Review: Super Everdrive v2 (Hardware)
GBAtemp review of the...
Super Everdrive v2
The Super Nintendo, one of the most successful consoles in Nintendo's long history as a videogame company, holds a special place in the hearts of many of today's gamers. Most will still remember the heated discussions with their schoolmates on which console was the best one - the SNES or the Genesis/Megadrive. The Super Nintendo was home to some of the most iconic games of all times, like Super Mario Kart (which spawned the insanely popular Mario Kart series), StarFox, three episodes of the Final Fantasy series, Super Metroid and plenty of other awesome games. Some games have reached a cult status only in recent years thanks to emulation - titles like EarthBound and Super Mario RPG were played by a relatively small number of gamers at the time of their release and as such not many carts were sold, when compared to other more successful games. That has made them quite difficult to obtain if you're not ready to pay insanely high prices on auction websites, keeping them out of the reach of most SNES aficionados.
While backup solutions have existed in the past (some might remember the Game Doctor series by Bung Enterprises, or the Super Wild Card by Front FarEast), they were clunky and unattractive and to make things worse, they're almost impossible to use nowadays - being reliant on older technologies like floppies, parallel ports or MS-DOS conversion utilities to transfer the games on them. Technology has made huge strides in these latest years, especially in terms of memory storage (you can easily fit the entire SNES games library on a single microSD!) and that means there is no more need for big bulky units to sit on top of your SNES just to play some games.
Enter the Super Everdrive v2.
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A special thanks must go out to Krikzz and Retrogate for providing the review sample. Retrogate is the officially licensed store for all Krikzz Flash Kit products. Their customer service, e-mail support, and inclusion of a tracking number make it easy to recommend them.
Directly from Krikzz's homepage, here are the specifics for the Super Everdrive v2:
- Max. ROM size up to 7Mbyte
- Return to menu after reset
- SRAM auto backup on SD card
- Supported SD/MMC up to 32GB
- FAT16 and FAT32 are supported
- GameGenie cheat codes
- Simple menu
- Connection to PC and any additional software is not require
- USB port for developers (optional)
My unit came without an USB port soldered in, which is not a big issue by itself as the plastic casing does not have any openings for you to directly attach an USB cable with the case on. It's nonetheless an interesting feature for SNES homebrew developers, which can quickly test their games/utilities without having to remove and put back in the SD every time they have to load a new version. The USB port is definitely difficult to solder if you're not experienced with a soldering iron, so don't attempt to do that unless you REALLY need that function.
While not listed in the official specs, the Super ED v2 also comes with a space for directly soldering a DSP-1 chip to the PCB to add compatibility for games which do use the DSP enhancement chip. This means the cart does not support ANY other expansion chips than the said DSP-1. You can find more info on that later in the Compatibility section.
Contents, Packaging, Design & Impressions
- 1x Super Everdrive v2
- 1x Instruction Manual
The Super Everdrive v2 came in a white cardboard box with an Everdrive sticker on it, which contained the cartridge wrapped in bubblewrap. Nothing fancy here, but it does its job as the cartridge arrived in perfect conditions.
The Everdrive itself comes with a brand new universal casing made in plastic which closely resembles the PAL/NTSC-J cartridges. It's a lighter tone of grey than the standard SNES cartridges, so it'll definitely stand out in your SNES collection. The plastic casing comes with a label pre-attached to it, which is a glossy - it definitely doesn't look cheap and that is a big plus. On the back you can also find the usual "Caution" messages you'd find on every SNES cartridge, this time directly embossed in the plastics instead of being printed on a label. If you have a North American SNES and don't like the cartridge shape, shopping around might help you as ome of the resellers actually offer the choice of getting the Super Everdrive v2 in the usual NTSC/U shell instead of the brand new one.
Setup and Usage
The Super Everdrive v2 loads the OS and the games you put on it from a single slot which supports SD/SDHC cards - that means you can also use microSDs and microSDHCs with a simple SD adapter. Apparently it should also support MMCs, but those are a rarity nowadays and I suspect not many will have one laying around. The SD slot is not spring loaded, which will certainly be good news to some users - as those springs can be damaged quite easily, complicating the extraction of the SD quite a bit when that happens.
