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Reversing the Nintendo 64 CIC - REcon 2015

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Published on Feb 28, 2016

Mike Ryan, marshallh, and John McMaster talk about reverse engineering and cloning a 20 year old copy protection chip.

This presentation covers our successful efforts to reverse engineer and clone the Nintendo 64's copy protection chip: the N64 CIC. We describe the processes and techniques we used to finally conquer this chip, nearly 20 years after its introduction.

Nintendo's NES, Super NES, and Nintendo 64 used a series of copy protection chips known as CICs. As the consoles grew more sophisticated, so did the chips. While the NES and Super NES CICs have been cracked and cloned, up until recently the Nintendo 64's has remained an elusive target.

Our team approached this chip by exposing the die (decapping) and optically imaging it, including its mask ROM. Through visual inspection we determined the CPU core and instruction set, and we were able to extract the program code from the mask ROM. We wrote an emulator on PC and ultimately cloned the chip on a PIC microcontroller.

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