Review Acekard R.P.G. Review


GBAtemp Administrator
Oct 24, 2002
South England
United Kingdom review of the...

Acekard R.P.G.

aka: Acekard RPG, Ace Kard RPG, AKRPG, AK R.P.G.
Manufactured by: Team Acekard

Review written by shaunj66 - 28th November 2007

Review Contents & Index:
  • Introduction
    - Official feature list
  • Packaging and Contents
    - Box Contents
  • Cart & Linker Design
  • Setting Up & Using
    - Initial connection & firmware
    - Copying content across
    - GUI (OS)
  • Additional Features
  • Performance
    - ROM compatibility
    - Multiplayer, Download Play and Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection support
    - Battery life
    - Save Game support
  • Homebrew Support
  • Conclusion
Welcome to the review of the Acekard R.P.G. – the first commercial open source flash kit.

The Acekard R.P.G. is one of the latest in the range of slot-1 flash kits for the Nintendo DS and is also the latest product from the Acekard Team who brought us the original Acekard and later, the Acekard+.

The original Acekard, while not received very well; was revolutionary at its time because it was the first flash kit to boast perfect compatibility with all DS games. Unfortunately the cart suffered from a few major user interface problems that prevented it from being the coveted cart it could have been. Buggy PC software and a proprietary file system made using the cart a chore.

The team later released the Acekard+, which they offered as a FREE upgrade to owners of the previous Acekard no less. The Acekard+ resolved the issues of the original by offering simple drag and drop support and allowing FAT file systems to be used. The Acekard+ was a major improvement but it came too late, with other carts arriving on the scene, the Acekard+ was again left behind.

After a ten month hiatus the team are back with their latest creation - the Acekard R.P.G. (R.P.G. standing for Real Play Gear). The Acekard R.P.G. has turned a few heads as it is the first DS flash kit to offer both internal flash memory and support for Micro SD and Micro SDHC cards; quite a feat for such a small device! The Acekard R.P.G. is also the first commercial flash cart to go open source. The team have released the source code and the build environment for the loader (not firmware) files.

The Acekard R.P.G. is currently available with 1GB (gigabyte), or 8Gbit as they advertise it, of on-board "ultra fast" NAND flash memory. An industry standard mini-USB port is situated on the top of the cart used for managing the contents of the on-board flash memory.

A spring loaded micro SD slot is also found on the cart which will accommodated either a standard micro SD card or the new higher capacity micro SDHC cards. SDHC cards will support up to 32GB of storage on a single card in the future but are currently only available in various sizes of up to 8GB.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Acekard R.P.G. is that it is open source. This means that anyone talented enough to do so can customise, add to, improve on, or even completely overhaul the team's original loader files.

Let's take a quick look at the feature list of the Acekard R.P.G
  • Worlds first Dual storage slot-1 card. Utilizes built in NAND flash as well as MicroSD cards.
  • Build in "Quick Exchange" Technology"
  • Worlds First "Auto Save Type Detection"
  • Build in USB connector, support U-Disk
  • 100% Compatibility for all NDS games
  • Support for most Homebrew programs/games
  • Built in "Rom Trimming" Function
  • Fully touch screen operation
  • Original game cart size, simple plug and play, no passme or flashed NDS needed.
  • Can be used as a Passme to boot from slot-2 flash cards
  • Using "write balance" technology, able to re-write NAND flash more than usual
  • Save files are directly written to memory
  • Micro SD files exchange
  • Support Multi-language
  • Easy Skin Change
  • Open Source
  • Acekard R.P.G future function
Packaging and Contents
The Acekard R.P.G. sample we received came packaged as you can see in the photos. Our sample came with just a replacement shell and a small paper slip warning users to be careful when changing casing. Oddly enough no mini-USB cable was included (which is absolutely required to use the Acekard R.P.G. - you'll need it to write to the onboard flash memory where the GUI loader software belongs). The Acekard team have assured us that future retail units will come packaged with a mini-USB cable. So here's a list of what is apparently included in retail boxes:-

Box Contents
- Acekard R.P.G.
- Mini-USB cable

No CD or support files are included with the cart, but it's not too surprising; the Acekard R.P.G. does not require any PC side software. When connected via USB, Windows XP (and most modern operating systems) will recognise and install the device automatically, and from there it's just a case of dragging and dropping files. Any additional (3rd party) software can be downloaded from the net.