Cards up to 32GB can be used, formatted in either FAT16 or FAT32. Krikzz recommends to use the Windows Formatting utility to format your card, and use 32Kb or larger clusters. Using third party software (like formatting softwares or a file manager) is strongly discouraged, and could lead to unexpected results - the card should always be used in drag-n-drop mode using your Operating System's built-in shell. A note of advice: the Super Everdrive v2 is HEAVILY speed dependant. I tried using a Class 10 UHS-1 microSD and the menu browsing times improved massively. While a Class 4 is definitely usable with some patience (most of the testing was done on one), a Class 10 will bring in a much needed speed-up.
You can find the latest software for the Super ED v2 in the Downloads section of the cartridge's product page. Currently the software version is SNES O/S v2, released on 14.04.2014. It is usually recommended to always update to a newer version as soon as it's released, as they'll fix bugs and improve functionality.
In the firmware's archive you'll find a folder called SPED, which needs to be copied to the SD's root. It is important to note that the SPED folder can't be renamed or moved - it needs to stay in the SD's root for the cart to work properly. Powering up the Super Everdrive for the first time will display "Settings reset to default" and it'll initialize the SD card. After this, you'll be prompted with the cart's file browser.
The controls are pretty simple, and as such the menu is quite easy to use. Right and Left will respectively go to the next and the previous page, Up and Down will let you select games in the current page, B takes you back and A opens up to the File Menu. You can also press START to load the last game loaded into memory, while SELECT will take you in the options screen. Something you might immediately notice is that the games won't be sorted in alphabetical orders when you first start the Super Everdrive v2 - no need to despair, there's an option to fix that. But let's have a more in-depth look at the various functions first.
Load and Start will get you directly into a game. On the top of the screen you'll see the "DO NOT TURN OFF THE SYSTEM" screen, which is something you will want to keep in mind at all times. There were reports of some Super Everdrives v1 getting bricked if turned off while loading a game (which were promptly replaced by Krikzz, which tells you something about the dedication of the developer in supporting his customers) and even if that shouldn't happen anymore on the Super ED v2, it's always better to avoid doing that. The Super Everdrive v2 will then proceed to autodetect the settings used by the original game, a step necessary for it to be loaded in the most accurate way possible which is needed to avoid most of the detection schemes of the time. It'll also read the save of the previous game you've played (the save is kept in the battery-backed SRAM before that) and write it back to SD. When it is done with that, it'll erase the flash memory and load the new ROM on it. The entire process will take from 10 to 40 seconds depending on how big and complex the ROM is. As said earlier, a faster SD card will definitely help, and as such it'll shorten the loading times on bigger games.
Load Only will just pre-load the game into the flash memory, but won't start it - which is useful if you want to add some cheats to the game before starting it using the Cheats menu. To start it you will then need to press the START button in the file browser. Hex View will instead send you to the built-in hex viewer, which might be of use to some of the most adventurous SNES hackers.
The other functions are placed in the Main Menu, which is accessed by pressing SELECT. Options lets you override the settings which the Super ED v2 automatically detects when booting a ROM. This is obviously a function destined to the power-users which will want to start a game which has got a malformed or corrupted header, which might trick the Super Everdrive v2 in detecting the wrong settings for a certain game. Something which might instead interest every user is the Sorting option. By turning it on the flashcart will try its best to automatically sort every game you've got in alphabetical order. This will slow down the browsing a bit, but it's certainly worth it. I've noticed that sometimes it doesn't correctly sort all the games you might've got in a folder, but it's definitely a minor issue as most will be in the correct order.
The Cheats screen will let you input the (in)famous Game Genie codes before starting your game. Be careful: you need to Load-only the game you want to add the cheats in, and not use Load and Start. You can find the Game Genie codes all over the internet and they usually consist in cheats giving you unlimited lives, more money or complete invincibility to your enemies' attacks. The codes will be applied to the currently loaded game (the one in memory, which you can start with START) and the only way to revert them will be reloading the game from the File Browser. If you don't like inserting long strings of codes manually, the cart gives you the option to load the cheats from text files by selecting them in the File Browser, which is a definitely welcome addition.
The last two screens are the System Information screen and the About screen. They mostly contain info about your flashcart and the system you're running it on, which could turn in useful if you need to request help on a forum or send a bug report to the developer.
