General Old Game Hardware Thread

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mharr
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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby mharr » Sun May 12, 2019 6:52 am

This looks like a bottomless rabbit hole, but as a general question: If I just want a convenient pocket device to play old Enix games is GBA + sd cart + battery upgrade the best overall option, or should normals stick with Android phone + controller?

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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby Niku » Sun May 12, 2019 12:42 pm

Depending on how much breadth you want, DS Lite + Flash Cart is a pretty solid option. It'll give you 8/16-bit emulators, GBA, and DS in a clamshell form factor. SNES emulation was pretty rough back when I messed around with it when the DS Lite was contemporary, but I think they continued upgrading flash carts to take better advantage of the hardware after I dropped off from it. But there's plenty of Enix stuff that's DS native (DQ remakes, Rocket Slime!) that are probably best on that system such that I'd recommend that hardware over a phone/Vita for the same set-up.

also thad, don't forget to budget .. jesus christ like $200 these days for a hori gamecube digital pad??? actually maybe just get an snes to gamecube controller cable or something for gba player
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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby Thad » Sun May 12, 2019 2:11 pm

A lot of folks still swear by the PSP as the best portable emulation device; it's certainly hard to beat for the price. The screen is great, the buttons are good, it plays PS1 games natively (sort of; there are a few conversion steps along the way, and the lack of R2/L2/right stick is going to be a problem for some games), and there are emulators that run pretty much anything prior to that pretty well. And of course it's got its own library, and it's great.

The Vita has finally been cracked, too, and AFAIK it'll do everything the PSP does and more (and its native library is also wonderful, and includes current-generation games like DQ Builders). But obviously you'll be paying more for a Vita than a PSP.

It partly depends on what you want to play, of course. If GBA/DS is what you're going for, then a DS Lite is probably the way to go (DS flash carts are cheap; GBA ones are less so). If you want to get into 3DS-era stuff, that's an option too; you can get a 2DS for cheap, crack it, and load up emulators through it. Note that GBA games won't run as well on the 3DS family as on the DS/DS Lite; it's the difference between emulation and native support. (And the advantage of the 3DS family over the original DS, aside from the obvious spec bump, is that its screens are 240px high, so you can play old 240p console games at their native resolution, as opposed to the original DS, whose 192px screens mean the picture is squished.)

I expect the New 3DS/2DS probably gives you much better performance on emulators, but I haven't looked into it; I've still got an original-type 2DS.

I know the original-model Switch has been cracked, too, but I don't know what-all homebrew is available on it or what, if any, emulators are available for it.

If you want a machine that's really versatile and aren't worried about a hefty price tag, the GPD Win 2 is an Intel/Windows computer in a handheld form factor. I've seen a lot of praise for it, and judging by /r/gpdwin, it can actually handle Wii U emulation pretty well -- plus PC games (one guy even got Witcher 3 running at playable speed, though that's with an aftermarket heatsink). It looks to me like it would be damned uncomfortable to hold, but I've never seen anyone complain about that.

As you can see from the thread, I'm on an original hardware/flash cart kick. But that's expensive and inconvenient and isn't for everybody. There are a lot of different routes you can go that are a lot cheaper, not as accurate but still perfectly acceptable. I'd say the PSP's probably your best bang for your buck, but if you've got a particular interest in the DS/3DS library, look into one of those.

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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby Thad » Fri May 17, 2019 3:11 pm

Niku wrote:also thad, don't forget to budget .. jesus christ like $200 these days for a hori gamecube digital pad??? actually maybe just get an snes to gamecube controller cable or something for gba player

Just saw this. Thanks for the heads-up but yeah $200 for a controller is too rich for my blood (frankly $60 is pushing it).

I don't recall ever having a problem just using a Wavebird for GBA games. Not even Mega Man Zero, despite my oft-repeated problems playing Mega Man X games on a controller with a right stick. (Can't remember if I left dash on the shoulder or remapped it to X.)

The cost of all these flash carts *has* added up, but I only buy one or two a year, and it's always with bonus money. This wound up being a little more than I usually spend since I bought a GBA SP and a Super Game Boy 2 on top of the EverDrive, but that's after I paid taxes, six months' car insurance, and still put a decent amount toward savings and retirement.

I'm making pretty good money now, but, appearances to the contrary, I still budget like a guy who's had his income source abruptly yanked out from under him a half-dozen times.

I appreciate the sanity check, though. If I were spending money like this three years ago, that would have been cause for an intervention.

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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby Niku » Fri May 17, 2019 7:26 pm

I've really been enviously sitting outside the window on the Analogue consoles and the Everdrives, but every time I start to lean in that direction I tell myself I really ought to just get a Pi. Jeff Gerstmann digging into MiSTer and FPGAs and Parish getting his beautiful framemeister captures and this thread are all really bad for my self control about cobbling together a retro gaming set-up, but I've managed to hold off for now.

