- Official Store: https://everdrive.me/
GBAtemp Review of the...
Released during the summer of 1989 in North America, the SEGA Genesis was a video game console for the 16-bit era marketed with an edgy appeal. As a direct competitor to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the Genesis pushed industry standards with new hardware and unique gaming experiences. The Genesis concluded its 10 year shelf-life (thanks in part to Majesco) with support for more than 1,200 games (Master System, MD/Genesis, CD, 32x) and a variety of interesting peripherals.
Most of SEGA’s retro gaming experiences can be enjoyed through emulation, actual hardware, or 3rd party devices. Emulation offers features SEGA could not, such as rewind, save-states, cheats, and includes support for homebrew, translations, and hacks. The SEGA CD library can be burned to CD-ROM and launched on actual hardware. Even obscure and expensive Flash Kits like ToToTek’s MD-Pro, offer support for most MD/Genesis ROMs. Over the last 20 years, it has been fairly obvious that the problem has never been an ability to experience these games, but the simplicity by which these experiences can be had.
Supporting SEGA Master System, Mega Drive/Genesis, CD, 32x, homebrew, translations, hacks, and even some NTSC NES games, the Mega EverDrive Pro aims to centralize and simplify the Genesis with an affordable and easy to use Flash Kit solution!
The product information included in this review was obtained after cross-referencing information found on the official Web site, in the official instruction manual, on various Internet reseller Web sites, and on the official EverDrive Forums. An attempt has been made to include the most accurate information. However, this listing may include inaccurate or outdated information. Please use the product information listed below for reference only and direct all future questions to the designer of this product.
Product & Hardware Information:
- Support for Mega Drive/Genesis games
- Genesis hardware “MegaKey” for region unlock
- Genesis SVP core support (Virtua Racing)
- Genesis Pier Solar (w/CD audio) mapper support
- Support for CD games
- CD RAM cart support (store saves w/actual hardware)
- CD BIOS swap function for region unlock
- Support for 32x games (w/actual hardware)
- Support for Master System games
- Master System YM2413 audio core support
- Dedicated Master System hardware pause button
- Support for NES games (NTSC, limited compatibility)
- Cyclone IV FPGA
- 16MB PSRAM and 1MB SRAM memory
- High quality 6-layers PCB with hard gold surface finish
- ARM based 32bit I/O co-processor for SD and USB operations acceleration
- USB port for development and system update without removing SD card
- Instant ROM loading
- Full EEPROM save support
- In-game menu. (GEN/MS only. save-state, cheats, reset)
- Quick-key save/load combo for Genesis only
- 100 save-state slots for each game
- Real time clock for logging date and time of saves
- Up to 1024 files per folder or unlimited when sorting disabled
- Battery voltage monitoring
- Game Genie cheat support (up to 16 per-game)
- IPS soft-patching support (translations, hacks)
- Mode-1/MD+ CD audio support via IPS patching
- Video Player (.DAT) support
The hardware “MegaKey” is a built-in solution for SEGA software-based region locking, and will benefit the execution of ROMs. A CD BIOS file can be executed to allow CD hardware to play region locked games. The CD BIOS feature also places the Mega EverDrive Pro into RAM-cart mode, allowing it to store CD save files. The SEGA Virtua Processor (SVP) was a chip add-on that helped games to render polygons faster and provided a means for scaling and rotation. The SVP core, used by Virtua Racing, is fully supported. The execution of 32x games requires the 32x hardware to be installed. NES support is currently limited to NTSC ROMs and does not support intensive mapper usage, games with intensive CHR updates, or some Bank Switching methods. Mega SG users should turn off the “zero lag” option when playing NES games, as accurate hardware timing is required. The Video Player requires specifically encoded files via the official converter. The converter is a drag/drop .bat solution that relies on the FFmpeg multimedia framework.
