Disclaimer: Modthis.com is not responsible for any damage caused to your devices due to any information found on this site. Please use this knowledge at your own risk.
While cleaning out my closet the other day, I came across a device I bought many years back that let me backup my Nintendo 64 game cartridges on to 100mb zip disks, and then playback the game images through my N64 without the need of a cartridge. It was such a cool and invaluable device to have back in the 90’s I just wanted to share it with you now.
Back in the early 90’s when I was in the 5th grade and Nintendo was the talk of the playground, I remembered hearing a rumor about some kid’s older brother who had a device that you could order from some hard to find magazine. The device would allow you to copy your Nintendo and Super Nintendo game cartridges to a standard PC floppy disk and then play them back on your own system. The idea of being able to copy all of my friend’s games on to a couple of disks excited me to no end. I remembered searching and searching through different electronic magazines at bookstores trying to find any sort of product page for such a device, but with no luck. I didn’t even know if the device really existed, and being there was no easy access to the internet back then, I eventually gave up my search. It was not until many years later that I came across an ad talking about Nintendo 64 cart backups. Still interested in the idea of being able to copy a carts EPROM (Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory) data and play it on another medium, I decided to call the Taiwanese company and order the unit they were selling.
The device was called the Z64 or “Mr. Backup” depending which model you had. It cost around $350 dollars back then but was definitely worth the money. The unit which sat on top of your N64 was made up of a 386 PC processor, 256mb of ram, a zip drive and an LCD screen. The device was able to copy (er I mean backup) and playback almost any N64 game. You didn’t even need to have the N64 present to backup a cartridge, you could do it right from the Z64’s built in screen. You place the cartridge you are planning to backup in the Z64 cart slot, then insert a blank zip disk in to the drive and select the backup option from the unit’s screen. Each zip disk could hold about 5-7 games, which was perfect for taking the unit to a friends house to play or copy, I never had to lug tons of games around.
That was it, after your game was backed up, you just take out the cart and select which game to load from the Z64’s screen, then after the game loads in to memory it will tell you to turn on the N64’s power, and the game plays perfectly. The unit was also great because it let you play N64 homebrew titles that people made themselves. You could download these unofficial games, copy them to your zip disk and then play them through the Z64. I remember going to a friends house and loading up a homebrew game, which was kind of like a doom knock off, but instead of killing mutants you got to kill Barney the dinosaur to Nine Inch Nails music while Beavis and Butt sound effects went off (I miss the 90’s). Having the unit taught me a lot about the inner workings of the N64 as well as some very light assembly programming. I use to decompile game images, change around some sounds or sprites and recompile them using tools I found on the net. This allowed me to have custom versions of some of my favorite games.
If you’re still a big N64 fan it might be worth it to look for one of these things. They are pretty rare these days but every now and then you might find a used one pop up on ebay. There were other backup units that existed for the n64 as well. One was called the CD64 which hooked up under your N64 and allowed you to load backups through a built in CD drive. The other called Doctor V64 JR. let your PC talk to your N64 and you could back up and load games right from your computer. I like the Z64 the best because it was a self contained unit. Also, thanks to the power of the internet I was actually able to find the NES and SNES copiers from way back which was called the Game Doctor, they really did exist!
2 Responses to “Retro Console Mods: Nintendo 64 Cartridge Copier (the Z64)”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.