But digging out my old GBA flash cart and GB player is sounding better by the day. (And if somehow they ever do a re-issue or you can find one of those Hori pads for a much more reasonable price, they actually are super nice.)
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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby Lottel » Sat May 18, 2019 2:16 pm

The newest bittboy is $40 and can play a lot of emulators. Everything I've seen says it's very good, especially for the price.
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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby Thad » Sat May 18, 2019 5:30 pm

Niku wrote:I've really been enviously sitting outside the window on the Analogue consoles


Yeah, I got an AVS and an Open Source Scan Converter, too, but haven't been using them much. I think I mentioned this, but I lucked into an old Magnavox tube TV with component inputs; it's not too big or too heavy and it's got a very nice picture. The picture didn't work right when I got it, but as it happens my father-in-law used to do TV repair so he fixed it up for me. Right now I've got my Genesis, SNES, and Wii hooked up to it, plus an old HTPC (for MAME via S-video).

I think there's a cheaper alternative to the OSSC now, too, for reduced-lag upscaling to modern TVs.

and the Everdrives, but every time I start to lean in that direction I tell myself I really ought to just get a Pi.


If you can budget a little higher I'd recommend going with something Intel- or AMD-based. Do all the emulator stuff plus PC games. I've got a full-on gaming PC hooked up to my TV; that might be overkill, but even a cheap PC should be able to do all the stuff a Pi can do plus low-end PC gaming.

Jeff Gerstmann digging into MiSTer and FPGAs and Parish getting his beautiful framemeister captures and this thread are all really bad for my self control about cobbling together a retro gaming set-up, but I've managed to hold off for now.


It's an unnecessary extravagance and I have more games than I'll ever be able to play. There are certainly other things I could have spent that money on, either responsible or frivolous.

But it's pretty cool, too.

(Plus, I've got all my old games sitting out on shelves so I can play them, and this gives me an incentive to box them up and tuck them away somewhere, get a little bit more space. I'll get around to it one of these days.)

But digging out my old GBA flash cart and GB player is sounding better by the day. (And if somehow they ever do a re-issue or you can find one of those Hori pads for a much more reasonable price, they actually are super nice.)


I gotta figure 8bitdo will get around to the GC eventually in its quest to release Bluetooth dongles for every system.

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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby mharr » Sat May 18, 2019 6:55 pm

Lottel wrote:The newest bittboy is $40 and can play a lot of emulators. Everything I've seen says it's very good, especially for the price.

Saves seem like a bit of a sticking point, in that it doesn't emulate cartridge battery saves in any way and the snapshot save system built into the device has a habit of locking up the emulation?

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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby Brentai » Sun May 19, 2019 12:35 am

If you can budget a little higher I'd recommend going with something Intel- or AMD-based. Do all the emulator stuff plus PC games. I've got a full-on gaming PC hooked up to my TV; that might be overkill, but even a cheap PC should be able to do all the stuff a Pi can do plus low-end PC gaming.


Raspbian has a pretty damned good Moonlight implementation so if you want to PC game on whatever it's hooked up to and don't mind a few ms of latency over your LAN you can do that.

Works as a surprisingly stable Remote Desktop as well, since Moonlight/GameStream/whatever doesn't make any distinction between your Desktop process and any other kind of DirectX app.
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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby mharr » Sat Aug 10, 2019 5:17 pm

Just heard on Video Games Hot Dog #380 that the 3DS and XL are thoroughly jailbroken these days and will operate completely normally under custom firmware, able to survive system updates, eshop purchases etc. while still running GBA and (gloriously) Apple Mac System 7.5.5 games. (https://www.gryphel.com/c/minivmac)

This sounds like the perfect package and price for pocket retro, fan translations, randomisers and indie homebrew. Anyone able to recommend?

There's an RPG Maker 2000/2003 player, too. I wonder if Windseal...

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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby Caithness » Sat Aug 10, 2019 8:03 pm

It is very nice, and easier than ever to do the hack.

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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby Brentai » Sat Aug 10, 2019 8:50 pm

I'd be worried about Nintendo's history of going Scorched Earth on NNIDs associated with even thinking about jailbreaking devices (especially since I'm managing The Family), but it might be worth picking up a new clean one if it's that reliable. 2DSes are like $80 now, less than a PS Classic at launch (lol).
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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby mharr » Mon Aug 19, 2019 1:19 am

FWIW you can also Frankenstein Android OS onto a Switch, which is not entirely unexpected given the thing is basically Nvidia Shield 2.0

This would be more interesting if it had a real d-pad.

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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby Thad » Sat Nov 09, 2019 12:09 am

I've got a trip coming up. I'm still thinking of buying a Switch, which would be good for the lengthy flight I'm looking at (6 hours each way), but it occurred to me, y'know, I did buy that GBASP, and it's a lot smaller and lighter. Then I thought "but that SP cramps my hands, and the headphone adapter buzzes." Then I remembered this:

mharr wrote:Ars have a lot of advice on GBA hacks and upgrades, the most important is probably the one on retrofitting the original design with an SP screen. https://arstechnica.com/features/2018/0 ... -new/3/#h2


As I said at the time, I don't have the chops to do a mod like that myself, but it looks like there are plenty of pre-modded ones on eBay in the $100-$150 range.

