SNES (Tag: snes)

Finding a donor cartridge

To create a reproduction game we will need to do something a lot of collectors hate the people doing reproductions for.
We need to take a genuine working game and 'destroy' it to place the game of our choice.
I personally don't have a real problem with it, I see it as replacing a lesser game with a better one.

The first step in finding a donor cartridge for the game you want to make is to study the new game.
Grab a rom file (I pick them from a GoodSNES set and use the good dumps, with an asterix behind it) and get the info from the game with a tool.
You can use SNES9x and choose "ROM Information" from the file menu, or use a tool like ucon64 (with frontend).

The info consists of these crucial parts:

  • ROM size
  • HiROM or LoROM
  • Save memory size and battery (either both or none)
  • Special Chips (Super FX, SA-1, SDD-1, etc)

Everything above has to be checked when selecting a donor for the new game.
All of these properties also come together in what is known as a PCB-ID, the code printed in gold letters on the print of a SNES game like SHVC-1A3M-30.

Components of the PCB-ID
The components of the PCB-ID have the following meaning:

SHVC: Default prefix, there are others but this first part of the PCB-ID can be ignored.
1A3M: The only relevant part of the PCB-ID, read on below about this component identifier.
30: This is the PCB revision number, irrelevant for selecting a donor.

Each character in the middle part explains about what components are on the pcb.

First digit:
The number of ROM chips that are on the pcb. Usually 1 or 2 (sometimes the letter B is used instead of the number 2).
Only thing you cannot see here that does matter is the number of pins of the ROM chip(s).
When there are 32 pins it is 8 MBit max, 36 pins allows up to 32 Mbit in size but that also depends on the decoder chip in the fourth digit.

Second digit:
This is the indicator for LoROM or HiROM, HiROM = J and LoROM = A.

Third digit:
Memory (SRAM) size of the pcb.
0 = No SRAM
1 = 16KBit / 2KB
3 = 64KBit / 8KB
5 = 256Kbit / 32KB

Fourth digit:
The decoder chip used.
B = '139 decoder supporting up to 16 MBit (if there are 36 pins for the ROM)
M = MAD-1 decoder supporting up to 32 MBit
N = No decoder (so 8 MBit ROM is the limit)

As you can see it takes the first and the fourth digit to see if your new game will fit on the pcb or not.
When the third digit indicates anything but 0 there is always a battery on the pcb.

When you've figured out what the PCB-ID(s) can be for the donor game you can for example look up what game uses what pcb using snescentral:
You're not guaranteed to get the pcb you want because some games had different pcb's in their lifecycle.

I hope this guide is useful for if you're looking for a donor cartridge.
For any questions you can always contact me.

Thanks alot to, among others, qwertymodo from the nesdev forums.

By Stefan Nicodem

Personal reproduction games list

For my own personal collection of SNES games I created a few reproductions of games never released in the PAL region.

I have only listed completed games here, so these are tested and working on an original PAL SNES console.
Every game has English on-screen text.

  • Seiken Densetsu 2 (Secret of Mana 2)
  • Chrono Trigger
  • Tales of Phantasia
  • Star Ocean
  • The Legend of Zelda: Parallel Worlds Remodel
  • The Legend of Zelda: Goddess of Wisdom
  • E.V.O. Search for Eden
  • Der Langrisser
  • Ogre Battle
  • Tactics Ogre
  • Lufia and the Fortress of Doom
  • Final Fantasy 4
  • Final Fantasy 5
  • Final Fantasy 6
  • Bahamut Lagoon
  • Kirby's Dream Land 3
  • Super Mario RPG
  • Shin Megami Tensei II
  • Marvelous
  • Star Fox 2
When I complete a game I will add it to this list.
As I said in my previous post, when you're interested let me know.
By Stefan Nicodem

The beginning

Somewhere in august 2013, when I connected and played on the SNES again after quite some time, I stumbled upon some great games that never existed for the PAL SNES: Secret of Mana 2 (Seiken Densetsu 3) and Earthbound.
While those where both expensive I bought them and kept wondering how those game could be made for my PAL SNES even though the games where never released in Europe.

My curiosity got the best of me and even before I received the games I ordered a SNES bit set to open the SNES console and SNES cartridges.
When the games arrived and indeed played fine on my original unmodified SNES console I couldn't resist opening them up.

That was the start of a still ongoing learning experience: can I just buy a chip with a random rom on it and solder it to the cartridge PCB? How do you bypass the NTSC security chip (CIC)? What does HiROM or LoROM mean? What's with the roms with or without headers?

Meanwhile I have the answer to all questions above and some more. Thanks to the great information sources on the web I have become quite skillful at replacing the 'donor' maskrom and adding any game you could want on it.

If you're interested in creating a reproduction yourself or if you want me to make you a reproduction just let me know.
By Stefan Nicodem