HD Retrovision, a small company that specializes in making products for both the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Genesis, are releasing their second batch of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis Component Cables this Saturday, June 24th at 6:59PM CDT (Central Time). In addition, there will also be cables available at the same time on the two consecutive Saturdays after this, on July 1st and July 8th.
Those in the retro gaming community may remember when they first plugged in their old SNES or Nintendo 64 into their High-Definition televisions using the standard Composite (the red, white, and yellow) cables that are typically associated with retro gaming. As a child, you couldn’t help but be amazed by the quality of the gameplay and the graphics when viewed through your childhood CRT television, but when looking at the image produced by a Super Nintendo in the year 2017 one wouldn’t be at fault for thinking that the image doesn’t look as good as you remember it.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that these older connection types are incredibly inferior to what we have become used to. Modern connection types such as HDMI use many wires (yes, HDMI is one cable, but there are plenty of little wires in an HDMI cable that are then bunched up into one cable) to send pieces of the connection to the television, which allows the image to be represented more clearly on your display. However, composite video (that is the yellow RCA cable) sends color, brightness, and sync signal through one wire. To compensate for this problem, your Super Nintendo will compress the image so that it can be sent through this one wire, resulting in a poorer image.
The second reason your game looks worse than you remember is because of your display. Nowadays people use Flat Screen LCD TVs that have a crisp and clean image for modern games, but poorly represent 240p games as 480i and don’t do as good of a job masking some of the tricks used by developers to make these games look good like a CRT can. Ironically, many of the tricks used to make these retro games look so good at the time, such as the dither present on the Sega Genesis or the anti-aliasing present on the Nintendo 64, are now considered obstacles to better image quality by the retro gaming community.
Many gamers shrugged their shoulders and sighed at the muddy image these old consoles produced, but others used their dissatisfaction with the poor quality images to search for the closest thing to that pixel perfect emulator look we have all become used to. In the search for better image quality, retro gamers figured out that many of these older consoles support RGB video, a video standard that separates red, green, and blue into separate cables, thus allowing a closer representation of the image produced by the console to show up on your television.
Europeans may typically associate RGB video with connection type called SCART, an all purpose connection that can produce RGB video. However, those in North America never received SCART, and thus have no way to utilize its superior image quality on their television sets without spending money on expensive video scalers and other devices that allow us to send RGB to our otherwise incompatible televisions. Most people do not wish to spend hundreds of dollars on getting a good quality image out of their retro consoles.
Meet the SNES Component Cables, a simple set of cables with the classic Nintendo A/V Multi Out plug on one end, and two RCA stereo sound cables (red and white) and a set of green, blue, and red RCA cables (that represent YPbPr) on the other end. What these cables do is they take the RGB video produced by the Super Nintendo and change it to conform to the YPbPr color space, which is slightly different but produces similarly high quality video. YPbPr video, or more commonly called Component video, is a widely available connection type available in North America. For a mere $53 US, you can get the best quality image available from your Super Nintendo for a little less than the cost of an average Switch game.
Before you go dropping money on these cables, it is important to note that these cables are NOT an up-scaling solution. These cables simply take the 240p image produced by the Super Nintendo and send it through to the YPbPr inputs on your television. Your television still needs to be capable of receiving 240p through Component. It is possible that your HD television accepts 240p over Component, but there are ways to check. You can use an application called the 240p Test Suite to make sure that your television accepts the Super Nintendo’s signal through component and/or doesn’t incorrectly interpret 240p as 480i.
If you enjoy gaming on a Standard Definition (these are televisions that only support 480i and by extension 240p) CRT and your set has Component input that is another great use of these cables. If the television you use does not support 240p through Component, there are plenty of up-scaling solutions available that will allow your Super Nintendo to be compatible with your set using these cables without having to resort to the muddy image produced by lower quality video connections such as RF and Composite video.
In addition, these cables have additional perks. Any Nintendo console modded with an RGB modification (such as an AV Famicom or a Nintendo 64, any system with an A/V Multi Out identical to the one present on the Super Nintendo) or that has RGB video (such as a European Gamecube) can utilize these cables in the exact same way as a Super Nintendo can, by taking the RGB signal and spitting it out as Component video. For more information, go to the HD Retrovision website or check out the RGB Video Master Class series on Youtube by My Life In Gaming.