Many a tutorial has been written regarding the Sega Megadrive Region Switch mod. This modification will release the true power of the MD and enable you to play Japanese and American games on your PAL console with the flip of a switch.
Most tutorials you find will use two toggle switches, however I prefer to use a single switch.
The switch we will be using a on/off/on switch and I opt for a black rocker switch to try and make it look like it was always meant to be there.
We shall assume you have basic soldering skills and that you are versed in undoing screws!!
Begin your mods by flipping the console over and undoing the screws on the underside. Put them safe in a handy pot and remove the top half of the console.
To separate the top from the bottom you will need to unplug the power led, you can change that if you fancy, my personal Megadrive has a white power led. To unplug you will need to straighten the legs sticking out of the white plug and gentle wiggle until its free. Put the top to one side for now.
Next up is to remove the metal shield. Its held down with several screws and hooked under a tab on the bottom shield.
To remove the motherboard, there is one screw on either side of the cartridge connector. Lift the headphone jack out to reveal another screw and there is a few in the thick aluminium angled piece.
Remove the motherboard, it is also hooked into the bottom tin piece. And the bottom tin lifts out.
Cue cleaning, I give mine a gentle scrub with a sponge in the hot soapy water and leave it to dry. Be careful using a scrubbing brush or the scratchy pad on sponges, this will scratch up the console and leave a matt finish. Not the end of the world but it takes elbow grease to re-polish it.
Whilst this is drying, use a wire brush to remove any rust from the tins, mine where quite bad where they had sat in a loft or shed for sometime. Give it a spray with WD40 or something to help protect them in the future and pat dry.
Work can now begin on the soldering. I like to prepare my switch and wire first, so fire up your iron and grab a beer whilst you wait.
On the switch itself I give the contacts a light emery to reveal the copper, because the solder will not work on the plated surface. Apply the heat and melt some solder on to the three contacts. Using a handy vice or helping hands makes the job of holding three things with 2 hands easier!!
Grab your wires, I used some from my bits box that came from an old PC I gutted out. Cut this to the desired length. This length will depend on how you route your wire but I tend to go out towards the right of the console, round the front under the controller ports and back to the left. Leave a little slack but not too much.
Strip your wires and tin the ends.
Put all this to one side.
My next job is always to fit the switch, grab that freshly clean, lemon smelling (my wife’s choice of washing up liquid not mine!) console from your draining board and offer the two halves together.
Decide where you are placing your switch, I always place mine on the left hand side as there is a convenient gap inside the console for the switch to sit.
Grab some masking tape and mark out where the switch goes. This bit needs some care, mark out carefully and ensure the two halves line up.
Err on the side of caution, you can remove more material but can’t add it. So take it nice and slow.
A needle file makes light work of the hole and gives a nice clean corner. Work on one half at a time and Keep offering up your switch to check for fit until you are happy. Clean off the burrs by scraping with a scalpel or a gentle rub with some fine grade emery paper.
Close it up to check the switch doesn’t hold it off and that’s the hard part done !!
Next up is to refit the bottom tin and the mother board. I like to work with these in place although that’s not essential.
Go ahead and find this area on your motherboard.
There is various revisions of board and the part you are looking for can be in a slightly different position and in different orders. However the area you are looking for is 4 pairs of solder pads labelled JP1, JP2, JP3, JP4.
On some revisions there is a capacitor present across JP1, just like the board i’m working on. You can go ahead and remove that capacitor, heat up the legs and gentle pull with some pliers and it’ll come free.
We are past the point of no return, so onwards to cutting those lines between your JP numbers, take a sharp implement and scrape the traces. I generally just cut a couple of lines across them with a scalpel. But here I’ve taken more drastic measures for illustration purposes.
To test you have done this correctly fire up the console with a PAL game, and you should see this screen, which means its defaulting to the USA format of NTSC (unless of course you are playing a genesis game in which case it’ll play just fine).
You are currently in this state with no pair of jumpers connected, it’s kind of a default setting.
Now we can add our wires, you will want to solder one wire to a ground. These are either at JP1 or JP3 on the right hand side. The wire then gets soldered to the to the middle position of the switch. This grounded switch position will give you the modified setting of NTSC .
Next wire placement is up to you I like to have Jap as position 1 and PAL as position 2 on my switch, since we are modifying it the likelihood is you don’t want to play in PAL’s sub-par 50hz so have that as the last position.
Solder one wire to the left hand solder pad of JP1 or JP2 and one wire to JP3 or JP4.
Here is some reference on what wire goes where:
What I like to do here is just re-flow the solder, some people add a blob of solder to each pad but I just heat the pad with a pointy solder tip, push the wire into hole and then remove the heat to let it bond.
Don’t forget different revision boards can make life hard here so ensure you research your motherboard. If in doubt fire me an email – I have some reference on different boards.
From here solder each wire to the remaining connectors on the switch.
Streets of Rage 2 is an ideal cart to test if your mod has been successful, so use this opportunity to test it.
Here’s a run down on what position plays what :
And here what each position outputs using a PAL copy of SoR2:
Position 1 :
Position 0 :
Go ahead a route your cable out the way of screws holes etc., hot glue it into position if you wish and replace your top tin.
If you intend on playing Japanese carts, they are a funny shape so you’ll need to modify the top case.
Flip it over and remove the flap assembly.
Here you need to proceed with caution, use a combination of round and square needle files and some emery paper to file out the slot until the cart fits. I tend to place the cartridge in position and keep offering the top case up until it fits over and aligns into position.
Remove the burrs and refit the flap assembly.
(P.S. – scratches were there already and now have been polished out!!!)
Plug the LED back in and fold over the legs, refit the top half and you are now ready to give it a thorough test.
I give mine a decent polish by using some WD40 on a duster and giving it a good hard rub to bring up a shine. You can take this opportunity to buff out any major scratches if you like.
Not too hard huh ?