Ninja DS Review

Discussion in 'Official GBAtemp Reviews' started by shaunj66, Sep 12, 2006.

Sep 12, 2006

Ninja DS Review by shaunj66 at 12:32 AM (56,374 Views / 0 Likes) 0 replies

  1. shaunj66

    Administrator shaunj66 Administrator

    Oct 24, 2002
    South England
    United Kingdom review of the...
    Ninja DS [​IMG]
    Manufactured by:

    aka. Ninja DS , NinjaDS

    By shaunj66 - 12th September 2006

    Note: This product is out-dated and no longer available or in production. This review is for archive purposes only.


    Welcome back to another official review.

    This is a review of the newly released Ninja DS - a DS slot based homebrew flash kit.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The NinjaDS is one of the many announced "new generation" flash kit solutions for the Nintendo DS. What's the difference? The new generation use only the DS card slot on your Nintendo DS/DS Lite, they no longer use the GBA slot; which is left completely free. This leaves the slot free for peripherals like the DS rumble pack and RAM expansion cart.

    The majority of DS slot based solutions have a built in PassMe feature. This means the DS slot based card is the only thing you're going to need to get up and running. No pass cards, GBA slot adapters, FlashMe etc... It really does just make the whole process much simpler.

    The Ninja DS was actually first announced back in March of 2006, 6 whole months ago. Many forum-goers were cynical about the claim that a group were coming out with a DS slot based kit and the claims behind it. But eventually, more manufacturers came forward and announced their own new generation cards and put most peoples doubts to rest.

    The Ninja DS is a DS slot based device that takes standard SD card memory modules up to 2GB in size.

    Let's take a quick look at the list of features the manufacturer boasts about the Ninja DS:

    Features of the Ninja DS
    • "No Original Cart Needed
    • No GBA Flashcart Needed
    • No Needed Flash NDS Or Included .DAT File In SD
    • Compatible With Any GBA flashcart,Nf,Scard,M3,Etc..
    • Supports Old/New NDS & NDS Lite
    • SD Card Slot Bundled
    • 2mbytes FlashROM
    • Friendly & Easy Menu
    • Homebrew/Backup Player & Development Tool
    • Libraries for Developers Available
    • SD Card MP3 Player
    • Wifi Connection"
    There's your typical flash kit Engrish. But isn't it a big relief to hear that the SD card slot is bundled with the card? It would have been quite the con if it were sold seperately wouldn't it?

    Packaging and Contents

    The Ninja DS arrives in a small little cardboard box that's roughly the same height as an old model Nintendo DS (aka. phat).

    The box has a very awesome photo of a ninja on the bottom right corner which is a massive point scorer. The rest of the box doesn't live up the coolness of the ninja guy though. We have a run down of the features on the back of the box, and not much else.

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    Box Contents
    • 1x Ninja DS
    • 1x Instructions leaflet
    The Ninja DS card is sat loose inside the box along with a small piece of paper with a photocopied set of instructions on it.

    The photocopied instructions that are provided with the Ninja DS are actually surprisingly useful! There is a brief set of instructions for each feature the Ninja DS has to offer, and other critical things that you need to know to get up and running are mentioned.

    The Ninja DS

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    Here's the Ninja DS. As you can see it stands at approximately twice the size of a regular original DS game card and is only available in white.

    The bottom portion of the card fits snug in the DS slot, and the upper half which the SD card occupies sticks out of your DS.
    The entire card is built fairly solid, and doesn't flex or creak too much. The casing is held together by six tiny screws.
    On the "front" of the Ninja DS is a simple label, and on the "back" is the logo and website URL embossed on the plastic.

    Overall the build quality is fairly good, but there are a few things I'd like to point out.
    First, at the bottom left of the PCB (you can see some photos below) is a chip (voltage regulator) that stands just a bit too high for the casing too hold. So when screwed together, there is a bump in the casing where the chip is. But note; this _doesn't_ prevent the Ninja DS from inserting and removing from the DS slot at all.

