Should We Modify Retro Games Consoles? & Some Options

It’s the age-old question: to mod, or not to mod? We have fond memories of retro consoles. They brought us joy, after all. For younger people, they might be the stuff of legend. But they are not without their faults. Cost-cutting measures, technological limitations, poorly thought-out “features”, the list goes on. So, what to do when you have a retro console? Do you keep it stock? Or do you add some modern-day amenities? When is it sacrilege, and when is it a necessity? Should we modify retro games consoles? Let’s discuss, and examine some options as well.

Saving Them From Themselves

As much as we love retro consoles, we need to admit that technology has moved a long, long way. The entertainment industry itself has evolved. The way we think about entertainment has evolved. Today’s best uk online casino will feature the kind of entertainment we could only dream of a decade ago. And it’s the same with games consoles. In my opinion, there are mods one needs to do, not to “enhance” a retro console or PC, but to ensure their longevity.

One of the main culprits around these parts are electrolytic capacitors, and RTC or CMOS batteries. Both are promiment on this list for the same reason: they leak. And when they leak, they corrode. And that corrosion can eat away into a mainboard and totally destroy a console or computer, sometimes beyond repair. Notorious among these, for example, is SEGA’s Game Gear. Swapping out the old electrolytic capacitors will ensure console longevity, but will also likely solve some of the issues present when the caps go bad: fuzzy video, and crackly audio. This is something shared among a lot of retro equipment, and it is generally agreed that rather than being sacrilege, it’s best practice and will help extend the lifespan of the console. But not every mod is the created equal.

Resto-modding: Taking it One Step Further

Resto-modding means restoring something while adding mods that enhance its natural properties. For example, when talking about a car, resto-modding will usually keep most of the aesthetics, but add mod-cons like air conditioning and hydraulic-assisted steering. The same applies to games consoles. In the world of handhelds, resto-modding usually means adding a better screen which uses modern technology. Old LCD panels are ghastly in comparison to the LCD and IPS display panels we have nowadays. This is a common, usually non-intrusive and reversible mod which can enhance the user experience tremendously, while still retaining most of the characteristics of the console intact. Other resto-modding options include: adding rechargable batteries, re-shelling, replacing plastic screen lenses with glass lenses, and so on.

In the world of home consoles and retro computers, resto-modding often starts with the video output. It’s very hard to get a TV set that works with old RF signals, and the RF signal is flawed to begin with. So, mods which create a composite video out are usually the first stop to getting these old timers to work on newer TVs. Not only does it make them more enjoyable, it’s better for content creation. It’s much easier to find a capture device compatible with composite video or HDMI, than RF. And RF, like I said, is crap. Other common resto-mods include removing region locking (with a chip or physical mods), adding homebrew support (via hardware or software), and power supply upgrades. The list is endless, though. Almost literally.

Heavy Mods: The Final Frontier

Allow me to go back to my “evolution of entertainment” analogy from a few lines back. Say you like playing poker with your friends at home on Friday night. You like the challenge, but it’s all fairly friendly and approachable. That’s what the aforementioned mods are like: zen. Heavy mods are like going to a real money online casino: the concepts are the same, but the stakes are higher. But so is the payoff.

Heavy mods include processor swapping, repurposing, and gutting. Most collectors and enthusiasts agree that this type of mod should only be used on equipment that is impossible to restore to its original state. So, no new old stock should be considered. One of my favorite examples of heavy modding is the one seen above by Elliot from The Retro Future, who has a table-top Game Boy setup in order to record footage from original hardware. That’s awesome. But he wouldn’t have done it with a mint example. So, you always have to be mindful of heritage when taking these aggresive, usually non-reversible mods.

Should We Modify Retro Games Consoles? It Depends

At the end of the day, your stuff is yours. We can’t tell you what to do with it. But hopefully we’ve been able to provide you with enough information to make a decision which will best serve your gear. As a personal mantra, I only do repair mods to my consoles. But that might change: someday, I hope to build a really nice, upgraded and modernized Neo-Geo Pocket Color.

But that’ll be all for me today. I hope you enjoyed the article, and let us know what you think: should we modify retro games consoles? Or should we just leave them alone and appreciate their legacy?

About Marcos Codas 250 Articles
Lover of portable gaming and horror cinema. Indie filmmaker and game developer. Multimedia producer. Born in Paraguay, raised in Canada. Huge fan of "The Blair Witch Project", and "Sonic 3D Blast". Deputy head at Vita Player and its parent organization, Infinite Frontiers. Like what I do? Donate a coffee: https://www.paypal.me/marcoscodas

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