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The console compatibility FAQ V0.61 15/04/98
-----------------------------


This file will hopefully answer some of the questions that people
tend to ask about the use of American or Japanese (NTSC) cartridges
in European (PAL) consoles, and vice-versa, and use of "foreign"
console systems.

Any additions and corrections are welcome, please send them by email
to tspigp@rbkc.gov.uk.Areas marked "????" are unknown still.

Recent additions are marked with a % sign in column 1


1 - An Overview of TV and Power standards
-----------------------------------------

To Summarise, Europe and American/Japan use different television
and power standards.

| Country | Power level | Tv standard |
+---------+-------------------+---------------------+
% | UK | 220 V 50 Hz | PAL 50 Hz |
% | Europe | 230 V 50 Hz | PAL 50 Hz |
% | America | 110 V 60 Hz | NTSC 60 Hz |
% | Japan | 110 V 50/60 Hz | NTSC 60 Hz |

In theory the whole of Europe now gets a single voltage 'range', ie
the power will be between 220 and 240 volts. Australia and
New Zealand also use the same voltage range. The UK uses a 3 pin
plug, Australia and New Zealand use a variant on the UK version but
with a different shape. The european countries all tend to use
different shaped 2 pin plugs (normally with round pins).

PAL (Phase Alternating Lines) runs at 25 frames per second, with
625 lines on screen.

NTSC (National Television Standards Comittee) runs at 30 frames per
second, with 525 lines on screen.

% In addition, France uses the SECAM system, which is its own unique
% design, similar to a variant of NTSC, but with the colours encoded
% differently. Many French consoles come with RGB/SCART outputs/leads
% rather than having their own SECAM versions.

Note, there is more than one version of PAL, Holland puts the sound
on a different carrier level, as do Denmark, Australia and New
Zealand.

The line difference causes the "black borders" on some NTSC->PAL
conversions. The game hasnt been reprogrammed to deal with the full
line range, and still uses just 525 lines out of 625, hence the 50
line border above and beyond the playfield. When the game is
reprogrammed to use 625 lines, unless it is well done, the inevitable
extra processing requirement needed for the extra 100 lines causes
a drop in game speed.

The two TV systems are incompatible with one another. To use a console
which has been designed to run with an NTSC TV system on a PAL TV,
you will need an NTSC to PAL convertor. Datel Electronics _were_ doing
NTSC Composite Video to PAL Scart convertors, but as of 08/96 they are
no longer selling them. Convertors to work the other way (PAL console
% to NTSC TV) are apparently available. You may find that your standard
% UK TV will accept an NTSC composite video signal without a convertor,
% but will likely display the picture in black and white only.

For the majority of lockout protection systems, Australia and New
Zealand tend to get put into the "European" category.

In addition, you will need a voltage convertor to convert your local
power voltage into a voltage suitable for the systems power supply.

2 - Compatibility
-----------------

Regardless of power levels, TV standards, etc, even if you cannot
use a "foreign" console in your country, you can in many cases use
foreign cartridges or CDs in your console system. Some systems have
nothing to stop you using foreign cartridges, but some have "lockout"
chips that detect a foreign cartridge or CD. To get around the lockout,
you can normally buy cartridge adaptors (which sit in the cartridge
slot, and into which you plug the foreign cartridge), or modified
system chips which do not have the foreign cartridge/CD detection code.

The following lists some consoles, along with the compatibility
of NTSC cartridges or CDs in PAL consoles and vice versa.

Acetronic MPU/Radofin
---------------------

Appear to have only been made in PAL versions, designed and produced
initially by Acetronic, then sold under license to Radofin who made
their own version. Cartridges are compatible between the two. There
was also a similar looking console called the 'Prinztronic' which
accepts similar looking, but incompatible cartridges.

Atari 2600
----------

Cartridges are compatible, no lockout chips. However, the cartridge
tells the 2600 when to generate TV line sync pulses. This means that
using an NTSC cartridge in a PAL console, or vice versa, will cause
synch pulses to be generated at the wrong frequency. The net effect
of this is that some TVs will "roll" the picture, and may need the
vertical hold control to be adjusted. Some TVs will handle the
incorrect synch frequency transparently though.

Atari 5200
----------

Only ever sold in NTSC. A PAL version was recently discovered,
along with three PAL cartridges. However, it would not run NTSC
5200 cartridges.

Atari 7800
----------

Mostly incompatible. The majority of NTSC 7800 cartridges will
not work in a PAL 7800, typically just hanging the system. However
I have found that some will work in a fashion (nomally with corrupted
graphics, or locking up partway through a game).

