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CREATED JUL.24.2009
UPDATED JUL.25.2009
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TEXT WRITTEN BY
MARTIN NIELSEN
PIRATE N64 GAMES
... OUT OF ASIA
Unlike the NES/Famicom and Gameboy which were pirated to hell and back.... twice, the somewhat less popular Nintendo 64 didn't receive the same treatment. Another reason is of course that an N64 cartridge is much more sophisticated than its Famicom/NES or Gameboy counterpart.

But the asian pirate outlets did try their luck in the early years of the N64, and only the early years it seems as only first generation pirate carts have appeared until now.

Nintendo 64 games are much bigger in ROM size than any other, this of course meant that the chips used to make the carts cost a it more. But as if that wasn't enough the N64 had a much more complex security "lockout" chip than any other. This lead some pirate outlets to simply deliver game without a lockout bypass and then relying on users to use converters where an original cartridge would deliver the lockout(in?) code.

At least two of this type are known to exist, found by Assembler of www.assemblergames.com a few years back.

Well a few months ago I finally got my hands on an N64 pirate cart thanks to a good friend. Just as the games, Killer Instinct Gold and Wave Race, Assembler found earlier the game I got was also first generation game, more speficly Top Gear Rally.

The interesting bit about this cart is that it actually works without the use of an adapter. The cartridge is nicely made in the same color as a real N64 cartridge, even the label is a near perfect, although a little blurry, replica of the actual label, however it isn't glossy as an N64 usually is, so it's the first indication that something isn't quite right.

Next up is the backside of the cartridge and the caution label, which says for Hong Kong use only, the label on the front has the US serial number though. but it also mentions things such as "Do not abuse the cartridge". On the back of an N64 cartridge you normally also find two security screws holding the gamepack sides together, but on this pirate cart the screws is a part of the mold of the actual cartridge - which means they're plastic and can't be removed.

Also, the pirate cartridge feel very light, the weight is only 60 grams compared to an original cartridge' 90 grams. The PCB inside the cartridge is probably gloptops, chips hidden inside an epoxy glue, unlike original PCBs using real size ROM chips. Unfortunately I havn't been able to open my N64 pirate cart, it seems like I will end up breaking it if I try. The pirate carts are being held together by 4 "flaps" inside the cart and these will most likely break.

The cartridge mold was made US/Japan "universal" meaning that the cartridge was molded so it would fit both a Japanese or American N64 console. The cartridges for these two regions are molded slightly different on the lower backside. Inside the N64 console's cartridge slot are two small tabs which will prevent US carts to fit in a Japanese console and vice versa.

This was done to prevent Japanese imports from working, which they would "out of the box" if the tabs weren't there. Why? well Japanese and American N64 carts share the same lockout chips. European N64 carts use the same mold as Japanese ones, but European carts use a different set of lockout chips.

To put the icing on the cake, the Top Gear Rally pirate cart was also delivered in a near perfect replica of an N64 cardboard box.

I can't remember if I was told that it also came with a manual back in the day, but when I got it there was no manual. Also, the box has a small flaw, being that it has upside down n64 logos on the side compared to retail boxes.

But the N64 pirate market quietly died out, at least in the western countries. Game copiers soon took over and the N64 received enough variations to satisfy the demand with copiers such as the most famous Doctor V64, followed by the Mr. Backup aka. Z64, the Doctor V64 spinoff called CD64 and finally the Super Wild Cart (SWC64). But I will be sharing much more information about these later.

Pirate carts known to exist:

Killer Instinct Gold
Pilotwings 64
Top Gear Rally
Wave Race 64
(Diddy Kong Racing)

Thanks to Rowan for the cart :-P

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