Both an 8GB Class 4 Kingston microSD card and an 8GB Class 10 UHS-1 Sandisk microSD were used for testing, along with their respective SD adapters. The card were formatted in FAT32 using the Windows Formatter, as recommended by Krikzz. I've used the No-Intro Romset, which uses interleaved, non-headered ROMs, which were divided by letter. The letter S was a special case, as I had to split in 4 folders to avoid the issues faced when having more than 250 roms in a single folder. A collection of PAL, NTSC/U and NTSC/J roms were used for this review, along with patched ROMs (hacked or translated) and homebrew games. Each game was played for 5-30 minutes. In every game which has got a save function, I've tried to at least play through a few save points before reloading the game to test the save function. Region and/or copy protection is patched out using UCON64 and always specified when used, to avoid screens like the following.
The Satellaview games are a special case and have been tested for sake of completeness. They were special games broadcasted via satellite at certain hours, running on a special add-on for the SNES available only in Japan - so it's kinda expected that the Super Everdrive won't run some of them as it lacks the additional hardware. Being that the transmissions of the games ceased years ago, some of them don't run properly any more and need various degree of hacks to restore their functionality (BS Zelda comes to mind). You can find more info about the BS-X on Wikipedia. I've tried testing some of the most iconic games only available for the BS-X. Also, the Sufami Turbo does not seem to be supported at all, as the special cartridge attachment is not emulated.
The results are color-coded. Green is for a game which works mostly correctly, yellow is for a game with issues and red is for a game which won't run. For the games which failed, multiple versions were tested to ensure that it wasn't a case of a bad ROM or unsupported version. All the games were tested on a PAL SNES, using SNES O/S v2.
Games which use special chips not supported by the flashcard are not tested, as they won't run. You can find a list of all the unsupported games below, clicking on the button.
Super Nintendo Entertainment System:
- Actraiser [PAL] - FAIL (Black screen)
- Aladdin [PAL] - PASS
- Bahamut Lagoon [NTSC/J] (w/ DeJap English Translation) - PASS
- Breath of Fire [NTSC/U] - PASS
- Castlevania - Vampire's Kiss [PAL] - PASS
- Chrono Trigger [NTSC/U] - PASS (Minor issue: demo intro starts and stops immediately)
- Clock Tower [NTSC/J] (w/ Aeon Genesis English Translation) - PASS (needs NTSC fix)
- Donkey Kong Country - ISSUES (Black screen during intro, need to skip it)
- Dragon Ball Z Super Saiya Densetsu [NTSC/J] (w/ Klepto Software English Translation) - PASS
- Dragon Quest V Tenkuu no Hanayome [NTSC/J] (w/ DeJap English Translation) - PASS
- Earthworm Jim [PAL] - PASS
- Earthbound [NTSC/U] - PASS (needs NTSC fix and Copy Protection patch)
- F-Zero [PAL] - PASS
- Famicom Tantei Club Part II (w/ Neo Demiforce English Translation) - PASS
- Final Fantasy III [NTSC/U] - PASS
- Final Fantasy V [NTSC/J] (w/RPGe patch) - PASS
- Gradius III [NTSC/U] - PASS
- Harvest Moon [PAL] - PASS
- Illusion of Time [PAL] - PASS
- Joe and Mac 3 - Lost in the Tropics [PAL] - PASS
- JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken [NTSC/J] (w/ Aeon Genesis English Translation) - PASS
- Killer Instinct [PAL] - PASS
- Kirby's Ghost Trap [PAL] - FAIL (Freezes after pressing START)
- Legend of Zelda, The - A Link to the Past [PAL] - PASS
- Live-a-Live [NTSC/J] - PASS (needs NTSC fix)
- Megaman 7 [PAL] - ISSUES (Black screen on intro, need to skip it)
- Megaman X [PAL] - PASS
- Mortal Kombat 3 [PAL] - PASS
- Ninja Gaiden Trilogy [NTSC/U] - PASS (needs NTSC fix)
- Ninjawarriors - The New Generation [PAL] - PASS
- Ogre Battle - The March of The Dark Queen [NTSC/U] - PASS
- Out of this World [NTSC/U] - PASS
- Phalanx [PAL] - PASS
- Rockman & Forte [NTSC/J] - FAIL (Hangs after selecting the character)
- Romancing Sa-Ga 3 [NTSC/J] (w/ Mana Sword English Translation) - PASS
- Secret of Evermore [PAL] - PASS
- Secret of Mana [PAL] - FAIL (Black screens after extracting the sword)
- Shin Megami Tensei [NTSC/U] (w/ Aeon Genesis English Translation) - PASS
- Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts [PAL] - PASS
- Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World [PAL] - PASS
- Super Metroid [PAL] - FAIL (Black screens during intro)
- Super Street Fighter II [PAL] - PASS
- Tales of Phantasia [NTSC/J] (w/ DeJap English Translation) - PASS
- Terranigma [PAL] - PASS
- Treasure Hunter G [NTSC/J] (w/ Metalhawk English Translation) - PASS
- Ultima - The False Prophet [NTSC/U] - PASS
- Wonder Project J - Kikai no Shounen Pino [NTSC/J] (w/ WakdHacks English Translation) - PASS
- Zombies (PAL) - PASS
Satellaview [NTSC/J only]:
Note: As said earlier, BS-X was a really peculiar system and it's kinda expected tha some games won't run properly. The results hereby won't be calculated in the final score.
