Hardware Review: Krikzz's 'Everdrive N8' Nintendo NES/Famicom Flash Cartridge

Hardware-Review-Krikzz-Everdrive-N8-Nintendo-NES-Famicom-Flash-CartridgeKrikzz recently released his highly anticipated Nintendo NES/Famicom flash cartridge, the Everdrive N8. Capable of running just about every 8-bit Nintendo console ROM released to date from a MicroSD card, is your NES in need of this revolutionary kit?

Several weeks ago the team behind Retro Towers provided RetroCollect with a review sample of the Everdrive N8. Since then we have been giving the flash cartridge an extensive playthrough, indulging in countless classic Nintendo titles (a several stinkers too) all in hope of providing a definitive review of this new device.

What is the Everdrive N8?

The Everdrive N8, alongside other flash cards, are unofficial cartridges which allow you to create a selection of game ROMs on your computer, place them onto a removable memory card and then boot them up on the original hardware via an easy to navigate menu system. The huge advantage to these flash cartridges is that you can pretty much place an entire console’s library of software onto a single SD card, eliminating the need to ever use/buy a real game again. Every game you could ever dream of owning is just a few button presses away, regardless of cost, rarity and demand.

This new device, however, is not the first Nintendo NES/Famicom flash cartridge to hit the market. Retrozone’s Powerpak has already been available for several years and upcoming additions such as r.a.m Factory’s Invitenes are set to provide cheaper alternatives to classic gamers on a budget. While these other choices have provided us with countless hours of entertainment, the Everdrive N8 has since risen to the top thanks to it using a more accessible and familiar memory card format, MicroSD cards.

Having said that, there is one slight niggle for retro gamers to consider. At the time of writing Krikzz has only released the Nintendo Famicom version of the Everdrive N8 - one which requires a bit more effort to get working on American or European Nintendo NES consoles. The reason behind this is that the Famicom reads cartridges with 60-pins, while both NTSC and PAL game cartridges are of the 72-pin variety. There are adapters around which will eliminate this problem (some of them being sat dormant in official Nintendo NES cartridges), however, without one of these you will be limited to playing the Everdrive N8 on Famicom based hardware - at least until the 72-pin version of the Everdrive N8 is released.

What can I expect from the Everdrive N8?

Costing £99.99 from Retro Towers, the Everdrive N8 comes in a coloured Famicom cartridge case with the option of purchasing a 8gb MicroSD card at checkout too for an additional £7.50. For this one time investment you’ll be unlocking a lot more than you’d expect. Hidden within the Everdrive N8 is functionality to not only run NES and Famicom titles, but also Famicom Disk System games (without the need for the original Disk System hardware). The compatibility is rather impressive, gifting adopters of the Everdrive N8 access to over 1,000 unique releases all in one place.

But before you get too excited, there is one thing to keep in mind where compatibility is considered. Due to the way 8-bit Nintendo games rely on additional ‘mappers’, it was once thought that an all in one cartridge solution for playing almost every NES/Famicom game to date was impossible. Luckily enough the Everdrive N8 manages to emulate the majority of mappers with ease, so much so that you never need to worry about what a mapper actually is. For example, the Japanese version of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse which features an additional VRC6 audio enhancement chip is fully compatible with the Everdrive N8. For the remaining mappers that are currently unsupported, the Everdrive N8 will feature updatable firmware which should over time fill in the missing mappers.

One of the other, although not exclusive, enticing features is the ability to use Game Genie cheat codes, without an original Game Genie in sight. Before selecting the game of your choice from the inserted MicroSD card, the Everdrive N8’s firmware grants you the option to enter Game Genie codes from the cartridge's main menu. The advantage to this functionality is that the Everdrive N8 offers more available lines for entering cheat codes than the original Game Genie ever did - cheat to your heart’s content!

Those who aren't cheating though, may be wondering if their hard efforts through timeless classics will be acknowledged. The good news here is that Everdrive N8 features built in functionality for save game files, automatically writing directly to the MicroSD card whenever you record your progress in game. These files are then kept on the MicroSD card as .SAV files, which can then be copied over your your PC and used within emulators. Adventure titles such as The Legend of Zelda can easily be enjoyed on the Everdrive N8 over time and resumed whenever you please.

How can I get more out of the Everdrive N8?

If for whatever reason the easy access to over a thousand classic 8-bit titles is not quite enough for you, there is plenty more the Everdrive N8 can offer. The most notable of these additions is that the majority of ROM hacks out there are compatible with the Everdrive N8. Out of these, there are countless translated Japanese exclusive RPGs and adventures, enhancements to existing games and of course graphical hacks which bring new twists to old classics - many of which have been covered here at RetroCollect over the last few years.

Casting aside the official selection and hacked originals, there are also countless enticing pirate games out there such as Somari and Kart Fighter, abandoned and unreleased classics such as Earthbound Zero and Bio Force Ape, and of course the brand new homebrew releases such as Blade Buster and Streemerz - all of which can be enjoyed on original hardware using the Everdrive N8.