Contents, Packaging, Design & Impressions
- 1x Mega EverDrive Pro
- 1x User Manual (stored externally)
The Mega EverDrive Pro review sample was sent directly from the developer and includes all retail packaging. The cartridge shipped inside a matte-black cardboard box. The box opens from the top, and locks shut from the front via two "wing flaps" that tuck back into either side. The top of the box displays the official EverDrive logo and Web site URL. The top-inside of the box is lined with crush-resistant foam. The cartridge was additionally secured inside of a thick foam insert. The insert fits the box perfectly and eliminates any possibility of movement during shipping. The insert is split in the middle to better protect the dedicated hardware ‘reset/pause’ button. As a result, it is recommended to remove the cart by lifting from the bottom and then pulling straight out. The cartridge itself was further protected inside of a clear plastic bag, held shut by a clear round sticker.
The official manual is just a little too large to fit inside the box and was shipped outside of it. I hope a wider manual that fits inside of the box can eventually be created as a future update to this product!
Design and Impressions:
The Mega EverDrive Pro PCB is secured inside of a custom black-colored plastic shell. The shell is the same relative thickness and size as an official SEGA Genesis cartridge. The front of the shell has a sticker label displaying the "Mega EverDrive Pro” logo, Krikzz logo, official URL (www.krikzz.com), and the words “16 Bit game cartridge”. The back of the shell has raised plastic printing of the EverDrive logo and URL exactly where the official cartridge holds publisher information. The raised printing below this area provides a cautionary warning (avoid extreme temperatures, water, etc), exactly where the official cartridge may contain licensed information or cautionary warnings. The top of the shell has a spring-loaded microSD slot in the center, a dedicated hardware ‘reset/pause’ button to the right, and a mini-USB port (for development and updates) near the right edge. Excluding the top, the shell maintains an almost identical look and texture to official SEGA products, right down to the ‘cartridge lock’ cut-out.
Set-up and Usage
The Mega EverDrive Pro will accept a microSD card in the spring-loaded microSD slot. Both small and large capacity cards are supported. To minimize errors, it is recommended to format all microSD cards using the official Panasonic SD Formatter, and not with 3rd party software. Set-up is as simple as dragging and dropping the O/S files. All O/S files are currently hosted on the official EverDrive homepage. As of the writing of this review, the latest build is v4.04 (8-7-2020). Inside of the .ZIP archive is a folder titled “MEGA”, which contains the required directory structure, files, and system cores. Each sub directory contains a text file that further explains supported file types.
The “bios” directory is for CD and Master System BIOS files (mcd-eu.bin, mcd-jp.bin, mcd-us.bin, smsbios.sms). However, the Master System BIOS is not necessary as Master System mode will function without it. The “cheats” directory is for cheat codes stored within text files. Each ROM can have 1 associated text file, named exactly the same as the ROM. Each cheat code text file can support up to 16 codes, which are applied at the same time. The “ips-msu” directory is for IPS patches designed to allow Mode-1/MD+ (CD audio) enhancements for non-CD based games. As of the writing of this review, only 7 games have been patched (Golden Axe, Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, OutRun, Streets of Rage 2, Strider, Ys III, ToeJam & Earl). These patches were originally designed for the Terraonion Mega SD Flash Kit and have been converted and included thanks to Krikzz. Mode-1/MD+ IPS patches must either be named exactly as the ROM they are for or as the ROM’s Game ID. These IPS patch can also be stored in the same folder as the ROM and .WAV audio files, as long as it is named exactly as the ROM it is for. The “ips-std” directory is for all other IPS patches (hacks & translations, etc). These IPS patches must also follow the same naming convention as Mode-1/MD+ IPS patches. The “mappers” directory contains FPGA cores for various games. The “saves” directory contains directories for each of the supported systems, and directories for Genesis and Master System save-states. Finally, the “MEGA” directory contains .dat files that are the IO core, O/S core, and NES core. Following an initial run, registery.dat (system settings) and recent.dat (recently played games) will be created.
Once the “MEGA” folder is properly configured, it should be placed into the ROOT directory of the microSD card. ROMs can be placed anywhere, with up to 1024 files per folder or unlimited if alphabetical sorting has been disabled. The microSD card must be inserted into the spring-loaded microSD slot with its contacts facing towards the sticker label.