The Acekard R.P.G. is packaged in a nice little plastic box surrounded in a cardboard sleeve. The overall package looks professional and has a nice run down of features on the front and back of the sleeve and is almost "Engrish" free... Well, it wouldn't be a flash kit if it didn't have some "Engrish" on it!

Inside the plastic box are clips for holding the Acekard R.P.G. and also space for a GBA cart. No mention from the team as to whether they plan to release any GBA slot peripherals or add-ons in the future, but it looks like they've taken the initiative to accommodate the cart if that ever does happen.

Cart & Linker Design
Moving on, we'll now take a look at the Acekard R.P.G. cart itself.

At first glance the Acekard R.P.G. is a very unique looking cart, what with both the mini-USB port and micro SD slot. The mini-USB port is used for writing to the 1GB of onboard flash memory, and the micro SD slot can accommodate a regular micro SD or new high capacity micro SDHC cards. It's really amazing how they've managed to fit all this onto one single DS cart and have managed to maintain the form factor.

The Acekard R.P.G. is currently only available in black. A silver/white cart is shown on the Acekard website, but that's the only place you'll find it for now.

Build quality wise, the Acekard R.P.G. seems sturdy enough. It's built from a tough feeling semi-transparent black plastic and the mini-USB port, which some people believe to be fragile, actually feels quite strong. And just like the DS-Xtreme the USB port is held on to the cart PCB by 5 separate points which should prevent it from being damaged as long as due care is taken.

The micro SD slot is spring loaded, which you may or may not be happy to hear! While I doubt the spring will break if the cart is used properly and carefully, if it does manage to break, there is actually a lot of "grab" space around the top of the micro SD cart slot which should make pulling the card out manually easier.

A shiny sticker can be found on the back of the Acekard R.P.G. and not the front, where instead you'll find and engraved Acekard logo which I must admit, looks pretty darn nice, which is more than can be said for the sticker. The team have opted for a shiny and almost metallic sticker and in this reviewer's opinion, it's just plain ugly. Not so much for the logo design on the sticker, but its shape. It's slightly too large for the beveled area in which it lays and ends up looking slightly bent and misshapen. I opted to pull mine off after this review and haven't regretted it; the engraved logo on the "front" does a nice enough job of branding the cart anyway.

The cart is held together with clips surround the 4 edges ala. DS-Xtreme. To open up the cart to take a peak at its innards you must pry these clips apart carefully. And I say carefully because if you bend them too much you'll end up stressing the plastic and will risk snapping the clips or turning the bases of them an off-white colour.

Here are the innards of the Acekard R.P.G. in all its naked glory.

The Acekard R.P.G. slots into the Nintendo DS slot-1 quite nicely and without too much friction (I think any friction that may occur will be due to the carts label). And just like all new slot-1 carts; it fits flush with no external over-hang.

Unlike the DS-Xtreme, the The Acekard R.P.G. USB port is slightly receded into the cart, making plugging in a USB cable whilst the device is inserted into your DS almost impossible. So you'll most likely have to remove the cart to connect via USB. The micro SD slot is also inaccessible when the The Acekard R.P.G. is in your DS. You simply won't be able to remove the micro SD card without removing the Acekard R.P.G. first.

All in all, the Acekard R.P.G. is a nice looking cart (sans the label) and it's truly astonishing how they managed to fit everything inside the slot-1 form factor.

Setting Up & Using
Enough babbling about the aesthetics, let's move on...

The Acekard R.P.G. is another true modern slot-1 flash kit. What does this mean? It means a trained monkey could operate this cart!

Flash kits have evolved so much that the absolute minimum of effort is required from the end user. The dragging and dropping of files is almost all that's needed. That means no patching software, no hacking, no modifying of ROM files etc. Almost everything is handled by the carts firmware/operating system.

What's more, now the majority of homebrew that requires file system access uses DLDI, which on some flash carts requires the apps/games to be patched with the appropriate DLDI driver on the PC, the Acekard R.P.G. auto detects DLDI capable files and automatically patches them whilst they're launching. This is another task that the end user does not have to worry about.

As the Acekard R.P.G. offers two different means of storage - the 1GB of onboard flash memory or micro SD & SDHC support; you actually have a choice to make as to where you store your games, homebrew and other files. You may find that you want to copy a few of your most favourite games to the onboard flash memory, or perhaps; if you don't have a top performance micro SD card, you could place some of the few games that are prone to "slow-down" when running from low performance micro SD cards onto the faster onboard memory. Either way you'll be pleased to hear that the Acekard R.P.G. GUI allows you to organise your files between both memory mediums by copying, cutting, pasting and even deleting without even using your PC (more on that later).

