Sega Week

How to mod a Dreamcast VMU into an adorable retro emulator

Modders give the Visual Memory Unit a second life as a portable that plays classic games on Atari, NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, and more.

Sega's Dreamcast died young, but its groundbreaking technologies paved the way for modern gaming. It was the first console with 128-bits. The first console with online gaming (Phantasy Star Online anyone?). And its memory cards, known as Visual Memory Units or VMUs, were basically tiny Game Boys.

Saiga GeneCast

Just look at it. Don't tell me its square LCD display, D-pad, and A + B buttons don't resemble a Game Boy. Unlike the PlayStation's memory cards, the VMU plugged into the Dreamcast's controller. Chonky? Yes. But so friggin' rad.

Though the VMU as a portable device wasn't widely supported by developers (its puny processing power limited it to minigames like taking care of a Chao in Sonic Adventures or showing health stats in Resident Evil: Code Veronica), modders have given the tiny gadget new life as a retro console emulator.

Wermy

It's actually not as complicated as it looks to mod a VMU into a classic games emulator. YouTube user wermy shared an in-depth tutorial (and project log) on how to make one yourself.

Wermy

You can find a very detailed step-by-step guide here. But all you're really doing is disassembling the VMU, unwiring cables, hollowing out the inner plastic shell and jamming a Raspberry Pi W, new color LCD screen, and a lithium-ion battery inside. Soldering experience is a must!

Wermy

The heart of a modded VMU is the Raspberry Pi W. It's $10.

The screen varies on exact size, type, and resolution. Generally, you want a screen about 1.45-inches in size. These can range anywhere from about $5 for an LCD with 128 x 128 resolution to an OLED with 160 x 128 resolution is another $18.

Wermy

A lil 500mAh battery will run you about $8.

Once you're done, you can run pretty much any retro game console. Atari, NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, etc. We can't legally tell you where to get ROMs, but it's not hard to find them.

Retro Dodo

It's pretty tight to see the VMU running Pokémon Gold in all of its 8-bit glory.

Retro Dodo

8-bit games like Pokémon aren't difficult to run. The VMU emulator also runs 16-bit games like Sonic & Knuckles.

Marki_pi

How dope is this? If Sega sold official VMUs with a bunch of pre-loaded games, they would fly off shelves.

This little emulator makes for a great weekend project. Now, you just need to go and make it. Bad at DIY? Consider buying one from MarkyPi Gaming. Enjoy your VMU. It’s thinking.

Retro Dodo

Share