The “SNES BOX GO” A World First…and for good reason…

Posted: 03/14/2021 in Uncategorized

There’s always a story behind every project ever completed, and although this one started nearly 2 and a half years ago, I don’t feel that the most relevant side of this project was ever told. This was partially my fault with the original video I made to showcase it, as it really didn’t go into detail at all about what this actually was, why it was (self-proclaimed) the first one in the world and why there are likely to be no more ever made.

Original Video from 2019

So revisiting this after a couple years and having brushed up on my video making skills on the whole, I decided it was time to make the story of this project a bit more relevant.

I realize that many might not understand fully what this is if they’re unfamiliar with gaming consoles in general. But originally, this was a TV based system from the early/mid 1990’s. A system that was required to be plugged into a wall and a TV to actually be played. And the concept of making these old TV based consoles into mobile units is a hobby called “Portablizing” which has been around since the mid 2000’s.

I’ve been part of this online community since 2009 and it has single handedly been the biggest technical influence in my life, teaching me skills ranging from soldering to 3D printing as well as taking me places all over the country for meet-ups and project collaboration.

So when the idea came to me to build this portable unit, I went into it slightly wondering why no one (to my knowledge) had done one before. And I don’t mean simply making a Super Nintendo into a portable version, that had been done loads of times, but why no one had done it in the method I planned on. But…it didn’t take very long to see why I was going down a path that really need not be traveled.

A Flash Cart (like the one pictured above) is a relatively new concept to come about in the past 10 years or so. And its original purpose was to let people use their original console hardware to play any game ROM that was loaded on an SD card. Basically a “One Cartridge To Rule Them All” kind of deal where one would no longer have to get up and put in a new game, they could simply exit to a menu and select another game from there and have their whole collection in one place digitally.

I know this sounds a lot like an Emulator, which if you don’t know is the act of playing a game ROM on a different system, usually a PC or SBC (Single Board Computer) like a Raspberry Pi. This kind of Emulation technology has been around for over 20 years now, but it certainly has its issues when it comes to compatibility and performance with systems post SNES.

This is why Flash Carts are so beneficial because they do not Emulate anything. The games are being dumped just as they would on an original cartridge on original hardware. And for a majority of the portablizing community, there is no replacement for the original.

But…it’s not to say that sentiment should be above the call of reason. And while the Flash Cart suits its purpose as originally intended, making it portable had no logical ground to stand on in comparison to the Emulation alternatives available. So this is kind of the “line” if you will, where Emulation would start to fail and the generation of Flash Carts “after” the SNES makes a whole lot more sense.

Since we’re already on the wrong side of the line here, I just want to touch on the points the new video has made about why this system is probably the only one out there.

#3 – Cost Prohibitive and Complex to Build – This was not a cheap project to take on and truth be told, I probably would not have done it either if the SD2SNES had not been given to me as part of a sponsorship. It’s price tag alone would be enough to justify going the emulation route and that was only about a 3rd of the cost.

#2 – Commercial Options of Portable SNES Already Available – Though they many be of cheaper quality and may not have 100% compatibility, systems like the Supaboy did provide affordable options for taking your original carts on the go.

#1 – Emulators Can Handel SNES with No Playability Issues – But the biggest reason is because current Emulators have not problems what-so-ever with handling the 2D sprites of consoles before the 3D systems like Nintendo 64 came around. And for less than $100 you could have a full blown retro Emulation station for several different systems outside Nintendo. So there really is no value to the average consumer in going this route.

So all in all, this was just what one could call a “passion project” that pushed way past the practicality limits that most would not have pushed past. I don’t regret building it in the least and frankly it’s the only portable I’ve ever made that I’ve actually kept for myself and not been dismantled for parts!

  1. […] get the best of both worlds, Downing of Downing’s Basement, created the SNES Box Go in 2018/2019. It uses hardware from both an SNES Jr., and the innards of an SD2NES cartridge, which […]

  2. […] The “SNES BOX GO” A World First…and for good reason… […]

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