Part One: Initial Connection & Firmware

To get started you'll need the following equipment:

- An Acekard R.P.G. of course
- A mini USB cable


- A micro SD or micro SDHC card
- A micro SD or micro SDHC compatible card reader

You NEED to be able to write to the onboard flash memory as that's where the loader files (Acekard R.P.G. GUI/operating system) are required to be put. So a mini USB cable is required.

Connecting the Acekard R.P.G. to your PC is easy. It doesn't require any drivers or software. As long as you're using Windows XP or later (or if you're using a Linux distro then you probably know what you're doing anyway!) the Acekard R.P.G. will automatically detect and install as a simple removable storage drive just like a standard USB memory stick.

Now you're ready to start using the cart, head on over to the team's official website or the GBAtemp Download Centre (links can be found at the bottom of this review) and download the latest loader files.

Open up the archive that contains the latest loader and you'll find an .NDS file (the loader itself) and a directory labelled "__rpg" which contains required operating system files. You need to extract both of these to the root of the onboard flash memory. Remember, these CAN'T be run from the micro SD card.

Updating the loader is easy should the team release an update in the future. Just delete both the __RPG folder and the .NDS file you extracted in the previous step and extract the files from the latest loader archive.

Part Two: Copying Content Across

Now you can begin copying games, homebrew and other files to the onboard flash memory or micro SD card. The Acekard R.P.G. loader supports directories on both the onboard and micro SD memory so you can organise files into separate folders to keep things clean.

Unfortunately, contrary to some initial speculation, the onboard USB port of the Acekard R.P.G. cannot be used to access the contents of the micro SD card inserted into the Acekard R.P.G. You'll still need to use a regular micro SD card reader on your PC. This perhaps would have been a nice feature possible perhaps through a small switch on the unit, but due to the size of the Acekard R.P.G. it may not be entirely feasible or even worthwhile to create such a feature.

As stated earlier, no modification of files is necessary on the PC unless you want to trim the ROMs to remove useless padding to save space. So just drag and drop all your games and homebrew across.

Just a quick reminder, the onboard memory and micro SD can be formatted in either FAT or FAT32 mode. Both are supported and neither should affect performance.

Part Three: GUI

When you turn on your DS with the Acekard R.P.G. inserted, unlike some other flash carts, the main DS menu will not be skipped. The Acekard R.P.G. shows in the main menu like any regular game pak along with its own icon.

Tap the slot-1 option to boot the Acekard R.P.G.

A loading message will flash on the screen for less than a second (during my testing) and a short flicker of the screens will appear before the main Acekard R.P.G. menu will be displayed. This initial loading is very fast and I was actually quite impressed, the entire process (during my testing) before you are able to take control of the Acekard R.P.G. menu is less than three seconds.

On first glance you may realise how different the main Acekard R.P.G. menu screen looks when compared to some other kits on the market. On the top screen is the console name, the date and time and a calendar. It all looks very similar to the main DS menu screen with the exception of it being skinned to match the rest of the Acekard R.P.G. GUI.

On the bottom screen is a "directory up" icon that will allow you to backtrack through folders, a sun icon that allows you to adjust the brightness of the screens (DS Lite only), a Start button that contains additional options/settings and a small slot-1 icon in the bottom right that acts as a type of "hard disk LED" that lights up and flickers when the Acekard R.P.G. is accessing the micro SD memory card. And lastly there are the three main menu icons as listed below:

- Flash Memory
- microSD Card
- Slot2 Card

The slot-2 option allows you to boot directly to a flash kit device in your Game Boy Advance slot, but does NOT support official game paks. The other two main icons allow you to start browsing the contents of either the onboard or micro SD card memory.

When browsing the contents of your Acekard R.P.G. is done on the lower touch screen, you are presented with a file list that stands four items tall. The current path is shown on the top of the touch screen. The currently selected file or icon is highlighted by a bar and its associated icon pulsates. Only three types of files are recognised by the Acekard R.P.G. menu system; .NDS and .SAV files and folders. All other file types are unrecognised with a question mark icon beside them. Fortunately you may choose what types of files are shown or hidden inside the Settings menu.

.NDS files are listed by filename which seems like a strange choice taken by the team. You can view their internal 3-line header name by selecting File Info, but personally I would much rather this be reversed or optional.

