My Console Setup 2019


This past year saw a flurry of tweaks and replacing of consoles and switches. Since I had posted about my console setup at the start of 2018 and 2016, I figured I should continue to note the changes. Notable is the increasing presence of optical drive emulators (ODE) and field programmable gate array (FPGA) consoles. Here goes.


Core Grafx II with Super SD System 3 (SSD3)
The Core Grafx was a revised PC-Engine, which included composite video out, which was an upgrade over the original PC-Engine's RF-video output. This is a moot point, as the attached SSD3 unit outputs RGB video. For those of you who don't know what the SSD3 is, here is an overview. The gist of it is that it allows for playing CD-ROM games and Hu-card games from an SD card. This is different from an Everdrive as it allows for the playback of CD-ROMS where Everdrives only play cartridge games.


Playstation 2 with HDD and Free McBoot
The Playstation 2 generation represents one of the largest leaps in technological power that I can remember. The original Playstation, while revolutionary with its 3D rendering, left a lot to be desired in hindsight. The PS2 exceed my expectations, and made 3D games fun. The FreeMcBoot mod allows for playing games that have been downloaded onto the internal hard disk drive. Getting the games onto the hard drive is a tremendous pain, but once they are there, things run smoothly.



Sega Saturn model 1 with Rhea and Japanese "This is Cool" model 2
I have two Sega Saturns hooded up simultaneously (actually, I have 3 as one is connected via HD Retrovision cables to a Sony Trinitron elsewhere). The Rhea is an optical disc drive emulator that replaces the laser, and gets game information from an SD card. Not willing to ignore my genuine Saturn game collection, I have my translucent "This is Cool" model 2 hooked up alongside it. 95% of my Saturn library are Japanese imports, so I felt a Japanese console was fitting. This seem a bit irrational, but what can you do. I have an action replay cart to bypass region locking, but Japanese startup screen is so much cooler.


Analogue Mega SG
Made by Analogue, known for its near-flawless implementation of FPGA technology to simulate retro hardware, the Mega SG is a dream come true for hardcore Sega Genesis fans. There have been droves of Genesis clones to date, but this is the right way to do it. The crystal clear pixel generation makes the Genesis pop off the screen, and the sound emulation is the closest that ever been produced. Since there is no emulation layer, flashcarts like the Everdrive are compatible.  It is even compatible with the Sega CD via the expansion slot. Unfortunately, the 32X is not compatible as it requires mixing of the analog graphics from the Genesis, and this being an all digital unit does not allow for it. I wasn't a huge fan of the 32X library, so I'm not as irked as others. I do have a Sega CD model 2, but I don't have it hooked up as I don't think it is worth the space, and the when attached, the overall appearance is wonky and misshapen. Recently there was an unofficial jailbreak firmware released, which allows for playing games directly from an SD card, forgoing the need for an Everdrive.


CBox Consolized Neo Geo MVS
The CBox is one of several methods to play actual Neo Geo hardware at home. It contains an actual Mulit Video System (MVS) board that is found in the Neo Geo arcade cabinets. Since the arcade cabinets played MVS cartridges, so can I. Some added features are multiple video options (RGB, S-video, and component), the Universe Bios preinstalled, and Sega Saturn controller compatibility. Collecting Neo Geo carts is not something to take lightly, but the 161 game multicart eases that need.


Sega Dreamcast with GDEMU
Like the Rhea for Saturn, the GDEMU is an optical disc drive emulator that plays games from an SD card. Even though the Dreamcast can play burned game discs with no fuss, the disc laser assembly and motor are prone to breaking down. A solid state option like GDEMU forgoes moving parts, and extends the life of the console in addition to the providing the convenience of SD card rom loading.


Playstation with PSIO
The PSIO is another rom loading solution, but this one communicates through the rear parallel port, and does not replace the optical drive. This means original disc games can be still be played. This is a fantastic mod in that regard.


Gamecube
This gamecube doesn't have anything too special going on, other than the attached Gameboy Player adapter and genuine Nintendo component cables. I am considering selling the cables (which are fairly rare and valuable) and switching to one of the newer HDMI solutions. I don't play it all that much to be honest.


