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Modern Mallard: play Duck Hunt on a LCD TV

The reviews on this site are the text versions of the videos on my YouTube channel. The text based reviews use (if at all) very little pictures. Please follow the link to the corresponding video in order to see in game graphics.

This is a "Famicom Jr.". The video signal is connected to a modern LCD Television. The inserted game is the Super Mario Bros. Duck Hunt double cartridge. As you can see, I am able to play the game without a CRT television. This is not faked. If the gun isn't facing the ducks when shooting, they are not hit. A normal zapper wouldn't work on a LCD TV for two reasons: It looks for light signals with a frequency of 15 kHz as this is the horizontal refresh rate of CRT TVs. The console sends objects such as white squares to the screen and instantly tries to measure whether the gun is pointed at them. Even if the light signal was at the right frequency, the game would look for the light signal before it is even transmitted from the LCD because the video signal is too delayed.

In this video I am using the so called "Modern Mallard" which consists of two parts: A new gun PCB which reacts to light signals form DC up to 7 kHz. The board was made in a way which allows it to distinguish between the light from the TV and the light of the sun or lamps inside the room. The second part is a PCB which is connected between console and the original game cartridge. It patches the game ROM to accommodate for the lag which LCD TVs typically introduce. The board is so small, that it can fit into NES cartridges together with the game PCB.

Development of Modern Mallard started in 2016 by Metsasta LLC. which was founded by Jeff Keacher. In June of 2018 Metsasta launched a Kickstarter. The idea was to raise capital to produce and sell a limited number of Modern Mallard within the USA. Sadly the Kickstarter wasn't able to raise enough money. I contacted Jeff during the campaign and we are writing emails since. He has sent me the Modern Mallard unit I am showing here for testing. Furthermore I was lucky enough to get an interview from him of which I am going to show some parts in this episode.

So far I have tried two LCD TVs and the screen of my notebook computer. They all worked flawlessly. Launching the game when the cartridge is connected via the Modern Mallard PCB will display a little text at the start screen of the game. If the desired game mode is chosen, the screen goes blue for a brief moment in order to measure the delay, which is then remembered and compensated in all following shots.

I tested the compatibility of Modern Mallard with the Opensource Scanconverter and it worked flawlessly. Knowing that the problem with the light frequency is fixed with the Modern Mallard gun PCB I went on to try the modified gun, with a normal non patched version of Duck Hunt in different variations. The OSSC processes video signals very quickly and setups using it are known for having between zero and one frame of lag. Sadly, this is enough to break the compatibility. Shooting the gun while it faces the blue sky sometimes is interpreted as a hit. Some modern NES alternatives with HDMI output advertize themselves as being completely lag free. This is of course untrue, but I was intrigued to test the Modern Mallard gun PCB with an Analogue NT mini. Sadly the introduced lag is way too high and no hits were registered at all. I will go on testing with a RetroTINK 2X in the future but talking to Jeff he assumes that probably none of these lag free BOB interlacers will be fast enough, as LCD televisions typically buffer and wait for a complete frame before they draw it whereas CRTs start drawing the frame as soon as the first fragment of incomplete information is received. Amongst clone systems so far I just tried a PAL Micro Genius, which wasn't able to run the patched game.