If you prefer, you may use a "classic" file listing mode where the icons are replaced with numbers (file 001, 002, 003 etc.) which allows for 10 items to be shown at once (this is done by hitting Select).

Browsing the contents of the onboard flash memory and micro SD card is for the most part very fast. Unfortunately when it comes to entering folders loaded with games there is a slight pause indicated by the flashing "loading" icon in the bottom right of the screen where the Acekard R.P.G. is reading the contents of that folder and possibly fetching the icons and header info(s). This can sometimes be quite frustrating when browsing folders as you may think you didn't properly tap the button/folder and you may end up pressing it 2 or 3 times which, once the folder is opened may launch you into the first selected game within that folder forcing you to reboot the DS. Personally I'd much prefer the directory scanning to be done on the boot of the Acekard R.P.G. sacrificing boot time; just so later file browsing is instantaneous.

If you're a fan of Japanese games, but aren't Japanese yourself, chances are you'll have a few Japanese only games on your cart, but will keep the Acekard R.P.G. loader in English. If this is the case, it's worth noting that Japanese characters cannot be displayed while the Acekard R.P.G. is set to English as the appropriate font will not have been loaded. Even though games are displayed by filename in the file browser, you can still view the 3 line header by hitting File Info in the Start menu with a game selected, but any Japanese characters in the header will not be displayed and will be replaced by an underscore.
Japanese characters display fine when setting your Acekard R.P.G. to Japanese.

The Start menu provides access to the main bulk of options available in the Acekard R.P.G. loader. The available options don't differentiate between screens, they stay consistent.

The following options are shown in the Start menu (as of loader version 4.04):

- Copy
- Cut
- Delete
- Paste
- Special
- System Settings
- File Info
- Help

The Acekard R.P.G. is the first slot-1 DS flash kit to enable users to manage cart contents from their DS and this is a very welcome and intuitive feature. While the speed of copying and pasting files is not as fast as on a PC it's still a convenient feature. We tested copying a 128MB (megabyte, 1024Mbit) file from the micro SD card to the onboard flash and it took just under 3 minutes to complete the operation, which although by no means very fast, still fairly respectable seeing as it's done on the DS. We then copied the file back from the onboard memory to the micro SD card and measured a time of just 2 minutes and 20 seconds. We tried this test with slower and faster SD cards and neither speed seemed to improve (only by about 5~10 seconds) so we'd assume the DS hardware has more affect on the speed than the media.

Because of the dual memory feature, a lot of Acekard R.P.G. owners discovered an interesting use of the file management feature - copying and sharing Save Game files or even ROMs between friends, which I find to be an interesting and unique ability of the Acekard R.P.G.

If you wish, you can enable an option in the Settings screen to set the file copier to automatically trim dummy data from ROMs if required. We've tested this and it works fine, fortunately unlike some PC side ROM trimmers, the Acekard R.P.G. ROM trimmer does not affect download play ability.

The entire GUI can be controlled by using either the stylus or the normal controls. Unfortunately in my opinion the touch screen control is not as fluid as it could be. While touch screen accuracy, unlike cards such as the G6 DS Real, is pretty much spot on, dragging the screen to scroll up and down happens too fast and is inaccurate. The screen does not slide to the actual tip of the stylus like the CycloDS Evolution, but rather scrolls at about twice the speed/height of the stylus tip. Meaning you only have to brush the stylus down very slightly to perform a full "page/screen" scroll.
The OS can also be quite inaccurate when tapping games or files to load, which can easily happen by accident when attempting to scroll up and down.

Hopefully the team will fix these touch-control issues in future updates as it's the only real grief I have with the loader.

Let's take a look at the remaining options in the Acekard R.P.G. Start menu.

Special - The Special option takes you to a settings screen which allows you to configure 3 options that affect ROM playback. You can choose to enable Download Play support (Single Card Play) which will load ROMs in such a way that the chances of Download Play working are improved. You should enable this option when launching a game with multiplayer in mind. Generally I'd advise to leaving this enabled at all times, as I have yet to experience any compatibility or performance issues during games since enabling this.
The second option in the Special settings screen is to enable In Game Cheat (Action Replay) cheat support. I will cover the Action Replay cheat support of the Acekard R.P.G. later on in this review.
The last option here is to toggle in game soft-reset on/off, again, I recommend you leave this enabled so you can easily return to the Acekard R.P.G. menu during gameplay without turning off your DS.

