What The AV Famicom Cannot Do

written by Kris Caballero (February 27, 2016)

Jailbars.

We've come a long way when it comes to obtaining the best video, and audio, quality for our beloved retro video game systems. Reverting back, there was one flaw which we couldn't help ignore: "jailbars." Without getting too technical, "jailbars" are known for its frail, yet annoying, video interference from the console's motherboard. The very first model of Nintendo's Famicom and Nintendo's model 2 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), known in the video game circles as the "toploader," were known for having these awful "color stripes" that add unnecessary havoc to one's eyes in a high-pressured game play (especially scenes using the most gradients). Some folks out there are able to ignore it, no problem. Others refuse to have their consoles modded to preserve its natural state from whence it was marketed originally. While I'm one of those who preserve things the way they are/were, there are exceptions where it just has to be fixed. (I do have the NES toploader and is currently being modded. More talk on this when I receive it back.)

All due to respect to 'clone' consoles, which I've stopped being a fan of, getting the real hardware is the way to go. When one has learned of the idea behind avoiding the dreaded "jailbars," s/he learns about the AV Famicom. The "AV" refers to the console's feature in using composite video/audio cables, as opposed to the horrid coaxial connection. Because retro gamers fear the results of having to mod the NES toploader, they easily revert to this system instead. I don't blame them, as I own one myself, but with my usage, I'm happy to provide some things that this beautiful machine can't do. Yes I know, the AV Famicom can't help you pass your midterms/finals, help drive you to work, teleport, cure every human disease in existence and so on.AV out

Without modding this particular model as well, it cannot output S-Video. While I have mentioned that the Super Nintendo can proudly output S-Video, the AV Famicom, being 8-bit, can't output anymore beyond composite. If you're one of those hoping it would, let alone output RGB/Component, having it modded will be the option for you.

Depending on the title(s) you play, some games output true stereo, but generally it can't. It only outputs dual mono (again, this is 8-bit we're talking here). My own friends think I'm on something whenever I tell them I love the classic 'chip-tune' music. That's the best thing ever, come on now! Anyway, while there are specific titles that can output stereo, in general, it doesn't.72-to-60 pin convertor

The AV Famicom also cannot play regular US/EUR games. Those gray cartridges have a wider cartridge pin (72 pin) while the Famicom cartridges are lesser than those (60 pin). Therefore, no NES games can fit without a 72-to-60 pin convertor, available at most third-party online shops and popular auction sites. While the price of those convertors vary, the results aren't always clear among the retro community—some say it works and is a great choice if one grew tired of dealing with the "jailbars" that the NES toploader spews out, while some say it doesn't always work for them and suggest to invest in a more pricey convertor. This brings us to the fourth thing the AV Famicom can't do:

Play ALL NES games via the 72-to-60 pin convertor.

Regular NES games don't fit without a convertor

I bought one simple convertor for $10 and already it's a hit or miss....depending on the pins' insertion in the hardware. That's right: when using the 72-to-60 pin convertor, the cartridge's label must face AWAY from you before connecting it, then when popping the game in with the convertor, insert it in normally, then lift up the convertor about ¼ of an inch up. Retro diehards say it's because the convertor's pins are so short that when plugged in, must be lifted up in order for the hardware to properly contact the pins and run the game. My goodness....

Partially lifted pin convertor to have the games run normally

Then there are some who say that there are convertors that disregard the need to partially lift up the convertor in order to run the game. However, the convertors all have one thing in common, and like I said earlier: it cannot play ALL NES games.

While titles like Final Fantasy boot up normally, titles like Dragon Warrior doesn't, resulting in the "Blue Screen of....'Nothingness?'" Even with cleaning the pins of the cartridge, alas, no result. When I popped Dragon Warrior into the NES toploader, it booted and ran like normal with no trouble. There you have it: the answer I'm sure some of you have been partially wanting before taking out your wallets, sure of the path you're looking to take. I don't own the game yet, but I'm sure this also includes Castlevania III on the list that doesn't work via the 72-to-60 convertor (regardless which convertor you get out there).

"Live and Learn" as the saying goes, and some of us has to speak up in order to help our fellow video gaming soldier(s). Unless you're looking to play those big-time games mentioned previously, look back at the NES toploader (if you're also wanting to have that console modded) or the original "gray box" NES system. If not, and you're set into playing some Japanese games with it, then an inexpensive pin convertor and this system itself will do you good.

Hope you now know and may your decision be the best one for you. Now hurry, pick up the controller and start playing!

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