Gaming Identifying Fake GBA games- A Useful FAQ

loco365

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Identifying Fake GBA Games





One of the worst things you may encounter when buying online (And sometimes in a store!) is the fact that you'll buy a bootleg game that isn't made by Nintendo or any of it's companies, rather a Rom dump from the internet is taken, flashed to a card and shoved in a box for money's sake. I got one of these cards a while ago, and I thought I'd share with you what to look for when buying a GBA game. Pokemon games also have this happen to them often as it's a hot-selling series, so this tutorial will also apply to Pokemon besides the game you see here.
Part One: How does it look on the outside?





You'd be surprised how easy it is to mistake a game that is legit for one that is bootleg. But when you know the differences, you can spot them with ease.

1. Check the label.

First, look at the two games in the image below. Can you identify the bootleg?
HPIM1766.JPG
They both have official logos and art, as well as an ESRB rating. But, there is a bootleg there. The bootleg, if you guessed it, is the one on the right, Final Fantasy V Advance. Let's take a closer look at the two cards.

FFIV Advance (Real) :
HPIM1767.JPG

FFV Advance (Fake) :
HPIM1768.JPG

Now, there are a multitude of differences that show the fakey-ness of the bootleg.
  • The FFV Advance game pak doesn't have an "Official Nintendo Seal" on it. The Final Fantasy series is approved by Nintendo.
  • There is no Nintendo or Square Enix logo on the bootleg.
  • The official FFV Advance card does not have an image of the main characters on the front. This is what it actually looks like.
  • Below the grip where you can pull the card out of the system, Where it says "Gameboy Advance", the font on the fake is smaller than the legit card.
  • The game code on the fake does not match. AGB-BYME-USA is the GBA game Monster Trucks Mayhem.
2. Look at the back.

The back has two key identification methods. Compare the three (blurryish) images. (Note the screws were removed in advance of taking the images for the next part of this guide.)

Side-by-side:
HPIM1769.JPG

FFIV:
HPIM1776.JPG

FFV:
HPIM1779.JPG

Do they look the same? Or do they look different? There are 2 things that identify the fake from the legit here.
1. The fake has thin writing for the words on it. They aren't as thin on the legit card.
2. The fake card has AGB-004 on it. That is not the correct part number. AGB-004 is a Japanese battery charger for the GBA. AGB-002 is a GBA Game pak casing. Now, the outside has a lot of telltale signs on it, but if you're fortunate enough to crack one open, there are many more signs that they are fake.
Part Two: How does it look on the inside?





Now, first of all, let's grab that tri-wing screwdriver and open it. This is what the two cards look like on the inside.

Side-by-side:
HPIM1782.JPG

FFIV:
HPIM1784.JPG

FFV:
HPIM1783.JPG

There are even more differences here than on the outside of the card.
  • The most obvious change is the chip itself. The fake game has a battery on it, which the retail game does not need. The battery is used to store the rom on it. If that battery dies, the game dies.
  • The job of soldering on the chip is shoddy. It will fail easily and loose connections.
  • There is no text on the bottom of the card. This text can be seen partially by looking in the slot of the card.
As well, the build quality of the casing is cheap. When I removed the screw from the FFV card, the screw wouldn't go back in, showing that the build quality is crap. They will never last as long as an authentic GBA card. Not now. Not ever.
Part Three: List of known fake GBA games





