In the world of flash carts, one name stands out from the rest: Krikzz. This individual has produced a long line of carts for various retro systems, including the NES, SNES, Mega Drive / Genesis and N64. With each product the aim is simple - make the user experience as seamless as possible without the need for additional software or legwork on behalf of the user. However, Krikzz's latest venture has perhaps proven to be his most taxing yet - producing a flash cart for the Game Boy Advance.
As those of you who have any experience with existing GBA flash cards will attest, the options available up to now haven't been great. Many require users to manually patch ROM files in order to get them working, a process which isn't too difficult on case-by-case basis but is tiresome if you have a large library of games. As with his other flash carts, Krikzz's Everdrive GBA X5 is a simple drag-and-drop affair; all you have to do is download the correct OS from the official site and copy it to your MicroSD card (capacities up to 64GB are apparently supported) and then shift over your ROMs in .gba format. The process really couldn't be easier, and it's this blissfully straightforward approach which has made the Everdrive range so popular over the years.
In physical terms, the Everdrive GBA X5 is a little larger than a standard GBA cartridge, which means that it sticks out of the console when in use. While this will come as a disappointment to some, it's hardly a deal breaker. The board inside the cart is a certain size and it's clear that Krikzz - at this moment in time, at least - is unable to shrink it down any further. It might ruin the aesthetic look of your console, but it won't get in the way during gameplay.
In terms of compatibility, Krikzz promises "99.9 percent" support for GBA games, and while we didn't find any ROMs which refused to load, it would be wise to expect to some exceptions. Save games work perfectly, and the presence of a battery inside the cart means that the time-based events in games like Pokémon Emerald work perfectly. Irrespective of ROM size games load very quickly - a couple of seconds on average - and despite its versatility, the Everdrive GBA X5 consumes very little power so it won't drain your battery unduly.
The Everdrive GBA X5 works on all versions of the Game Boy Advance hardware, as well as the Nintendo DS, DS Lite and GameCube Game Boy Player. The only downside is that despite some GBA variants offering backwards compatibility with Game Boy and Game Boy Color software, the Everdrive GBA X5 cannot run ROMs for these systems. This is because there is a physical switch inside the GBA and GBA SP consoles which triggers the Game Boy/Game Boy Color mode, and this cannot be enabled on a flash cart without removing the ability to run standard GBA software.
Like Krikzz's other flash carts, the Everdrive GBA X5 isn't cheap - you can expect to part with almost £100 to own one - but it should be remembered that these are custom devices produced in small batches by a single person, not by a company which is capable of funding mass-producing in a factory in order to reduce costs. It also goes without saying that downloading ROMs online is a risky business in legal terms, so if you have any moral objections to the idea then you really shouldn't entertain a purchase - unless of course you're keen to experience the various unreleased or homebrew GBA titles which have been published on the web in recent years. The Everdrive GBA X5 offers a means of playing these files on original hardware, rather than via emulation.
As with Krikzz's other devices, the Everdrive GBA X5 is easy to use, well made and packed with functionality - and thanks to the upgradeable nature of the OS, it can only get better with time. The high cost is a drawback, as is the fact that it's slightly larger than a typical GBA cartridge, but these are minor quibbles in the light of the fact that it allows you to carry your entire GBA library without having to lug around pocketfuls of carts.