Hands on with VGNY’s Replacement Dreamcast VMU Shells

The Sega Dreamcast’s Visual Memory Unit was ahead of its time and even SEGA never utilized it to its full potential. Besides being a memory card, certain games will let you play minigames (even though that would guarantee that you’ll need to purchase some CR2032 to keep the device powered). So while the U.S. saw VMUs in 6 colors, our friends at Video Games New York decided we needed MORE colors and thus started a Kickstarter campaign to drum up interest for a batch of fresh new colors for your VMU. I was fortunate enough to get ahold of 2 production samples of their shells (Clear and Silver). Join me to see if these butter fingers can handle something as simple as a shell swap!

Removing the shells from the package, its tactile feel mirrors the official shells. I noticed the shells in the package did not have any markings, but I assume this is because they are production samples and the final product will include labeling. At the risk of trying not to replicate the ifixit teardown article, the most difficult part of the disassembly is removing the speaker that is glued to the back of the shell. Otherwise it’s removing 6 screws, battery contacts, main board and making sure the LCD isn’t scratched or reinserted wrong. Because the self repair life apparently isn’t for me, I manage to detach the cables from the speaker. Some people do intentionally snip these cables to ensure they never hear the dreaded beep when the VMU is inserted into a controller without batteries, but it affects the gameplay of some titles. Maybe I’ll toss it to iFixRetro to repair, but it’s currently a low priority.

After the reassembly and confirming that the LCD is displaying properly I did a couple tests by inserting and ejecting the VMU from a controller and the process was pretty smooth, proving that the team at VGNY did their due diligence in replicating the shell. In regards to the old shell, VGNY doesn’t necessarily recommend you send it to the junkyard, they will eventually create something that will allow you to repurpose the old shell into something neat (Some ideas being kicked around include a conversion kit to a pin).

At the time of writing the Kickstarter campaign has eclipsed the $8000 mark, ensuring Japanese style blister packaging, an additional color as well as colored silicone pads to replace the face buttons from the default white. If you miss the campaign you’re certainly not out of luck, as it’s likely the shells will be available locally at the Video Games New York store situated near St. Marks Place in Manhattan or directly on their website. Here’s hoping this campaign will allow the store to explore other shell replacements…I know this is super obscure, but I could always use a new PocketStation shell…money’s on the table guys!