One day this summer I was coming home from work and popped into a thrift store. Back in my favorite section, the electronics section, I spotted a couple cheap and odd Looking N64 controllers. Digging them out the controllers turned out to be a "Power Joy III and a "Super Joy" TV plug n play game systems, at a buck each I could not pass them up.
Both of these are very cheaply made Nintendo Famicom clones, both feature Famicom cart slots, but the power joy ended up having rom's included inside the controller itself. Both units were extreamly beaten, broken and nearly unplayable .. there is only so much you can do with rubber bands and duct tape in a situation like this, so I decided to make my own TV plug in play system housed inside a much better controller, the NES Advantage.
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Step 1: Washing of the Advantage
The nes advantage is a beloved controller by many, it offers arcade style layout and offers plenty of room inside. I snagged one off the bay for practically nothing and once I received it, I noticed many of the complaints about it were strong with my controller as well.
Sluggish joystick, and buttons that would get stuck if you did not hit them dead center, + it was very dirty even though the seller said "clean". Taking it apart for cleaning would be needed and I attempted to fix these issues by replacing the 20 something year old rubber domes with tactile switches.
The results to me are mixed, its much snappier, especially in the joystick. but the buttons dont play like a video game button, but like a tactile switch. It doesn't take but a little click of the finger to activate them, but if you thunk down on them like you would an arcade button its like hitting a rock.
Cleaning the advantage was pretty easy, just pop it apart, and anything that is not metal or electronic gets tossed in a sink of warm soapy water, then given a light scrub down. Everything else is q-tipped with cleaner and alcohol
Step 2: Modding of the Advantage
As I mentioned in the previous step, the buttons are a little lacking in the Advantage for my tastes, so I made an attempt to make them better, with mixed results. Good thing is that I did everything so it could be reversed and put the original parts in my box of video game whatnot's.
for the joystick I took some standard though hole tactile switches, flattened out the leads and fiddled with them until I could get each side lined up with a trace going to the button. Each button is connected to its own unique trace on one side and ground on the other, once I got the arragement of the buttons down I scrapped off some solder mask on each one of those leads and let the tactile switch straddle over where the original button resides.
The B+A buttons are exactly the same, but the large button caps you actually use has a little plunger in the middle. Fitting the case back together I noticed that those plungers pressed down on the tactile switches. So I drilled them out just a little (about 0.042 inches) to make clearance, that way they do not rattle around but do not constantly press the tactile switch.
Finally, a mod is not a mod without a blue LED. The Advantage has two red LED's that indicate the speed of its adjustable turbo fire function. a simple swap out with some blue LED's and that is that.
Step 3: Gut the Famiclone
Now it was time to open up the busted up famiclone and see what is inside. There were 2 main boards, one contained the button pads and all the external hookups, the other contained the often generically named "Nintendo on a Chip", rom, and power supply.
Inspecting the Main PCB shows a good thing and a joke. The good thing was that the ribbon cable running between the connector board and the main board was labeled in the silk screen so I did not have to guess or trace out which wire goes where. The joke was the power regulator, just a transistor and a tiny little zener diode on its base.
I was kind of suprised that rinky dink regulator could handle the whole system, but its not going to hold the system AND an NES advantage with its LED's and turbo function. In order to get around this, I removed the power regulation parts, both of them and made up a simple little 7805 regulator circuit on some perf board. I also ran the video and audio lines to that board and added a pin header for a AV cable that I yanked out of the other famiclone.
Step 4: Time to Button Up
I ran wires to all the various points, 5 volts and ground from the new regulator, video and audio to the header, controller to mainboard and attached the video cable stolen out of the other unit.
Wiring the controller is pretty simple as the famiclone uses the same 8 bit parallel to serial shift register setup as a normal NES controller (why is beyond me but thanks), the advantage uses the same color wires as nintendo did for their controller so its just a matter of wiring clock to clock, data to data, and latch to latch.
There are two other connections to be made, one is a power switch and the other is a button to reset the unit. Reset is just wired to the mainboard with the other side of the switch connected to ground, power is just inline with the incoming power from the wall adapter. From there is a matter of drilling a couple holes for the two switches, and putting the screws back in.
To hold the PCB I used some double sided foam sticky pads, and once those things grab hold its not going to let go of that mainboard. Little dabs of hot glue tidy up the wires, and in no time I am enjoying Kung-FU
In order to make the mainboard fit inside the controller I had to remove the famicom connector. I may one day go back and wire it to the outside with ribbon cables or use a 72 pin conncector to play NES games on it. Most of the games on this thing are odd ball Asian titles, but there is quite a few standard NES titles on it as well, like SMB or Contra
For a list of games that came on this thing please see the wikipedia article
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