Explore the new game and watch Super Mario

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Nintendo has relaunched the classic Game and watch, this time in glorious color and performing the same super mario bros which first graced the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985. Even though it has only been on the market for a few days, [stacksmashing] has already done some impressive progress in unlocking the full potential of this retro $ 50 handheld.

It won’t surprise the average Hackaday reader that what we’re looking at here is a pocket-sized NES emulator, but until [stacksmashing] had opened it, no one was quite sure what kind of hardware was working. Fortunately, there was no drop of epoxy in sight and all of the chips were easily identifiable. Armed with the knowledge that the Game and watch running on an STM32H7B0 microcontroller with a nearby SPI flash chip containing the firmware, it was just a matter of figuring out how the software worked.

Connection to the SWD header.

It didn’t take long to discover that an unfilled header on the card would give it access to the STM32’s Serial Wire Debug (SWD) interface, although unfortunately he found that the chip’s security mode was enabled and could not flush the firmware.

But he was able to dump the RAM via SWD, which allowed him to identify where the super mario bros NES ROM has lived. By connecting the SPI flash chip to a drive and comparing its contents with what the system had in RAM, [stacksmashing] was able to understand the XOR encryption scheme and come up with a tool that will allow you to insert a modified ROM into an image that can be successfully flashed to the chip.

Does that mean you can put any NES ROM you want on the new one? Game and watch? Unfortunately, we are not there yet. The emulator running on the device has some weird quirks, and it will take a little extra coaxing before it’s ready to go. Contra. But we’ve seen enough of these devices get hacked to know it’s only a matter of time.

[Thanks to NeoTechni for the tip.]


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