Now that you have been enlightened with the knowledge of fake GBA games, I will proceed to make a list of fake games.
  • Final Fantasy V Advance with the main characters on the front of it.
  • Any game card with Pokémon Shiny Gold on it.
  • Any game card with Pokémon Naranja on it.
  • Any game card with Pokémon Quartz on it.
  • Any game card with Pokémon Chaos Black on it.
  • Any Final Fantasy VI Advance card with Edward, Rydia and Rosa on it (GBA Code AGB-BKWE-USA)
  • Any Super Mario Advance with "Nintondo" on the back
  • Any Crash Bandicoot 2: N-Tranced card with a green, blue and yellow swirl on it
  • Any Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow with AGB-ACTE-USA front of it (That game code does not exist).
  • Any Kirby: The Amazing Mirror with Kirbys on the front of it and AGB-033 on the back
  • Any F-Zero with a Blue Falcon on the front
  • Any Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga with the official box art on the Game Pak as opposed to having Cackletta on it
Tips for determining fake Pokémon games (Thanks KazoWAR!) :
  • It's an obvious fan game, not a retail-released game
  • The stickers are not reflective (Retail Pokémon games have shiny stickers)
  • [FIRE RED & LEAF GREEN] If you see the top portion of a battery near the top of the label (Lined with yellow), it's fake, since Fire Red and Leaf Green do not require batteries.
  • Ensure that the ring around the battery is of a correct color. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire have a red-ringed battery, Emerald has a light-blue ring. If it's yellow, chances are very high that it's fake.
  • Ensure the positioning of two metal squares on the PCB, one to the top-left of the label, one to the right-hand side middle of the label (If the cartridge is of a translucent color)
I am looking to add to this list, as well as to get other Nintendo bootlegs. If you have a bootleg sitting around that you no longer need, feel free to PM me and I can take it off your hands (Free would be preferable!), document it, and inform upon it.
 

loco365

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I have seen Plenty of Fire Red, and Leaf Green bootlegs... To include at my local Gamestop. :-P
Actually, I got the FFV fake at EB Games. I don't think I'll return it. I want to try collecting bootlegs, that is, if I can find free ones. I don't think that'll be too easy though. =\
 

jefffisher

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this site has a fairly large collection of bootleg games http://www.ndscardsale.com/gba-games i've only ever seen one with a larger assortment but i can't remember it right now. for your list of fakes that should put you off to a good start.
this site has over 400 http://www.dealicool.com/Properties/Game_Boy_Advance_Games.htm and this one as well http://www.gameyea.com/Wholesale-gameboy-games_c889
it's probably safe to assume every single gba game has been bootlegged at some point.
 

thaddius

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I got rid of my bootlegs recently, otherwise I'd post pictures. A lot of them have wacky cart art on them that just doesn't look right. Also, some have printing errors on them (ie, black borders around characters are displaced a little).
 

indask8

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Excellent FAQ.

To detect a real game you can also add to check if there's a number stamped on the cartridge label (something like "23" on the middle-right side of the label) real games always have that.
Also the model number of a GBA cartridge is always AGB-002 (except boktai/yoshi gravitation game they have AGB-013 the cartridge is bigger) I have a fake FF6 with AGB-033.


The most obvious change is the chip itself. The fake game has a battery on it, which the retail game does not need. The battery is used to store the rom on it. If that battery dies, the game dies.
Do you have a proof, an example for this, because as far as I know for every fake game I ended up having (most of time accidentally) the battery is there for the S-RAM so when it dies only the save dies... using a battery backed up 16MB RAM seem quite stupid and will end up being much more expensive than using a 16MB mask-rom/flash chip.
 
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raulpica

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Do you have a proof, an example for this, because as far as I know for every fake game I ended up having (most of time accidentally) the battery is there for the S-RAM so when it dies only the save dies... using a battery backed up 16MB RAM seem quite stupid and will end up being much more expensive than using a 16MB mask-rom/flash chip.
The battery is just for SRAM. They always use maskroms/flash chips for games, and those don't get deleted.

As a matter of fact, when the battery dies, the game will still work. It won't just keep saves anymore after being powered-off.

Which can be quickly fixed by changing the battery with a new one.
 
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Todderbert

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I have two games that are obvious fakes, I love the "Nintondo" stamp on the back:

Super Mario Advance.
gallery_195746_764_325458.jpg
gallery_195746_764_115320.jpg
gallery_195746_764_282927.jpg

Crash Bandicoot N-Tranced.
gallery_195746_764_27436.jpg
gallery_195746_764_152225.jpg
gallery_195746_764_35797.jpg
 

loco365

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I have two games that are obvious fakes, I love the "Nintondo" stamp on the back:

Super Mario Advance.
gallery_195746_764_325458.jpg
gallery_195746_764_115320.jpg
gallery_195746_764_282927.jpg

Crash Bandicoot N-Tranced.
gallery_195746_764_27436.jpg
gallery_195746_764_152225.jpg
gallery_195746_764_35797.jpg
I'll add those later on. Glad to know my CB2 isn't fake.
Do you have a proof, an example for this, because as far as I know for every fake game I ended up having (most of time accidentally) the battery is there for the S-RAM so when it dies only the save dies... using a battery backed up 16MB RAM seem quite stupid and will end up being much more expensive than using a 16MB mask-rom/flash chip.
The battery is just for SRAM. They always use maskroms/flash chips for games, and those don't get deleted.

