At Value Village the other day, my boyfriend and I were disappointed to find a whole bunch of extremely overpriced consoles in the glass case. $99 for an NES? $99 for a Wii with some virtual console games on it? Give me a break! We thankfully still have our beloved childhood consoles and have been able to find most of our recent console purchases at a fair price. It’s pretty bad when a second hand store is priced higher than pawn and hock shops. We couldn’t help but shake our heads on the way to the electronics area of the store. There, we found a few untested retro consoles with no cords or controllers. There was a Model 1 Sega Genesis with a questionably functional on/off switch, several PS1 consoles that looked like they had been stored in a pile of mud, and a GameCube that looked to be in top shape (we have four of them now, so I passed.) On a nearby shelf, my boyfriend spotted an original Xbox that seemed to be in reasonably good condition. He had been looking for one for the purpose of learning how to perform softmods. For $5 untested, it was a reasonable gamble to take.
We stopped off at a hock shop on the way home to pick up a controller and AV cord (the Xbox power cord is shared with other console types that we already had so we didn’t need to buy a separate one for this.) When we got home, we fired up the console and it seemed to work just fine. The first problem arose when we went to open up the disc tray. It was stuck! It didn’t make any angry grinding noises, but it did click a lot and wouldn’t open up at all. My boyfriend showed me that under almost every disc tray door that there is a slot that you can stick a straight piece of metal into (think open paperclip, open bobby pin) to override the door’s locking mechanism. If your mind is as blown as mine was, see below for the slot’s location! This exists on computers and most disc-taking electronics, so if you’re ever in a literal jam, now you know what to do!
To softmod the system, there are several different tactics that can be implemented. My boyfriend decided to go with a hot swap of hard drives. He had an extra one hanging around the house, and other methods would’ve required purchasing specific games or USB sticks to facilitate the mod. The hardest part is “unlocking” the Xbox’s hard drive. It’s locked to prevent piracy and other nefarious activities. Unlocking can be done in a number of ways, but my boyfriend had the best luck by forcing the system into Error 12, which involves disconnecting the disc drive from the main system. After following some very detailed walkthroughs online, he was able to install the most recent version of CoinOps onto the machine. This version of CoinOps emulates over 4000 games across many different retro consoles! What a treat to behold such majesty! Here’s a shot of our professional video monitor displaying the CoinOps interface:
Truthfully, I think I’m addicted to playing the arcade version of Super Burger Time. That music is so… whimsical? I think that’s the best word I can muster to capture all my feelings about it. There’s also something very satisfying in salting/peppering evil sentient foods to death. We also played a round of Neo Turf Masters, a golf game that for me is reminiscent of a DOS game I played endlessly in my youth called World Class Leaderboard. Neo Turf Masters is far more modernized with a very overt “narrator” and the best elevator music you’ll ever hear, but I do miss the simplicity of the DOS game.
The most convenient thing for me is the fact that this version of CoinOps comes with many of the SNES RPGs that I want to eventually pick up (Ys III, Soul Blazer, Breath of Fire II, E.V.O., etc.) Now I can have a little preview of how the gameplay feels before sinking money and time into tracking down and getting to these games. My want-list is getting smaller and smaller and some of the games are pretty expensive. Having a controller-in-hand experience is becoming more and more of a priority to me before purchasing. I don’t think I’d ever emulate an entire RPG using CoinOps, though. I will always prefer legitimate copies of games on their original hardware, no matter how cheap of an option emulation is. For playing arcade games though, that’s another story altogether. I don’t imagine I’ll ever own a property large enough to have a proper arcade room with original machines, or be able to afford them!
I am glad to be learning so much about how things work inside of games and consoles. In such a wasteful society, it’s nice to be able to rescue things that aren’t working properly and fix them up again rather than see them sit in a dump forever. Most hardware from the early days of gaming was certainly built to last, and with a little love and effort, their functionality can be maintained. Maybe electronic repair is my second calling, hmmm? I seriously doubt it. I will always mostly be a passive observer in awe of the people in my life that can breathe new life into things that have seemingly expired.
Happy hump day! I hope the week is running smoothly and happily for everyone.
Thanks for reading!