System Settings - This is the main settings screen with 5 options currently available. The first option lets you choose between the available skins on your Acekard R.P.G. There are 2 pre-installed skins on the Acekard R.P.G. - a Black and almost "gothic" theme, and a Zelda theme which is the default. The Acekard R.P.G. GUI is highly customisable and we'll go into greater detail on this later in this review.

The 2nd option allows you to choose the Language of the entire GUI. There are currently 8 available languages - English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The languages files are stored as part of the menu file structure on the flash memory and are easily editable text files.

The 3rd option lets you configure the backlight brightness (DS Lite only).

The 4th option allows you to set what files are displayed or filtered in the file browser. You can choose between "NDS", "NDS + SAV" and "All". It's worth noting though, that even though you can choose the GUI to display all file types when browsing, that only NDS files are supported, no other file types will launch.

The last option in the Settings screen allows you to enable the ROM Trimmer for the on board file manager as previously mentioned.

File Info - This screen lets you take a closer look at whatever is currently highlighted in the File Browser. If you select this item when one of the 2 main menu icons (Flash Memory, Micro SD Card) are highlighted you get a brief disk information summary, such as how much space is being used, how much is free and the total capacity which is a handy feature.

When ROMs are highlighted this option will popup a small window with some ROM/file information. You can view the 3 line internal header of games, their filename, last file modification date and time, the file size (in MB) and the save type which can also be configured from this screen. By hitting the Save Type button you're able to manually set the save type of a game which may prove useful with future problematic games when the Automatic save type is wrong. So normally you won't have to touch the save type as it's automatically handled, but it's nice to know the option is available.

Help - Help is a simple small screen that shows you the button shortcuts for navigating the GUI.

And that's it for the Start Menu.

The Acekard R.P.G. GUI is very much skinnable. Almost every aspect you see can be modified through simple bitmap and .INI settings files which are part of the loader package which reside on the flash memory. You can change placement of text; font sizes, colours; language text; icon animation and more... Skin enthusiasts should be very happy with this carts offerings in this department.

The Acekard R.P.G. GUI, while not perfect, is brilliant. It looks very modern and clean, is highly customisable and offers some nice and well placed options. The team have obviously put a lot of time into perfecting the GUI, and it shows. There's a lot of class in this GUI and little things such as the cart resetting when you apply a new theme just shows the level of depth the team have gone into.

The unfortunate downfalls of the GUI are the lack of features such as multimedia support, the delay when opening folders and dodgy touch screen control. Hopefully the team address these issues, as they shouldn't be too hard to improve (especially the last 2). Then it will truly be one of the best flash kit loaders I've played with.

Additional Features

When first released, the Acekard R.P.G. was severely lacking in the features department. Besides the open source aspect, the Acekard R.P.G. really didn't have anything else going for it besides the very basics. A lot of people were put off by this and slated the card. Fortunately, recent official loader updates to the Acekard R.P.G. have added more features people have come to expect from modern flash kits.

Let's take a brief look at some of the additional features of the Acekard R.P.G.

Open Source

The Acekard R.P.G. is THE first commercial open-source flash cart. The team have released the full source code and build environment to the public, and continue to do so with each loader update.

Unfortunately for the team... The source does not seem to have been touched. No 3rd party modifications have been made public. You could blame this on the fact that the team have not supplied enough interested English developers with kits or the lack of interest. Either way, there's nothing to get excited about so far regarding the open-source of the Acekard R.P.G. Hopefully time will change this.

Cheat Support

As of loader version 4.03 the Acekard R.P.G. supports Action Replay cheats.

Cheats are added by creating a blank text file with Action Replay codes in and saving it alongside the ROM, with the same filename except a .cc suffix. The contents of the text file should look similar to the following:

@Infinite Lives--------Enable this code.
020973ec 00000063

# Infinite Health------Disable this code.
1208fce4 00000880
1210679c 00000008
Once you have enabled Cheat code support in the Special settings screen from within the Start menu, you can press 'Start+Select+UP' during gameplay to enable cheats and 'Start+Select+DOWN' to disable.

The implementation of Action Replay cheat support feels a bit lacking. Unlike other flash kits you can't enable or disable specific cheats before loading a game. Hopefully the team will improve on the cheat system in future loader releases.

Multimedia Support

The Acekard R.P.G. does not have official support for multimedia. If you want to view multimedia on your Acekard R.P.G. we recommend Moonshell.

Micro SDHC support

Just in case you missed it already, the Acekard R.P.G. supports the micro SDHC standard.

