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Author Topic: Emulation and Flash Carts  (Read 3823 times)

VenusBananaPeel

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Emulation and Flash Carts
« on: October 20, 2015, 10:03:05 am »
Hi!

So I'm looking to buy some sort of flash cart (I hope I'm using the right terminology) like an SNES Everdrive, so I can play hacks and some of the $400+ SNES/Super Famicom games that I just cannot afford.

I have no idea which type of flash cart would be best of this or which is best in general. I'm new to this whole thing. I also am probably interested in a genesis flash cart and a GBA flash cart. If I need to provide more information I'd be more than happy too.  :)
« Last Edit: October 20, 2015, 03:08:37 pm by VenusBananaPeel »

FAST6191

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Re: Flash Carts
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2015, 12:23:13 pm »
Starting with the simplest then
GBA. Afraid you are buying this in 2015 when the GBA scene ended in 2008 so your options are a bit more limited, though you can still get it done.
If you want it for a GBA then go with an EZ4, there is a nice new microSDHC GBA size version out a few months back.
If you have a DS and a DS slot flash cart for it then you could save yourself a few dollars and get a EZ 3 in 1. It will really want a DS and DS flash cart to handle it though -- you can flash a single game to it on a DS and play it just fine on a GBA but the EZ4 is a standalone GBA flash cart.
The only other flash carts you will probably be able to find for the GBA are fire cards and fire card clones and supercards. Fire cards are OK if you find one on the street but they do not have much room (they often come in 128 megabit form and GBA games went to 256 megabits, though there are not so many and only a few hacks make use of the extra space, the however many gigabytes that SDHC is these days is probably enough for the whole GBA ROM set if you did it right), supercards have all sorts of issues with slowdown and incompatibility on the GBA.
There are still some issues (things like real time clock for pokemon games, tilt sensors and similar things) but for the most part there are patches to work around them.

By the way the GBA flash carts will not play GB/GBC games "in hardware", however there is a very nice GB/GBC emulator for the GBA in the form of goomba and goomba color which does most things short of emulating the link cable. There are some nice GB/GBC flash carts available these days.

NES and SNES.
Leaving aside things like the hacks that do not work on hardware (a not unreasonable amount, for a related thread see http://www.romhacking.net/forum/index.php/topic,20530.0.html ) you have the problem that unlike the GBA the NES and SNES very much lent on their carts to provide extra processing power where the base hardware might have fallen short. The SNES took this to a very high level with extra processors and more but the NES mappers did not do badly either at times.
Emulation of these is OK as it is more code, trying to play them in hardware means you either need to cannibalise a game for the processor or somehow bolt it onto your flash cart. Some basic SNES chips can be faked in cheaper programmable hardware but some of the top tier stuff requires the more expensive chips and annoying programming for them. https://web.archive.org/web/20141121131629/http://wiki.pocketheaven.com/index.php?title=SNES_games_with_special_chips is a nice list, the SA-1 and FX stuff is out in all current SNES flash carts as far as I know (it has been a few months since I caught back up to date but I imagine we would have heard if either had been sorted).
Likewise it is also possible for hackers to change a ROM such that is wants/can make use of these extra chips. It is hard to do effectively but far from impossible, especially not some of the mapper stuff on the NES. I already linked a discussion on hacks not working in hardware and it is kind of related.

Personally I would get a controller adapter, fire an emulator and plug it into my TV if I really cared but that is not what you asked.
Everdrive made a big splash in the older devices flash cart world the other year/in recent times by making good new designs, reasonably cheaply, using modern electronics and such like rather than trying to polish up designs that could trace their roots back to things made when the consoles in question were current or very shortly after that most others were doing. To that end they pretty much dominate the flash cart market for older consoles. They did also tease a GBA flash cart a while back but nothing has really been heard on it.
I should note that for the SNES then Krikzz (the maker of the everdrive stuff) makes both the SD2SNES and the Super Everdrive v2 these days, the latter being the far cheaper but less compatible SNES flash cart (alone it will not support DSP games, you can add a $20 option on that will or you can even solder your own on where the SD2SNES will do it out of the box). Similarly they do have two lines of megadrive/genesis flash carts in the everdrive md and mega everdrive. The Mega EverDrive is the better cart but where the SNES stuff will boil down to you reading lists and figuring out if you can live without certain games then there is not an awful lot in it here.

VenusBananaPeel

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Re: Flash Carts
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2015, 02:04:51 pm »
Wow, thank you so much! That's a lot of really good information. I think I might have used the wrong terminology a bit originally. I'm sorry for that.

I had no idea there were hacks that were made specifically for certain emulators, that's good to know!
I knew there was some weird stuff with carts. I believe the FFVII NES game had an odd board and consequently doesn't work on anything but the original board it was made with.

