Sunday, October 3, 2021

The EverDrive GG X7 - The Only Game Gear Flash Cart You'll Ever Need?

The EverDrive GG X7, courtesy of Krikzz

Around two years ago, I bought a Game Gear and a TV Tuner off eBay.  The Game Gear was sold as non-working, and after some time I fixed it by recapping the unit.  That was not a fun process.  However, once I did so I had a fully working Game Gear with almost no games to play on it :(  I am a big fan of krikzz products, but for the longest time the only product he sold for the Game Gear was the flash memory based  EverDrive GG.  Last year he finally released the ram based EverDrive GG X7, and I recently purchased one and will give you my thoughts about it here.
The Game Gear came second to the Game Boy in terms of sales during the first handheld generation of video games.  Still there are over 300 unique games released for the system, far more than Wonderswan, the Neo Geo Pocket Color or the Lynx.  Sega really tried to compete with Nintendo during these years and there are many good games for the system.  But the Game Gear is a portable version of the Sega Master System, so the hardware has much more potential than just running Game Gear games.  

The system itself was something of a battery hog during its original lifespan, requiring 6xAA batteries and consuming them rather quickly thanks to the backlit color screen.  Fortunately it can be powered by a Sega Genesis Model 2, Sega 32x or Genesis 3 AC to DC power supply.  The washed out, streaky passive-matrix backlit LCD has several LCD mods available for it which eliminate the energy hog that is the CCFL backlight and replace the ancient screen with far superior modern TFT LCD screens.  Finding a working system is not easy if they have not been recapped, the caps on the Game Gear were poor quality and can leak over the board once they go bad.  

Krikzz' first flash cart was for a Sega console, the Genesis/Mega Drive, and he has since released flash carts for both the Master System and the Game Gear.  These first 8-bit flash carts wrote ROM files to flash memory, which required significant time to erase and write a flash memory chip and had to be done every time you changed a game.  In 2018 Krikzz finally released the Master EverDrive X7 for the Sega Master System, which copies ROM files into RAM, significantly speeding up the process of loading a game as well as adding new features like in-game menu, save states and reset to menu.  

Finally, in 2020, Krikzz released the equivalent of the Master EverDrive X7 for the Game Gear, the EverDrive GG X7.  The Master System and the Game Gear almost the same hardware, so similar that almost any Master System game can run on the Game Gear.  Back in the day there were several adapters that permitted Sega Master System cartridges to be plugged into the Game Gear's cartridge slot and permit those games to be played.  The Game Gear would scale down the Master System graphics from their 256x192 resolution to fit into the 160x144 resolution of the Game Gear's screen.  The EverDrive GG X7 will run Sega Master System and SG-1000 games.  

EverDrive GG X7 File Browser

The EverDrive GG X7 uses a menu more or less identical to other Krikzz X7 products.  It recognizes ROMs with the .gg extension, the .sms extension and the .sg extension.  Unlike the original EverDrive GG, Gunstar Heroes for Game Gear works on the EverDrive GG X7.  Games that took a minute to load on the old flash memory based EverDrive GG now take maybe 2 seconds at worst EverDrive GG X7.  The power consumption of the EverDrive GG X7should be much improved over its predecessor.

Some Game Gear games use the Master System's graphics mode, and they must have their extension renamed from .gg to .sms in order to work in the EverDrive GG X7.  These are the ROMs whose extension must be renamed (using no-intro names) are :

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (USA, Europe)
Cave Dude (USA) (Proto)
Excellent Dizzy Collection, The (Europe)
Excellent Dizzy Collection, The (Prototype) [S][!]
Fantastic Dizzy (Europe) (En,Fr,De,Es,It)
Jang Pung II (Korea) (Unl)
Olympic Gold (Europe) (En,Fr,De,Es,It,Nl,Pt,Sv) (Rev 1)
Olympic Gold (Taiwan) (En,Fr,De,Es,It,Nl,Pt,Sv) (Unl) (Pirate)
Olympic Gold (Japan, USA) (En,Fr,De,Es,It,Nl,Pt,Sv)
Out Run Europa (Europe)
OutRun Europa (USA)
Predator 2 (USA, Europe)
Prince of Persia (USA, Europe) (Beta)
Prince of Persia (USA, Europe)
R.C. Grand Prix (USA, Europe)
Rastan Saga (Japan)
Street Battle (USA) (Proto) (Unl)
Street Hero (USA) (Proto 1)
Street Hero (USA) (Proto 2)
Super Kick Off (Japan)
Super Tetris (Korea) (Pirate)
Taito Chase H.Q. (Japan)
Taito Chase H.Q. (USA)
WWF Wrestlemania Steel Cage Challenge (Europe)

