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NES Classic Edition mods are unlocking its power as a universal gaming emulator


The NES Classic Edition was a hot gift over the holidays — Nintendo couldn’t make them fast enough to meet demand. Who would have thought people would be so excited to play the 30 retro games on this box? Well, that wasn’t all buyers were excited about. If you give people interesting new hardware, they’ll start modding it. In the case of the NES Classic Edition, it’s fast becoming the gaming emulator of your dreams.

The NES Classic Edition comes stocked with some of the most popular titles from the original console, but the selection varies a bit by region. In the US, some of the big games include all three Super Mario Bros., Metroid, Castlevania, and The Legend of Zelda. The obvious drawback of this device is that you get the games it comes with and that’s it — no installing new ones. The NES Classic Edition is not designed to have writable memory beyond the game saves. Modders seem to have taken that as a challenge.

It took about a month after release for someone to figure out how to write to the NES Classic Edition’s memory without bricking it. The most prominent tool for NES Classic modding is called Hakchi2, a Windows-based program from Russian developer Alexey Avdyukhin. It started as a rather messy hack, but in just a few weeks it’s become a surprisingly usable graphical interface for loading new games onto the NES Classic Edition.

Setup for Hakchi2 is quick, but not without risk. You have to install an unsigned driver on your computer, which some people will find worrisome. Once you’re up and running, you can remove and add NES titles to the console with your PC; you’ll need to download ROM files, which is a legal gray area. There’s also an optional mod for Hakchi2 based on the RetroArch emulator. Install that and you can play games from other systems on the NES Classic Edition. See below for a video of a particularly giddy man testing a number of titles from Genesis, SNES, and even N64 on the NES Classic. There are some bugs, but the games load. That’s more than I can say for many software emulators I’ve used over the years. 

If you want to play around with Hakchi2, you’ll first have to get your hands on the NES Classic Edition. It’s still in short supply, which has led to some outrageous price-gouging. Using Hakchi2 would certainly void your warranty, so don’t expect Nintendo to be sympathetic if you break your rare and valuable NES Classic Edition.



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