News Article

One Man Is Bringing The N64 Kicking And Screaming Into The HD Generation

Posted by Damien McFerran

Ever wanted to run your N64 through HDMI, DVI or VGA?

As we all know, the N64 was — and still is — a fantastic machine. For many Nintendo fans, it was their first real taste of 3D gaming and some of the console's best offerings stand the test of time very well indeed. The main issue with playing the console today is that it was never designed to run on the high definition, large-format televisions we're now accustomed to.

Running an N64 via a composite AV connection results in soupy, fuzzy visuals, and even if you get your system RGB-modded (a process which is expensive and isn't possible on all versions of the machine) then it still doesn't look as sharp as it possibly could on a massive flat screen TV.

Thank goodness then for RetroActive founder Marshall, who is currently working on a special board which can be installed to your N64 console (NTSC or PAL) and allows it to output a HDMI, DVI or VGA signal.

Marshall is keen to point out that the board itself doesn't handle audio and doesn't plug effortlessly into the console — you'll need to crack out that soldiering iron and make sure you've got a steady hand before installing. He's also keen to stress that when the boards eventually become available (Q1 2014 is the tentative launch date), he won't be able to offer any fitting services himself. That's understandable when you consider how busy this guy is — he's also built some amazing custom Nintendo consoles, which you can check out here.

If you're interested in retrofitting your N64 for the HD era, then you can sign up to the mailing list on the RetroActive site to receive news on availability and ordering.

[via retroactive.be]

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User Comments (56)

TruenoGT

#2

TruenoGT said:

Heard about this on a forum a while back and have eagerly been on the list since. I hope he's able to get this completed. N64 native digital progressive scan is a dream come true!

EdwardCORE

#7

EdwardCORE said:

Again, people doing what Nintendo should be doing a long ago. Why Nintendo doesn't step up and make these games available in HD on Wii U VC is beyond me. Good thing we have people like this guy and those at Dolphin for making real what Nintedon't.

unrandomsam

#8

unrandomsam said:

Wonder how it deals with the framerate. (Given that you can normally only do 15/30/60 without tearing on LCD's).

KennyPowers

#9

KennyPowers said:

Do the modders who have advertisements on this website in article form get them for free, or is there some palm greasing going on?

DamoAdmin

#11

Damo said:

@JohnRedcorn So we're not allowed to report on this kind of stuff unless we get paid for it? I wish someone had told me!

Joshers744

#12

Joshers744 said:

@EdwardCORE I agree with you. I have no idea why Nintendo doesn't simply put the 64 games on the Wii U VC. I don't care how much they ask me to "please understand", I do not understand the way the handle their VC.

MadAdam81

#13

MadAdam81 said:

@Joshers744 They likely don't have their Wii U/N64 emulator at 100% yet. I assume Nintendo only have one group working on VC, and they can only do a certain amount of games. I'm not sure if they have decided to put DS and GBA ahead of N64 in the queue, but it's not hard to get N64 VC on Wii - I bought some on my Wii and more on my Wii U in Wii mode - and being able to use the gamepad as a screen is handy as well.

TheLostKokiri

#14

TheLostKokiri said:

personally I just use my GameCube wire on my N64... it cost me nothing and let's me run it on newer TVs ^^

Stark_Nebula

#15

Stark_Nebula said:

I remember stumbling upon that post on benheck forums in summer of 2012. Glad to see the project finally coming out soon.

@unrandomsam If I remember correctly, there's a scan-line doubler so it produce 60FPS, or 30FPS solid (non-interlaced.) Something of the sort.

sketchturner

#16

sketchturner said:

What is that game on the bottom right picture? The one with the metallic surface and the N64 symbol?

KoopaTrooper

#17

KoopaTrooper said:

This is a perfect fit since a lot of the N64 games supported widescreen 16x9. I know Goldeneye, Banjo, Donkey Kong did. Probably all of Rare's games did.