Okay, I actually have a few follow up questions for you. I'm sorry in advance for being such a n00b here.

If you have a DS and a DS slot flash cart for it then you could save yourself a few dollars and get a EZ 3 in 1. It will really want a DS and DS flash cart to handle it though -- you can flash a single game to it on a DS and play it just fine on a GBA but the EZ4 is a standalone GBA flash cart.

Is there a thread about this specifically? I was actually interested in importing DS games and using some kind of installed utility to load patches on them. I had a 3DS I intended to use for the but my firmware is rather high and I couldn't figure it out. I'm interested in playing translated and hacked DS and GBA games so anything that would help me do that would be wonderful.

Personally I would get a controller adapter, fire an emulator and plug it into my TV if I really cared but that is not what you asked.

Actually, I'd be fine with this. Um...so, again please forgive my inexperience, how do I get an emulator to work on my TV?  Are there boxes/consoles for this, or a way to hack a console to do this? I do have a wii with hombrew software on it, but again, I have no experience here and I don't really know what I'm doing.

I've tried to google most everything I'm asking but I've had a hard time finding answers I could understand. I really appreciate the help!  :)

Gideon Zhi

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Re: Flash Carts
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2015, 02:49:46 pm »
Basically with the SNES, you have two options: the Everdrive and SD2SNES. There's also the SNES PowerPak, but it's a piece of crap and should be avoided.

Which one you buy in on depends on what you want to do with it. The SD2SNES has compatibility for a number of the extra hardware bits that came in several SNES carts; you'll be able to play (for instance) Megaman X2 and 3 on the SD2SNES but not on the Everdrive. Here's an incompatibility list; anything not on this list will work on SD2SNES. I personally recommend it, though I know people with Everdrives who are perfectly happy with them. It all depends on whether you're willing to spend extra money for extra compatibility.

Maeson

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Re: Flash Carts
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2015, 02:58:34 pm »
About emulation with TV, you could softmod a Wii (Although you said it's already softmoded) and load homebrew emulators there through an SD card.

You have standalone emulators like FceuGx, Snes9Gx or VBAGx or GenPlusGx (Yeah, most of them are WhateverGx, lol), for example, or All-in-one types like WiiMednafen or Retroarch (I recommend version 1.0.0.2 myself). I tend to use Retroarch for most things, as it's "cores" (Emulators) work better than the standalones most of the time, and have a lot of options to mess around with and get a clean image.

Also a new emulator called mGBA appeared not so long ago and it has improved incredibly fast to the point of being the best GBA option right now. I still don't believe it myself, as it seemed like GBA on Wii wasn't going to be a thing.

There's quite a nice variety of emulated systems for a console without that much power. I even remember playing Symphony of the Night on my Wii when my PSOne controller broke.

I really don't know which approach of softmodding the Wii would be ideal today (Writing this for other users who may find this post useful), back when I did it I used Bannerbomb to install the Homebrew Channel, which was very fast and easy, and then load applications from there.

It would be a matter of seeing if things have changed today, and I recommend seeing a little about that matter to get a better idea of homebrew on the Wii.
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FAST6191

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Re: Emulation and Flash Carts
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2015, 04:40:14 pm »
Emulator only patches are mainly a problem for the NES and SNES, possibly some arcade stuff as well but I am not sure there. The N64 will see things like high resolution textures which is not going to happen on hardware, though it too has a few hacks that play fast and loose with the hardware specs, and there is a similar story for the GC and Wii on the texture front. Similarly many emulators will have Lua support (lua is scripting language not unlike python, perl and such) and you can get scripts that are only going to work on lua supporting emulators but that is not usually a problem for those wanting to do ROM hacks as they traditionally appear.

The megadrive/genesis tends not to have this and I have yet to see stuff like that for the GBA and newer handhelds.

On the DS stuff. DS flash carts are probably the biggest of any flash cart scene and it is mostly over/sorted. If you are playing on your relatively current/unhacked 3ds then you do not have many options. Said options are either a DSTwo or whichever of the R4i golds are doing good this month.

The DSTwo is quite expensive at about $40 USD, though compared to the everdrive line... it might drop in the next few weeks as the DSTwo+ is coming out (they came back for the 3ds and that is their first effort) but do not expect much.
It is a bit of a battery hog (though not enough to really hurt it) as it has an onboard processor that allows it to emulate GBA, SNES (native SNES emulation on the DS is nice but not as good as a DSTwo) and play videos and do all sorts of things. On the DS side of things it is an exceptional flash cart, arguably the best that the DS saw in terms of features (it has pretty good savestates, a nice cheat engine, the ability to search for cheats during play, an in game guide and more besides). The GBA emulation is not perfect, especially compared to native hardware flash carts as will be discussed in a little bit, but it will allow you to play most of the GBA library and most hacks should work just fine if the original game does.