    The second thing; I don't know if it's just because you have the extra height on the card to grasp when removing the card as opposed to a normal game card. But the Ninja DS can be removed very easily from the DS card slot. The actual card clicks into place just fine; but it's actually possible you can remove it by accident if you pull slightly on the card, like if you are re-inserting the SD card while the Ninja DS is inserted into the DS.

    The third thing is that because the Ninja DS sticks out of the DS slot (quite like an original PassMe) and is fairly thin, it makes me feel quite nervous that the card could snap or damage my DS slot if the Ninja DS card is hit or bent at an angle against the DS.
    Although I'd be surprised to hear this actually happen, as the card does feel very solid. I still wouldn't recommend throwing your DS around or chucking it into your ruck sack with the Ninja DS inserted!

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The Ninja DS features a spring loaded, top loading SD card slot. The SD card is very easy to insert and remove, it clicks into place and fits flush in the casing. There is a groove in the Ninja DS casing to make it easier.

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    Using the Ninja DS

    How easy is the Ninja DS to use? Let's see...

    One of the most exciting features of the Ninja DS is that it supports CLEAN ROMs. Yes, that's right. This means that there is no PC side client software to use, and no need to convert, patch or modify ROMs at all (unless you wish to trim them).

    Here's a quote straight from the instruction leaflet:

    Now we know how to use the Ninja DS, how does the it actually perform? Let's move on and find out.

    Ninja DS Performance

    During the performance section of this review, I am using a Sandisk Ultra II 1GB SD card formatted in FAT16. The firmware loaded on the Ninja DS during testing is version 1.02. I am using a Black European Nintendo DS Lite that is un-flashed.

    PASS: Game plays just as it should on a real game card.
    FAIL: Game doesn't even load or freezes before game play.
    PROBLEMS: Game works but with issues.

    For review purposes I am going to try the following ROM backups. Let's take a look and see how each one runs individually.
    • Animal Crossing Wild World
      - PROBLEMS: The game loads and plays, but the menus and speech are extremely slow and the audio stutters a lot even using speed mode 3. Wi-Fi appears to be broken. Saves OK.
    • Asphalt Urban GT
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Big Brain Academy
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Castlevania DS
      - PASS: Intro stutters slightly on speed mode 2, plays fine on speed 3. Otherwise, game plays and saves fine.
    • Cooking Mama
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Crash Bandicoot Festival
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Lego Star Wars II
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Mario Kart DS
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Wi-Fi working. (Speed 2)
    • MechAssault: Phantom War
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Megaman ZX
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Metroid Prime Hunters
      - PROBLEMS: Menus are extremely slow even using speed mode 3 though FMV's play fine. Wi-fi appears to be broken due to the slow loading you get kicked off. Game saves OK.
    • Need for Speed Underground 2
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Wi-Fi working. (Speed 2)
    • New Super Mario Bros
      - PROBLEMS: Game plays and saves fine, but the mini-games section crashes the game. (Speed 2)
    • Nintendogs - Lab and Friends
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Ping Pals
      - FAIL: White screens. (Speed 2/3)
    • Pokémon Dash
      - FAIL: White screens. (Speed 2/3)
    • Pokémon Ranger
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Sonic Rush
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Star Fox Command
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Wi-fi appears to work. (Speed 2)
    • Super Mario 64
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Tenchu DS
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Tetris DS
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Wi-fi works. (Speed 2)
    • The Rub Rabbits
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2, European version)
    • Touch! Kirby's Magic Paint Brush
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Tony Hawks
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. Wi-fi appears to work. (Speed 2)
    • Ultimate Spider-Man
      - FAIL: Freezes at "Licensed by Nintendo" logo. (Speed 2/3)
    • Viewtiful Joe
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    • Yoshi Touch and Go
      - PASS: Plays and saves fine. (Speed 2)
    As you can see, unfortunately the Ninja DS is not without a fair share of compatibility problems. This said, during my review, the Ninja DS team contacted me several times and sent me a few firmware updates. I am currently using 1.02, and compatibility has rose since I tried 1.00 and 1.01.

