Hardware Review: Everdrive GB (Nintendo Game Boy Flash Card)

Everdrive-GB-ReviewAfter a long anticipated wait, the Ukrainian retro gaming mastermind Krikzz recently released a powerful flash cartridge for the Game Boy. After a few weeks using the device - allowing us to enjoy the best Nintendo handheld games around, amongst other oddities - it’s time for us to give you our verdict on the Everdrive GB.

If for whatever reason you’re scratching your head over what this device is, the Everdrive GB is a Game Boy compatible cartridge which features a small slot on the top to insert a MicroSD card. The idea is that you can fill a memory card full of (legally obtained) Nintendo Game Boy game ROMs and the cartridge will load them into play, upon selecting them from the Everdrive GB’s menu.

But I already have a Game Boy flash cartridge…

The Everdrive GB is an incredibly late arrival by hardware standards, as Game Boy flash cartridges themselves have been around for as long as the Game Boy itself. During the nineties, devices such as the Bung XChanger and Doctor GB were readily available via importing from the Far East, allowing those with a parallel port enabled computer to transfer a selection of games onto cartridge.

Fast forward to today and there are also a range of modern alternatives available. The Drag N Derp cartridge serves as an easy USB ready removable drive which can store a single game for use in a Game Boy. There’s also the USB Smart Card 64M, the latest import from abroad which if anything is an updated version of the cartridges available several decades ago.

All things considered though, the market for Game Boy flash cartridges has changed overnight. The Everdrive GB has pretty much rendered all other solutions obsolete by fixing all the problems they presented, and more.

Introducing the Everdrive GB

Everdrive-GB-Cartridge

Arriving in a sleek clear Color-style case with a snazzy custom label, the Everdrive GB weighs in at a mere 22g and slots into any Game Boy system around - including the later Game Boy Advance units. Although many of the later clear cased Color games were incompatible with the original Game Boy, the Everdrive GB’s case has a small cut out of its top right reverse corner to allow the original system’s power switch room to turn on.

Looking elsewhere and through the clear case, you’ll also spot the device’s SD Card slot near the top of the chipboard - with an accompanying hole cut out of the case above for the easy removal/insertion of memory cards. This slot is only compatible with MicroSD cards, however, it can read up to 32gb worth of storage space - something we’d be incredibly surprised if anyone managed to use anything near that amount.

Upon booting the cartridge up on the Nintendo Game Boy, you’ll be greeted with a simple filebrowser displaying a list of what you’ve placed onto your MicroSD card. From here, a press of a button will have the selected game ROM written to memory and then booted up as if the original game was present.

Everdrive GB’s Specifications

  • Game Boy & Game Boy color games supported
  • Max. ROM size up to 8Mbyte
  • Compatible with all systems which supports GB and GBC cartridges, including Super Game Boy
  • Supported mappers: MBC1, MBC2, MBC3, MBC5
  • SRAM auto backup on SD card
  • Supported micro SD up to 32GB
  • FAT32 are supported
  • GameGenie cheat codes
  • Simple menu

So, what can the Everdrive GB do?

If you already own an Everdrive cartridge for the likes of the Sega Mega Drive or Super Nintendo, you’ll no doubt already be familiar with the benefits of owning such a device. The ease of use an Everdrive provides is incredible, as your existing collection of cartridges will soon end up becoming display items.

To put this into perspective, theoretically, given the size of game ROM files and the current capacity of MicroSD cards, it is possible to cram every single Nintendo Game Boy game ever made onto this one device. As we always say in these kind of reviews, imagine telling yourself over twenty years ago that a future device would exist that could offer this functionality - you wouldn’t believe it, but it’s here now.

Out of the box the Everdrive GB offers near perfect compatibility with the existing library of titles, including all the greats. Using the aforementioned menu, you’ll be able to load up titles such as Pokemon Red / Blue, Super Mario Land, Donkey Kong and even Zelda: Link’s Awakening, all flawlessly. If that wasn’t enough already, these games will then also behave exactly as their physical counterparts would.

