Retrograding 05.31.03

Welcome back to Retrograding! I know it’s been a two months without me and I’ve missed you as much as you’ve missed me. I want to thank everyone for the emails of support I got while fighting the UK Home office. Sadly, I’m now in the US and the fiancee is still in the UK, but we’re doing what we can to be together. I also want to thank Jerry Lawler of all people who sentme an autographed copy of his book, “It’s Good to Be the King Sometimes” available at all fine bookstores and at now. I heartily endorse it, as it’s a great read and not because it was free and signed. Now if only Masahiro Chono would write a book… and read my column.

Anyways, I’d be putting up parts 3-5 of Shining Force but my disc with those is still in England and I’m waiting for it to arrive from Elisa. Until then,I’ve got some Gamecube reviews, and some usual Retrograding blather to throw at you all. I can’t believe how many off you have tuned in for the Shining Force commentary. All but one was positive, and that was some nut named Zero-Chan who was obviously crazy obsessed with Fire Emblem. Most Americans only know Fire Emblem from Super Smash Bros. Melee. But for those of you unaware, Fire Emblem came out on the NES in 1990, two years before Shining Force and was pretty damn popular in Japan (We’re getting FE2 for the GBA in English soon so snap it up or I will spit on you all.)

The thing is, Fire Emblem is a good game. A great game and I still own 3-5 on my SNES. But a lot
of FE fanatics consider it to be the first Tactics game, while the general consensus is Shining Force, made two years later is. I find Fire Emblem to be closer to Nobunaga’s Ambition or Romance of the Five Kingdoms (please tell me you know what I’m talking about.) than the style of Tactics introduced by Shining Force. But there are a lot of similarities, such as terrain effects. But with forts, dismounting from horses and various other actions you can’t take in other tactics style games, you’ll find there’s no real right or wrong, just majority and minority. I can do some reviews of the series if you want, and as the token GBA reviewer for 411, I know I’ll be doing the GBA version (again…buy it!). But I bet you will find Shining Force a hell of a lot more fun. (Uh oh…NOW I’ve done it. But then Zero-Chan was one of those people who didn’t get at all that my “Anti-mod/pirate” article back in December was a complete satire on the subject so that tells you something right. Of course, some Next Level people didn’t get that either so I have to remember to put a label “Warning; Content included is a JOKE. A
FUCKING JOKE. Nerdy virginal video game players should not read!”)

Anyway…Retrograding. It’s a short one and it’s just me answering one email. I figure that since I’ve back in America but since my hate for all things British remains, this letter which asks a really important Video game related question deserves to be shared with all. Plus it shows both my vast
knowledge of obscure shit, and also my woeful ignorance on others. Let’s do this shall we?

Hi Alex. I stumbled on to your article (2/25) while trying to find a
source I could ask about my PAL SNES to American conversion. I’m not going to
crack the case and change the guts, but I have a PAL version of Terranigma I’m
trying to play which won’t work on my American SNES.
So I had a friend of mine in Australia ship me this AU version. Now I can’t
seem to find anyone who knows what all I’ll have to do to get it working on my
American TV with American electricity. I’ve already got a plug converter for
the wall socket but don’t know if I’ll also have to get an electrical adapter
to change our 110v/60Hz to the Australian

Also, while the single lead input from my American SNES fits the AU machine, I
don’t get any picture or sound regardless of how I tune my television. I’ve
been told channel 0 or 1 is used in Australia for gaming. Unfortunately, our
televisions won’t tune to channel 0, leaving 1 as my only possibility.

That describes the problem. I’m already about $100.00 US in to this project
and want to get some advice so if I blow any more money, at least it will lead
me to success. If you are not a source for this information, could you
perhaps suggest someone who is? Thanks for any help.

— Joe Dickson (Broke in America)

Hey Joe.

Usually it’s better to convert US to PAL than the other way around. Because
it’s always easier to build up to PAL with the higher frame rate, voltage,
etc than go down.