    If the Ninja DS team can continue supporting this product for some time, then hopefully they'll fix the remaining problems. But if they decide to drop support or release a newer product and work on that, you could potentially be left with a card that doesn't have a great compatibility.

    ROM compatibility is not the only problem I've encountered. During testing, I've recieved a few strange errors that are probably due to bugs or instability in the Ninja DS's GUI.
    Some times, when loading a ROM I would get a strange "ROM Error. Please restart ROM." Which forces you to turn off your DS and try again, which then would work. I've no idea why this happens.

    Another problem also, during testing that I've found, is that the Ninja DS appears to sometimes create a lot of corrupt folders in the SAV folder that cannot be deleted and can only be removed by formatting the card. This bug appears to happen when the SD card is almost full and tries to create another .SAV file for a new ROM but has run out of space.
    The Ninja DS team assure me that this will be fixed very soon and is a problem related to Chism's FAT driver.

    One more problem I've just found - Single card multiplayer doesn't appear to work, but this is a common problem with most flash kits. I've tried several games and they all send corrupt data to the recieving DS, unless the recieving DS is flashed with the FlashMe firmware replacement. So to clear it up:

    DS Single cart download play - Unflashed DS to unflashed DS > FAIL
    DS Single cart download play - Flashed DS to unflashed DS > FAIL
    DS Single cart download play - Unflashed DS to flashed DS > PASS

    Also, sleep mode support is here! I have tested sleep mode (by closing the screens/lid on the Nintendo DS) in several different games and it works flawlessly.

    Additional Ninja DS Features

    Let's take a look at the remaining features the Ninja DS has to offer, in order as they appear in the GUI.

    Media - Pictures: A very simple image viewer that supports JPEGs. Images load quickly (even high-res) and are stretched to span the two screens. You can scroll around the image using the touch screen like you would click and drag a mouse on a PC. There are two icons to zoom in and out of the image and a exit button to return to the menu.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Media - MP3: A simple MP3 player that supports MP3, WAV, MOD and S3M formats. There is a file/directory browser on the top screen and a touch screen player on the bottom. Options are play, pause, stop and play all. Shuffle and repeat don't appear to work yet.
    The bottom screen shows ID3 information of the currently playing track (title, artist, album).
    The MP3 player supports sleep mode, which will turn off the DS screens and speakers and continue playing the music through the headphone jack. This means you can close your DS screens, put your DS in your pocket and continue listening to your songs.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Wifi - WIFI FTP: (Renamed from 'File Reciever' to 'Wifi FTP' in newer firmware versions) "WIFI FTP" is a fully fledged FTP server and is very impressive and even useful! The program uses the Wi-fi connection information in your DS firmware that has been setup in a Wi-fi enabled game such as Mario Kart DS or Animal Crossing, so if you don't have Wi-fi configured on your DS yet you will need to use one of these games and set it up first. The server works on port 21, and uses the username and password "ninjads" - neither of these settings are configurable at this time.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    The FTP server works very well, and using FlashFXP I could connect to and browse the SD card with long filename support in my Ninja DS in my Nintendo DS wirelessly. I have yet to encounter any problems with this program. The transfer rate from my PC to my DS in the same room stayed at a steady 20KB/s, not the greatest of speeds but the FTP server is still very useful. I have been told that the transfer rate will be improved in future firmware versions.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Wifi - NINJAME: This feature apparently allows you to boot NDS files on your DS directly from a network location over Wi-Fi. I say apparently because this feature doesn't work at the moment. The Ninja DS team assured me it will be working soon.

    PassMe: The GBA cart icon is simply a PassMe feature. This allows you to boot a compatible GBA flash cart adapter (M3, Supercard etc...) from the GBA slot using only the Ninja DS.
    I have tested this feature with the following cards:
    • M3 Adapter - PASSED
    • Supercard - PASSED
    • EZ Flash IV Lite - PASSED
    • eWin 2 - PASSED
    SD Card Read Speed: The DS Lite icon is a setting that controls the speed the SD memory card is read at. Tapping the icon cycles from speed 1, 2 and 3. 1 being the slowest, 2 being normal, and 3 being the fastest. Speed setting number 3 is only supported by a small number of SD cards, one of them being the Sandisk Ultra II series. Speed setting number 2 is default and is recommended for most games.

