Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Everdrive 64 - The only N64 Flashcart you will ever need

Continuing in my series profiling various flash cart devices, I turn to that incredible device known as the Everdrive 64.  This cartridge loads N64 ROMs off an SD card and lets you run just about every Nintendo 64 game on the Nintendo 64 game console as they were meant to be run.  No need for emulators of varying quality.  No need to hunt down expensive cartridges.

Nintendo 64 cartridges ranged in size from 4MB to 64MB.  They had various methods to save games, including 32KB or 128KB of battery-backed static RAM, a 4Kbit or 16Kbit EEPROM, or 128KB of Flash Memory. Some games did not allow games to be saved on the cartridge, instead you had to purchase and insert the Controller Pak into the port on the N64 controller to save a game.  There are games that can use both the internal saving cartridge hardware and a Controller Pak.  Additionally, five different lockout CIC chips were used in the cartridges, and the games expected the exact CIC chip in order to bypass their security check and play the game.  These are the CIC-6101, 6102, 6103, 6105 and 6106 chips (NTSC cartridges and machines) or 7102, 7101, 7103, 7105 and 7106 chips (PAL cartridges and machines).  A mostly-comprehensive list of the games and the CIC chips and the saving hardware they use is available here : http://n64.icequake.net/mirror/www.elitendo.com/n64/usa_boot_save_list.html

Making an all-encompassing Nintendo 64 flash cartridge is not an easy task.  Krikzz, a developer from the Ukraine, decided to make a cartridge that would eventually work with any game regardless of saving mechanism or lockout chip.  Thus the Everdrive 64 was born.

The Everdrive 64 has just been released with v3.  v1 does not support games using Flash RAM saving (Jet Force Gemini, Legend of Zelda : Majora's Mask, Megaman 64) without a firmware upgrade via a special programmer.  The v2 can update the firmware without needing a special programmer and loads faster, but the last firmware update was in 2011.  v2 is what I have and is identical, feature-wise to the current v2.5 version still being sold.

The SD card must be formatted in the FAT16 or FAT32 formats.  SDHC cards are supported, so you can easily put a 32GB SD card in the Everdrive 64 formatted with FAT32 in Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7 & 8.  A folder called ED64 must be created in the root of the drive and the current OS file, OS64.v64, must be placed in it.  That is all that is required for the card to work.  An 8GB card should be sufficient to hold all the ROMs you would want to play.

Official Nintendo 64 ROMs need a CIC chip installed in the Everdrive 64 to work at all.  The most common CIC chip, by far, was the CIC-6102/7101.  A working CIC-6102 (NTSC models) or 7101 (PAL models) must be desoldered from a Nintendo 64 Game Pak and put in the socket inside the Everdrive 64.  The Everdrive 64 can now use the 6102 or 7101 to emulate all the other CIC chips, including the more advanced CIC-6105 chip.

Look here for the latest incompatibility list, as you can see it is a short list (nine games max) :

http://krikzz.com/forum/index.php?topic=147.0

Of course, to play all Nintendo 64 games (except as noted in the last paragraph), you will need the right peripherals.  This means you may need up to four Nintendo 64 Controllers, a Controller Pak for games that do not save to the cartridge (the Castlevania games for example), a Rumble Pak is recommended for games that support that feature (the Zelda games, Star Fox), the Expansion Pak to add more RAM to the system (Donkey Kong 64, Perfect Dark, Legend of Zelda : Majora's Mask, Banjo-Tooie), the Transfer Pak for the Pokemon Stadium games, and the VRU Voice Recognition Unit for Hey You, Pikachu!.

The Everdrive 64 will sort ROMs alphabetically and create save files automatically as a game would have saved its game to a cartridge.  However, you must press reset before turning the system off or the save will be lost!  v3 has a battery, so this will no longer be an issue.  The cartridge now supports Gameshark codes, but will not emulate a Controller Pak or support save states.  However, with the most recent OS it can switch Controller Pak save files in and out of the Pak.

I ordered my Everdrive 64 directly from Krikzz.  He had options to add a cartridge shell with a nicely cut slot for the SD card and a CIC-6102.  I highly recommend this cart, especially the new v3 version with a real time clock (Animal Crossing) and its socketed battery which eliminates the need to press reset to save a game.

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