Confirming if this is a pirate PCB or not...

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Ziggy587
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Confirming if this is a pirate PCB or not...

Post by Ziggy587 » Sun Nov 22, 2020 8:42 am

So I bought this Captain Commando SFC game about 10-15 years ago. It included the cart, manual and box. Nothing about the sale seemed suspect. I tested the game back when I got it and everything seemed fine. This wasn't a pricey game back then, I think I paid $20 or $25 for it and I remember that being a typical price for CIB (it has since gone up a bit). I haven't played the game since then.

I pulled it out to play recently and was getting garbled graphics, so I opened the cart to clean the pins and this is what I found...

Image

I'm 99% sure this is a pirate PCB, but I couldn't find a pic of a legit PCB to confirm. The CIC doesn't have a Nintendo copyright on it. The cart edge might not be hard gold. SNES Central has a pic of the PAL and NTSC-U PCBs, but not the SFC PCB. I'm sure the SFC PCB wouldn't be any different, but I figured I'd check.

The weird thing is that the box, manual and cart shell all appear to be legit. So if this is indeed a pirate PCB, then a previous owner must have swapped the pirate PCB with a legit copy of the game. But why do that? This wasn't an expensive game back when I bought it. So that's the only reason I have any doubt.

I thought my Contra Famicom cart was a knock off when I first opened it because it was all glop tops and very much resembles a pirate PCB, but it turned out to be legit. And I know the first revision of the Star Fox PCB is all glop tops. But the Star Fox cart still has "Nintendo" and "CIC" etched on the board, my Captain Commando board doesn't. This clearly wasn't manufactured by Nintendo. I know Nintendo let third parties manufacture their own Famicom carts, but they didn't allow that for the NES. If Capcom manufactured the PCB, that would explain why it doesn't have "Nintendo" etched into it. But I don't believe Nintendo allowed third parties to manufacture their own carts for the SFC, correct? If that is correct, then this must be a pirate PCB. I'm just perplexed why someone would have switched it with a legit cart.

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Fisher
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Re: Confirming if this is a pirate PCB or not...

Post by Fisher » Sun Nov 22, 2020 12:52 pm

I think you're right, this game is surelly pirate.
It uses an ST CIC clone, pretty common back on the day.
SNES central has some PCB scans and information, this one can be found here.

You can also take a look on the back of the shell.
Legit Super Famicom games only have 2 "shallow" holes on the back that won't fit on an US SNES, while pirates have bigger holes that do.

Good quality printed material were pretty common back on the day too, wich made pretty difficult to spot some pirates.

lidnariq
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Re: Confirming if this is a pirate PCB or not...

Post by lidnariq » Sun Nov 22, 2020 2:08 pm

No-Intro records that the authentic Japanese release of Captain Commando was (possibly among others) on a SHVC-1J0N-20 board with a mask ROM labeled SHVC-QM-0.

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Ziggy587
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Re: Confirming if this is a pirate PCB or not...

Post by Ziggy587 » Sun Nov 22, 2020 5:17 pm

Ah, perfect, thanks. I didn't realize that No-Intro records the model number of hardware like that.

I suppose the box and manual could be really good quality knock offs, it's hard to say without a side by side comparison of the real thing. But even the plastic tray box insert is dead-on, I didn't realize there were pirate carts that had this good of detail. The cart shell seems dead-on, and it doesn't have the universal holes for the NTSC-U SNES. The front label looks good, again without anything to compare it against. But on closer inspection of the back label, I'm surprised I didn't notice this before, but it's applied off-center and the stamped digits aren't actually stamped. The digits are there, but only printed on the label as if scanned from the original.

OK, it's definitely a pirate cart, I guess I was just in denial lol. Thanks for the help.

I might replace the PCB and just keep it as a conversation piece. Like I said, I don't think those are hard gold fingers. I tried cleaning them really good but I'm still getting garbled graphics. I'm not sure if it's because of the cart edge or perhaps bit rot. Are glop tops more like mask ROMs? I noticed that the PCB has a couple of unpopulated decoupling caps, so I thought I might throw one on and see if that helps, but I don't think that's the problem since it was working fine back when I first got it. Anyway, /rant.

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Fisher
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Re: Confirming if this is a pirate PCB or not...

Post by Fisher » Mon Nov 23, 2020 9:47 am

You can try to use the diode test function of a multimeter to find some problems with the ROM, as explained here by Tiido.

Personally, I've never had luck trying to fix these epoxy blobs games, but other than the resistor I've been told that sometimes the game starts working again if heated, but be warned that too much heat will kill the epoxy blob.

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Ziggy587
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Re: Confirming if this is a pirate PCB or not...

Post by Ziggy587 » Tue Nov 24, 2020 2:41 pm

Thanks for the tip, I didn't realize that. I guess I have nothing to loose if I destroy it with heat.

Annoying, this game is 16 Mb HiROM. The only HiROM boards for sale that I know of use 16-bit memory and SRAM. Does anyone make/sell a simple HiROM board?

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Re: Confirming if this is a pirate PCB or not...

Post by lidnariq » Tue Nov 24, 2020 3:22 pm

I don't think anyone has manufactured 2MiB ROMs that are 8-bit only for quite a while...

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Ziggy587
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Re: Confirming if this is a pirate PCB or not...

Post by Ziggy587 » Tue Nov 24, 2020 5:13 pm

I meant that the annoying part is the board, not the ROM. I don't mind using old/used EPROMs in this case, it's going to be better than this wonky pirate board that I have now. It doesn't look like it was hard gold and I think the fingers oxidized in a way that no amount of cleaning is going to bring them back. No matter if the glop top is good or bad, I think this board will always be unreliable at this point.

Those 29F032/29F016 flash chips were perfect, but the SNES repro scene has hunted them to almost extinction! You can still find them, but they're just too expensive now in my opinion. Especially the prices on used ones, they're way too much money for the risk.

There's quite a few boards available for sale that are designed to use 27C160/27C322 but require the extra logic chips to convert the 16-bit bus to 8-bits, and they are full size boards that accommodate SRAM. I know I can use those boards without the SRAM, but it just seems like a waste to me to use the larger board and the extra logic when the 27C160 can be used in 8-bit mode.

But I forgot about the Muramasa boards. This one seems perfect: https://www.muramasaentertainment.com/p ... dip42-2mb/

Are there any other boards like this one out there?

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