For many gaming enthusiasts who grew up in the 80s and 90s, cartridge-based games have tremendously impacted their lives. Many may still have these iconic games in their possession and may still play them from time to time. Unfortunately, though, many of these games are beginning to show their age through wear and tear, and as a result, the cartridges risk becoming damaged, and valuable saved data is at risk.
The core issue with how these gaming cartridges were designed. Every time you insert a game cartridge into your console, the contacts are worn down bit by bit. Even if you have a more recent cartridge-based console like the Super NT, your cartridges will degrade over time. In addition, many games from the 16-bit era use a volatile memory system that relies on an internal battery built into the cartridge and is difficult to replace without losing your saved data.
Thankfully there are several methods of transferring your favorite video game, including your saved data, to a PC running an emulator.
Game Emulation and the Law
Now of course we can't talk about game emulation without talking about the question of if game emulation is legal. Despite what companies like Nintendo would want to have you think, game emulation is legal if you do it correctly. If you download a ROM that has been uploaded to the internet, then this is an act of piracy. However, if the ROMs are dumped from the original hardware and the ROMs and dumped by the user then this is legal as you are making backups of your own games and system.
Save the Hero Builders
Save the Hero Builders is a retro gaming preservation project offering an open-source cartridge reader for saving the ROMS and data from your favorite cartridge-based games including SNES, N64, GBA, GB/GBC, and the Sega Genesis. Adapters can also be used to extend the use of your cartridge reader to other types of cartridges such as the ATARI, ColecoVision, and Intellivision.
While the cartridge reader is sold by Save the Hero for around $100, but you can build your own using an Arduino Mega and a custom PCB for around $50. Save the Hero also has an official GitHub so that you can service and modify your own equipment.
- Reads official NES, Famicom, and Family Basic cartridges including save
- Supports Mapper 30/NESmaker and flashes INL NM30 boards
- Reads SNES roms and reads/writes save games from and to the SNES cartridge
- Supported cartridge types so far: LoRom, HiRom, ExHiRom, DSP, SuperFX, SuperFX2, SDD1, CX4, SPC7110, SA1 (the last two chips need Adafruit Clock Generator)
- Reads and writes SNES Satellaview 8M Memory packs (BS-X cartridge and Adafruit Clock Generator needed)
- Reads and writes Nintendo Power Super Famicom Memory Flash Cartridges (needs Adafruit Clock Generator for best result)
- Reflashes some Chinese or custom-made SNES repros with AM29F032, MBM29F033, MX29LV320 or MX29LV640 flash ROMs
- Reads N64 roms and reads/writes save games(4K/16K Eeprom + Sram + all 3 types of Flashram), EEPROM needs Adafruit Clockgen by default, Proto carts are not supported yet
- Reads and writes N64 controller paks and also can test an N64 controller's buttons and thumbstick
- Re-flashes some Chinese N64 repros with S29GL type flash ROMs
- Re-flashes N64 Gamesharks with SST 29LE010(and similar) eeproms
- Reads Game Boy (Color) ROMs and reads/writes save games
- Reads and writes Nintendo Power Game Boy Memory Flash Cartridges
- Programs custom-made Game Boy (Color) flashcards with AM29F016, AM29F032, and MBM29F033 flash ROM
- Programs EMS GB Smart 32M flash carts
- Programs Gameboy Camera Flashcart
- Reads Game Boy Advance roms and reads/writes the save games(4K EEPROM, 64K Eeprom, Sram/Fram, 512K flash, 1M flash)
- Re-flashes some Chinese GBA repros with i4000L0YBQ0, i4400L0ZDQ0, MX29GL128E, MSP55LV128, PC28F256M29 or M29W128GH flashroms
- Reads Sega Mega Drive ROMs and reads/writes save games(Sram/Fram, Eeprom)
- Reads Sega Master System ROMs and saves
- Reads Sega Game Gear ROMs and saves (using Retrode adapter)
- Reads some Sega Mark III cartridges (using Raphnet adapter)
- Reads some Sega SG-1000 cartridges (using Raphnet adapter)
- Reads some Sega Cards (using Card Catcher and Raphnet Mark III Adapter)
- Reads PC engine/TG16 cartridges (using Retrode or custom adapter)
- Reads WonderSwan cartridges (using a custom adapter)
- Reads NeoGeo Pocket cartridges (using a custom adapter)
- Programs flashrom chips like AM29F016B/D, AM29F032B, MBM29F033C, MX29F1601, MX29F1610, MX29L3211, MX29LV160, MX29LV320, S29GL032M, MX26L6420, MBM29F800BA, AM29F800BB, LH28F016SUT, AM29F400AB, E28FXXXJ3A and AM29LV033C (using custom adapter)
- Programs M27C322 eproms (using a custom adapter)
The Retrode is a device designed to allow users to play classic video games on their modern computers or consoles. It is essentially a retro gaming adapter that can read game cartridges and controllers and convert their signals into a format that can be used on modern computers.
A computer can then use the information that was converted from the Retrode to play their favorite classic games using emulators or other software. The Retrode also supports ROM dumping, so that users can save the data from their cartridges to their computers and later run them on an emulator.