One of the biggest retro gaming shames of technology switching to modern flat-screens (besides from the input-lag) is the lose of light-gun compatibility. Yes, if you’re somehow not aware, favourites such as Virtua Cop and Time Crisis will not work on your shiny, new 65” OLED television. The TV’s of old, commonly referred to as “CRTs” operate in a completely different way to what’s currently residing in your living room.
Without going too deep into the technical details, original light-guns relied on the strength of light emitted from tube TV’s as well as their refresh rate to function. Modern incarnations are simply too different to be compatible. However, if you’re a fan of the early and popular NES light-gun game, Duck Hunt and only own a flat-screen, you’re in luck.
The ‘Modern Mallard’ is a new Kickstarter spearheaded by electrical engineer, Jeff Keacher. Comprising of two modules, the Modern Mallard allows an original copy of Duck Hunt (playing in an NES) and the Zapper light-gun to be compatible with a modern TV.
The first module is a patch board for the Duck Hunt cartridge. The patch board its self plugs into the NES, while the original Duck Hunt chip plugs into that. Conveniently, both fit quite snuggly into the original cartridge casing when connected because the chip took up a lot less room that was available (something-something, appearances), although some plastic protrusions will need to be removed. The second module replaces the circuit board in the Zapper while retaining the original lens and trigger. Even more conveniently, Keacher has designed it so no soldering is required. The existing wires will just need to be sniped and plugged into the screw terminals of the replacement circuit board. It should be noted, however, that this mod will only work in the original Zapper. Your clone light-gun is out of the equation!
It’s good to see that proof of a functional prototype exists is provided as well – too many Kickstarters fail because they smell of a scam – but the biggest hurdle Keacher will face is cost. The Modern Mallard is an “All or Nothing” campaign, meaning he’ll only receive the money if it hits its funding goal in time. With a lofty goal of US$125,000 and only $578 funded as of writing (with 19 days to go), it’s going to be tight. Even more so since it will only ship to the US. It is region free, but Keacher cites international regulatory problems as the reason.
The Modern Mallard won’t be available after the Kickstarter, so if you’re interested then now is the time to back. Pricing tiers start at $129 for the product, with a shipping date of February next year. It sure is pricey, especially for a single game (even more so when original CRT’s are so cheap, if you can afford the room) but I do admire the proof of concept. If the Kickstarter is unsuccessful, hopefully, Keacher isn’t too deterred and figures out a way to bring down the cost. The Kickstarter page can be found here.