Common PSone Repairs (PlayStation SCPH-101)

PSone Console and Controller

I grew up a Nintendo kid, but for Christmas 1995, I asked my parents for a PlayStation. They didn’t get me one. (Tragic, I know.)

In 1996, I saved up my money and bought a Nintendo 64 on launch day. Shortly thereafter, I even bought a Sega Saturn. From then on, I was a devoted Nintendo and Sega fanboy, finding any opportunity I could to look down on the lame PlayStation. At least, until I got caught up in the PS2 hype and bought one of those on launch day…

After that, I had a real justification for not getting a PS1 – I could play its games on my PS2! Still, something about the redesigned PSone spoke to me when it came out, with its compact form-factor and cool LCD screen attachment. I wanted one almost purely for its aesthetics, I could just never rationalize it.

It wasn’t until I was in my late 30s that I finally found a good justification to get one. I would buy a broken one for cheap and repair it as a project! Sure enough, I did exactly that. And through that experience, I discovered that the PSone is a genuinely fun system to work on.

The PSone is tiny, so it doesn’t take up much space in a console collection. Plus, it’s very repairable and easily moddable. Plus, who doesn’t like that cool little screen attachment!?

Now, I’ve been through the repair, refurbishing, and modding process for a number of PSones. Below are my notes on common faults and fixes. Hopefully, others may find this useful…

Scrambled, Wavy, or Black Screen

There are two surface mount capacitors near the display port, at points marked C550 and C551, which frequently go bad and leak (as so many SMD capacitors do). These two components are part of the S-Video and Composite video signals, respectively. If you’re getting a dark, wavy, scrambled, smeared, or just plain blank screen when you power the system on, it’s likely that one or both of these capacitors is going bad. They’re a common part, being 4v and 220uf, so they can be replaced for pennies. Personally, I prefer to replace them with through-hole components that I’ve trimmed and bent the legs on, but you can replace them with pretty much whatever 220uf capacitors you may already have on hand.

Finicky Power Jack

If you find yourself having to wiggle the power plug around in order to get your system to turn on, you’ve probably encountered one of the most common PSone problems I’ve come across – cracked solder joints. Thankfully, it’s also one of the easiest to fix!

Simply disassemble your system, heat up your soldering iron, and reflow the solder around the jack’s three mounting points. In fact, add some extra solder while you’re at it. This problem most commonly happens when there isn’t enough solder used on components that face lots of repeated physical stress, like power jacks and controller ports. Over time, that stress leads to breaks in the joints. It seems Sony just didn’t use enough solder.

And while you’re at it, reflow the ground points for the controller ports, too. I’ve seen a few systems with cracks there, though none of them have yet caused gameplay issues. I figure it’s only a matter of time, though.

Sticky or Broken Eject Button

I don’t know what it is about the PSone, but so many that I’ve worked on have had janky eject buttons. Most of the time, it’s because dirt and sticky stuff have accumulated under the button (gross). Other times, it’s because something has gone wrong with the springy latch that holds the lid down. There is a delicate “spring” that’s really just a loop of thin plastic which bends in and out when you press the button. That loop can crack or break over time. A little bit of glue seems to do the job to get it working again when it does break. (And, of course, soap and water to clean up whatever grossness has accumulated around it.)

Games not Loading, Slow Loading, or FMVs Skipping

This is a general “CDs aren’t being read correctly” category. If your system isn’t reading discs properly, you may be tempted to replace the whole laser assembly. While that will work, it’s probably not necessary. I’ve had systems that won’t play certain games, or which skip during certain FMV sequences, or are just weirdly noisy or slow to load. All of them have been fixed by adjusting the potentiometer on the laser’s ribbon cable. A very slight clockwise turn does the trick.

Personally, I use a multimeter to read the resistance across the pot in order to be sure of what values I’m working with. The good, working systems I’ve tested generally read between 900-950 ohms, so I aim for that when adjusting a non-working system. The systems that aren’t working properly generally show a higher value to start. (But do note that I’ve seen systems that work best at 1000 ohms, so there will be some trial and error to this process.)