Functionality for multiple save game files is present - something prior flash cartridges struggled with - as the Everdrive GB writes the SRAM down into individual files for each game. This means that should you switch over to another game, the data from the last game you played will be safely stored on the SD Card. If you wanted to return to your previous title, the Everdrive GB will simply look for the save game linked to that ROM file and place it back into memory. What makes this even better is that the standard used here is compatible with emulators. So should you already be halfway through a quest using emulators, or want to take your progress off the Everdrive GB and continue elsewhere, it’s a simple case of copying your save game from the SD card and placing it wherever needed (and vice versa).

Although a lot of the terminology used here in this review relates to the classic Nintendo Game Boy, the Everdrive GB is in fact compatible with a range of devices. First and foremost, the cartridge not only works with a Game Boy Color, but also Game Boy Color game ROMs too. The likes of Tetris DX, Pokemon Gold / Silver, Super Mario Bros Deluxe and Dragon Warrior Monsters are all playable, and work exactly as you’d expect them to.

Super Everdrive GB

And if for whatever reason you tire of the small screen, the device has also been made with the Super Game Boy in mind. Anyone who plugs the Everdrive GB into the Super Nintendo adapter will be soon greeted with the familiar filebrowser and their chosen classics. That, however, is not where it ends. Super Game Boy compatible titles such as Donkey Kong Land, Harvest Moon GB, Kirby’s Block Ball and the Pokemon series will also behave in an identical fashion to the originals, each displaying their Super Game Boy Enhancements (Different colour palettes, custom borders and more).

Unleash the power of the Game Genie

At this point it’s perfectly clear how much effort has gone into this device, but in true Everdrive fashion, it’s not over. Also hiding on the device is the ability to enter Game Genie cheat codes before booting the game of your choice. Where this excels is that without a Game Genie in sight, the Everdrive GB still manages to outperform the vintage accessory. Instead of a mere handful of code slots available, there’s room for a massive sixteen codes at once. But to add even more sugar to this 8-bit perfection, you can also upload to your MicroSD card multiple .TXT files containing the cheats of your choice and load them into memory - long gone are the days of slow inputting the likes of 0144DD91E manually!

There must be a downside though, right?

Krikzz puts an incredible amount of time and testing into these devices, as shown by the finishing product, but there is occasionally one feature that we’d benefit from that doesn’t make the cut.

Unfortunately, although it’s not game breaking, the Everdrive GB does not come with Real Time Clock functionality. This means that the day and night events of Pokemon Gold / Silver / Crystal fail to take place, along with the likes of Harvest Moon GB’s helper sprites which work while the game is turned off. As there are only a mere few games this issue affects, it’s easy to overlook this slight mishap due to everything else this cartridge has to offer.

And although it wasn’t expected to work, the Everdrive GB cannot be used in conjunction with Pokemon Stadium’s Nintendo 64 Game Boy Adapter.


Getting even more from the Everdrive GB

While this section could apply to any flash cartridge, it’s worth noting what benefits a device like this has outside of just playing the originals. Believe it or not but there is a lot happening with the Game Boy even today that’s worth checking out.

Unreleased Nintendo Game Boy Games

As time has gone on, countless gamers have discovered prototype game cartridges containing unfinished code and sometimes unreleased games. In rarer situations, some original developers have stepped forward to release the canned work they created years ago too.

What’s great for us is that using the likes of an Everdrive GB, we can now enjoy these long lost titles - in whatever shape or form they may be in - on the original hardware.

One of the more prolific titles to fit this description is Capcom’s cancelled port of Resident Evil 1 for the Nintendo Game Boy Color. While it’s anything but complete, it’s incredible being able to experience what was both a groundbreaking development at the time and something previously thought to have been lost.

Homebrew & Brand New Releases

If you’ve kept a close eye on retro gaming over the last few years, you’ll have noticed that brand new games are still being created by enthusiasts today for our classic consoles. While there isn’t a great selection available for the Game Boy as of yet, there are still some titles worth checking out such as Flappy Bird GB, Super Connard and Airaki.