There's also a mod now that replaces the screen with a modern IPS. Here are some comparison videos:





With the caveat that you can't really tell what a screen looks like in person by watching a YT video of it, I think the AGS-101 screen looks better. I like the screendoor effect. It's like scanlines; it softens the sharp pixels, especially on lo-res original GB/GBC games (which is probably what I'd be playing on the plane; I've got a GB flash cart but not a GBA one).

OTOH, it looks like the IPS-modded GBAs don't cost quite as much as the AGS-101-modded ones. And I already have an actual AGS-101; if I bought a GBA with an IPS screen, then I'd have both types of screen plus an original GBA with a frontlight mod, and it'd be kinda cool to have all of them to compare.

And just looking at a video that shows the IPS screen by itself, without a side-by-side comparison, it looks pretty damn good:



(There are some gripes about tearing, but apparently that was fixed in the second hardware version.)

There's other stuff to consider, in terms of GBA refurb jobs. I don't know about the quality of various shells, buttons, lenses, etc. I guess ultimately it comes down to trusting eBay feedback ratings.

But yeah I might see my way toward getting another damn GBA. Hell, with 3 GBAs and a Game Boy Player, I can play Four Swords. ...do I need to buy three more copies of the cartridge for that?

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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby Büge » Sun Nov 10, 2019 7:18 am

It's fun to watch people restoring old systems.



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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby Thad » Sun Nov 10, 2019 1:19 pm

Yeah, it's a cool skill but I've reached a point in my life where I've realized I don't have the fine motor skills for it and, while I'm sure I could get better at it, it'd mean a lot of hours of frustration and breaking shit.

I can swap out a 72-pin connector on an NES (sort of; I managed to break at least one bit of plastic off in the process). Anything more complicated than that, I've found it's best I pay someone else to do it.

But yeah. It is fun to watch somebody else do it.

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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby Thad » Sat Nov 30, 2019 1:28 pm

I recently listened to Retronauts' Episode 261 ventures into the new frontier of emulation, where Jeremy talks to SmokeMonster about the MiSTer, and...god damn, this thing is exciting. It's the most ambitious retro gaming project since MAME. The basic idea is "MAME, but FPGA-based." It's early days yet but SmokeMonster has put a frontend on it that makes it easier to set up and maintain that it used to be, and it's seeing rapid development; Parish compares it to the frantic development pace of MAME about 20 years ago. It's got a pretty good set of cores already, largely what you'd expect -- arcade hardware (mostly relatively simple, but there's also a Neo Geo core, and that's a story in itself; listen to the podcast) and well-documented consoles of the sort that we've already seen cloned on FPGAs. SmokeMonster says the hypothetical limit for the FPGA they're using is probably around the PS1/Saturn era (but don't expect to see either of those implemented any time soon, especially the Saturn) and he doesn't think it's quite capable of simulating an N64, though nobody's really tried yet and it might be possible.

While FPGAs can mean perfect hardware reproduction (assuming you've accurately diagrammed the circuit you're recreating), SmokeMonster notes that there are latency issues, because the MiSTer uses USB for input; that has to be translated and passed on to the core, so there's a slight latency compared to what you'd get if the input went straight to the input bus. He says there's somebody working on a board that will take direct input instead (I assume using an adapter to accept original controllers/arcade harness wiring).

It's all open-source and uses off-the-shelf parts.

And holy crap am I excited about this thing. Dammit, another FPGA thing I'm probably going to wind up throwing down money for at some point. I find this more exciting than the Analogue FPGA consoles, since it's open and it's designed for multi-core support -- though given that the Analogue Pocket has a second FPGA designed for community development, I expect there will be some cross-pollination between the two projects. (I don't know much about FPGA programming, but from the way SmokeMonster describes it, it sounds like it's all built around a common programming language that basically implements a circuit diagram in words. That sounds like it should be easily portable from one FPGA to another.) I'll be keeping an eye on this thing. Maybe eventually it'll mean I can put my Genesis and Sega CD away -- and it's still cheaper than getting an Analogue Sg and a MegaSD.

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Re: General Old Game Hardware Thread

Postby Thad » Tue Dec 03, 2019 12:10 am

So I did end up ordering an original form factor GBA modded with an IPS screen. I bought it from a group called hispeedicando on eBay; they're based out of Hong Kong. Shipping time was exactly average for China Post to US (16 days). Price was $94 including shipping.

I haven't had time to really sit down with it yet; initial impression is that the buttons feel a little stiff compared to my old GBA (this is a total refurb; new shell and buttons in addition to the new screen), but I haven't played long enough to figure out whether that's going to cause any issues with gameplay, or whether it might even work itself out as I break the system in.

My initial impression of the screen is that it's fucking fantastic. I haven't sat down to do a side-by-side comparison with my SP, but I sure don't have any immediate complaints about the brighter colors or the higher pixel density. It looks great, even at the lowest brightness setting.

I'll plan on sharing more when I've spent some more time with it.

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