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Bung Doctor V64 and Junior
Topic Started: Feb 17 2009, 06:25 AM (5,388 Views)
Senior Member

The information in this article is solely for educational purposes. There are no links to ROMs nor are there going to be any discussions on where and how to acquire such devices. Discussions here are solely discussions on hardware and technical information on the aforementioned devices. Factual accuracy is not guaranteed since a lot of the information are based on memory although if there are any errors pointed out, I will be more than happy to correct and update the article.

The Doctor V64 unit was the first commercial backup development device for the Nintendo 64. Original Doctor V64 units did not allow playing of ROM backups but several resellers would modify the system to allow backup play. This involves installing a modified V64 bios as well as a modified N64 cartridge connector.

The Bung V64 device is a device that is primarily used to run N64 ROMs on a non-SDK Nintendo 64 system. It was released shortly after the launch of the Nintendo 64 by a Hong Kong firm, Bung Ltd. V64 is a CD-ROM drive that plugged into the 64DD expansion slot underneath the N64 it comes with a 128 mbit memory system to load the ROMs with. Other features involved playback of VCD movies and Audio CDs.

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The V64 system with the 64 DD expansion slot bridge connector

The basic setup of the V64 system involves plugging a bridge connector between the 64DD expansion slot and the V64 deck system. This allows the drive to send the ROM data to the N64 Deck. The RCA connectors of the N64 are connected behind the V64 while the V64 RCA connectors go to your TV set. In case you just want to play original cartridges, the V64 (even when not powered) acts as a pass through so you can play normally without having to disassemble the setup. To play the ROM loaded, the V64 comes with a cartridge connector that allows the N64 to authenticate itself with the boot chip code of the cartridge but at the same time the adapter tells the N64 to load the ROM from the V64. This is part of the boot sequence of the 64DD wherein the N64 deck prioritizes the cartridge slot over the 64DD expansion slot. The cartridge data has to inform the N64 to read from the expansion slot underneath where the V64 is connected to load up the ROM information.

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The V64 system without the 64DD expansion slot bridge connector.

The 64DD expansion slot bridge connector was the source of Bung's initial problems with its system. The manufactured connectors were too short and barely made contact with the metal connectors of the 64DD expansion slot. This rendered the system unable to load the ROM into the N64. The first release of the V64 had the buttons and this particular bridge connector all white. This manufacturing error was corrected with the second release which came with black buttons and the black bridge connector.

Removing the bridge connector reveals an N64 cartridge slot. This cartridge slot is used in tandem with a parallel port cable connection directly to the PC through the parallel port behind the V64. This allows you to ROM dump any N64 game and immediately transfer it into your PC although because it used parallel ports, the actual data transfer can take quite a while to complete. This also implies that if you wish to use the ROM dumping feature, you would need to remove the N64 sitting on top of the V64 system.

Doctor V64 uses an S-Video jack for connecting the power supply cord. Power supplies included with Doctor V64s were very unreliable and replacements of those were reportedly frequent. This was rectified with subsequent releases.

The initial V64 release could only support loading a ROM in a CD (both CD-Rs and CD-RWs), which you can imagine, is a whole lot of waste space. The V64 device CDs has to be recorded in Mode 1, ISO 9660 format. Doctor V64s only supports the 8.3 DOS naming convention. Joliet file system is not supported. Bung later on developed, alongside the second release of the V64, an updated firmware that allowed the system to read CD-ROMs with several N64 ROMs in compilation. Early V64 models shipped with a standard IDE 8X CD-ROM and then with 16X and eventually 20X drives later on. It is reported that the V64 devices could be purchased without a CD-ROM drive. A recent unofficial firmware update for the V64 allowed the V64 to read from a hard disk drive instead of a CD-ROM.

Saving on the N64 had two options. First of which is through the N64 Memory Pak and the second and more often used is the EEPROM battery backup. The second option is a touchy affair with the V64. Because the game sizes vary you may need to have several cartridges to save your game. For instance, if you have a game that has 128 mbit in size, you would need to have a 128 mbit cartridge plugged in the cartridge connector to save the game. As far as I know, only Super Mario 64 deviated from this setup as the cartridge is 128 mbit in size although the game was only 64 mbit. Having a larger data size cartridge also allowed game saves from multiple games. Suppose you had Super Mario 64 cartridge, you could very well save two 64 mbit games on the cartridge and continue just fine. But beware that whatever save that was in your cartridge will be erased. This particular saving complication prompted Bung to release the DX 256 save pack, which provided 256 mbit of memory save capability.

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Bung V64 with DX 256 game save pack.

Later N64 games grew larger in size, more complex titles were 256 mbit (32 MB) in size and this is where the memory expansion bay underneath the V64 came to play. The initial system only came with 128 mbit (16 MB) to cover the first few released titles such as Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. Bung released a custom 128 mbit expansion memory stick to upgrade the V64 system to be able to load 256 mbit systems. You cannot use two out of the box 128 mbit sticks to produce a V64 system with 256 mbit system. You are required to purchase a proprietary expansion memory stick to perform this upgrade. Later V64 models shipped with the 256 mbit upgrade installed already. The saving of 256 mbit games was covered by the DX 256 save pack.

Bung later attempted to streamline their solution by introducing the V64 Jr. This is a cartridge only solution which makes use of a cable where you connect to the PC to transfer your games. The V64 Jr. had a 512 mbit data saving capability which covers the very few N64 titles that went for about that range. This also seemingly where Bung had finally cracked Nintendo's boot chip codes, making their own cartridge that the N64 deck would authenticate successfully.

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Bung V64 Junior

Nintendo had multiple problems with Bung's solutions, two of which are mentioned here. Firstly is that their ill-protected system were experiencing rampant piracy of their games. To circumvent this, Nintendo started releasing different boot chip codes on some of their titles and forced games to check back on the boot chip. For the end users, this is a matter of trial and error (or research), trying out different cartridges until the game's boot chip code was a match. As a minor trivia, to run Jet Force Gemini, you can use the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time cartridge although the game would not save, I think due to Jet Force Gemini being a larger sized title. Second of their problems is that Bung and others were taking a huge pie of Nintendo's astronomically priced N64 SDKs. For a developer to develop N64 games, all they would need are compiler tools to build the ROM. After that, it was a matter of loading it up the V64 (or other similar devices). Nintendo ended up doing the most straight forward solution, which is to sue Bung Ltd. That worked really well for Nintendo!

Source: Wikipedia
Edited by niniendowarrior, Feb 20 2009, 06:19 AM.
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