How a Nintendo superfan turned his Switch into the perfect Super Nintendo throwback

Nintendo’s new video game console, the Switch, is a major hit. It’s sold out in many stores, and demand doesn’t appear to be slowing down. It’s Nintendo’s fastest-selling console in history.

Nintendo SwitchNintendoLeft: Nintendo Switch in home console form. Right: Nintendo Switch in portable form.

That’s saying a lot considering how remarkably popular some of Nintendo’s past consoles have been. From the original Nintendo Entertainment System to the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo has an impressive legacy of making hardware that people want to buy in droves. 

That level of enthusiasm just as often translates to rose-tinted nostalgia. Look no further than the explosive sales of the NES Classic Edition console this past holiday for evidence:

NES classic editionNintendoThe NES Classic Edition is a miniature, $US60 game console that plays 30 classic NES games. It’s no longer being made.

Nintendo smartly plays this nostalgia to its advantage, re-selling its games and hardware over and over in slightly re-packaged form. But Nintendo can’t possibly keep up with fan demand for 30 years of nostalgia. And it’s moments like this when fans take that nostalgia into their own hands.

Behold, the Super Nintendo Switch:

Nintendo Switch (SNES)Andreas WallinQuite the looker!

The beautifully nostalgic Nintendo Switch above is a custom job, care of a man named Andreas Wallin.

He painted both of his Switch console’s controllers — the so-called “Joy-Con” gamepads on either side of the Switch’s tablet screen — and swapped out the standard buttons for Super Nintendo-themed buttons. 

Super Famicom (gamepad)Evan Amos/WikimediaThe four colour Super Nintendo gamepad was made for the Japanese market (thus the ‘Super Famicom’ name).

He posted his custom-modified Nintendo Switch to Reddit’s Nintendo Switch forum yesterday, and was immediately flooded with positive responses. More than just excitement, people were curious about his creation: How’d he do it? How long did it take, and how could they do it themselves?

So we got in touch with Wallin, who explained his work as complex but possible. 

“The internet is a great resource for modding,” Wallin said in an email. “I’ve been following the Switch and the great mod/remix culture that it has started around it. So I followed a few articles and videos about what to do to pick the Joy-Cons apart.”

Indeed, there are even videos specifically made for how to replace the buttons on the Switch. Like this one:

Of course, it’s not quite that simple. Wallin took apart each of his Joy-Con gamepads so he could paint them (Tamiya AS-16 Light Grey [USAF]).

He wasn’t aiming for a perfect re-creation of the Super Nintendo’s grey colour scheme. “The colour is a tad lighter than the SNES base grey,” he said. “Grey enough to homage, but still light enough to seem more modern.”

But, even more impressive than the grey paint job is the SNES-themed, four-colour button layout. For this, Wallin turned to another Nintendo handheld — the 3DS — which used such a button setup in a recent variation.

“I ordered a set of replacement buttons for the New 3DS off eBay,” he told me. But there’s an issue, of course — “the bases of the buttons are different,” he said. In so many words, the 3DS buttons don’t directly fit in the Nintendo Switch. “You need to either mod the 3DS button bases, or sand the Joy-Con buttons down and substitute the bases by gluing the pieces together.”

This complication would be enough to deter most fans, but Wallin persisted. And in his persistence, he found encouragement for other would-be modders. 

“Once I had all the tools and materials, painting took most of the day on/off (since each light layer of paint needed some time to dry sufficiently),” he said. “The button mod I did in-between; it took less than an hour, and then I had the disassembly and assembly which didn’t take too long either. I spent my Sunday doing the complete mod, and let the topcoat cure the night over.”

Interested in doing something similar? You’ll need a handful of tools (a tri-point screwdriver, a fine-tipped Phillips head screwdriver, and a pair of angled tweezers at minimum) to start. But let’s not kid ourselves: You’ll also need free time, obedient patience, and a lot of drive. Wallin said it best:

“I’m pretty sure most people who are industrious enough to find the relevant tutorial videos online, and feel they are able to follow those videos, can do this!”

Good luck!

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