GameCube Mods

I have… many… older video game consoles. One thing I like to do to them after they have ended support and enter old age is add available mods to them. This offers updates after official support and features; such as downloading discs I own to a memory card or hard drive. Many times, older console CD/DVD drives will start to die, and with the way some systems (Xbox specially) cryptographically pair the motherboard and CD/DVD drive you can never replace the drive. Having a GameCube and recently seeing the amazing work of Maciej Kobus on PicoBoot, I had to give it a go. PicoBoot uses a Raspberry Pi Pico (an Arduino competitor) to jump into the boot process of the GameCube and load Swiss, the GameCube software manager.

The other piece of hardware that started me down this whole path was the LaserBear BlueRetro replacement controller board. This board replaces the board controllers plug into and allows you use to modern bluetooth controllers instead! You can pair any Xbox/PS3-5/Nintendo controller with bluetooth to the console, and when you do the controller port lights up blue!

This introduced me to the BlueRetro project, and awesome project which aims to allow you to use those modern controllers on classic consoles! There are many sellers using this open-source code to make products, many of them on Aliexpress and other stores. The most impressive thing is the adapters tend to be a reasonable price on Aliexpress from many vendors with good reviews!

The Laserbear mod is straight forward, and they include a great guide. It involves removing the old controller board, placing the new one’s ribbon into the slot, and then moving 2 power wires. Very straight forward, no soldering.

On the flip side is the PicoBoot install. I have not used a Raspberry Pi Pico before; I am more familiar with Arduinos and older microcontrollers. The code uploading method is very neat, you hold a button, then the device mounts as a drive on your computer. you copy the binary file onto the drive, and when you eject the device it writes the payload. The next part of the install involves soldering, and this soldering is a bit tiny. The install is only 5 wires, but you are working on a small board, with wiring that cannot be that long because of how the mod works with the boot process.

Luckily there are many guides on YouTube on how to do this. And on the first try I had it working, and in the end stuck it behind where the BlueRetro lives. For PicoBoot to load, you also need a SD card adapter for the GameCube. Those are available on eBay/Amazon/your local mod shop for cheap.

The PicoBoot in the end was a little too close to the controller board for my liking, I added electrical tape to the top of the Pico to make sure no contact was made between these lovers. This was a fun afternoon, and now I can get a longer life out of this little guy. I also got a HDMI cable for the GameCube, the model of GameCube I have allows for digital out, but those cables are expensive so I am using the analog out right now.

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