When the worlds of retro gaming and customized hacks collide, chances are, you’ll find Benjamin Heckendorn (better known as Ben Heck) standing by with a soldering iron.
Longtime Ars readers are no strangers to Heck’s history of making incredible—and often portable—versions of classic computer and gaming hardware from scratch. He most recently popped up in larger nerd culture by helping bring a one-of-a-kind Nintendo PlayStation system back to life.
But this week’s newest Heck hack stands out for a few reasons: it delivers an incredible fix to the recent, flawed Neo-Geo Mini, and it sees Heck returning to YouTube after saying goodbye to his official and popular “Ben Heck Show” on the platform.
The Neo-Geo Mini only recently shipped to retailers, and while its game selection and screen quality have generally been applauded, its hardware design puzzled a lot of fans. Why was the new joystick analog when the original system famously used clicky, eight-way digital joysticks? And why were the A-B-C-D buttons placed out of order?
Heck asked these questions loudly in a teardown video last week, all while murmuring about how the NGM’s innards seemed easy enough to reconfigure as a handheld system. On Tuesday, Heck followed through by posting a half-hour video on his personal YouTube account. His Neo-Geo Mini handheld hack video, summarized in the above gallery, shows everything from joystick engineering (a 0.7-second process, give or take), to Adobe Illustrator schematic design, to soldering, to 3D-printing, and to playing Metal Slug games on the final product.
We documented the results in the above gallery, but we really encourage you to click through the embedded video below when you get a chance, as it combines Heck’s meticulous crafting process with his agonizingly cheesy puns and jokes. (We missed those, Ben.)
In an interview with Ars, Heck confirmed that he’s interested in “making easy, low production value videos,” as opposed to the more regular and carefully edited videos that filled his show for the past eight years while the hacker took on “prototype contracting” jobs to pay the bills. We jokingly asked if Heck would hurry up and produce a few thousand of these customized Neo-Geo Mini handheld systems, to which he responded: “Maybe a PCB kit could be made to easily convert the Neo-Geo Mini board.” Yes, please.
Listing image by Ben Heck