Super Nintendo Entertainment System (aka Super Famicom)

Region Free with circumvention utilities


The SNES had two different forms of region protection. Firstly, there was a different cart shape in all 3 regions, unlike the previous generation where US/EU carts were the same. Japanese carts and European ones, though on the surface identical, had different physical shapes on the back that matched plastic tabs inside the console. This effectively means that an EU Super NES game would not sit in a Japanese Super Famicom, and vice versa. American SNES games on the other hand are a completely different shape entirely, due to the rather ugly redesign Nintendo America deemed necessary for their market, so do not even fit slightly in the slot of the other two regions (and of course they cannot take the other 2 region carts, either).

Secondly, the software encryption used on NES was back, but this time in an effort to block out the many unofficial NES cartridges that had been made, Nintendo added checks for specific code in SNES carts that involved copyrighted information, ensuring if any of the unofficial game makers included it, they would be infringing copyrights and would be sue-able, and at a stroke also blocked out the Action Replay/Game Genie cheat devices. Naturally workarounds were found eventually, and one unofficial game even managed to be released, using similar techniques to the adaptors we’ll get to shortly.

The net result was that adaptors are needed for SNES import gaming – though you can get inside the system and snap the tabs off, this doesn’t help American games, nor get around the software blocks.

The Adaptors

All the adaptors for the SNES work on a similar principle. To successfully play a foreign game, you need three things – the foreign title, the adaptor, and a European SNES cart. The adaptor loads the foreign game while sending the header data from the EU cart, fooling the SNES into thinking that it’s running a European cart. As a result, all the games run at European speeds rather than their original NTSC ones, but 99% will have no problems with this. Below are the three main adaptors around during 1993, courtesy of scans of an old issue of Super Play I found – the situation has changed little since. Click any picture to see the full image, as usual.

Super Play Gold Scans

For the sake of completeness, I’ve included below the scans from the issue of Super Play Gold that are directly related to the SNES import scene, circa 1993. They aren’t strictly needed for the purposes of getting carts running, but they’re interesting historically. Due to WordPress limitations, they’re hyperlinks rather than thumbnails, but the images themselves are all there!

Accessories, Page 1

Accessories, Page 2

Buying From Abroad, Page 1

Buying From Abroad, Page 2

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