Soft Reset

As of loader version 4.05 the Acekard R.P.G. supports soft reset. Enable it in the Special Menu and hit ''L+R+A+B+Down' in-game to reset back to the main menu.

Boot to Slot-2

From the Acekard R.P.G. main menu you can boot to any slot-2 flash kit that is inserted. It does not boot official GBA game paks.

A quick look at the Acekard R.P.G. and the loader (no sound)


Time to do some real testing and to see how the Acekard R.P.G. really performs!

Most flash kits these days offer 100% ROM compatibility. That means glitch-free playback, no slowdown, corruption or incompatible games. So let's see if the Acekard R.P.G. offers that 100%.

During the testing portion of this review we will put the Acekard R.P.G. to the test with various ROM images of games, from randomly selected games to games that are known to have particular issues playing on flash kits. We will also test some homebrew games and applications.

We will be using the latest firmware available at the time on the cart. We will be using micro SD cards of varying brands and quality, and standard clean ROM images that have not been modified or trimmed in order to maintain fair testing.

Here's a list of our testing equipment:

- European Nintendo DS Lite
- Full volume + brightness settings
- Fully charged

- Acekard R.P.G. final product
- Acekard R.P.G. loader 4.05 final
- USB 2.0 Micro SDHC card reader
- Windows XP SP2

- The 1GB of NAND flash memory onboard the Acekard R.P.G.
- Sandisk 4GB Micro SDHC card (class 2) (made in China)
- Sandisk Ultra II 2GB Micro SD Card (made in Taiwan)
- PNY 1GB Micro SD Card (made in Japan)

Please note that due to the fact that 100% compatibility is expected these days, we no longer list every single game played. Instead we only make note of ROMs that have had issues.

When launching games for the first time from inside the Acekard R.P.G. menu, the Acekard R.P.G. will check to see whether it's the first time the game has run or not and will then continue to launch. This can take anything from 1 second to 3 seconds, which is the maximum time I've encountered, but this speed will vary between micro SD cards. Launching games again takes just a few seconds.

ROM Compatibility

Q: Is there any game that hasn't worked properly?
A: All games tested (65+) have worked fine without a hitch. There are currently no known compatibility issues.

Q: Do you have to perform any ARM7 patching or modifying, such as Worms: Open Warfare 2?
A: No. All games work fine without prior tampering.

Q: Have you experienced any slow down and or lag in games?
A: The 'Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow' introduction FMV has regularly been used as a benchmark for DS flash kit SD card read access because of the heavy compression used in the video and the rapid, extremely fast read access required by the DS to play it without lag. We tested this game on all types of memory listed above in the test equipment list. Here are the results:

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow intro FMV speed test results:

- The 1GB of NAND flash memory onboard the Acekard R.P.G.
-- The FMV played back fine without any lag whatsoever = PASS
- Sandisk 4GB Micro SDHC card (class 2) (made in China)
-- The FMV lagged terribly at nearly 1 frame per second in the last half of the movie = FAIL
- Sandisk Ultra II 2GB Micro SD Card (made in Taiwan)
-- The FMV lagged terribly at nearly 1 frame per second in the last half of the movie = FAIL
- PNY 1GB Micro SD Card (made in Japan)
-- The FMV played back fine without any lag whatsoever = PASS

Q: Have you encountered any freezing in games such as Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin?
A: This time we turn to 'Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin' for this part of the testing, a game known to freeze on slower access SD cards during game play. We tested this game on all types of memory listed above in the test equipment list. Here are the results:

Tests performed: Constantly pausing and unpausing the game, save points & portals.

- The 1GB of NAND flash memory onboard the Acekard R.P.G.
-- No freezing was experience in any part of the game = PASS
- Sandisk 4GB Micro SDHC card (class 2) (made in China)
-- The game locked up randomly during testing = FAIL
- Sandisk Ultra II 2GB Micro SD Card (made in Taiwan)
-- The game locked up randomly during testing = FAIL
- PNY 1GB Micro SD Card (made in Japan)
-- No freezing was experience in any part of the game = PASS

Q: Does it matter what micro SD card I use?
A: See the above questions. I recommend you buy a quality micro SD card or use the on-board memory for known problematic games.

Q: Does the DS Opera Web browser work?
A: If you have the patched ROM and corresponding slot-2 flash card (G6, M3, Supercard), then yes. Otherwise, if you choose to use the unpatched ROM, you'll need the official memory expansion pak.