Remember also that Australia games are PAL as well. I imported D from OZ for
my fiancee’s UK PSX. As for my own experiences playing PAL games on NTSC
electrical systems (Such as the wonderful HELL NIGHT), I just hooked my UK PSX
into my all regions DVD player and my TV via AV cords and/or S-video and it
played fine. But discs games are far easier to get to work than import carts
from the UK.

All you actually need is something called a step down/step up transformer. You
can buy them at any UK electronic store, and I’m sure best Buy or radio shack
can order one for you. Should cost 20-40$ at most. NEVER NEVER plug UK
electronics into a US socket or vice versa. A plug adapter is a pile of shit.
I blew up my game cube’s power pack thinking that was all I needed. You will
destroy your system beyond repair. At least your SNES. The Gamecube has a
built in transformer in the power pack as long as you use the transformer I
was speaking about. A Plug adapter is designed to prey on the ignorant about
electrical systems, and I warn everyone not to make my same mistake.

As for the pal system on your TV. You need a few things on your TV to let you
play the system.

First is AV or S-Video cords. You’ll have to use those cords to get sound and
picture. And even then it’s not a guarantee. Nintendo’s official ones will
allow sound and picture in the correct color, but the non-official ones
usually prevent sound. After talking to Nintendo a while back about PAL/NTSC,
I learned they’ve always prepared for Inter region compatibility in their
systems. Hence the Game Boy being the first all regions system.

I tried a non-official Nintendo SCART in my US game cube that would let me
play it on the UK TV. I either got picture but no sound, or sound but no
picture. With the official Nintendo one, everything was gravy, including color

Most systems aren’t built with inter-region play in mind, Hence the need for
Mod chips and boot discs. The Game cube for example is the same exact system
in every country. A Japanese is the same as a UK is the same as a US
Gamecube. Only difference is the region coding, and Nintendo is pretty free
with giving out how to fix that if you can prove you’ve moved to another
company. Of course, I think they might have helped me simply because I’m a VG
journalist, was calling from the UK with a US accent and knew a shitload about
the internal structure so they knew I wouldn’t be doing anything illegal with

The problem with PAL is they have a special setting for DVD’s, and video
games. I found channel 7 works in the UK for shit, but due to the difference
frequency it doesn’t necessarily work over here.

If this was a Game Cube, yeah, the advice I’ve given you would be pretty set
in stone. But this is an old Retro system and TV’s and electronic interfaces
have changed a lot since then.

My advice would be to call Nintendo and explain that you haven’t modded the
system, have f*cked with it at all, you just want to play your PAL console on
a US electrical system. They should get back to you in 24 hours. The phone
line is really helpful as well.

Man don’t I sound like an Nintendo Shill?

Sadly, most web sites about turning PAL systems to NTSC electrical involve
DVD’s and computers (which is odd because most computers should have ALL

However here are some associated articles for you that I hope will help. (The complete guide to SNES
carts! Very very good site.)

This last one is specifically a patch for Terranigma to be played from PAL to
NTSC format. What? You thought I WOULDN’T have something for you? I had to
save the best for last. And make this column length.

I hope this all helps you man. I really do. Please email me after you gone
through all this and let me know if it helps. I get a lot of emails about
PAL/NTSC conversion and sometimes I can help, other times I have to admit
woeful ignorance!

And his response?

WOW Alex, when you reply, you really reply.

This is an on-again,off-again project and it might take me a bit of time to
sort through all you’ve sent me and decide what all to apply to my problem.
Your lead about Nintendo is likely the best overall suggestion but I also want
to look into the various links you sent as well.

Once I get this up and running, I’ll let you know. You’re the only
person out of seven I’ve contacted so far that seem to know his stuff on
this type of problem and I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to
send me all of this.


So all in all, I hope I answered/helped Joe out with his PAL/NTSC problems. I
know amongst a lot of import gamers, there’s a constant stream of discussion
about how to best play UK and Aussie games on Japanese systems and US. I’ll
check you out with some more columns, some Game Cube reviews and more now that
I’m back. Email is and AIM is Darquefyr as always.