Is there a flash cart like this?

Discussion in 'GBA - Flashing Hardware and Software' started by LusoPlayer, Dec 29, 2013.

  1. LusoPlayer
    OP

    LusoPlayer Newbie

    Newcomer
    8
    1
    Dec 29, 2013
    I'm looking for a flash cart that is not dependable of a battery to work, has Flash ROM memory, and boots the game directly (no menu). Is there a flash cart like this? I don't mind if I can only burn one rom at a time.

    I've read about the Fire Linker, but I assume it has internal battery. I'v also learned that it has some problems with games like Pokémon FireRed/LeafGreen, where the game can't save: "The 1M Sub-Circuit board is not installed."

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. FAST6191

    FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip Reporter
    23,865
    9,778
    Nov 21, 2005
    United Kingdom
    In theory it is quite doable, indeed the supercards kind of went there but you really do not want a supercard, but in practice it never came to pass for the GBA. Some DS carts did it though.

    There were a few GBA carts with easy to replace batteries ( http://wiki.pocketheaven.com/index.php?title=XG_Flash2_Turbo probably being the most notable) but in addition to all this you are unlikely to find anything like that today (for a good GBA cart it is basically EZ4 or nothing).

    On the fire cards and not saving. That message was usually more seen when either the RTC or save was not patched properly.
     
  3. LusoPlayer
    OP

    LusoPlayer Newbie

    Newcomer
    8
    1
    Dec 29, 2013
    So, the Fire Linker has internal battery? If yes, does it (or the EZ4) get bricked when the battery runs dry? It should only affect the SRAM, which not all games use (at least the ones I mentioned use Flash for saves).
     
  4. FAST6191

    FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip Reporter
    23,865
    9,778
    Nov 21, 2005
    United Kingdom
    Bricked, no. Annoying to use, absolutely. Replacing it is not that hard if you can solder or can get someone that can.

    SRAM and such... that is not how GBA flash carts work.

    Broadly speaking there are 4 types of save.
    1) Absolutely nothing, it might have a password you get to write down or something but that is it.
    2) SRAM. This is what needs a battery. In practice in actual GBA games so do not as they use a very similar type of memory that does not need a battery, this is not the case for flash carts though.
    3) Flash. Like the thing in your USB drive really.
    4) EEPROM. An old but good method of storing a bit of data on a permanent basis.

    All GBA flash carts patch 2), 3) and 4) to use the SRAM chip the flash cart provides to hold the save. In things like the EZ4 this save gets taken on next boot and written to the SD card and loaded back out when appropriate, in the fire card it stays in SRAM until it gets erased.

    Some DS carts did emulate the save types so the games worked as expected, that was the DS though and not the GBA.
     
  5. LusoPlayer
    OP

    LusoPlayer Newbie

    Newcomer
    8
    1
    Dec 29, 2013
    I just don't want my files to be dependable on battery lifespans (replaceable or not). From what I understood from your reply, the saves on the EZ4 are transferred to the SD card, not to the SRAM that's tied to the battery, right? Then what happens when the battery of the EZ4 dries out?

    Thanks for the help so far.
     
  6. Armadillo

    Armadillo GBAtemp Psycho!

    Member
    3,622
    1,604
    Aug 28, 2003
    United Kingdom
    If the battery runs out, then you either need to

    Soft reset
    Quickly power cycle the console.

    To let it transfer from sram to sd, then saves are safe forever.
     
  7. FAST6191

    FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip Reporter
    23,865
    9,778
    Nov 21, 2005
    United Kingdom
    If you want a workable GBA cart I am afraid at present you are tied to carts that use a battery.

    The EZ4 when playing a GBA game does not know how to speak to the miniSD, it does know (mainly as programs patch the games to know) how to speak to the SRAM on the EZ4 though. To that end the game writes its saves as it would and they go in the EZ4's SRAM. They EZ4's loader then takes care of getting the save out of the SRAM and writing it to the miniSD once the game is done playing and getting the save from the miniSD and sticking it back in SRAM for the game to read from when the game is next booted.

