I unlocked my NES Mini

If you’re interested in old videogames, you probably already know that some clever chaps have worked out how to add new games to the NES mini.

Now, generally I’m quite a cautious sort, so when it comes to unauthorised 3rd party hacks that can brick your hardware, I tend to stay clear until the dust had settled. Fortunately, the news seem to have spread like wild fire, and by Sunday morning dozens of people had already successfully added new games to their minis.

Indeed, the internet community being what it is, a Russian chap who goes by the handle of Cluster had already created a kit for automatically adding your own games to the system, dubbed Hakchi2.

With those successes in the bank, i thought “what the heck!” and decided to do it myself. You can find more detailed instructions elsewhere, but effectively all you have to do is plug the NES mini into your computer via the USB power socket and then push the power button while holding reset.

Once switched on, you then need to do a couple of bits with Hakchi to load drivers and select your games, but then you can reflash the chip inside and end up with a game selection that is, well, a bit wider:



Alas, Rad Racer 2 doesn’t work:


So that covers how you add more games, but should you? Well, putting aside the morality of roms (that’s between you, your game collection and your conscience )there are definitely some notable cons to counterbalance the plus of having a larger games selection:



1. The emulator software is surprisingly wonky.

When you consider how simplistic the original NES hardware was, and just how many quality emulators are already on the market, the software included in the mini is surprisingly ropey. There are a number of big name titles that, even when added, fail to work properly. Battletoads, for example, will crash at the end of stage two, while the graphics in Mach Riders and Rad Racer are corrupted beyond being realistically playable. The obvious counter argument to this is that the hardware is configured only for the 60 titles used on the NES/Famicom minis, but it still seems remarkably slapdash considering the quality of the software already available for free.



2.The Hardware is not setup for more than 30 games.

The original board on which the NES mini is based almost certainly has the capability to hold a both a decent NES emulator AND every NES game ever produced, but as it’s shipped to you from Nintendo it is only setup to hold the 30 preinstalled titles plus four save states for each game. This means that, for every game you add, you lose the space you need for your save states. Any number of games higher than 30 and you’ll be restricted to 3 saves per game. Take this above 65 and that comes down to less than one save per game.

On top of that, you lose the nicety of the presentation as well, as having more than 40 games will mean the thumbnail bar at the bottom of the interface is wider than the output of the screen.



Consequently, if you add more games, you are going well beyond what Nintendo intended. If you were holding out hopes for the big N offering some sort of expansion for it in the future, the backend configuration of the system definitely scotches this.

It’s worth noting, however, that with the Hakchi software, you can reset your mini at any time, and I personally think that these cons don’t outweigh the pros of the expanded game library (who needs save states for most 8-bit games anyway?) As someone who never owned a NES to begin with, I’m looking forward to sampling a wider selection of what it could do. Why did no one tell me there was a game where you control a disembodied zombie samurai head?

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