Universal Console Theory

I've been thinking about this recently and thought I'd start something up here to confirm my thoughts...

To avoid the use of adaptors or what-not, here's my list of consoles with mods added to them which would result in a universal console. All I need to know is will these consoles in theory play ANY game you throw at it. This is where I need feedback :)

The list with specs:

Master System 1/2: 50/60hz switch (PAL/US respectively) + Language Switch (US/Japan respectively in 60hz mode). No Cartridge slot modification.

Megadrive 1/2: 50/60hz switch (PAL/US respectively) + Language Switch (US/Japan respectively in 60hz mode) + RGB cable or 32X for colour 60hz output. No cartiridge-slot modification.

SNES: 50/60hz switch (PAL/NTSC respectively) + Multi-Territory Switch (GND or +5v to pin 4 of the territory chip, resulting in normal mode or multi-territory mode - Enables US/JP games to be played without an adaptor) + modification of cartiridge slot for US games.

Does that sound like it would work? Any thoughts on this would be fab, especially the SNES multi-territory theory and the Megadrive's cart slot (are US and JP games the same shape/size as PAL carts?).


Most consoles have a different system clock speed for PAL and NTSC versions, so it might be possible (though unlikely) that a game could have lockout code to detect the difference in CPU speed. I've never heard of any game doing this, but I think it is possible.

Mega Drive 2 will not play all games, as its BIOS will check for the system signature at a particular place in the cartridge, and some unlicensed games do not have this. AFAIK, Japanese Mega Drive games will not fit into an unmodified Genesis or PAL Mega Drive, but I haven't seen them in a while so I might be wrong on this.

I've also heard rumors that disabling the lockout chip on SNES will cause SA-1 games (Jikkyu Oshaberi Parodius, Kirby Superstar / Kirby Super Deluxe, and Super Mario RPG are the main ones that come to mind) to crash.
The question of clock speed is an interesting one. I've heard that the difference in speed between PAL and NTSC consoles causes Pilotwings (European) to fail to work correctly on a US SNES, even when set to 50Hz mode! I haven't tested this myself, however, and I'm not aware of any MD or SMS game where it makes a difference (we're talking differences of the order of 0.01MHz here), so I think it's by and large a red herring. It was certainly never used for protection on the MD or SMS; I'm not sure that it could be detected at the software level.

Anyway, to cover all the bases:

SMS: You'll need to build a cartridge slot adapter in order to play Japanese Mark III/SMS/SG-1000 carts, since these have a very different shape and pinout to the European/US carts. If you have a SMS 2 you'll also need to build an adapter for card-based games. (or graft it to the board somehow, if you want to avoid the use of adapters).

In addition, you'll need to replace the BIOS, as the US and European SMS BIOS do a copyright check (similar to the later MD models) which locks out most Japanese SMS games and all SG-1000 games. You can program a 2764 EPROM with the Japanese BIOS (downloadable from SMS Power) and solder it in place of the existing one on the board.

It's probably easiest to start with a Japanese SMS 1 and mod that (the expansion port can easily be modified to accommodate US/European carts, and there's nothing else that needs doing besides the 50/60Hz switch).

A language switch mod is not essential - the language setting was never used for protection on the SMS - but 50/60Hz is.

MD: cartridge slot modification needed (the opening has to be enlarged slightly to accommodate Japanese carts; US ones are the same shape as Euro ones) in addition to the 50/60Hz and language switches. As ExCyber mentions, there is BIOS protection on MD2 and later MD1 models which locks out older unlicensed games, so you need to find an early version of the Mega Drive 1 which lacks this protection (you can tell an old version by the fact that it *doesn't* display "Produced By Or Under License From Sega Enterprises Ltd." on start up).

SNES: See comments about clock speed (which I haven't tested at first hand) but by and large, yes.

I'm not sure about the SA-1 chip; I have a US Super Mario RPG (with the SA-1 chip inside the cart) and it works fine on my European SNES with disabled lockout chip. I have heard of it *not* working though so it could be to do with different board revisions, or maybe even different revisions of the SA-1 hardware.

If that does prove to be a problem, you could use a switchable lockout chip (e.g. add a lockout chip from a US cart with a switch to flick between the two chips) or maybe program a PIC chip to emulate either version, if that's possible.


Thanks for all the info. There is one thing I'd like to know, though - with the SMS 1/2, how do you add a language switch? I've been trying everywhere and haven't found out how to do it yet... any thoughts or do you know anywhere with documentation? I've tried on SMS Power but no luck... :(

Thanks guys! :)

IMHO, the best way is to use a converter and a modded Megadrive - that's why there's no Master System in my sig:)
That won't play everything either, particularly not if you're using a Genesis/MD controller. The Genesis VDP only supports the most common SMS video mode, and there's at least one game that needs another mode. The controllers are also incompatible with some games - I've personally had a blast trying to play Alien Syndrome without correct pad reading...
Yep, the MD only supports SMS VDP mode 4. The "legacy" modes 0-3 are rarely used (F-16 Fighter is the only known SMS game that uses it), they're mainly provided for backwards compatibility with the SG-1000.

I've read somewhere that the very earliest Japanese MD (1988 models, board VA1) has a VDP that supports modes 0-3, but I've never seen confirmation of that.

I'm afraid I don't know the correct way to add a language switch to the SMS or SMS 2, I haven't made a comparison with a Japanese model to find out. You can implement a language switch of sorts by grounding a pin of the I/O chip (pin 34 of 315-5216, or pin 23 of 315-5237 in later models) but this evidently isn't the real way to do it - it stops the Light Phaser from working!

Wonder boy in mosnsterland needs a correct pad , why did people buy mega drive converters when all you needed to do was drummel out the outside corners or cut your game , and snes converters when you could just rip out the pins with needle nose pliers ?
Quote: from Xavier on 11:53 am on April 9, 2002

Wonder boy in mosnsterland needs a correct pad , why did people buy mega drive converters when all you needed to do was drummel out the outside corners or cut your game , and snes converters when you could just rip out the pins with needle nose pliers ?

probabbly because they didnt want to chop bits of their consoles off

or didnt know that you could get arount it that way
...or didn't want to invalidate their warranty.

You can fit "Western" carts into a Japanese or Asian MD, but you won't be able to switch it on!

The reason for that is there's a "cartridge lock" (a piece of plastic attached to the power switch) which slides into the little notch on the left side of the cart. US/Euro carts don't have this notch, so the power switch won't slide all the way unless you physically remove the cartridge lock.