Flashcarts

From Retro Gooning
Jump to: navigation, search

What is a Flashcart?

A Flashcart enables the playback of dumped ROM files on a custom PCB designed to be used with the original system hardware.
In the last few years development and sale of Flashcarts has risen alongside the increase of retro game prices.
A Flashcart for a given system allows you to play most games for it, although some may have some compatibility problems, always check the compatibility list before purchasing a Flashcart.

Flashcarts are usually region free, but some systems with physical lockout via cartridge shapes (such as the Nintendo NES vs Famicom) may prevent this in practice.
Flashcarts can often be bought as the PCB only or within with a custom cartridge shell for extra cost.

How to use a Flashcart

Although every product will have it's own set of instructions, the basics of usage remain the same.
A Flashcart possess a slot on the PCB for a type of removable media such as CompactFlash, SD, etc.
With some Flashcarts, firmware needs to be loaded onto the removable media in order for the Flashcart's operating system to function.
ROM files are be placed onto the removable media for use. The Flashcart's operating system will “flash” them to it's internal memory for the console to access.
The operating system will also have several other features depending on the firmware/manufacturer.

Recommended Flash Carts

Nintendo Entertainment System / Famicom

Two options, both with advantages and disadvantages.

Everdrive N8 (NES Version)

Everdrive N8 (Famicom Version)

For the most part, the Everdrive N8 is considered the better flash cart, due to the PowerPak having it's share of issues. However, it does have minor issues with certain games.
It's addon sound chip implementations are not particularly good, it has improved 3rd Party implementations for two of the most important ones, but not all of them.

PowerPak

As of this writing (August 2016) the PowerPak has more recreation of addon sound chips employed by a number of Japanese games, if you find the correct set of 3rd Party mappers.
However, CompactFlash cards are a pain compared to SD cards, and this cart draws much more power which can be a problem for 3rd-party power supplies.
Additionally, this cart does not come in a Famicom version.

NOTE: While you can play Japanese games on a US NES with these carts, some of them employ addon sound, which requires an expansion port addon (for Toasters) or modding (for Toploaders) to receive on a US NES, details /somewhere/.

Sega Master System

Master Everdrive

As of this writing (August 2016) this is the only option available, however, it's a quality product so this shouldn't be an issue.
Flash based, so loads games slowly and theoretically has a limit on flashes.
!!! It is worth knowing that a Genesis / MegaDrive flashcart can play Master System games (but -NOT- SG1000 games) on a Model 1 or Model 2 Genesis / MegaDrive. !!!

Super Nintendo / Super Famicom

Two options, this time with a much larger difference between features and pricetag.

Super Everdrive

This cart is simple and has no support for any addon chip games, however it is far cheaper than the SD2SNES below.
You can solder in a DSP chip to support games that use it, or purchase it pre-included for an extra cost.
Flash based, so loads games slowly and theoretically has a limit on flashes.

SD2SNES

This cart houses a large FPGA that can be used to recreate the addon chips used by a number of SNES games.
As of this writing, it currently supports... (CLICK HERE for a full list of which games use which chips.)
- DSP 1-4 : (Super Mario Kart, Pilotwings, Lock On / Super Air Diver, etc)
- ST-101 : (F1 ROC II: Race of Champions / Exhaust Heat II)
- Cx4 : (Megaman X2, Megaman X3)
- S-RTC : (Daikaijuu Monogatari II)
- OBC1 : (Metal Combat: Falcon's Revenge)
- Additionally, this is the only cart that can hold a large enough ROM to run the Star Ocean decompression hack. (Star Ocean normally uses a very complex image compression chip.)
- Strangely lacks support for GameGenie Codes.
Support for SuperFX was in progress and was planned for SPC7110 and possibly SA-1, however...
!!! Ikari, the firmware developer for this cart, now has a child and as a result, limited time to work on the SD2SNES. !!!

Sega Genesis / MegaDrive

Two options, weighing between features and pricetag, both from the same creator.
(NOTE: Models are due for a refresh soon, it is best to wait if you want the cheapest option, as it will use RAM instead of Flash.)

