Difference between the NES Toploader and the NES Modded Toploader

written by Kris Caballero (March 05, 2016)

Jailbars (again).

Okay let's get it out of the way: purists rather keep a console in its original state to keep its value, its original function and its underlying history—why it turned out to be as such and why it failed/succeeded, every which way. I understand that with the NES toploader, there's a big question mark among retro gamers whether to have theirs modded, to consider back to the "gray box"/"toaster" NES model, despite rummaging through the headache-inducing blinking red light, or even considering the AV Famicom with a pin convertor which I have briefly written about. This indecision can make one go crazy, and having thought about it since 2014 myself, I continued through and sent my sweet console to undergo internal surgery.

Looking through the videos of retro gamers showing off their newly modded gems, some have the toploader modded featuring all three AV plugs externally (yellow, red and white). Very nice, but I didn't want that in sight, and so the choice I went for was the 3.5mm AV Composite mod (TRRS). This plug completely replaces the RF Out plug and removes the channel switch (shown above). With those changes, it still looked like nothing much was touched. Along with the mod came a gold cable to get me running, let alone a personal "Thank You" note, a Wario-like Mario bumper sticker, a Michael Jackson card and the courtesy of cleaning the console entirely. Awesome.

As if it was Christmas, I unboxed the package and went ahead to plug in the newly modded console. The result? Let me put it this way: 'Beautiful' got so much prettier. Here are some games I have tested. (Note: Sources were captured using a DVD recorder.)

Dr Mario (NES)

Kirby's Adventure (NES)

Mappy Land (NES)

The Legend of Zelda (NES)

Mind you, no color correction was done (not that it was possible anyway). The images you see were exactly how it came out straight from the console.

To the nit-picky pixel peepers:

The website/online shop I had this modded at notified on his store that 'jailbars' will still be partially visible (depending on the game's color schemes and/or blend of colors). However, it's faint enough where it doesn't bother you to the point of eye sore. Besides, with the improvement of the sound and the colors looking vibrant and punchy, it almost seems like the way to go. If you're still not satisfied and irritated at the subtle sight of jailbars, then modding the toploader for RGB/Component is your best bet.

Why didn't I consider RGB? Yes, it looks razor sharp and very much emulator-quality; It's beauty beyond belief that's better than Composite. There are some reasons: First, since I use a DVD recorder to record, and archive, my game footage, the DVD's MPEG2 compression defeats the purpose of showcasing the amazing quality of RGB. Second, ditching the DVD recording option means I'd have to venture into video gaming capture cards. Researching high and low about these capture cards, they're great, but it'll be a pain having to archive the footage. Third, investing in external hard drives will be a huge expense (given how much and how long I play a game). I don't remember how prepared I had to be if, say, I were to record and play an RPG; You know how long that'll take? (If you're curious to know one example, I used 33 DVDs recording my gameplay for Final Fantasy VII, not counting the time used to level up my team and all my materia. Oh man.) Fourth and not least, since this is retro gaming we're talking here, capturing above standard definition requires an upscaler which very much is another expense. Not only that, but certain cables are required for the console's output to properly sync up with the gameplay and the game's sound effects and music with the video. All this means I may as well use an emulator instead, right?

Although I may go the RGB route, or use an emulated copy of my games (it's been a long time since I played on emulation), AV Composite works for me and I'm satisfied with the results. Plus, the sound quality isn't muffled as well, making it nice and clear to the ears.

Now, yes, some folks complained of horrible mods and terrible saturation and hue from the video. My advice: shop responsibly. Read reviews, testimonials, ask the folk(s) some questions on their websites and get to better know their work. Also, see if they frequently update their website; You don't want to contact, pay and send a console to a business that has unknowingly ceased their operations. Communicate with the person/people running the shop, get notified of any upgrades and remain updated when the modding process is underway. There are good, honest ones out there; You just have to look. Find what other gamers/customers are saying, view videos and be ready to have a backup plan (if for some reason things went awry).

Other than that, it's up to you to consider an upgrade for your toploading NES system. This article showing the results of the mod is to send a screenshot demonstration to all retro all over the world from my own results. I can offer more advice and answer questions. However, I can't make the decision for you. All I want is fellow retro gamers, like you, to keep playing with the quality up to your personal satisfaction and, if I may say so myself, to keep drama away among retro gaming enthusiasts, like the sparks flown around about the development of the Coleco Chameleon (explained nicely by John "Gamester81"). Whatever you decide, make it great and enjoy. Let's play!

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