Q: How fast are the read and write speeds on the onboard memory?
A: Here are our HD Tach results (using USB 2.0 controller): Average read speed: 10.4MB/s , Average write speed: 8.9MB/s. (Random access: 48.4ms)

As you can see during our extensive testing, just as it is the case for most other flash carts; the PNY Japanese card is the card of choice for speed. It's a shame to see the Acekard R.P.G. fail some of these tests, as a handful of other flash kits on the market do not have speed issues regardless of micro SD card. Let's not forget though, that the onboard memory passed these tests; so whatever SD card you have, you can keep games prone to slowdown on the onboard memory and enjoy them at full speed. Good for those who fancy getting an Acekard R.P.G. but want to keep their old micro SD card(s).

Multiplayer, Download Play and Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection support

As of loader version 4.04 the Acekard Team have fixed support for Download Play in what they call the "majority" of games.

Single cart download play is a problem that has plagued a large number of flash kits. Not all kits support download play, or have trouble in particular games. Download Play is when a game offers multiplayer gameplay between 2 physical DS' over a local wireless connection using only 1 game pak in 1 of the 2 DS.

We have tested the following games that support Download Play, and here are our results:

42 All-Time Classics / Club House Games
Big Brain Academy
Bomberman Land Touch!
New Super Mario Bros.
Point Blank DS
Super Mario 64 DS
Super Monkey Ball DS
Tetris DS
Snowboard Kids SBK
Yoshi Touch & Go
Zoo Keeper


As you can see, the Acekard R.P.G. (as of loader version 4.04) has support for download play in the handful that we've tested; a rather pleasant result.

Nintendo Wi-Fi connection works fine on all games, just like any other flash kits - no problem here.

Battery Life Results:

Test condition:
  • Fully charged European Black Nintendo DS Lite
  • Acekard R.P.G. v4.05
  • Using onboard memory
  • New Super Mario Bros. Running Main Menu and movie looping continuously
  • Screens at max. brightness (level 4)
  • Sound at 100%

Retail New Super Mario Bros cart = 4 hours 55 minutes

Results are not yet available. Please check back later.

Save Game support

Like most recent flash kits, the Acekard R.P.G. automatically detects save types of games and creates save game files automatically. Although, as mentioned earlier in this review, the Acekard R.P.G. does allow you to manually override the automatic save type if need be. This can be done via the File Info screen in the Start Menu.

The Acekard R.P.G. creates .SAV files with the same file name as the game they were created for, inside the same folder as the ROM. The size of the .SAV file depends on the specific save type of the game it's linked to, unlike other flash kits that create a 512KB .SAV file regardless of the actual required size. During gameplay, save game files are written directly to the memory card and are not stored in a temporary memory, eliminating the potential loss of save games.

I have had no issues with games with save types of all sizes, ranging from 4KB - 512KB, running on the Acekard R.P.G.

Homebrew Support

The Acekard R.P.G. supports automatic DLDI patching. What is DLDI? DLDI is a recent breakthrough in the homebrew scene which eliminates compatibility issues when running homebrew on different flash kits. Simply put, the author of the homebrew makes their game or application support DLDI, and then each flash kit manufacturer releases a DLDI driver file or implements automatic DLDI patching support within their flash kit loader, which is the case with the Acekard R.P.G. This means no matter what homebrew you get, as long as it supports DLDI, you know it will work. Unfortunately due to the coding of some homebrew, some compatibility issues may remain, but this is commonly due to the coding of the homebrew rather than the flash kit itself.

Because the Acekard R.P.G. has two different memory mediums, the cart is required to detect where the homebrew is running from and then patch it with the relative DLDI driver, whether it be on the flash memory or micro SD card. This works without a problem.

We'll now test a variety of homebrew applications and games on the Acekard R.P.G. to see how they perform.

BeUp Live 0.3 - Pass
Colors! 1.05 - Pass
DSOrganise - Pass
IRC DS - Pass
Lemmings DS - Pass
Linux DS - FAIL:- Could NOT get this to work
NESDS - Pass
Picodrive DS - Pass
ScummVM - Pass
Moonshell 1.71b - Pass

As you can see, most homebrew worked fine, with the exception of DS Linux that I may have installed incorrectly. Not a bad result. The majority of the most popular homebrew will work fine.

If you're one of those people that would rather handle the DLDI patching themselves then you'll be glad to hear that the standard .DLDI driver files are included in the loader package. Of course, one for the onboard memory and the other for micro SD. They are used by the loader itself when autopatching, so can be found in the __rpg directory.