LSDJ (Little Sound DJ)

No doubt by now you’ve all heard of the chiptune genre of music - the timeless bleeps and bloops of our gaming past used to create new audio. Well funnily enough one of the most popular tools around to make this style of music is on the Nintendo Game Boy. LSDJ is a purchasable ROM file which provides everything you’ll ever need to become a chipmaestro. That said, it’s incredibly difficult to master.

LSDJ works on the Everdrive GB, however, it’s only downfall is that due to how save game files are handled, you’re limited to creating one song at a time on the device.

ROM Hacks and Colorized Classics

If you ever feel like you’ve had enough of your favourite games, there are always ways to get more out of them. One of the best around is through the wealth of ROM hacks available. These small downloadable patches often enhance, change, or adjust original games into something new.

These hacks can be as simple as replacing all of the visuals in a video game to something new. Take for example Super Pika Land, a reimagining of Super Mario Land where you instead control Pikachu and stomp on familiar Pokemon and smash Poke Ball (coin) blocks. Others instead can be huge enhancements to existing games such as Metroid II DX, a hack which converts the once murky greyscale adventure into a fully compatible Game Boy Color colourthon.

A lot of these hacks have created with emulators in mind, however, many of them still work on the Everdrive GB.

Fan Translation Patches

And last but not least, prepare for your inner-child to go bananas. Remember reading about all those stunning RPG titles in magazines that never reached English-speaking-shores? Well now’s the time to finally enjoy them.

As another branch of ROM hacking, over the years clever individuals have been hard at work converting all of the in-game text of select Japanese exclusive adventures into English. Take for example Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru, the spiritual predecessor to Link’s Awakening which can now be enjoyed in English.

Currently there’s close to two hundred Japanese only titles which are now accessible to both English and other language audiences. The majority of these work on the Everdrive GB, however, there is the odd one that uses an unusual programming method only compatible with emulators.


Everdrive GB Review Summary

While it may be the games which make a device such as this one so appealing, Krikzz needs to be yet again applauded for his creation. Every flash cartridge prior to the Everdrive GB has been far from perfect and riddled with flaws - may it be the limitation of game ROM capacity, a single save slot, lack of removable media compatibility, or the prerequisite that you need a Windows 95 machine with a parallel port cable - Krikzz has rendered all of these issues a thing of the past.

During our testing we didn’t come across a single game that didn’t boot, leaving us to enjoy all our favourites as intended. While the lack of Real Time Clock functionality may put off a few retro gamers, it’s great knowing that it's only a handful of games that are affected - despite still being playable too.

At just £64.99 - a price you could argue is equivalent to a mere fifteen Game Boy originals - you’ll have access to the entire library of 8-bit portable titles, along with the many more in development and array of ROM hacks.

The Everdrive GB is a must have for every retro gamer and one device you don’t want to miss out on.

Our Everdrive GB Review Sample was kindly provided by Retro Towers, one of the best stocked locations online for flash cartridges and similar devices. Retro Towers are offering RetroCollect's readers the chance to get a 5% discount off the Everdrive GB using the following discount code at the checkout: retrocollect

Link: Buy the Everdrive GB Game Boy Flash Cartridge


Last Updated ( 21 June 2014 )  

Cauterize

Better known as Adam offline, Cauterize is one of RetroCollect's final bosses with an unhealthy addiction to pixels. When he's not out searching the web for the latest retro gaming news or creating content for RetroCollect, he'll will most likely be found working on his Sensible Soccer skills.

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Comments 

(Link to this comment) Turkish 2014-06-27 10:08
Very nice to have the many games on one game. Mine! 3-)
(Link to this comment) jake74 2014-07-03 09:29
Great cart, ace work from Krikzz as ever.

One downside can be the power drain on a screen modded Game Boy Pocket if the batteries aren't fresh. Those 2x AAA batteries aren't supplying enough juice, and the cart just endlessly resets.

Works fine on a screen modded DMG tho.
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