PC-Engine Duo component modded
The PC-Engine Duo was the combined unit of the Super CD Rom drive and PC-Engine. Originally, these units would have to be purchased separately, and joined by an interface unit (shaped like a briefcase), and required various system cards. The Duo unit foregoes the need for those extras, and plays everything (except the arcade card games) without a fuss. I went with the Japanese Duo over the American Turbo Duo since the Japanese library had more games released. The component mod was very necessary as the video output was composite by default. In hindsight, I should have opted for RGB as that would reduce the number of types of video connections I have goin on under my TV.


RetroUSB AVS
The Advanced Video System is named as an homage to the original proposed name of the Nintendo Entertainment System prior to its American launch back in the 80's. It is an FPGA clone console, outputting 720p visuals with stunning clarity. There are slots for both American carts and Japanese Famicom carts, so a 60 to 72 pin converter cart is not necessary to play imports. Everdrives are compatible as well, which is no surprise given that it is FPGA. It has four controller ports, for immediate four-player parties with compatible games. It is compatible with the the Famicom Disk System through an expansion port, for those who are interested.


Analogue Super NT
This is the FPGA Super Nintendo clone console. Just as Analogue's Mega SG nailed the Genesis nuances, the Super NT conquered the Super Nintendo's quirks: compatibility with special chip carts, to be specific. Everdrives are compatible, to no surprise. An unofficial firmware jailbreaks was released for this console as well, allowing for SD card game loading.

Playstation 3
It's probably my least played console that is hooked up. Its Ok, but the game library doesn't do much for me. Most of my games are collections of PS2 games remastered in HD. I do like that it is region free.

Playstation 4
I like the PS4 library better than that of the PS3, due to the increased number of indie and retro-aesthetics.

Switch
Like the PS4, retro game collections are the bulk of my small collection. I take it on trips to play in hotels and whatnot, but otherwise it is docked at home.

Raspberry Pi
Mine is housed in a RetroFlag Sega Genesis case, with safe shutdown mod. It is a little redundant I know, but currently it is the only way I can play arcade games on my TV.

Connectivity
My consoles are connected in the following manner:

Core Grafx w/ SSD3 --> GScartsw --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
Sega Saturn w/ Rhea --> GScartsw --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
Sega Saturn (Japanese) --> GScartsw --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
Playstation 2 --> GScartsw --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
Playstation w/PSIO --> GScartsw --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
Gamecube --> component switch --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
PC Engine Duo --> component switch --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
CBox Consolized MVS --> component switch --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
Dreamcast w/ GDEMU --> VGA cord --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
Mega SG --> HDMI switch --> TV
Super NT --> HDMI switch --> TV
AVS --> HDMI switch --> TV
PS4 --> HDMI switch --> TV
PS3 --> HDMI switch --> TV
Switch --> HDMI switch --> TV
Raspberry Pi --> HDMI switch --> TV

Means of connectivity:
GScartsw automatic 8 port RGB scart switcher

Impact Acoustics powered component switcher

Open Source Scan Converter

Monoprice 8port enhanced HDMI switcher

Even with all of these updated consoles, I still have my originals stowed away, not ready to abandon them. There may be a day when I want to hook up the originals again. From a game collection standpoint, I have started to focus the collection on only quality games that I truly want and/or know I will play. I kept a few stinkers if there was strong nostalgia for them, but for the most part the filler has been moving out, sold on eBay to finance the hardware changes. I have had an easier time letting go of the extra games since Everdrives and ODE devices have been acquired.

So that's what I currently have hooked up. How about you? Do you opt to have multiples of the same system connected? Are there consoles that you don't feel that you need to have connected? I'm always interested in seeing what other peoples' setups look like.






The CBOX Neo Geo Consolized MVS



The Neo Geo MVS (Multi Video System) was an arcade system developed by SNK. It was dubbed a 24-bit system, although the exact categorization of its architecture is not that simple. Regardless, its games were on par with or better than current arcade offerings at the time, and most definitely more advanced than any home console offering.
The Neo Geo MVS arcade system was hard to miss, due to its bright red cabinet

It had multiple games to choose from, thanks to its multiple internal cartridge slots. A single arcade cabinet could house up to six games for a player to chose from. When games were no longer making money, newer games could be easily swapped out at a fraction of the cost when compared to replacing an entire arcade cabinet. This versatility made it popular with arcade owners, and so arcades everywhere had the big red MVS cabinets.

