Nintendo GameCube — rebuild for Swiss/SD2SP2

Luke G.
Admin
 Posted 8 months ago
 

I recently discovered an improved, homebrew GameBoy Player for the Nintendo GameCube which removes the input lag and other issues related to the official Nintendo version. Running this requires use of a homebrew project called Swiss. To make a long story short, using one of a collection of specially crafted, corrupt game saves allows booting to Swiss, from which you can load a disc image from any number of media.

My choice of media was a special SD card adapter called SD2SP2. This adapter fits into serial port #2 on the bottom of the GameCube. This serial port is only present on early models of the GameCube, as Nintendo never released any device that used that port and thus it was removed for cost savings reasons on later models. So, which model did I have? Well, also present on early model units is a digital video out connector, which I had on mine. This led me to believe I had the model that had all of the ports, including the critical serial port #2.

 

Unlike most of my modding, I did not take photos along the way, except for the two photos of the finished console. So, I have included some pertinent photos from the sources I used for the mods I implemented. Credit/links are given at the end of the article. These photos are not mine and all rights are reserved by the persons responsible for the articles.


SD2SP2

So off to the Internet I went, purchasing the SD2SP2 adapter and preparing my SD card with the needed disc images. I loaded a couple of disc images for games I own, in order to test how well booting a full game from the SD card would work. (I won't do this often, as I am more of a physical collector and enjoy the nostalgia of popping in a disc and playing it as intended.) I ordered a new memory card on which to load the corrupted game save and the Swiss boot image. I also purchased one of the games which would work with the corrupted save. Finally, I had everything needed to plug the SD2SP2 adapter into the bottom of my GameCube!

However, not all was well. I removed the GameBoy Player from the bottom of my GameCube in order to access the serial ports. I gleefully removed the dust cover from the serial port #2 slot and...um...there wasn't a serial port #2 connector! How is this possible since this unit had the early model digital video out port? Apparently, late versions of the early model must have removed that particular serial port. Great, now I have no way to use the SD2SP2 adapter! Was all hope lost?

GameCube without serial port #2

No, actually not. I decided to head to eBay and source a replacement GameCube motherboard...one which had both the digital video out *and* the all-important serial port #2. I quickly located a seller who had exactly the motherboard I wanted. The description said it was a unit that plays only USA games. Since I play both USA and Japanese games, I would be adding a physical switch to toggle between those two regions. Such a switch simply opens or closes a connection between two solder points on the motherboard, so it's actually one of the easier region-free console mods.

But, why stop there? Changing out the motherboard requires a complete disassembly of the GameCube. So why not do a few other mods while I was at it? I had been reading about replacing the power light above the controller ports so that it would change based on the region switch. I bought the parts needed to do that mod on eBay as well. I also like customizing the shells of my consoles, so I headed to AliExpress and found a translucent, smoky gray replacement GameCube shell. I awaited the arrival of all of these parts with baited breath for a week or so.

Bitfunx replacement GameCube shell

And then...Hurricane Idalia happened. This was our first Hurricane and we decided to take the occasion to leave (a.k.a. flee for our lives) to visit family in another state. During the hurricane trip, I started getting delivery notices for my packages. I imagined that my packages were being strewn across my neighbors roofs or perhaps blown many states away. Thankfully, once I returned home everything was in tact and the motherboard had no rain damage, which had also been a concern.

I waited for a good day where I'd have a few hours to work on this rebuild project. I carefully disassembled the original GameCube, careful to preserve the motherboard which I would not be using in case I wanted to build another GameCube without Swiss/SD2SP2 later on. I then completely disassembled the new motherboard's metal shielding plates, ready to solder in my region switch.

Well, that was the plan anyway. However, upon inspection, I found that there was already a region mod in place! This wasn't a USA motherboard, even though it had been described as playing only USA region games. It was actually a Japanese GameCube motherboard on which they had soldered a big blob of metal to connect the two solder points, making it permanently only play USA games! I broke out my pump-based desoldering iron and sucked up the blob without much trouble. This allowed me to use a chopped up PC IDE ribbon cable to connect those points to my switch.

Insanely small solder points for region switch

Insanely small solder points for region switch with wires soldered in place

I next desoldered the power LED from the controller port board and replaced it with a bi-color red/blue LED. My intent was to make the LED light up red for Japanese region mode, and blue for USA region mode. I wired up the anode legs of the LED to the double-pole switch as directed by the article I saw the mod in. I drilled out a hole on the back of the video out panel and mounted my region switch there.

I then put everything back together, routing my ribbon cable wiring carefully so as to not get pinched or block any ports when the shell was completely put together. Everything looked great! I put a disc in and turned the power on. The disc refused to boot. I tried Japanese mode with a Japanese disc, I tried USA mode with a USA disc. Nothing would work. Was the motherboard fried? Was the disc drive damaged in the part exchange? Needless to say, the wind was leaving my sails on this project.

Somewhat dejected, I removed the top part of the shell to try and visually inspect the innards to see if there was anything obvious. Lo and behold! The lid switch was broken! This was good news, as it's simply a switch that tells the GameCube that the lid is closed and therefore that it is safe to spin the disc and turn on the laser. I found the replacement part on eBay but it cost almost what I paid for the motherboard. So I quickly found a tutorial for simply shorting the lid switch so that the system always thinks the lid is closed. I'm smart enough not to stare into the laser, so this isn't really a legitimate safety concern to me.

Broken lid switch

Now that everything had been taken care of, I tried both regions' discs again, and they booted flawlessly! My digital video out port worked splendidly, the region switch worked, the region-based LED light worked, and I didn't see any problems at all! Success!

Until. Until. Until I spotted something on the floor under my desk. It was a single, tiny, memory card dust flap. It's the little piece that closes when you don't have a memory card inserted. I looked around for a while and finally found the second memory card flap. I had completely overlooked these. I decided after all of the ordeal so far that I would just deal with disassembly and installation of those flaps the next day. That would be a good opportunity to test out Swiss and the SD2SP2 adapter at that same time.

The flaps were fairly easy to install, and after swapping the SD card I had intended to use for one of the ones on the Swiss compatibility list, I was able to boot the improved GameBoy player software as well as both of the test disc images! Success! I now had a fully functional system in a lovely transparent shell!

Japanese region mode

USA region mode

Related links