The R4i gold should support the wood firmware (a third party firmware that was pretty nice when all was said and done), should support just about every DS game going, will have cheats and some other nice features but no onboard processor to help emulation. It should also bypass the 3ds anti DS flash cart checks, Nintendo could update said checks again next firmware update and stop it for the 3ds but they seem to have given up and are focusing on 3ds mode hacks instead.
Alas I am going to have to either look it up and report back or get you to look it up -- the R4 was the first popular DS slot flash cart (it was drag and drop and quite cheap) so R4 became the word used by those not in the know to refer to every DS flash cart (think how some people use jailbreak instead of hack). Consequently there were hundreds of flash carts with R4 somewhere in the name and most of them were junk made by fly by night (even by borderline illegal Chinese hacking device maker standards) companies.

No DS flash cart I know of has onboard soft patching if that is what you were heading towards, especially as the IPS format pretty much completely fails to do anything useful on the DS so a whole bunch of quite complex formats got used. With that said most DS ROM hacks came in patch form though and will spit out a nice .nds file that you just copy to your microSD like any other ROM so it is not too troublesome.


Back to the 3 in 1 stuff.
The DS and DS lite both have a slot for GBA games (the DSi and 3ds do not) so if you have one of those and a DS flash cart you can happily use that to manage the GBA slot and GBA flash cart. There are not really any DS mode GBA emulators outside of so called enhanced flash carts, which for most means just the Supercard DSTwo, so you will have to use GBA mode and that needs something in the GBA slot.
Quick version here is the GBA needs very fast memory to run, far faster than NAND memory like that of CF or SD cards and especially those at the time, so that means either NOR memory or some kind of RAM (PSRAM mainly) if you wanted to make an affordable GBA flash cart. The 3 in 1 has NOR and PSRAM (32 megabytes and 16 megabytes respectively, recall that GBA games top out at 256mbit/32 megabytes (divide by 8 if you are not used to it) but most were 128mbit/16 megabytes or less), however it has no onboard storage or external storage so it needs a DS slot device to manage it. Not having this onboard storage or need for self management makes it a bit cheaper than the EZ4 which does run standalone and does have external storage. The new microSD GBA sized EZ4 will be about $50 USD and the 3 in 1 will be around half that for a DS lite dust cover sized one, good luck finding a GBA sized one for a sensible price these days, though if you want you can get the sandpaper out and have some fun it will fit and run in a regular sized GBA slot.

Oh and for the wii softmodding then https://sites.google.com/site/completesg/ is the usual link. If you know what you are doing there are things you can skip and tweak during that but for that will not send you wrong. Wii emulators are pretty good and if you can get a GC controller or a classic controller you can have a great time.

Otherwise... yeah most PC graphics cards and laptops have VGA or DVI/HDMI out which plugs directly into the back of most modern TVs with a cheap and cheerful cable, and in the case of HDMI even does sound as well. The hardest part will tend to come if the HDMI port has overscan (the picture is too big or too small for your screen) that you need to fiddle with, and a search for AMD/ATI, nvidia or intel overscan on windows XP, vista, 7, 8, 10, linux (delete as appropriate) will get you most places you need to go for that one -- typically though if there is an advanced menu where you change your resolution it will be in that. You may have to enable game mode, PC/computer mode or something on your TV too to get the latency down but that should be an option mentioned in the manual. There are any number of controller adapters or nice controllers that plug into USB or go over bluetooth you can use if a keyboard is not your preferred way to play old games. I have a USB 360 controller that I used for most things, if you have wii stuff then a simple bluetooth dongle if your machine does not have it will do there (PS3 will also work over bluetooth, sadly no 360 wireless in a sensible manner).
DS games might be harder to emulate on a really slow PC but basically anything will emulate the GBA and 16 bit era and backwards.

SunGodPortal

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Re: Emulation and Flash Carts
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2015, 04:48:38 pm »
Quote
There's also the SNES PowerPak, but it's a piece of crap and should be avoided.

I disagree about the Powerpak. I have one and I love it. There's less than a handful of games that I actually want to play on it but can't (Super Mario RPG), but there's still hundreds of games that I can.

A lot of people complain about the save system but it's not as inconvenient as they'd like you to believe. When you're done playing, you hold reset for 3-4 seconds and either confirm that you want to save using the file you previously selected or you have the option to choose another. Also, creating a save file is not that inconvenient either. The Powerpak won't automatically make one for you, but if you want a save file, the easiest way to make one is to have you computer set to open a ROM in an emulator upon double-clicking, open the ROM in an emulator and then exit. With ZSNES, for example this creates a usable save file automatically and can be done in less than 3 seconds. If you've used an emulator you already have usable save files. Lots of people talk about downloading a blank save file and renaming it, but that's stupid. Just do what I described. It takes no effort.