Nico07

#18

Nico07 said:

I would love to pick this up, but cautiously waiting to see the price. Hopefully sub $60 as it is self install with soldering involved. I have about 20 games I would love to play natively from my N64 in HD, including Goldeneye, Pilotwings and a few others unavailable on eShop.

Spartacus3765

#20

Spartacus3765 said:

@Stardust4ever
Safe to say, I would hope everybody knows that the Wii eshop offerings are available which includes N64 titles. However, I'm sure what his gripe is (mine included) is the lack of Wii U VC N64 titles - meaning playable on the gamepad and have the functionality of other Wii U VC.

unrandomsam

#24

unrandomsam said:

@mercurio2054 Lots of them are variable around 20-25 fps. Thing is for an LCD you need vsync otherwise it will just have screen tearing. (Must be something done in this device or it would be a waste of time.)

@AtomicPumpkin It can you just need the dterminal or component cable it is a much easier mod than this as well.

Pod

#25

Pod said:

I've seen the N64 attached to various digital screens as part of the whole "modding it into a handheld"-thing, but those all used the standard output.

This is something else, and entirely one of the cooler mods for old consoles I've seen.

Pichuka97

#27

Pichuka97 said:

Wouldn't it be easier to get an HDMI upscaler and plug that in to your N64 or any other system?

whodatninja

#29

whodatninja said:

I would love if this was an official update to the console. I tried plugging my old N64 into my HD tv the other day and it looked TERRIBLE

Spartacus3765

#32

Spartacus3765 said:

@JaredJ
You know, for the silence revolving around the actual N64 Wii U VC, maybe that's what's going on behind scenes and Nintendo is wanting to surprise us later? That's the optimist in me thinking that, anyways.

Luna-Harmony

#33

Luna-Harmony said:

wow i really wish they would hurry up and bring N64 games to wii u it was one of the best consoles ever i owned one on day 1 launch day with mario 64 and was amazed by the console.

Spartacus3765

#34

Spartacus3765 said:

@Melkac
What's a good controller for Project 64? I got one way back when the program first came out and it totally sucked. The controller - not the program.

FireHorsePrime

#35

FireHorsePrime said:

Are those supposed to be screen shots of the units output? Looks the same to me. Unless this board actually forces the unit to remap textures and the reality signal processor to HD resolutions, rather than just a signal upgrade, I can't see it making much of a difference. It might remove interlacing and aliasing (which would be a nice thing) but it won't ad resolution, with an effect similar to what we see with Super Nintendo games on Wii U VC. They look great, but they are still blocky 16bit images. I bought an HDMI upscaler for my N64 and the improvement was minimal even while using the SVideo output, and the dithering and interlacing was so prominent, I just ended up buying a used Sony Trinitron CRT to play my N64 in glorious standard definition. The TV was a steal at $20 and looks amazing actually. A much simpler solution, no soldering required, and you're keeping TV's out of landfills. If it's really a serious upgrade, the bulk of their buyers would be the modders who have the technical know-how and can install and sell the units on E-Bay. They would be pricey though. Average would be close to a new console now I would think.

Kafei2006

#36

Kafei2006 said:

I bet the mod will be incompatible with our poor PAL systems though :P. So that's of no use to me (I'll stick with my RGB modded PAL system :D)

@Spartacus3765 Why not get an adapter so you can plug a N64 controller (genuine one) into your PC?

