How to play NTSC-J RF-only consoles on PAL televisions

Sometimes it’s difficult being a fan of Japanese games when living outside of Japan. If you’re in a PAL country, older NTSC-J consoles cannot ever display properly on your screens. You can usually tune in a fuzzy black and white picture with no sound at best. Even your TV is NTSC compatible via other inputs, it’s extremely unlikely to support NTSC over RF.

You can mod most RF-only systems to output composite video or better, but I am not touching my SG-1000, Color TV Game 6, or some of my original Famicoms, so they simply cannot be used easily.

No modding for you!
No modding for you!

The traditional method was to use an NTSC-J compatible VCR which takes in the RF signal and outputs in composite, but they’re getting hard to come by, are cumbersome, and you also end up with additional artifacting from the composite signal.

I now have a cheap solution. I got myself a $20 NTSC RF to VGA box on ebay. It’s effectively an external analogue NTSC TV capture card. It takes in RF (or composite via side inputs) and outputs in VGA plus 3.5mm stereo jack for audio, with various scaling options.

RF_4231  RF_4234

It can tune in all these consoles, and the output is fantastic. Video is really quite comparable to good composite, and sound is great. The scaling, for what it can do with a fuzzy RF image, is quite solid too. Options are selectable via an on-screen menu, and it even comes with a remote control.

RFTurtles_4203

And here are the results, Turtles 2 on on original Famicom

RFTurtles_4204

RFTurtles_4205
The distortion lines are just from photographing the TV, it’s actually quite clean.

I’ve made a video of it running here:

The downside is that the tuner is NTSC-U, so still not 100% compatible with all Japanese consoles. So I couldn’t get the SG-1000 working perfectly, the colours were off. Color TV Game 6 worked great, as did two different Famicoms, and a Super Famicom vis RF.

It seems to have particular trouble getting sync with primarily plain background games. It eventually clicks and then stays in sync however, but this can take a couple of minutes. However, in all these cases, sound is pretty much perfect the whole time.

Overall, it’s a pretty cheap solution to at least test RF consoles, and good enough to play many!

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8 thoughts on “How to play NTSC-J RF-only consoles on PAL televisions

  1. jessicabridgeworth October 22, 2015 / 10:45 am

    I like your review style, D.Lo. Very authentic :). Would love to feature your reviews in our weekly curated email digest that goes out to thousands of people.

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  2. xinyingho October 4, 2016 / 3:31 am

    I got the same NTSC RF to VGA box than you. But how do you plug a Famicom to this box? The console’s RF output plug is too big to fit in the box’s RF input plug. Is an adapter required?

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    • D.Lo October 4, 2016 / 10:49 am

      Different countries have different TV plugs. So yeah you’ll need some kind of adapter. The Famicom itself just has an RCA sized plug, so something that connects your local aerial plug to that.

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      • xinyingho October 4, 2016 / 5:18 pm

        Maybe I wasn’t clear enough. I’m also from a PAL country (France). And I’ve just bought the same MTVBox as in your pictures, thinking that this way I won’t have to search for a local aerial plug that nobody has anymore. But I can’t plug my Famicom or its original RF Switch to this MTVBox. Could you give me a link to the required adapter or at least the keywords with which I should search online?
        It seems like there are as many aerial plug standards as there are countries. So I really don’t know what to search for…

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    • xinyingho October 4, 2016 / 5:39 pm

      I see. Thanks for your quick reply! I’ll first try to see at a local store then. I may be lucky 🙂

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  3. ilya kolodyazhny March 22, 2017 / 5:37 am

    Hi mate! Can you please tell me – which modern analog tuner is compatible with Famicom RF, and modern PC at the same time?

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    • D.Lo March 22, 2017 / 1:13 pm

      Sorry no idea, my Sony 4K TV has a worldwide tuner, my Panasonic does not. Best to check by model.

      Like

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