Playing titles outside of your region is an enticing prospect for retro gamers. And with the extensive library of titles never released outside of Japan, who can blame them? Gaming companies have always tried to be one step ahead of these types of gamers, adding many different security checks to make sure players only enjoy games from their region.
Nintendo and the SNES was no exception to this. Not only did SNES titles feature regional lockout on the software side, but the hardware was also somewhat different. They were not different enough to be completely unplayable, but there was some difficulty, which we will get to later.
The internal boards of the SNES from every region are essentially the same. This means, with the right tools, you can play Super Famicom titles on your SNES. Many gamers who owned an original SNES knew that the cartridges were basically a small brick. This was not the case in Japan as they had smaller and slimmer cartridges with rounded edges. Here, we will outline a few methods to modify and play Japanese titles on your SNES.
Getting Around the Software
While the cartridges were different in these regions to deter imported games, Nintendo knew that sneaky gamers would get around this. So, Nintendo installed what was known as the CIC chip in their consoles that would authenticate the region of the game with the console. If the regions were different, the game would not play.
Luckily, thanks to a few retro hackers, there were ways to bypass the CIC chip even back in the ’90s. Many are probably familiar with the Game Genie, which was the go-to cheat device back in the day. This device allowed what is called “passthrough mode”, which enabled the console to work without proper CIC authentication. The T-Connector is a similar device that spoofs the CIC authentication to other regions.
Now that we’ve covered how to bypass the software checks, there are some hardware hurdles we have to jump before you can get your Super Famicom games working on your SNES. Due to the differing size between the Japanese cartridges/console and the North American SNES, they are not technically compatible, as stated above. There are a couple of methods to bypass this simple hardware restriction, however.
The first is pretty simple. There are a few key differences in the SNES that restrict the Super Famicom cartridges from being entered into the console. The first of which are two plastic pieces that SNES cartridges have room for, but Japanese cartridges do not. These are easily filed off of the console with a simple file and a few screwdrivers that will open the console up for you. Here is a detailed guide that provides pictures and a more in-depth look into the process.
The second will cost you some money, but will be an easy fix. These are just simple cartridge adapters. The Game Genie and T-Connector function as these, but some others do not provide the cheating support that these have.
Lastly, you can play Super Famicom and other imported cartridges with ease on a remake console. These will also cost you some money, but have excellent reviews and work perfectly with out-of-region titles. The RetroN 5 is a perfect example of this. Since this console does not contain a CIC chip, there is no software locking, and the cartridge slot is big enough to fit both SNES and Super Famicom cartridges.
Whichever method you choose, know that there are some Japanese or European exclusive titles that are worth the hassle. Playing them on original or updated hardware definitely adds to the experience, making you feel like a gamer back in the ’90s. None of these methods are terribly difficult, no matter your skill level.