PSone laser assembly. Red square denotes the potentiometer. Arrows denote the two points at which to test resistance values.

That’s all for now! I’m going to dive into a PSone LCD screen repair soon, so watch out for that next.

My Thoughts On: Kirby’s Adventure (NES)

I tend to obsessively dive into my hobbies for short periods of time, which is why you’ll see content on this site ebb and flow. That’s okay because I’m not here to make a living or be an “influencer” or anything like that. This is primarily intended as a place to document and share what I learn in my personal projects – things like hardware mods and repairs, homebrew experimentation, and tinkering with funky accessories.

Lately, my interest in more complicated projects waned around the busy holidays. It’s times like these that I sometimes remind myself that, while things like hacking hardware or learning a new mod can be rewarding in and of themselves, they ultimately serve another purpose: actually playing and enjoying video games!

With that in mind, I was looking for a new game to play over the holidays. I wanted something I hadn’t experienced before, but I also wanted it to be relatively relaxing and chill. No hardcore memorization, grinding, or perfecting of skills. Just something to have a bit of fun with and pass the time while on vacation. And that’s how I settled on Kirby’s Adventure for the NES.

I haven’t had too much experience with Kirby, despite being a Nintendo Kid growing up. I just never paid much attention to the series, even though it’s one of Nintendo’s most prolific and popular. I owned and completed Kirby’s Block Ball because it came with my Game Boy Pocket back in the ’90s. I picked up and played a bit of Kirby’s Canvas Curse in the mid ’00s because it was an interesting use of that unique (at the time) DS touch screen. Sometime in the late ’00s, I got into retro game collecting and added Kirby’s Adventure to my shelf of NES games, but never played it. And that was about the extent of my Kirby experience.

So I dove into Kirby’s Adventure shortly after Christmas, almost completely fresh and mostly unaware of what was to come. My thoughts on the game went through several stages as I played through it.

My first impression was that it was a very well polished game with colorful worlds, catchy music, and an overall cheerful vibe. Exactly what I was looking for. It is, undoubtedly, a technical marvel for the NES. But before long, I was getting a little bored. The first two to three levels are a complete cakewalk, offering almost no challenge whatsoever. And considering this game’s “Levels” are what most platform games call “Worlds,” two to three levels is practically a third of the game!

The difficulty level did start to pick up a bit in later levels, with trickier enemy placements, slightly more complicated boss patterns, and more hidden secrets and exits. But that’s also around the time where I started to get frustrated with the controls. I wouldn’t call this a complicated game, but Kirby has a lot of abilities. Obviously you can run and jump, but you can also duck, float, inhale enemies, dash run, slide attack, and blow puffs of air.

Frankly, that’s a lot to map to a controller with a D-Pad and two action buttons! So I repeatedly found myself cursing Kirby and yelling out things like “Argh, no! I didn’t want to float there!” or “Ugghhh, I wanted to inhale, not blow,” or “Wtf, why did you just run?” Tack on the dramatic slowdown that starts to happen with lots of action on the screen in the later levels, and I just never felt fully in control of Kirby. In a platformer, that’s kryptonite.

So for the middle to later levels, I was feeling pretty sour on the game. But since I knew it was short, I kept playing just to finish and see what else it had to offer. And then I had a revelation that changed my attitude. I stopped feeling frustrated about cheap deaths for one simple reason: this game has absolutely no consequences for failure, whatsoever. Died because my controller stopped responding during a nasty bit of slowdown? No problem, the game puts me right back at the same screen when I start again. Got a game over during a boss fight because Kirby kept floating away instead of running? No worries, I can continue on the exact same fight. Get tired of playing and want to turn the game off? Sure thing, there’s a battery backup, so I can pick up next time right where I left off.

Once I shook off decades of video game conditioning that told me that dying in a game is a bad thing, it became exactly what I was looking for – a chill, relaxing adventure. I beat it but didn’t reach 100%, so I think I’ll casually return to it in the next week or two to find its remaining secrets. And I’m intrigued enough to check out some more of the series. So all in all, I think this was a successful pick. Kirby’s Adventure isn’t perfect, but with the right mindset, it’s certainly worth a play through.