Rany Battikh

UltraPIF – Multi Region N64 PIF Replacement

Back in 2017, developer jago85 started working on a project that aims at turning any (factory region-locked) N64 into a region-free console. He called it the UltraPIF. (Ultra referring to the N64 early code name and PIF referring to the console’s lockout chip(s) PIFNUS (NTSC) and PIF(P)-NUS (PAL).

The PIF, which stands for Peripheral InterFace, mainly maintains the console’s copy protection and region-lockout by communicating with the individual CIC micro-controllers found on-board every single game cartridge. It is also responsible for interfacing with serial peripherals including the controller ports, the reset management functionality and finally, it executes the MIPS CPU boot code located in every single N64 rom.

The UltraPIF, a Lattice MachXO2-FPGA based board, replicates all of the aforementioned functions of the original PIF, but completely bypasses the anti-piracy CIC check process thus unlocking the region barrier set by default by Nintendo. To compensate for the difference of both NTSC and PAL consoles video clocks, the UltraPIF comes with an integrated clock generator/oscillator. This means that PAL N64 owners can now enjoy NTSC games at 60hz and NTSC N64 owners can experience PAL games at 50hz.

Installing the UltraPIF first requires de-soldering the subject console’s PIF chip, then soldering the small UltraPIF adapter board where the PIF used to sit. The adapter hosts wires for the oscillator mod, the optional LED board, and serves as a seat for the main UltraPIF pcb. A few additional steps are required if the console is already RGB modded.

Potential firmware updates can be installed through an Everdrive 64 cart.

The UltraPIF kit is now available at Will’s Console Modifications shop and sells for around $130 (+shipping) or £100, in limited quantities but I spoke with Will and he’s definitely looking at producing more units, depending on the demand.

For more information and a detailed installation guide, check Will’s page: https://bit.ly/3jnPQGl

Also make sure to check the UltraPIF github’s page: https://github.com/jago85/UltraPIF_Hardware

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