Everdrive MD

This is the simple, no-frills version. Supports Master System, Genesis/Megadrive and 32x games. (32x games still require a 32x device.)
Cannot play Genesis/MegaDrive Virtua Racing. Flash based, so loads games slowly and theoretically has a limit on flashes.

Mega Everdrive

This is the more expensive version, by nearly double. It loads games faster and adds the ability to act as a Sega CD RAM cart, which can be expensive now.
Might someday recreate the Master System FM Synthesis addon for that system's games. Krikzz has officially stated this is "not worth his time" unfortunately.
Still cannot play Genesis/MegaDrive Virtua Racing? (I may be wrong on this.)

NEC TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine

Turbo Everdrive

As of this writing (August 2016) this is the only option available, it should be noted that it is prone to hardware compatibility problems with the typical Region Mod, but the cart itself can change it's own region.
This cart can load a System Card ROM, but you should use this patched version. However, it does not support acting as an Arcade Card.
At this time it is unknown if it can function as a Tennokoe Bank Card. If it does, it will require resetting (button on the Card itself) to backup saves to SD-card.

Nintendo Gameboy / Gameboy Color

Everdrive GB

As of this writing (August 2016) this is the only option available for a modern, SD-card driven cart.
Does not support Real-Time Clock. Flash based, so loads games slowly and theoretically has a limit on flashes.

There are other carts available, however they are the old type that only hold one or two games at a time and require a PC to change.

Sega Game Gear

Everdrive GG

As of this writing (August 2016) this is the only option available.
Flash based, so loads games slowly and theoretically has a limit on flashes.

Nintendo 64

Two options, weighing between features and pricetag, both from the same creator.

Everdrive 64 v2.5

Base version, requires resetting before poweroff for backing up saves to SD-card, no support for Real Time Clock.

Everdrive 64 v3

Enhanced version that supports real-time saves and Real-Time Clock, but may not be worth the price premium.

Nintendo Gameboy Advance

What about CD/DVD-based Consoles

Burned Discs

CD addon systems of the 16-bit era (SegaCD, Turbo/PC-Engine CD) or the obscure systems (Phillips CD-i, 3DO and Atari Jaguar) do not require any modification to run burned disks.
The Sega Dreamcast can run burned disks as long as it isn't Revision 2 (number in a circle on the bottom label), however it has to be in a specific format and trimmed down to fit in the size of a CD-R, which generally means compressed videos and sometimes sound.

Modchips

The Playstation 1 and Sega Saturn require the installation of Mod Chips to run burned disks. New Playstation 1 and Saturn chips can be made brand new as their code is available and are purchasable pre-made from threads such as this.
For the Sega Saturn, you also want to get an "Action Replay 4M Plus" cart to remove the region lock (chips don't do this), provide extra RAM to games that use it and serve as a save backup cart. Search EBay for "Saturn Action Replay".

Softmodding

For the Nintendo Gamecube, the easiest route is a Homebrew-capable Backwards-compatible Wii with a USB HardDrive instead of modding a Gamecube.
This may also be a good solution if you wish to use 480p / Progressive Scan, due to the expense of Component cables for the Gamecube.

For the PS2 and Original Xbox, these can also be softmodded to run Homebrew and run games from an internal HardDrive.
A reasonably fast SD-card can stand in for a physical drive via this SD to 2.5" IDE adapter and a 2.5" to 3.5" IDE adapter.

Optical Drive Emulators

If you are concerned about the longevity of optical drives, the Playstation 1, Sega Saturn and Sega Dreamcast have devices known as "Optical Drive Emulators" available that replace the drive entirely, however they can be difficult to obtain due to sheer demand volume.

Playstation 1: PSIO
Sega Saturn: Rhea OR Phoebe (Depending on your Saturn Model)
Sega Dreamcast: GDEMU OR USB-GDROM (Different Creators)

The Sega Dreamcast has some alternative loading methods such as an SD to Serial adapter or a Parallel Port Mod, but compatibility is currently very lacking with these methods.