Most Game Gear games used passwords to save game data, but a few did use non-volatile memory in the cartridge.  The EverDrive GG X7 supports games which use battery-backed SRAM, which most do.  Five baseball games use EEPROM for saving data, and these will not run on the EverDrive GG X7 at this time.  They all use the same game engine and are :

Hyper Pro Yakyuu '92 (Japan)
Majors Pro Baseball, The (USA)
Pro Yakyuu GG League (Japan)
World Series Baseball '95 (Prototype - Jul 09, 1994)
World Series Baseball '95 (Prototype - Jul 19, 1994)
World Series Baseball '95 (Prototype - Jul 22, 1994)
World Series Baseball '95 (Prototype - Jul 28, 1994)
World Series Baseball '95 (Prototype - Jul 29, 1994)
World Series Baseball '95 (Prototype - Jun 29, 1994)
World Series Baseball '95 (USA)
World Series Baseball (USA) (Rev 1)
World Series Baseball (USA)

EverDrive GG X7 Main (Options) Menu

Finally, Codemasters games for the Master System and Game Gear tend to be a little unusual in their hardware.  They use variant mapper hardware, but the GG X7 automatically detects Codemasters' mappers  (as well as a Korean mapper) and runs most of Codemasters' games.  However, the  GG X7 does not work properly with Earnie Els' Golf or Fantastic Dizzy.  These games continually reset to the title screen.  You may have issues with unlicensed Master System games, especially those games ported from the MSX and are larger than 48KiB in size (the maximum size of a game before a mapper is required).  "PAL/50Hz only" games which fail on a NTSC/60Hz Master System will not likely run on a Game Gear, which is a 60Hz only console.

In terms of features, the in-game menu's ability to save and restore game states and reset to the menu are two huge features of the EverDrive GG X7.  The default combination is Up + 1 + 2, but it can be changed.  Only one state can be saved and loaded.  Unfortunately you cannot assign Start + 1 + 2, which would be the combination least likely to cause unwanted menu invocation.  

The main menu, brought up with the start button, can also play your last game, show your recent games, play a random game and perform diagnostics.  Unlike the Master EverDrive X7, the EverDrive GG X7 does not emulate the Mark III/Japanese Sega Master System's FM sound chip.  This may or may not be a hardware limitation, the Game Gear has stereo audio input on the cartridge connector, but these inputs were intended for the TV Tuner's audio, so they may not be available when games are being run.  Other than that, the only other feature which I would wish for is the ability to swap the button functions in the menu.  The menu uses Button 1 to confirm and Button 2 to cancel, but I am used to the Nintendo method where Button B cancels and Button A confirms.  Button 1 and 2 are in the Button B and A positions, respectively.

The EverDrive GG X7 will work with the Analogue Mega Sg and its Game Gear adapter.  The Mega Sg supports save states when used with the EverDrive GG X7, something the Mega Sg's jailbreak cannot do on its own.  When the Analogue Pocket is released, I will update this blog article with information about that device's compatibility with the EverDrive GG X7.

To conclude, the EverDrive GG X7 is not a cheap device, but it is the best Game Gear flash cart yet made.  It has a few minor quirks which could be improved upon, but the device works fast and without adding a huge additional drain on the batteries.  It also expands the game library significantly without bulky converters.  At $129.99, it is a no-brainer for any fan of Sega portable gaming.  

1 comment:

  1. I haven’t picked this up yet but enjoyed playing master system games on the gameboy advance ever drive through emulation. Do you think the analogue handheld will actually come out in the near future?