% The PAL 7800 models were redesigned for the European market, as the
% US 7800 uses a non-exportable security encryption system to stop
% non Atari-approved game development.

Atari Lynx
----------

Fully compatible. Cartridges are exactly the same

Atari Jaguar
------------

Fully compatible. Cartridges are exactly the same. Jaguar games
should detect the system that they are running on, and set the
50/60Hz mode accordingly. Some carts (eg Soccer shows different
team names) change behaviour slightly depending on the system
they detect they are being used in.

Apparently US Jaguar CD units will work in a PAL Jaguar.

Bally Astrocade
---------------

Only ever made in NTSC

CBS Colecovision
----------------

In theory fully compatible, cartridges are exactly the same. In
practice however I've found that US colecovision cartridges seem
to work about 75% of the time on UK systems.

Emerson Arcadia 2001
--------------------

Only ever made in NTSC, but PAL versions were produced by other
firms. Known as the Advision in France, the Leonardo in Italy,
the Hanimex HMG-2650 in Germany, the Bandai Arcadia in Japan, and
the Leisurevision in Canada.

Fairchild Channel F
-------------------

Only ever made in NTSC, but apparently 3 PAL versions were produced,
one by a German manufacturer called 'SABA' and one called 'LUXOR', with
very different styling to the Fairchild version. It was also sold in
the UK as the Grandstand Video Entertainment System. Channel F and
Grandstand Video Entertainment cartridges are compatible with each
other. Another manufacturer known as Nordemende may have also sold
a version of the Channel-F in Europe.

Magnavox Odyssey 2 (sold in Europe as the Phillips Videopac)
------------------------------------------------------------

Fully compatible, cartridges are the same with one known exception,
Parker Brothers Frogger does not work on O2 systems. Also the
Chess hardware addon module does not work on O2 systems.

Mattell Intellivision
---------------------

Fully compatible, cartridges are the same. Note however, that the
ICA expansion module does not work on UK Intellivisions, and therefore
to all intents and purposes ICA carts are not useable in the UK
model.

MB Microvision
--------------

Fully compatible, with the exception that US Sea Duel carts do not
seem to work on UK Microvisions

Nintendo Famicon (sold in USA and Europe as NES)
------------------------------------------------

The original (top loading) model NES had a lockout system as well as
a territory control system. NES cartridges do have lockout chips
within them. Convertors which both defeat the lockout chip/territory
system are for the early Model 1 NES, and the internal lockout chip
can be disabled via a hardware modification. The second (Model 2)
NES consoles ignore all lockouts, and allow you to use NTSC, and
unlicensed cartridges. Note though, that some NTSC cartridges have
been known to act erratically in PAL systems, eg scrolling problems,
glitched graphics.

There is no US Or European version of the Japanese Famicon disk
system.

Nintendo GameBoy
----------------

Fully compatible, cartridges are the same

Nintendo Super Famicon (sold in USA and Europe as SNES)
-------------------------------------------------------

All consoles have a lockout device for stopping foreign cartridges
from being used. They look for a matching chip on cartridges and will
not start the game if one is not found. Devices are available which
defeat this by accepting two cartridges, the 'foreign' one which you
wish to play, and a PAL one so that the console can pass the lockout
% check. Japanese and US consoles use the same lockout chip. Its also
% possible to add a switch to the SNES to choose between 50 and 60 Hz
% displays. Most PAL carts have not been speed optimized and play much
% better in 60 Hz mode.

Japanese and PAL cartridges are the same shape, rounded at the corners,
whereas American cartridges are squared at the corners. To run USA
cartridges on a Japanese machine or vice-versa, devices are available
which extend the cartridge port and present a different shape slot.

Some games however have additional PAL protection code within them,
and these require patching to run on a UK SNES.

PAL cartridges do not work on Japanese consoles without the use of
a lockout defeating add-on.

SNK Neo-Geo
-----------

Cartridges are compatible. However, there are versions of the console
that have a country code, and will play games in different languages
(Japanese or English) depending on the console's "nationality"

Note, arcade Neo-Geo MVS cartridges are a different size to the home
versions, however they are the same cartridges inside, its the
carrier case that is different. This is to stop arcade operators
from using the cheap home-cartridges instead of the expensive
arcade licensed versions. They also have additional code to keep
track of high scores, credits, etc. Used arcade MVS cartridges do
seem to be cheaper than used home ones however.