Once powered-up, the Mega EverDrive Pro will boot instantly into the ROOT directory. The O/S can be navigated using Left and Right on the d-pad, and by pressing A to select, B to cancel, and C to open the main-menu. In addition, pressing Start will execute the last played game.
The main-menu is the parent menu for the O/S and contains many important settings. These settings include Options, Recently Played, Cheats, Run Mega-CD, Device Info, Diagnostics, and About. Pressing A on any choice will expand that main-menu into new sections.
The Options section offers settings for In-Game Menu (on/off), MegaKey (on/off), Cheats (on/off), SMS Bios (on/off), SMS YM2413 (on/off), Reset to Menu (on/off), File Sorting (on/off), Warning (on/off), Mega-CD options, In-Game Combo, and RTC Setup.
The in-game menu option is for save-states, soft-reset, etc, and will only function with Genesis and Master System ROMs. The Reset To Menu option will return the system to the main menu when reset (on), or stay in-game after a reset (off). When file sorting is turned on, all directories are limited to 1024 files. This limitation is removed when file sorting is turned off. The warning option will display information when the system attempts to launch a game without proper hardware configurations. Examples are trying to launch a 32x game without the 32x hardware or trying to use the Mega EverDrive Pro as a CD-RAM cart without the CD hardware. The Mega-CD options will further expand with settings for the PCM Low Pass (on/off), CDDA Treble Boost (on/off), Per Game Bram (on/off), Per Game Ram Cart (on/off), and Hide cue files (on/off). Turning on the PCM Low Pass option will allow audio to more closely match the original CD hardware. The same result can be expected by turning on the CDDA Treble Boost. The per-game BRAM and RAM cart settings allow each CD game to have its own save. When these settings are off, CD games will always overwrite the last save in each area. The In-Game Combo options will further expand with settings for Quick Save-State, Quick Load-State, and the in-game menu key-combo for the Genesis and Master System. The quick save/load options are only available for Genesis games. When the in-game quick key-combo is pressed, the O/S will save/load instead of returning to the in-game menu. Key-combos can consist of 2 or more buttons, however, Master System key-combos can only consist of the d-pad and the B/C buttons. To set a key-combo, press and hold at least 2 buttons at the same time. The text will flash and turn yellow when the key-combo has been set. Holding Start will turn off the in-game key-combo. The in-game menu must be enabled to use any save-state functionality, including the quick save/load options. The Real Time Clock (RTC) set-up is used only for the dating of created and modified files, such as saves.
The Recently Played section displays a listing of the last 21 executed games. Each line will truncate after 38 characters, however, the bottom area can display twice that amount. This listing is navigated by pressing Up or Down on the d-pad and A to launch a game.
The Cheats section is for editing and initializing cheat codes for the last selected game. Each game can have up to 16 simultaneous cheats applied. The bottom area will display which game the cheats will be applied to. Cheats may also be edited or applied by selecting the game in the file manager or from loading a text (.txt) file that contains supported cheats.
The Run Mega-CD option will run the external CD add-on and place the Mega EverDrive Pro into RAM-cart mode. This will allow the Flash Kit to be used as a save-cart for games executed from actual CD hardware.
The Device Info option displays information about the Mega EverDrive Pro. The information displayed here includes the Cart Type (Mega-ED-Pro), OS Version, MegaKey Mode (Software/Hardware – Hardware mode when possible), System Type (US NTSC 60, etc), SEGA CD (Installed/Not Installed), SEGA 32x (Installed/Not Installed), Battery (3.11v), Build Date (26.04.2020 – Cartridge manufacturing date), Serial Num (unique per-kit), and Games Played (count).
The Diagnostics option will check the Mega EverDrive Pro cartridge health. Tests include ROM, SRAM, BRAM, SDC, RTC, MegaKey, Battery, VCC voltages, and SD speeds. All tests should pass if the cartridge is fully working and functioning on a supported console. The MegaKey test will fail if the cartridge is used with a 32x. Additionally, the MegaKey will not work on some modern clones, such as the Mega SG.