    The death of SRAM batteries usually goes as follows

    First the save will not stick around overnight. So if you say play a game, save and then turn the GBA off it will lose the save between the night and morning when you turn it back on where before it would have kept it for weeks on end.
    Next there will not be enough charge in the battery to hold it for more than a few minutes. Here you can get around this by saving in the game, turning the game off and then turning the GBA back on to allow it to write the save back to the miniSD.
    Finally you will not even have the minutes or seconds it takes to power cycle the GBA. Here you can patch games to use a soft reset to allow you to save in the game, soft reset and have the EZ4 loader load back up without power leaving the EZ4's SRAM chip. This would be the "Annoying to use, absolutely." thing I mentioned earlier, mainly as soft reset is not the most reliable of features (if it works it works and it is a good amount of games that support it, not all though). This is roughly what you have to do every time for the supercard as well though you also have to fiddle around in menus on top of that.

    The progression from not being able to hold it overnight and not being able to save without using soft reset is often not that long either. You can do the last thing with soft reset basically forever though.

    There is a difference between dead battery and battery that has run out of charge though the newer models of EZ4 do not use a rechargeable battery from what I have heard so that does not matter here.
     
  8. LusoPlayer
    OP

    LusoPlayer Newbie

    Newcomer
    8
    1
    Dec 29, 2013
    Damn, I wasn't expecting that.

    I guess my only solution is the EZ4, since the FireLinker doesn't have any backup method.

    Thanks for the help guys.
     
  9. Nismax

    Nismax GBAtemp Regular

    Member
    185
    60
    Sep 13, 2009
    United States
    My old Flash Advance 128 does what you want. You back up the save via parallel port linker, but still, the thing's like 12 years old and holds saves just fine. Might want to take a look at the earlier cartridges in the 256mb variety. They all support multiboot and feature a loader, but the loader is only used if you flash multiple games. Flash a single ROM and it boots just like a normal cartridge would.
     
  10. LusoPlayer
    OP

    LusoPlayer Newbie

    Newcomer
    8
    1
    Dec 29, 2013
    Does anyone still sells those? Also, how does it store saves? From some pictures I've seen it seems a bit bigger than your normal cartridge, is it true?

    P.S: Regarding the EZ Flash IV, can the battery be replaced by a rechargeable one?
     
  11. FAST6191

    FAST6191 Techromancer

    pip Reporter
    23,865
    9,778
    Nov 21, 2005
    United Kingdom
    It does not work that way Nismax, the FA software is transparently patching to SRAM (which is battery backed). It is how all GBA carts with save support worked (give or take supercards but we already dismissed those).

    Replacing the battery.... squeh. The EZ4 never had any recharge circuitry even when it had chargeable batteries so it would tend to charge in normal play. To that end get a battery that can take a little recharge during play (I am not aware of any standard chemistries that can not handle that) and it will probably do OK, it will not last as long as if you had full charge management chips onboard or be able to recover if you let it get really low but it will still be a long time. Frankly though even a normal battery will likely last quite a while as SRAM chips are not the most power thirsty.
     
  12. Nismax

    Nismax GBAtemp Regular

    Member
    185
    60
    Sep 13, 2009
    United States
    I just meant it boots directly to game without a loader, if you write a single rom.

    EZ Flash 3 in 1 does the same, and those are still available to buy at retail. Get one for $25, swap it out to a GBA shell and there you have it. But it is backed up by battery, not sure why that's a deal breaker though..
     
  13. LusoPlayer
    OP

    LusoPlayer Newbie

    Newcomer
    8
    1
    Dec 29, 2013
    It's a limitation and an unnecessary dependency.
     
  14. Nismax

    Nismax GBAtemp Regular

    Member
    185
    60
    Sep 13, 2009
    United States
    It's never limited me in 12 years of use. Coin cells last a very long time. My NES Zelda cart that I've had since the late 80's still holds a save.
     
  15. LusoPlayer
    OP

    LusoPlayer Newbie

    Newcomer
    8
    1
    Dec 29, 2013
    But it's still limited, specially in comparison with a flash memory chip (which most game cartridges use). Sooner or later the battery is going to die and will need to be replaced.
     
  16. Nismax

    Nismax GBAtemp Regular

    Member
    185
    60
    Sep 13, 2009
    United States
    I wouldn't worry too much about it. I've personally never lost a GBA flash cart save. Good news is you can still buy a 256mb cartridge that fits in a standard GBA cart and boots as an original cart, all for $25 at RHS.

    Limited would be a non battery backup that is only capable of storing a specific save type. You can flash and save any GBA game on the 3-in-1. That's what I'd do at least.