- Bokujou Monogatari - Dai-2-wa - PASS
- BS Fire Emblem - Akaneia Senki Hen - Dai-1-wa - Palace Kanraku - FAIL (Black screen)
- BS F-Zero Grand Prix - Dai-1-shuu - Knight League - ISSUES (Need to wait 15 minutes in the initial screen, after that the controllers don't seem to be responding)
- BS Super Mario USA - Power Challenge - Dai-1-kai - PASS
- Chrono Trigger - Jet Bike Special - PASS
- Chrono Trigger - Music Library - PASS
- Excitebike - Bunbun Mario Battle - Stadium 1 - PASS (Need to wait 4-5 minutes before you can play)
- Kirby no Omochabako - Hoshi Kuzushi - PASS
- Mario Paint - BS Ban - PASS
- Panel de Pon - Event '98 - PASS
- Super Bomber Man - PASS
- Yoshi no Panepon - BS Ban - PASS
- Astrohawk - PASS (Garbled graphics also happen on emulator)
- Airwolf - PASS (Garbled graphics also happen on emulator)
- Bio Worm - PASS
- BLT - ISSUES (Garbled graphics)
- Classic Kong - PASS
- Hong Kong 97 - PASS
- N-Warp Daisakusen (v 1.1) - PASS
- Skipp and Friends - PASS
- Uwol - Quest for Money - PASS
The Super Everdrive v2 is definitely a great cart, which will run most of the games you will throw at it. Excellent support from the developer, along with some outstanding features (like the SRAM auto-saving to SD) will ensure that this will be a mostly pleasant experience with few hiccups. Being a flashcart designed to be "inexpensive", the trade-off here is that it won't run any of the games which require a special chip (except the DSP-1, if you're willing to solder one in or buy a SED v2 with one pre-soldered for an extra) which severely limits its potential to be THE best SNES flashcard ever. A most welcome suprise was the homebrew support, as this cart is ultimately oriented to commercial ROM support. While the SNES homebrew scene is quite limited, the Super Everdrive v2 ran pretty much every homebrew I put on it without any issues.
Again, I can't stress enough that anyone interested in this flashcart needs to carefully read the Unsupported Games list. Some of the best titles ever developed for the SNES (Super Mario RPG, StarFox, et al.) do indeed use a special chip and as such won't run on the Super Everdrive v2. Most retrogamers will probably want to play at least one of those titles, so they should keep in mind that the Super ED v2 won't let them throw out (or resell) their entire SNES collection. It will runs almost everything, but NOT everything.
That said, if you keep in mind the inherent limitations of the Super Everdrive v2, you'll find that it's definitely a must-have for every serious retrogamer - if only for the ability to finally play all those fantastic translations on real hardware.
+ Easy to use
+ No external software needed - just drag-n-drop
+ Excellent compatbility
+ Homebrew support
+ Direct support from the developer
+ Automatically saves/loads SRAM to SD
+ Keeps last loaded game in Flash for quick start
+ Supports both .SMC and .SFC files
- No special chipsets support
- Maximum 250 games per folder
- No IPS auto-patching
- No save-states support
out of 10
An excellent SNES flashcart that gives you the most bang for your buck. It has some limitations you'll have to work around, but they're not deal breakers. Easy to use and with no frills, the Super Everdrive v2 is for everyone, even the less tech-savvy of the retrogamers. I can definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to play most of the entire SNES collection on their original hardware.