Much like its predecessor, the SNES uses a lockout chip or CIC (Checking Integrated Circuit) to prevent the use of unauthorized games, including those from outside the console's region. This lockout chip looks for its counterpart inside the game cartridge, and if the two do not match up (or if the cartridge lockout chip isn't present), the lockout chip will hold the system in a reset state and the game will not boot. In much the same way as the NES, this lockout scheme can be defeated by lifting a single pin on the CIC or connecting said pin to ground, making it the same as its cartridge-side counterpart. Doing so will allow for NTSC games to be played on a PAL SNES and vice versa, made more useful by also adding a 50/60 Hz switch.
Note that this mod will serve no purpose for playing Super Famicom games on a US SNES, as the two are internally identical and only the cartridge shape prevents these games from being played. Details on how to perform a modification for playing Super Famicom games on a US SNES can be found here.
This particular modification has since been supplanted by the SuperCIC board, which does not involve lifting delicate chip pins and even includes an in-game reset (IGR) feature. However, this modification involves less soldering, is far less expensive and can still be performed in an unobtrusive and tasteful manner even with a physical switch added.
Materials and Tools
- 4.5 mm gamebit screwdriver
- JIS/Phillips head screwdriver
- Soldering iron (preferably temperature-controlled)
- Razor blade or small hook
- Leaded solder (optional)
- Hookup wire, preferably 28 or 30 AWG (optional)
- SPDT switch (optional)
Lifting Pin 4
- Flip over the SNES and unscrew the six 4.5 mm gamebit screws holding the case together. Remove the top shell and set it aside.
- Remove the motherboard from the bottom case. Locate the F411 (F413 for PAL consoles) lockout chip, which is a small 18-pin SMD chip in the vicinity of the reset button. The pin numbering is silkscreened next to it, use this to locate pin 4.
- With pin 4 identified, apply a generous amount of flux on the pin and use a tool such as the tip of a razor blade or a hook to gain leverage underneath it.
- Use a soldering iron to heat pin 4, gently lifting it up from its pad until it is clear of the board.
- If you decide to leave pin 4 lifted, it is highly recommended to connect it to a ground source (such as pin 9) to prevent potential damage to the CIC.
Installing a Switch
A number of games, namely those which use the SA-1 expansion chip (i.e. Super Mario RPG, Kirby Super Star, etc.), can detect if the CIC has been disabled and will not boot unless the CIC is functioning normally. Because of this, it is highly recommended to wire up a SPDT switch to connect pin 4 to either 5V or ground instead of leaving it disconnected. This way, the lockout chip can be turned back "on" for games that require its presence.
(to be continued)