FireHorsePrime

#37

FireHorsePrime said:

For those complaining about not enough Virtual Console options, keep in mind that the library of Nintendo games is so huge, they could literally supply us with games for the 3DS and Wii U for years. Just the NES catalog has over 700 games. This is counter productive to their intent on bringing newer games that use the hardware more efficiently and with greater spectacle than what the older systems provide. Fan favorites like Mario, Zelda and Metroid are already available, which is a given. But they need 3rd party support and they won't get it if they flood their own landscape with older titles that take revenue away via vc game sales, from developers who want to make new games for their systems. Don't get me wrong, I love VC and would enjoy HD versions of titles that are expensive to acquire in the collectors market, which is why I bought Earthbound on the Wii U, a cartridge that normally goes for close to $100 and close to $500 NIB (new in box). But the resale market is still the best way to get the games you loved again that have not arrived on VC. Part of that is publishers and developers go belly-up, or contractual arrangements between developer parties inhibits resale (i.e. Banjo Kazooie will never make it to a Nintendo console again) so it's not like Big N can flip a switch and give us what we want just because it was on an older console. Many N64 titles on the Wii are a viable alternative, albeit not in HD, but they've been upscaled. I personally see DS games starting to show up by the end of the year, with some popular out of print titles like Chrono Trigger making it to the E-Shop. But don't hold your breath for a huge library of games, the Wii U is struggling and the only thing that's going to save it is brand new killer games. Otherwise consumers will flock to the other guys.

silly

#38

silly said:

Speaking as a pacifist I am a little skeptical. Do I really need to get a soldiering iron?

RancidVomit86

#39

RancidVomit86 said:

I see projects like this all time going on for various consoles and don't part it on forums because this site seems to be Nazis towards the modding community but this makes news for the site. I'm confused.

element187

#40

element187 said:

@Nico07 Just to clear things up, this device doesn't make your N64 games in HD, it only allows you to use your DVI, HDMI or VGA output device on the N64, it will still be locked at 480p

TenEighty

#42

TenEighty said:

I wish Nintendo would make a N64 HD. Just play all the old carts through HDMI with a 1080p resolution. Even though textures would be the same, an increased resolution can makes most N64 games look a lot nicer. I would buy that before purchasing any "new system". New games are not as fun or as creative as they were with the N64.

unrandomsam

#44

unrandomsam said:

@element187 The N64 outputs at standard resolution for nearly all games. i.e 320x240

Or even 256 × 224.

Some use 640x480 but hardly any. (Not Mario 64 / Zelda / Donkey Kong 64 / Goldeneye / Mario Kart 64).

Must do something otherwise it wouldn't work over HDMI which is minimum 640x480.

And 256x224 won't work by doubling either.

Nico07

#46

Nico07 said:

@element187 I understand that, anything is better than 320x240 resolution. Still I wouldn't be willing to pay over $100 and would hope for $60 or lower. I like to play Nintendo games on Nintendo consoles over emulators. And unfortunately many of my N64 games are not on the eShop.

TenEighty

#48

TenEighty said:

@RancidVomit86 Banjo and other games looks great in a N64 emulator in HD. I've seen it on youtube. The higher res takes care of all those "jaggies" or lack of anti-aliasing. Most of it anyway. ;)

darthstuey

#49

darthstuey said:

I don't understand the fuss- I got a N64/Gamecube cable off ebay and have had the old N64 out for the last month. I've been playing Excitebike 64, Doom 64, Quake et al and haven't been bothered by what's on the screen. It's the same as watching a VHS now- that's what the quality was like back then and now we are used to better. Get over it and enjoy the games.

coolvw93

#51

coolvw93 said:

cool, idk if i would get it, but it looks like a good investment if you dont have the vga hook ups

unrandomsam

#52

unrandomsam said:

@TenEighty With black bars but actually using the whole panel resolution ? I suppose that would be ok. What isn't alright is pixel based stuff at anything other than integer scaling factors.

BulbasaurusRex

#55

BulbasaurusRex said:

...OR just get a cheap, used CRT set specifically for your retro systems (and VCR) up to and including the Wii (no motion delay and not HD, anyway).

Moviefan2k4

#56

Moviefan2k4 said:

@EdwardCORE Its very simple, really. Nintendo saves a ton of money by simply releasing SD emulations, versus spending tons of capital to research and adapt obsolete hardware. If they don't believe they'll make a sizeable profit, they won't bother. It sucks, but that's the nature of most businesses today.

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