If someone last year had told me that in summer 2017 I would have mod a console, I would have considered him a fool. My only console back then was my old NES and I thought I’ve lost it somewhere since I’ve found it again in my basement. Then I started to creater my own little collection and as you may imagine, NES was alway my main reference. Since it was my first console I tried to find as many games as possible and nowadays I have a small collection of 20 titles. Not much, I know, and most of them are the most common but you always need a starting point before reaching your goal, isn’t it?
The main “problem” with NES games is the region lock: not only the PAL games are way less than the NTSC games (more or less only half of the games released for NES that appeared in north America were released also in Europe), but also the PAL region is further divided in PAL A and PAL B. The PAL A games are the one suitable for the english, italian and australian NES, while the PAL B run in the rest of Europe. Even thought the english market is maybe the biggest in Europe, you can imagine that, since the PAL A games runs only in three countries, while the PAL B runs in like 40 countries, it could be a bit difficult to find the game you want from the correct region from the correct sub-region.
This made me realize that I needed to have a NES that could read every kind of game, avoiding the possibility to pick by mistake a game that doesn’t run on my old console. I tried to find online some region free NES but I’ve seen prices ridicoulosly high, around 100€ with shipping, a sum I was not willing to pay at all for a “reserve” console.
So I started to look at videos, tutorials and tricks to make myself a region free NES; I’m not exacly a genius in fact of electronics but since the mod was really simple to make I decided to try. The point was now finding a cheap NES; I was looking for the less expensive price because I wanted to try a bit of retrobrighting too. The prices, shipping included were around 50€ and I was really close to buy one when I checked just for curiosity in the related products and there I found an NES sold as not working just because the previous owner didn’t have the aerial lead and an old TV to test it that came with a collection of 9 games, all the original NES cables and the orange Zapper. The price shipping included was 70€ but considering that I could have used two of the games of the lot and the zapper to sell or trade for other games I thought that maybe was worth the risk. The auction was about to close and I’ve been the first auctioner and after 4 hours I’ve got the response: I won!
The week after I finally received the console and first thing first I checked if it really wasn’t working or it was just a cable missing or a simple 72-pin fault. I was pleased to check that the NES was actually working so I was happy to start my new challenge: modding it.
I carefully opened the console and I’ve immediately recognized the responsible of the region lock: it’s a chip near the power jack you can see in the picture below.
To unlock the NES the only thing to do is finding the fourth pin (starting to count fromthe bottom left) and simply cuit it away. The result is this:
Some tutorial explains that is better to earth the circuit but since it’s optional and I didn’t have the tools to do it I skipped this part, I closed and screwed the console and tried it. I was very impatient and a bit worried because it was my first mod and opening an NES to hack it for me was like desecrate it. First of all I tried my only PAL B game, Kung Fu, and I was really excited to see that it was working absolutely fine.
Then I tried an NTSC game. I know that not ALL the NTSC games runs on a modded NES because there are always some compatibility issues so I don’t expect that all of the american games will work here but at the moment the only NTSC game I have, The Little Mermaid, kindly donated by Van Rockingham, runs fine.
So now I’m finally open to ALL games for the NES and I hope to find something interesting out there, I’ve no excuses!