In this reviewer's opinion, if you're going to introduce a new flash kit to the market, you should improve upon and include any major (at least) features that previous flash kits have offered (see Enhanced in-game menus, slow-motion, cheat selection etc.). Taking a step back in such areas, but then taking a step forward in non-critical areas such as dual memory just seems like the wrong way to go about things.

That being said, the Acekard R.P.G. should be seen as a serious contender in the slot-1 world. It's a fine tuned piece of hardware that the team have obviously taken a lot of time into perfecting. It just feels that they've concentrated too hard in some areas such as the dual memory solution and the GUI and not enough in other places that put simply, are quite lacking (such as the scantness of features or poor implementation thereof, such as cheats). It feels like the team released this cart to the market before the bulk of it was ready.

The Acekard R.P.G. offers top-notch compatibility like its predecessor, and a very aesthetically pleasing and highly customisable GUI, that is only let down by the lack of multimedia support and erratic touch screen control.
The team have released some great updates to the cart already that offer "new" features such as cheat support and soft-reset. I also applaud the team for creating the first open-source flash kit and do hope (and believe) that some good comes of it.

So to wrap up, if you're looking for a slot-1 flash kit with 100% compatibility and the dual memory solution, open source aspect or the great GUI entice you, and you're not particularly interested in many extra features then I see no reason not to recommend the Acekard R.P.G.

+ Dual memory - on board & micro SD
+ Micro SDHC compatible
+ Open source
+ 100% ROM compatibility
+ Full download play support
+ Drag and drop all files - no patching of any kind needed - auto DLDI patching
+ On-board file management & trimming
+ Great aesthetically pleasing and modern GUI
+ A few extra features have made their way in through loader updates
+ Easily skinnable
+ Good build quality, fits flush

- Extra features are lacking in number and performance
- No multimedia support out of the box
- Slow-down in some games on slower micro SD cards
- Touch control is not perfect
- Currently only available in black


External Links:
- Acekard Website
- GBAtemp Download Centre

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This review was written for ONLY. The article and all included photos are property of
If you see this review on any other site please let me know via e-mail - shaunj66 [@[email protected]] GBAtemp [.dot.] net


GBAtemp Administrator
Oct 24, 2002
South England
United Kingdom
Any questions about the review or the Acekard R.P.G. in general? Send me a PM and I'll put the question and answer up here for all visitors to see.

Q: Hi, this is actually something I've been wondering since the card was announced. I know you didn't mention it in the review but I was curious to know if GBA roms will run on the card. I figured with the internal memory, it would be possible to do so. Thanks in advance! (question from j.fitzgerald17)
A: No. By itself, the Acekard R.P.G. cannot play GBA ROMs. Though in conjunction with any decent slot-2 3in1 or GBA expansion pak and a nifty piece of homebrew or the EWin GBA loader you can do it.

Q: Maybe I looked it over, how does the SD card go in, spring or slide? Also, how sturdy is the USB plug on the card itself? Thanks much (question from Primworm)
A: The micro SD slot is spring loaded. The USB plug seems very sturdy and is held on to the PCB by 5 solder points. As long as due care is taken I can't see it being damaged very easily at all.

Q: Hello I had a question about your review of the Acekard regarding this quote:

"QUOTE : During gameplay, when save files are created, they are stored in a temporary memory until the next time the Acekard R.P.G. is booted when the system writes the files to the same directory as the game ROM they're for."

Does this mean that every time you want the save written you have to boot the acekard again? So if I save on a game and then not turn on my acekard for a LOOOOONG period of time would the save file be erased from the temporary memory and I lose that part of the save? Thanks in advance. (question from golden)
A: The original review was incorrect in this assumption. It's been made clear by the team to me that the Acekard R.P.G. in fact saves directly to the micro SD card like most modern flash kits. The review has since been updated to reflect this. Thanks.

Bamboogaming (Australia)
Console Up (UK)
ModelGadget (UK)

Please note that none of the above sites are recommended or affiliated by GBAtemp. They are linked only for your convenience. Please be careful when buying from online stores.

Q: Regarding this:

"Because of the dual memory feature, a lot of Acekard R.P.G. owners discovered an interesting use of the file management feature - copying and sharing Save Game files or even ROMs between friends, which I find to be an interesting and unique ability of the Acekard R.P.G."

How would that work? Do you insert a 2way mini USB cable or something? (question from SuperGeek)
A: By first transferring save games to the onboard memory, then inserting your friends micro SD card, booting up and then copying the file straight to the SD card.
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