The About option will load a screen that displays the Mega EverDrive Pro Logo and name. The screen will also display the developers’ name, special thank you messages, the official URL (www.krikzz.com), and the words “Made In Ukraine”.
Each ROMs directory is expanded by pressing A on the controller. ROMs will appear as 21 items per page. Pages are navigated by pressing Up or Down on the d-pad to select files, and Right or Left to change pages. Each of the 21 files are limited to displaying 38 characters per-line, however, the bottom of each page will display the currently selected file name up to 76 characters. To launch a game, navigate to a ROM file and press A to execute the File Menu. Alternatively, pressing Start will always launch the last played game. The File Menu options include Start Game, Cheats, ROM Info, Hex View, and Delete. When Start Game is selected, the O/S will copy save-RAM content to the SD card if the save-RAM was changed by the last played game. It will then configure the hardware according to the selected game, load an existing save file, and then execute the selected game. Selecting Cheats will load the cheat editor for the selected file. ROM Info will display information about the ROM, including ROM Type (SMD (1), etc), ROM Region (U, etc), ROM Size, Save Type (SRAM 64K, etc), ROM ID (used by IPS patches), Date, and Time. Hex View will open the selected file in the built-in hex viewer. Delete will permanently remove the file from the microSD card.
Pressing A on a text (.txt) file will provide a slightly reduced set of options. These include Hex View, Load Cheats, File Info, and Delete. The Load Cheats option is used as an alternative way to initialize cheat codes for the selected game.
Pressing A on a save-RAM (.srm) file will provide a menu with different options as those presented for a text file. These options include Copy File to RAM, Copy RAM to File, File Info, Hex View, and Delete. Copy File to RAM will load the save file for execution, while Copy RAM to File will dump the SRAM onto the microSD card.
Pressing A on a save-state will provide options for Preview, File Info, Hex View, and Delete. The Preview option will display a screen shot for Genesis games, allowing you to visually select the save-state you want.
The In-Game menu (key-combo) will offer options for Save State, Load State, Slot (up to 100 per-ROM), Cheats, Reset Game, and Exit Game. Save-slots can be changed by pressing Left or Right on the d-pad, without having to select the ‘Slot’ item from the menu. Pressing C while on the in-game menu will display the screen shot preview, if the current ROM is a Genesis/Mega Drive game.
IPS patches can be placed either into their specific directory or alongside the ROM file. Patches placed into the IPS directories (ips-msu/ips-std) can either be named after the ROM’s Game ID or exactly the same as the ROM file. Patches placed alongside ROM files must be named exactly the same as the ROM file (EG: Rom_name.gen/Rom_name.ips). If an IPS file exists and is named correctly, it will automatically launch and soft-patch with game execution. There is no need to hard-patch your ROM files or to maintain a directory of pre-patched ROMs.
Traditionally, this is the point in the review where testing equipment is discussed and a listing of passed and failed test files is presented. However, this review swayed from the traditional path when it was discovered that the Genesis console used for testing contains hardware issues. As a result, games across all supported cores displayed strange control issues. Pause would randomly turn on and off, the C button would initialize when A was pressed, etc. A few brand new controllers later, it was determined that the problem was with the controller port. The 5v pin that supplies power to the controller was found to be damaged! This was something that did not present itself during early testing, and was discovered too late into the review to attempt to acquire another console or a means to repair the current one. While the damaged pin did not affect all games, it caused enough problems that it was impossible to determine if the issues were solely with the console or the Flash Kit.
The console used for testing was a NTSC Genesis Model1c. Beside the damaged 5v pin on controller port-1, the console was in fully working condition. The microSD card used for all testing was a Patriot 32GB and formatted using the Panasonic SD Formatter. All ROMs used for testing were verified against a known ‘goodset’ .dat and found to be without issue. Any game that experienced obvious controller issue were discussed with another reviewer and found to be fully functional. In fact, this other reviewer ran tests on multiple SEGA Mega Drive and Genesis consoles, and the Mega SG console. You can watch that review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfdNhjH9Qao (referenced by permission from Uncanny X).