As a matter of fact, when the battery dies, the game will still work. It won't just keep saves anymore after being powered-off.

Which can be quickly fixed by changing the battery with a new one.
idk what happened, but I tried using a Gameshark on mine and it totally broke the game. It won't boot anymore. Too bad I can't flash EEPROMs. I could turn it into a ghetto-flashcard.
Excellent FAQ.

To detect a real game you can also add to check if there's a number stamped on the cartridge label (something like "23" on the middle-right side of the label) real games always have that.
Also the model number of a GBA cartridge is always AGB-002 (except boktai/yoshi gravitation game they have AGB-013 the cartridge is bigger) I have a fake FF6 with AGB-033.


The most obvious change is the chip itself. The fake game has a battery on it, which the retail game does not need. The battery is used to store the rom on it. If that battery dies, the game dies.
Do you have a proof, an example for this, because as far as I know for every fake game I ended up having (most of time accidentally) the battery is there for the S-RAM so when it dies only the save dies... using a battery backed up 16MB RAM seem quite stupid and will end up being much more expensive than using a 16MB mask-rom/flash chip.
I'm pretty sure my battery died, but I could double-check with a voltage tester.
 

Ozito

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I bought Castlevania Aria of sorrow a while back to my despair the game was fake.

The fake came with a really thin manual only 4 pages, the original has 120 pages but that is including all 5 languages, english section is 21 pages.
I am comparing an european version with an american fake but the original american version seems to be almost the same as the european.

You can see that on the screenshots of the fake box that 2 of them have the gamespot logo and the the other one has a watermark for a gaming site.
And the text looks like it's been written in photoshop and then they added color to the edges

Original to the left fake to the right
gallery_37684_1241_3321930.jpg
gallery_37684_1241_2661655.jpg
gallery_37684_1241_2189637.jpg
 

Rokku

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My Fire Red is fake, but it's very easy to tell.

The plastic is cheap and a different color from the official cart, and it doesn't work all that great either.
 

loco365

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My Fire Red is fake, but it's very easy to tell.

The plastic is cheap and a different color from the official cart, and it doesn't work all that great either.
If I can get an image of the outside of the card (Both front and back) I can profile it.

By the way, does anyone have any other Nintendo fakes, like GBC fakes, NES/SNES fakes or NDS fakes? I'd like to try profiling those as well.
 

Rokku

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My Fire Red is fake, but it's very easy to tell.

The plastic is cheap and a different color from the official cart, and it doesn't work all that great either.
If I can get an image of the outside of the card (Both front and back) I can profile it.

By the way, does anyone have any other Nintendo fakes, like GBC fakes, NES/SNES fakes or NDS fakes? I'd like to try profiling those as well.

Well the plastic is a straight translucent orange (like Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald) instead of a "frosted" orange, and the sticker is not as shiny as the sticker on the real cartridge.

BootlegFireRed.jpg
 

loco365

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My Fire Red is fake, but it's very easy to tell.

The plastic is cheap and a different color from the official cart, and it doesn't work all that great either.
If I can get an image of the outside of the card (Both front and back) I can profile it.

By the way, does anyone have any other Nintendo fakes, like GBC fakes, NES/SNES fakes or NDS fakes? I'd like to try profiling those as well.

Well the plastic is a straight translucent orange (like Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald) instead of a "frosted" orange, and the sticker is not as shiny as the sticker on the real cartridge.

BootlegFireRed.jpg
Your case is a bit more clear than mine, but the label on the front has a different swirl pattern. Yours is kinda blurryish while mine looks far more defined. And when I size them up side-by-side, the "Pokémon FireRed Version" on your card is larger in size compared to mine.
 
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