Retro modding is all the rage and André Berube is definitely one of the best out there! His analogue stick work is particularly impressive. We sent Adrian and Anthony down to find out more about him and his work. We’ve also embedded some of his YouTube videos below for your watching pleasure. We recommend you follow him on Twitter.
Welcome André! Please tell us a little about yourself and what is your background in gaming?
Hey there thanks for hosting me. I’m a recluse with a background of self-taught illustration, electronics and some mechanical experience. My primary interest in video games starts with the NES/Famicom and tapers off after the PS1/N64 period, but my first system was an Atari 600XL.
You like to build and tinker with electrical components. What are your preferred objects to work on and how do you remember the first console you ever took apart?
I like to work with and design solutions for small objects, they tend to be easier to handle and observe the spatial relationships of the parts when repairing or coming up with something new. First console deconstruction was probably the NES to replace the cartridge connector, but my first serious modification was installing a modchip and region switch in my Sega Saturn in the early 2000s.
How did this interest come about? And when did you first think about starting a YouTube channel?
My father operated an electronic repair shop in the 1980s fixing VCRs, tube televisions and personal computers, so I was right there in the middle of it as a kid. He taught me a lot and I still consult him from time to time.
What processes and research do you put in place before tackling consoles for the first time?
The best start is to look up whatever schematics can be found to better understand the layout and function. Fortunately a lot of these devices are already documented and the information is out there. Every new challenge provides a learning experience but it can be annoying and obstructive when the answer isn’t apparent.
Which computer/console proved the most difficult to repair and can you explain why?
A very early iteration of the Neo Geo AES that wasn’t putting out video/audio. People commonly plug in the wrong power supply and there’s no protection from overvoltage so anything can break. Took me a month of prodding around. The AES/MVS also uses a lot of custom hardware so I had to track down an appropriate donor board that had its own issues for a specific replacement chip.
You do a lot of modification work on various controllers. Do you offer any of these services to the public?
I am available for custom commissions, with a preference towards solutions for those with physical handicaps. Anything I’ve made before I can also duplicate for anyone interested.
The Neo Geo Mini controller modification of the clicky stick movement you accomplished is extraordinary. Was this due to the lack of the feature not offered to the accessory that SNK was known for?
A friend of mine made me aware of the original Neo Geo CD pad with its miniature joystick, but when I found out that the Mini controllers were just using analog sticks inside that got me wondering if I could correct that. Buying just the pad was cheap enough I could justify breaking it in the course of experimentation. I think I went through two dozen different iterations before I settled on something that could be used for the AES/MVS. It was very satisfying figuring that out.
We are delighted to see you working on projects like the Atari Jaguar controller. What are your plans for the piece?
I’ve designed a harness to give the original 3 button controller a thumbstick in place of the mushy d-pad similar in function to the Mini pad mod, but now I’m working on a harness for the 6 button pro controller, and I’ll be producing a small run of those for sale to the general public.
What are your favourite games of all time. Do you have a top 3?
I like action games that require practiced reflexes, pretty much anything Konami produced in the 80s and 90s was good. I do enjoy the occasional strategy game. If I had to pick a trio, off the top of my head maybe Akumajou Densetsu, Robotron 2084 and Military Madness/Nectaris.
Which console/computer do you feel was technically the most impressive when it was first released to the public and can you explain why?
The Amiga computer line was top notch and unrivalled in graphics for many years. In fact, a lot of games for home consoles had their graphics first developed on Amiga systems didn’t they? It’s a shame the brand didn’t persist. (very true – Ed)
What advice would you give to anyone looking to repair or mod their own consoles and computers?
Start with simple tasks like capacitor replacement or switch installs and work your way up from there.
Review videos and tutorials of work that others have done and don’t get discouraged with mistakes, but don’t dwell on them either. (for fixing stuff we’d also recommend our friend Aergan – Ed)
If you needed a work partner to assist you, which video game character would it be to help work with you?
Dr. Wily from the Rockman/Megaman series, he was infinitely more productive than Dr. Light and also more ambitious.
If you could share a few drinks with any video game character, who would you choose and why?
That blue puffball Lolo from Hal Labs, we’d just stare at each other because I don’t drink!
Adrian & Anthony
Now go check out our Anthony’s Official Neo-Geo thread on Atariage!