While all results point to every problem being linked to the damaged 5v pin, without a second console to test with or a replacement controller port to install, it remains impossible to definitively say if ROMs were fully functional or not. Due to this fact, a full listing of all tested files can not be included in this review, at this time.
With that said, over 800 Genesis games, 7 Genesis homebrew projects, 5 converted movie files, 158 Master System games, 28 CD games, and over 200 NES games were tested for this review. Unfortunately, no 32x games were tested due to a lack of official hardware. Most games were tested for a period of 20 minutes to 1 hour. Various audio modes, in-game menu, save-states, and cheats were tested at random. All tested games functioned and the only issue encountered was the controller issue. Among the Genesis games, all Mode-1/MD+ CD audio enhanced projects were tested and found working. Tested Genesis homebrew projects included Pier Solar (with CD Enhanced Audio), Barbarian, Cave Story, L’Abbaye Des Morts, and Tanglewood. Each of the homebrew projects played without issue. Many Genesis and Master System IPS patches (color enhancements, translations, etc) were tested and functioned without issue. The in-game menu worked as expected for a most of the Genesis and Master System ROMs, however, it did not always function. As a result, save-states occasionally suffered from the various in-game menu issues. The only major compatibility issues occurred with NTSC NES games, which are described in the official manual as being only partially supported. In retrospect, those games that are supported probably were supported!
This compatibility section will be revisited if a fully working Genesis is found in the near future. Otherwise, please look towards the official EverDrive Forums for additional compatibility information.
The EverDrive in-game menus and save-states have always been a tacked-on feature. They work, but are often left as-is. While the in-game menu and its features functioned with a majority of Genesis and Master System games, it did not function with all of them. This includes games that use a V-Blank handler. Due to the fact that the Genesis hardware does not allow the save-state functionality to save the audio subsystem state, it is recommended to pause the game before creating a save-state. Additionally, creating save-states on loading screens, before the audio has been initialized, can improve save-state compatibility.
The Mega EverDrive Pro can not fully function on all revisions of the Genesis. This is due to hardware limitations found on these consoles and handhelds and not due to the Mega EverDrive Pro itself. While these issues are not directly related to the EverDrive, some are worth mentioning. For example, the CD core can not be used in pair with the 32x due to limitations with the 32x. CD audio is unsupported on the Nomad and Genesis Model3 due to a lack of audio inputs in their cartridge slots. Master System games can not be executed while the 32x is installed, due to a Master System mode-lock by the 32x hardware. In addition, Master System games will not execute on the Nomad or Genesis Model3 due to a lack of a Master System mode on these systems. Finally, the MegaKey will not work if the 32x is installed or on the Mega SG console.
The SEGA Genesis was an interesting console that supported a variety of experiences through add-on devices. The Mega EverDrive Pro successfully combines these experiences into an easy to use Flash Kit solution. With support for over 1,000 games, Mode-1/MD+, IPS soft-patching, cheats, homebrew, movie playback, and even NTSC NES games, the Mega EverDrive Pro breathes new life into the Genesis hardware.
- Easy to set-up and use
- High compatibility
- CD support without actual hardware
- Master System support without BIOS
- NES support (NTSC, limited compatibility)
- Cheat editor
- Hex Viewer
- IPS soft-patching
- Support for Mode-1/MD+ CD audio enhancement IPS patches
- Support for Pier Solar Mapper (w/CD enhanced audio)
- Homebrew development friendly (usb port)
- Save-states (up to 100)
- Genesis save-state preview
- Dedicated Master System pause button (doubles as soft-reset for other cores)
- YM2413 core support
- SVP core support
- High build quality (like an official SEGA product)
- Excellent O/S support by an established team
- in-game menu limitations