Supervision
-----------

Fully compatible, cartridges and systems are the same.

Sega Genesis (sold in Europe as the MegaDrive)
----------------------------------------------

The Megadrive doesnt have a lockout as such, however it does have
country coding. Some carts are coded to specifically look for the
country code, and refuse to run on a system with the "wrong" code.
Adaptor cartridges are available to allow Japanese/USA Genesis
cartridges to fit in a PAL Megadrive, and it is possible to add a
language switch to the Megadrive, to fool a cartridge into
% thinking that it is running on a US or Japanese Genesis. Similarly
% you can add a switch to select 50 or 60 Hz display mode.

The Sega CD (Mega CD) is locked out, lockout defeator carts are
available.

Sega Master System
------------------

Cartridges are compatible. Master systems have a country code
stored in them, and this is not used for any type of "lockout",
however some SMS games display different titles, logos, etc,
depending on the country code of the machine that they are used in.
% There are an odd few PAL titles that apparently do not work on US
% consoles.

The US/Euro SMSs are also compatible with the Japanese Sega
"Mark III".

The MasterGear adaptor allows the playing of SMS games on a
Game Gear, likewise the Power Base Convertor allows the playing
of SMS games on a Megadrive/Genesis.

Sega GameGear
-------------

As Sega Master System.

Sega Saturn
-----------

Has inbuilt lockout for foreign CDs. Lockout defeator cartridges are
available for running foreign CDs.

Sony Playstation (PSX)
----------------------

% Has inbuilt lockout for foreign CDs. There are two ways of getting
% around this, "mod chips" are small PIC chips which you fit inside of
% the PSX and wire to various points on the machine. They basically
% emulate the data streams which the CD unit and security hardware
% pass back to the main PSX body. Also, alternative boot ROMs are
% available. These are basically copies of the "blue" developers
% PSX boot ROM and replace the internal one. They do not have the
% code to carry out the check which is normally carried out on the
% country code and security areas of the CD.

. Running a USA or Japanese CD in a PAL console
causes the PSX to synch at 60 Hz. This can be viewed on a UK TV which
is capable of 60 Hz via an RGB connection lead. Using composite video
the picture will likely be black and white, and may roll. Note, that
if you are using a chipped PSX with a 60 Hz capable RBG SCART TV,
then you will be able to play USA or Japanese games with a full-screen
display and at the full speed.

In addition, the well documented PSX 'swap trick' allows use of
foreign CDs without a lockout defeator chip.

Videopac
--------

The Philips Videopac is the european version of the american
Odyssey 2. Videopac and O2 cartridges are fully compatible with
the 'other' console version. Note, the exception seems to be
Parker Bros Frogger which does not work on Odyssey 2's. Also the
chess module does not work on an O2

Vectrex
-------

Fully compatible. Cartridges are exactly the same. US Vectrex Light
pens and 3D Imagers work ok on UK consoles.

PC-Engine/Turbo-Grafx (TG-16)
-----------------------------

The Turbo-Grafx is the American version of the PC-Engine. PC-Engine
% CDs will play on a Turbo-Grafx without problems, however HuCards
% will not work on the 'opposite' system without an adaptor or an
internal hardware modification. Adaptors for both the TG-16 and PCE
are available. The Turbo Express is the hand-held version of the
TG-16 and runs TG-16 HuCards.

% 3DO
% ---
%
% NTSC versions of 3DO games are playable on PAL 3DO consoles, although
% some look slightly squashed due to the PAL/NTSC aspect ratio
% differences. PAL 3DO titles play and look fine on NTSC systems.
% Unfortunately, due to minor differences between the PAL and NTSC
% 3DOs, some pre-PAL NTSC 3DO titles (such as Twisted, Crash n Burn)
% don't work on PAL 3DOs.

This document was originally written by :-
Ian Pleasance <tspigp@rbkc.gov.uk>

Thanks to the following for providing information and corrections

Christoper Coleman <coleman@wantree.com.au>
Charles E. "Rick" Taylor, IV <charlet@hubcap.clemson.edu>
Colin Woodbridge <Colin.Woodbridge@UK.Sun.COM>
Julie Brandon <julie@merp.demon.co.uk>
Mark Knibbs <mark_k@iname.com>
Neil Pearce <nhp@mround.bt.co.uk>
Rikard Ljungkvist <rlj@algonet.se>
Russ Perry Jr <slapdash@enteract.com>
(apologies to any other contributors whom I have not listed here)
AtariAge - conole compatabilty FAQ