Everdrive N8 (NES/Famicom Flash Cartridge) in action

Everdrive N8 Features

EverdDrive-N8 RAM cartridge for Famicom/NES with microSD interface

  • Famicom, NES, and Twin Famicom systems are supported.* Many NES/FC clones supported as well.
  • Cart supports NES and FDS ROM images.
  • Automatic disk side swap for FDS.
  • Expansion audio.**
  • Game Genie cheat code support.
  • Automatically backs-up saves to microSD card. There is no need to push reset before shutting down the system.***
  • Mapper support can be extended via software updates. As easy as loading new mappers files on microSD card.
  • FAT / FAT16 / FAT32 file system formats are supported.
  • Supports microSD (SD & SDHC) cards up to 32GB.
  • Quick loading of game files (approx. 4-8 seconds).
  • USB port for home-brew and mappers development (optional).

EverdDrive-N8 hardware:

  • Powerful Cyclone II FPGA.
  • 2 x 512Kbyte SRAM for PRG and CHR data.
  • 128Kbyte battery backed memory. It write save data to microSD.
  • Max II CPLD to handle FPGA reconfiguration, BIOS, SD and USB interfaces.
  • 1Mbyte flash BIOS.
  • Voltage shift buffers on PPU and CPU bus for matching levels between 5v NES bus and 3.3 EverDrive bus. Far better than simple resistor buffers at reducing noise and power consumption.

* Famicom version of cart requires Famicom to NES adapter to be used with NES. NES version of cart requires NES to Famicom adapter to be used withFamicom.

** Only Famicom can output expansion sound without modification. NES systems require modification to support this feature.

*** FDS is the only exception, user should push the reset button on system to get back to main menu before than shutting down the system, otherwise FDS save data will be lost.

Conclusion

Although there are several options out there for gamers wanting to run ROM files on the original 8-bit Nintendo hardware, the Everdrive N8 pushes itself ahead of the competition, only just, thanks to the more modern removable media format used and its reasonable price tag.

The only downside to this Everdrive N8, however, is the fact that those without access to a Nintendo Famicom have a task on their hands finding an appropriate converter, or a long wait on their hands for Krikzz’s 72-pin variation of the hardware.

Either way, to think that over a thousand titles can be enjoyed on the original hardware without relying on emulation anymore makes the Everdrive N8 a rather attractive purchase - along with that excuse you wanted all along to invest in a Nintendo Famicom console too.

Link: Buy the Everdrive N8 from Retro Towers

Link: Everdrive N8 at Krikzz.com

Link: Famicom (60-pin) to NES (72-pin) Adapater


Last Updated ( 21 March 2013 )  

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.

Other recent articles:

Comments 

(Link to this comment) The Rook 2013-03-27 23:45
The new flash cart from Krikzz is actually the most expensive flash cart for the NES/Famicom. It costs £99 or about $150 USD. And it requires a converter to be played on an NES. The PowerPak from RetroUSB.com is $135 USD and does not require a converter since it is a 72 pin NES cartridge. About the only advantages I see for the Krikzz flash cart is the automatic saves (no holding down the reset button), and I suppose using MicroSD instead of CompactFlash cards. I do own 2 of Krikzz flash carts, the Everdrive MD and the Turbo Everdrive. They are both awesome and I would say they have a slightly better user interfaces than the PowerPaks. (I also own both the NES and SNES PowerPaks from RetroUSB.com). But until this is released as an actual NES cart you will need a converter, which will cost you additional $$$. A quick scan on eBay reveals these 60-72 pin converters are about $35-$40. Maybe they are cheaper somewhere else online.
(Link to this comment) Sisee 2013-03-31 17:03
I agree with 'The Rook';
There are similarly, or even cheaper options.

I only own one ROM cart, the "SuperUFO Pro 8".
I have been interested in getting a better one.
Not just for SNES, but my other consoles also.
Release of the NES Everdrive got me excited. NES was my first console. I have countess memories of it.
I put off buying PowerPak from RetroUSB, as Krikzz's work gave me hope of an alternative.
But, with a converter, NES Everdrive would cost the same, if not more than RetroUSB.

Availability of 'working' Famicoms and the ratio to NES's; I don't see logic in making Famicom Everdrive before NES.
The first, and hopefully only bad decision in design of his carts from Krikzz to date.
Banner
Banner

Retro Game Database Search

Retro Gaming Podcast

Join the RetroCollect Squad as they discuss our gaming past in the all new RetroCollect FM - Retro Gaming Podcast.


Retro Games on eBay now



About RetroCollect

RetroCollect is your one stop for everything retro games and retro gaming. Featuring the latest classic gaming news around, informative reviews and an ever active forum, you'll feel right at home with other retro gamers.

RetroCollect FM - Retro Gaming Podcast

Join the RetroCollect Squad as they talk their way through the wonderful world of retro gaming.

Listen to RetroCollect FM - Retro Gaming Podcast

Join RetroCollect on the web