Saturday, May 4, 2013

Innovation Super 8 "Famiclone"

When I saw the item above sitting in a Goodwill outlet bin exactly as you see it pictured I ignorantly -- and overzealously -- assumed I had struck gold. I originally hoped it was an excessively rare Nintendo Powerfest or Campus Challenge ROM cartridge, but recessed deep in the back of my mind I knew what it was. I had wanted a Super 8 for a couple of years but never thought I would run across one, but the Goodwill outlet store never ceases to amaze me.

If you're not familiar with what an Innovation Super 8 is, its an attachment that goes on the top of your Super Nintendo/Super Famicom and allows you to play four different types of video games: Super Famicom and Super Nintendo (simply used as a pass-through) as well as NES and Famicom games. Some call these a Famiclone, but I tend to think of Famiclones as a standalone system that is self-sufficient and plays Famicom games, either built in, through a 60 pin cartridge slot or both. That is why I classify the Super 8 as an attachment, more so than a Famiclone, although I can't really argue against it being a Famiclone, because it does play Famicom/NES games via an internal NOAC.
When you boot the Super Nintendo/Famicom with the Super 8 attached you are presented with a pretty awesome screen, giving you the choice of either 8-bit (Famicom Controller) or 16-bit (Super Famicom Controller) games. The first of which is obviously going to boot either your Famicom or NES game which is plugged in, but the system will only boot one or the other; I'm not sure what happens if you try both at the same time, but I'm not willing to chance it. And the second is the single Super Famicom/Super Nintendo slot, luckily there are no plastic stoppers built in preventing you from playing Super Famicom or Super Nintendo games making the Super 8 completely region free, as long as its NTSC.
One issue with the Super 8 is the means in which you run the video through it. The Super 8 runs straight off the power of the Super Famicom/Nintendo, but the Super 8 has its own built in AV cable that needs to be plugged into the back of the SNES and the AV cables, the normally go where the Super 8 is now plugged into, go into the back of the Super 8. The jack that goes into the SNES is really nice and fits well, but the jack coming out of the Super 8 is weak and often times you'll need to completely reset the connection from minor bumps and moving.

Another issue that is common with NOAC Famiclones are verticle lines on the screen, which I've only noticed while using the standard SNES/N64 AV cables. I managed to remove those lines entirely using a Nintendo RF modulator (NUS-003), yet the colors were muted and the volume seemed to drop dramatically. There is a mod to remove them for good, but the lines aren't really that big of an issue to myself, but they are noticeable and problematic to some people.

The final issue with the Innovation Super 8 seems to be an intentional break in the traces that prevent any Super Famicom/Nintendo games using the Super FX chip from working through the Super 8 attachment. Again I've read there is a super simple mod to repair this, but I currently don't have any games that use this chip to test whether or not my unit needs this mod or not. Even though the mod is simply bridging a gap with some solder, I'll wait until this problem arises before I'll take personal offense and fix the issue.

Sure I own a Super Nintendo, an NES and a plethora of Famiclones and I don't currently own any Super Famicom games that need special means to be played, as of yet, but having the Super 8 opens up the doors to so many possibilities. I am a sucker for systems or attachments that allow me to save room on my entertainment center and the Super 8 allows me to play 4 different type of games through one system, with impeccable compatibility. If nothing else the Innovation Super 8 shows the modern Famiclone consoles just how much better an NOAC was back in 1995 and its simply a cool piece to own!

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