They may not find much favour with purists, but flash carts are becoming increasingly popular these days. The rapid march of technology combined with the low cost of flash-based storage has generated a wide selection of different options, almost all of which are produced in limited quantities and to very crude quality standards.
It’s now the turn of the N64 to get the flash treatment, but the Everdrive 64 is anything but a cheap hack-job. We’ve had a review sample for a few days now and have been thoroughly putting it through its paces. The results are rather as you would expect from a gameplay perspective: this cart allows you to run ROM images on your N64, which means you could potentially have every single N64 game on one cartridge.
Before we go on, it would be remiss of us to talk about flash carts and ROMs without touching upon the sticky issue of piracy. We don’t condone piracy at Nintendo Life, and we feel that you should always choose a legal method of purchasing software, if one happens to be available. With several fantastic N64 titles already for sale on the Wii Virtual Console, there’s not really any excuse — apart from being a skinflint — for downloading them for free off the internet.
However, to dismiss these carts based purely on a dislike for ROM distribution is foolish. Like all physical media, original N64 cartridges have a limited lifespan, and flash carts like this could be instrumental in keeping gaming history alive in the next few decades.
The Everdrive 64 uses SD cards for storage, and can even commit your save game to memory. The cart’s interface is straightforward, and there’s no messing about with firmwares or any other files — you simply drop the ROMs into the correct location on the SD card, boot it up, select the game you want to load and you’re away.
With so many manufacturers of flash carts choosing to simply supply bare circuit boards, it’s refreshing to see that the Everdrive 64 supplied by Stone Age Gamer comes with such a comprehensive level of packaging. It’s supplied in a plastic case not entirely dissimilar to the old Genesis/Mega Drive cases. A professionally printed inlay is also present, and each case has a unique gold sticker which notes the serial number of the cart contained within.
The cartridge itself is taken from an old N64 game which has been gutted. The cart casing has been resprayed (you can pick from either Charcoal Grey or Cobalt) to make it look unique. The guys behind the Everdrive 64 state the colouring process is very effective, and judging from the strong smell of paint that hits you when you remove the shrink-wrapping, we’re inclined to agree.
Also in the box is a set of printed instructions, a couple of promotional stickers and an SD card, the size of which is dependent on the package you order). The SD card even has a custom-made glossy label telling you its size, which matches the sticker on the main cartridge itself. All in all, it looks great.
Such opulence comes at a high cost, however: prices start at an eye-watering $174.99, and if you opt for a larger capacity SD card then that rises even further. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from ordering the cheapest option and then purchasing a larger card from elsewhere. To be honest, it’s unlikely that you will need much more than an 8GB card.
Whatever your stance on the moral issues surrounding software on obsolete hardware, the Everdrive 64 is sure to strike a chord with retro collectors and players alike. The high price tag and limited production run mean that it’s almost certain to become a much sought-after item. One cart, many possibilities.
The Everdrive 64 is available now from Stone Age Gamer, who provided us with a unit for review purposes.
Editor's note: This has clearly stirred up a lot of reaction, so here's a quick note from our editorial director — and author of this piece — Damien McFerran.
The fact of the matter is that flash carts are becoming a massive part of retro gaming, and in the next few years you'll see them becoming even more important. These devices are going to be instrumental in keeping the history of gaming alive: once carts die, there's no way to legally purchase licensed games like Mickey's Speedway USA or Goldeneye. If the publishers aren't going to make efforts to preserve these titles, why shouldn't the fans?
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