An MVS 4-slot motherboard photo credit:http://pinballmd.com

SNK eventually released a home console version, called the Advanced Entertainment System (AES), which was essentially the same hardware as the MVS, with a single cartridge slot. The system cost around $700 at the time and games were about $200 each!
The Neo Geo AES home console
photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Neo-Geo-AES-FL.png

Even though the console and arcade hardware were the same, the game cartridges for the home system and the arcade system were not directly compatible due to different pinouts. The MVS arcade cartridges are cheaper, as there were more of them produced than the AES home versions.

Growing up, I only knew one kid with a Neo Geo. Its price point limited the audience, which was a business decision. SNK gambled on their premier home console being so advanced and captivating, that it would attract the attention of hardcore gamers. They were mostly right, as the home console had games released until 1997, and the arcade had games being released for it up until 2004.

The Neo Geo games library was focused on 2D action games, and not capable of 3D graphics. Still, it occupied a niche market with a love of 2D sprites, and had a cult following to this day.

It never occurred to me that owning a Neo Geo system was possible. It was just as absurd as wishing for a Lamborghini; there was just no way it was going to happen. Even years after its heyday, Neo Geo systems with hookups and a controller command upwards of $400 on the secondary market. That's not even taking into account the cost of the actual games. I resigned to accept the fact that only way I would play Neo Geo games was through emulation. Metal Slug is one of my favorite games, and it is a staple of game night when friends come over. Playing on it on RetroPie is fine, I guess.


My favorite Neo Geo game

One day I was watching a YouTube channel called RetroCore. Its a fantastic channel with deep dives into hardware and game reviews. The CBox MVS system was reviewed, and I was captivated. Apparently, there was a company in China that was harvesting the motherboards from old MVS arcade cabinets, and making home consoles from them. The production was fairly well designed, with a decent attention to quality. Mark Smith from RetroCore gave it a favorable review, and my interest was piqued. The price point is spot on, with these units costing roughly $175, not including shipping. This may not seem cheap, but this is a Neo Geo we are talking about.

See the Sega Saturn controller ports?

What really attracted me to this specific console was the controller compatibility. These units are compatible with the almighty Sega Saturn controller! I am a huge fan of the Saturn pad, and this is a revelation. I don't have issues with the original Neo Geo arcade stick, but when given a choice, there's no contest. This was shaping up to be an awesome console.

There is a multicart that is widely available for the MVS, and it can even be ordered along with it in the same order, which is the route I went. It contains 161 games, but many of those are hacked versions of the games, so in reality there are about 94 games on it. That's not bad, considering it costs about $75 for the multi cart, and it sure beats taking out a second mortgage to start collecting actual games.

The console has the Neo Geo universe bios installed, meaning extra game playing options, settings, and cheats are preinstalled. Installing this yourself would require some precision soldering, which not everyone is comfortable doing.

So I decided to liquidate a bunch or unneeded peripherals, controllers, and unwanted games through eBay. I made enough to more than cover the cost of the consolized MVS and multicart. I ordered it from aliexpress. Shipping from China is a bummer, as expected. There was a $2 difference between their standard shipping and premium shipping, so I figured why not? The estimated time for delivery was 10-15 days. I got mine in 6 days! They sent it via DHL, which is odd, since I didn't pay for the DHL delivery, so maybe they messed up?


There are three video output options: S-video, RGBs, and component. I hooked it up via component, as I don't have an MVS RGB cable at the moment. It is run through a switcher, and into the OSSC line doubler. The picture quality is everything that I hoped it would be. I applied scanlines, and playing these games on original hardware with no lag using Saturn controllers is absolute bliss.

Now, I'm totally new to the Neo Geo, and I'm sure there are hardcore fans of the system that my not be fans of this console, and that's fine. For people like me who are just happy to be able to finally have a cost effective solution and be able to play original hardware, using a Saturn controller, this is a perfect solution. Maybe more people would like to know that this exists. I highly recommend it!