I don't know much about a Super Everdrive, but I do know that an SD2SNES costs about TWICE as much as a SNES Powerpak.
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Gideon Zhi

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Re: Emulation and Flash Carts
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2015, 05:28:38 pm »
I disagree about the Powerpak. I have one and I love it. There's less than a handful of games that I actually want to play on it but can't (Super Mario RPG), but there's still hundreds of games that I can.

A lot of people complain about the save system but it's not as inconvenient as they'd like you to believe. When you're done playing, you hold reset for 3-4 seconds and either confirm that you want to save using the file you previously selected or you have the option to choose another. Also, creating a save file is not that inconvenient either. The Powerpak won't automatically make one for you, but if you want a save file, the easiest way to make one is to have you computer set to open a ROM in an emulator upon double-clicking, open the ROM in an emulator and then exit. With ZSNES, for example this creates a usable save file automatically and can be done in less than 3 seconds. If you've used an emulator you already have usable save files. Lots of people talk about downloading a blank save file and renaming it, but that's stupid. Just do what I described. It takes no effort.

On the contrary, this is rather a lot of effort if you want to load up the entire system's library of games. If you're just cherrypicking here and there it may not be an issue, but you run into problems at volume. It's also incredibly counterintuitive to have to create the save file on a PC so that the cartridge can use it.

I'm not just salty about the saving, mind. I had one of these, and it stopped working after I removed the CF card a few times to load new games onto it.

goldenband

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Re: Emulation and Flash Carts
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2015, 07:38:56 pm »
The Super EverDrive is great. I haven't bothered installing a DSP-1 chip, and might upgrade to a SD2SNES at some point, but I've already got most of the games that use enhancement chips anyway.

Actually, all the EverDrives I own are great (SNES, Genesis, Game Boy, Game Gear). Every so often I hit an incompatibility, but 99% of the time they're as transparent and compatible as the real thing (sometimes more compatible than the real thing, i.e. some Genesis and SMS carts that are a nightmare to get running on the wrong revision of hardware).

The Turbo EverDrive is next on my list (along with buying a PC Engine of some kind -- long overdue), and then the others in time. KRIKzz makes a great product, and generally supports it well. I think a GBA EverDrive is in the works.

I can't imagine dealing with that manual save file nonsense on the PowerPak! It's exactly that kind of kludgy thing that puts me off flash carts, and that KRIKzz's products have done away with (except for the original version of the N64 EverDrive, where you have to hit reset before powering off). Not a fan of Compact Flash either.

BTW there are existing flash carts or multicarts for most systems older than the NES, with a few exceptions: the Atari 7800 doesn't have anything decent available at the moment, and the Intellivision has two competing flash carts due out soon but nothing current.

Otherwise, most cart-based systems released in the US are very well covered, though the Atari Jaguar is in dire need of an SD-based cart that's EverDrive-esque.

Jorpho

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Re: Flash Carts
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2015, 10:18:26 pm »
The 3 in 1 has NOR and PSRAM (32 megabytes and 16 megabytes respectively, recall that GBA games top out at 256mbit/32 megabytes (divide by 8 if you are not used to it) but most were 128mbit/16 megabytes or less), however it has no onboard storage or external storage so it needs a DS slot device to manage it.
Once you use a DS slot device to load a game into NOR RAM on the 3 in 1, it will stay there after the unit is powered off.  (This is handy for the handful of DS games that interact with games in the GBA slot.)

I think there's really not much reason to not spend the extra money and get an EZ4 unless you really want the additional features, i.e. the rumble pack and extra RAM, but those are of extremely limited use.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2015, 10:25:07 pm by Jorpho »
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FAST6191

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Re: Emulation and Flash Carts
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2015, 05:44:46 am »
The standard RAM API/library (lick's RAM API) used by DS homebrew also supports the EZ4's RAM. For most that will mean Quake 1 and 2 can work with it. I have not tried the opera browser stuff with the new EZ4 but the opera browser is not great and the homebrew offerings are a better bet, and carrier pigeon is probably a better bet again.

The DS slot stuff interacting with the GBA slot did have an option on the older EZ4 kernels as well but that is gone now the DS mode has been removed for the SDHC line/kernels. The pokepatch stuff for the pokemon pal park should still work though. Most of the rest ( http://nintendo.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_Nintendo_DS_games_with_GBA_connectivity is not the most complete but a good start) should have cheats/save unlocks and you can probably make a simple patch to fake it -- very few games had any real interaction with the ROM or the save.