Thursday, March 22, 2012

SNES and SCART: Reluctant Friends

Recently, I picked up what was basically the last (what I consider) essential system in my retrogaming collection, a Super Nintendo. I used to have one as a kid and was quite fond of it. I have a setup in my game room that consists of, among other things, a smattering of retro consoles attached via SCART to a 32" Sony PVM monitor. SCART delivers pure RGB video signals from consoles like Sega Genesis, Dreamcast, and Playstation, and let me tell you, they look fantastic. The NTSC SNES (v1) supports RGB via SCART as well, but with a caveat: you need to make sure the RGB lines coming out of the multi-out have 330 uF capacitors on them. If they do not, and you try to attach the SNES to a monitor, the picture will be too bright, and the colors will be washed out. I bought a cheap SCART cable from eBay, and sure enough it was wired incorrectly for my monitor. The RGB lines must be capped, and the ground, sync, 5v, and audio must be straight thru. After much soldering and hassle, I hit upon this configuration. You have never seen Super Nintendo until you've seen it in RGB. It's a thing of beauty.

The audio when using SCART is another issue. There is insufficent shielding either in the SNES or the SCART cable for the audio circuitry, which causes some buzzing noise. It is such that the brighter the image onscreen, the louder the buzz. There exist SCART cables with dedicated RCA outs for audio, which minimizes or alleviates the buzz, but those are currently inadequate for my setup. I just keep the volume low and try to ignore the noise.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Agetec Dreamcast Stick Full Sanwa Mod

I got the Agetec Arcade Stick for the Sega Dreamcast for Xmas. What a great gift! The stick is built like a tank, and it's meant to mimic a Japanese arcade machine, AKA a candy cab. I no longer had to use the standard Dreamcast controller for 2D-shooters and fighters, which encompass my favorite DC games. The standard controller is ill-equipped for titles like Marvel Vs. Capcom, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Gunbird 2, and Mars Matrix. The Agetec stick is made for those games. But as much as I liked this arcade stick, something was missing. The sticks and buttons felt good, but not great. I read that people were unlocking the full potential of this controller but removing the standard stick and buttons and replacing them with a Sanwa stick and buttons, and replacing the Agetec's 4-way joystick gate with a Sanwa octal gate. Sanwa is the most popular arcade control manufacturer in Japan. They make great looking, durable, reliable, accurate, and comfortable sticks and buttons. I read a couple tutorials about how to do this mod here and here. Looked simple enough, so I placed an order for a white-top Sanwa JLF stick, octal gate, and 6 white 30mm buttons.

I used a Dremel to enlarge the button holes from 28mm to 30mm so that the new buttons would fit. I also removed some of the mounting plastic for the old stick so that the new one would fit, and drilled holes to mount the new stick. I installed the Sanwa buttons and the stick, soldered the wires in place, closed it up, and tested. (All this is covered in the above tutorials.) The buttons all worked right away, but both tutorials had the wrong colors listed for splicing the stick controls. I had to do this manually by testing at the Dreamcast menu screen. After a while I found the right combinations. The correct joystick wire color combinations are as follows:

Agetec          Sanwa
Yellow   >     Black
Orange   >    Yellow
Red        >     Green
Brown    >     Red
Black      >    Orange

The stick is now perfect. The 8-way gate makes fighters feel like they should. The buttons are a bit lighter and more respnsive. Plus, I think it looks pimp in white. If you have the Agetec stick, this mod is highly recommended, especially for shmup and fighter fans. I'd consider it essential.