: FamicomFreak on April 07, 2008, 11:37:56 am
Wow I wish I had some idea what all those cables do....
Title: Re: My poor man's NES Flash Cart
Post by: Walky on December 31, 2008, 01:47:41 pm
I played Antarctic Adventure A LOT when I was a kid (my "Creation" famiclone included it, along 40 or so other games), nice idea to use bios' flashing to write nes roms!.

Wiring that kind of thing is indeed a HORRIBLE task, kudos to you for that!

Using hot glue is a good idea to make a longer lasting eprom cart (after checking all solder points, and of course making sure the cart actually works). I always reinforce the soldering job on my carts that way, and it has worked fine so far (well, it's been like a month since I got my programmer and eraser, but a couple of my carts survived a really ugly fall!). It's important to double and triple check each soldering point before this, because it's REALLY difficult to remove the glue if something breaks under it (and you can force wires and other stuff in the process).