Luma 64 – a portable Nintendo 64

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Without a doubt this post is long overdue. After roughly five years of off-and-on work, I completed my Nintendo 64 portable gaming device, dubbed Luma 64. I built the shell out of two Tupperware-style containers; one comprised the bulk of the handheld while the other was chopped apart and used as an extension to house the cartridge slot. I doubt I’ll ever use a case like this for any future projects because it ends up being rather thick for a portable and as polished as I tried making the end result, it’s still not very professional. As a friend of mine put it, “you can be the best case-maker in the world, but at the end of the day it’s still Tupperware.”

One feature I made sure to include in this handheld is a LOB64 jack. This multiplayer/AV out jack isn’t built into very many Nintendo 64 portables, but the idea upon its inception was to create a standard connection throughout the modding world. The more portables that incorporate the standard, the more likely you are to encounter another LOB64 portable at a convention or expo.

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SuperCon – a portable Super Nintendo inside a Nintendo 64 shell

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This is a project I began working on in early April of this year. The concept is to make a portable Super Nintendo complete with rechargable batteries and a 3.5″ screen and house the whole thing inside the shell of a Nintendo 64. The shell was leftover from a previous project which I have yet to complete. I’ll create a post on that when I eventually get back to working on it. The name SuperCon is derived from the fact that this will be a graduation gift for my friend Connor and since it appears at first glance to be a Nintendo 64, it is deceiving. Hence, a con. A more detailed worklog can be viewed on Bacteria’s forum. However, I will continue to post updates here as well.

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After filling the major gaps in the 64’s shell, I applied liberal amounts of Bondo to smooth out the surface. With that complete, I chopped up a third party SNES controller and “frankencased” them into the system. Believe me when I say that a LOT of sanding was done around this time.

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I also cut holes on the underside of the shell for the controller’s shoulder buttons. Because the stock buttons were so short, they didn’t protrude through the holes very far. I would prefer that they stick out beyond the case by 2 or 3 millimeters. To achieve this, I made new buttons by cutting the necessary shapes out of blocks of acrylic.

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Modifications to the electronics include drawing power for the motherboard from the screen’s driver board, tapping composite image directly from the mobo, and allowing the whole thing to run off of either batteries or wall power. I also had to perform a cartridge slot relocation, which is pretty standard for consoles-turned-portables.

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The front and back of the system have both been primed and painted. I created a decal for the front of the system, to be placed between the controls, which I hope to have applied by the end of the week. Once that is complete, finishing the project should be a matter of wiring up audio and controls, mounting all of the internal components, and closing up the case!

The Nintendo S: a work in progress

DS primed
A friend of mine picked up an original Nintendo DS in less than perfect condition. The hinge which connects the two screens together was cracked and broken and the top screen displayed only a white background. This is apparently a very common occurence for DS systems because the upper screen is only connected to the rest of the system via a rather flimsy ribbon cable. The only thing protecting that cable form damage is the hinge and its housing. Thus, if the hinge is damaged, there is little hope for the top screen.

Fortunately, the DS (and DS Lite) are not completely useless when their top screens have bit the dust. Both of these systems have a second cartridge slot for playing Game Boy Advance games. The idea behind this project is to turn a partially functioning Nintendo DS into a dedicated GBA. So if DS stands for “dual screen” (which, although never officially acknowledged by Nintendo to my knowledge, many gamers profess to be the case), then I christen this handheld the Nintendo S.

DS single speaker
First, I tore the DS open. The stereo speakers are both housed in the top half of the clamshell design, which poses two problems: how do you wire the speaker so that it works in the lower half? And will it fit? To answer the second question, all it took was to cut away at one of the screw post supports to squeeze the small speaker into place.

DS audio pinout
With a little help from a user who goes by the alias john sparks over at the Bacteria forums, I was able to convince the DS to boot without it’s upper screen. John also pointed me in the right direction toward finding the audio pinouts for left and right speakers. Because I’ve only allocated room for one speaker, I eventually only wired up the right speaker.

DS and board
At this point the electronics are DONE! The rest of the project is casework. The largest chunk of the work, as made evident by this photo, is to remove what’s left of the upper screen hinge and to smooth it out. Of course, a repainting is in order after that.

DS cart covered
Some minor alterations must also be done to the shell’s underside. I’ve covered up the DS cartridge slot first by epoxying a small piece of acrylic over the gap, then by applying Bondo to start smoothing it out. I’ve also filled in the stylus holder, as the touch screen will not be utilized for GBA games.

DS initial bondo
The hinge is cut off and what remains is sanded down to match the shape of the rest of the face. Then applied Bondo to fill in all the gaps. After that Bondo dried, I smoothed it out further with some glazing putty, then applied a coat of primer. The result is the first image in this post. I think it looks good, but the untouched portions of the shell didn’t have the same texture as the portion that was built back up with Bondo.

DS glazed over
Coated the entire face with glazing putty. I thought this would be a good idea; it was not. The concave corners turned out to be very difficult to sand and because of that, the putty built up too high in some spots. I finished sanding it down. Primed, sanded more, primed again, then sanded a bit more.

DS perfecting
This is the current state of the face of the shell. I wanted to see what effect my Dremel’s cottony cleaning attachment had on the primer; I ended up rubbing a dent into the case. Applied a small dab of glazing putty to smooth it back out. It’s almost finished now and ready for its first coat of paint.