    Skins: The Ninja DS GUI is skinnable in the most simplest of ways. You can replace the main menu, ROM launcher and the MP3 player top and bottom screens backgrounds. Nothing else if configurable.

    Backgrounds are replaced simply by making your own 250x192 JPEG files and placing them in a folder named 'BACKGROUNDS' on the root of the SD card. Here are the necessary filenames:

    Main menu:
    - MenuUp.jpg
    - MenuDown.jpg
    ROM Launcher
    - ExplorerUp.jpg
    - ExplorerDown.jpg
    MP3 Player:
    - PlayerUp.jpg
    - PlayerDown.jpg
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Homebrew on the Ninja DS

    I have tested seven popular homebrew softwares on the Ninja DS. Four of which were modified by the Ninja DS team themselves to work on the Ninja DS, these are clearly noted.

    Here are my results:
    • DS Organize 2.25 (Ninja DS version)
      - Works very well. All main features appear to work, and are able to save. Homebrew download database works fine, and can download to the SD card. IRC works fine also. The only problem seems to be that you can't boot any NDS files from within DS Organize.
    • Moonshell 1.4 (Ninja DS version)
      - Seems to work fine. MP3s, JPGs and TXT work, other plugins seem to function. Error when trying to boot homebrew and NDS files from within Moonshell - "Not support adapter".
    • PicoDrive 0.1.5 (Ninja DS version):
      -Works just as it should.
    • Doom DS (Ninja DS version)
      -Requires 'doom.wad' and 'prboom.wad' to be placed on SD card root. Works fine, sound works, no lag, save states work.
    • BeUp 0.3 rev 2
      - Works, but crashes soon after loading the contact list or when sending or recieving a message.
    • NES DS
      -Doesn't boot. White screens and corrupt icon in Ninja DS Launcher.
    • SNEmulDS
      -Doesn't work. Hangs when trying to initialise file system.
    As you can see, unless the homebrew app has been made to work with the Ninja DS, then chances of it working properly are slim. The good news is that the Ninja DS team have released their 'FATLIB' so hopefully more developers will implement support for this product in their homebrew.

    There are two additional features of the Ninja DS that are designed for homebrew purposes. These are documented in the instruction leaflet included.
    The first of the two features is an option to automatically boot an .NDS file from your SD card without entering the Ninja DS menu. This is achieved by renaming the file to 'default.nds' and placing it in the root of the SD card. Then turn on your DS and while holding down the 'L' trigger, enter the Ninja DS GUI and it will automatically boot the 'default.nds' file.

    I tested this with a homebrew game called "Rubber Bands" and a backup ROM of "Yoshi Touch & Go"; both auto booted correctly.

    The second additional feature is a homebrew flash area. There is 1MB (megabyte) of onboard flash ROM that can be flashed with any NDS file that will fit in its limited space. Unfortunately this feature has not yet been implemented, the team have told me that they'd rather work on other features and ROM compatibility first, this feature will follow soon.


    Now the Ninja DS has finally been released, how did it shape up?

    The Ninja DS is by no means a terrible product. It's hardly the most aesthetically pleasing product but this is due to the fact that it uses standard SD memory cards, large sizes of which (up to 2GB) can be purchased very cheap these days. The cards build quality is solid otherwise.

    It seems to be early days for the Ninja DS, most problems it faces - the majority being ROM compatibility - can be fixed through firmware updates, along with the missing features like "NINJAME" and the 1MB homebrew flash area. The issue with single card multiplayer - being that it doesn't work at all, is a big problem, and we're uncertain whether this can be fixed via a firmware update or not.

    Whether or not the team continues to support this product and fix these problems can't be told... Though if they continue supporting it like they have done during my review, then most compatibility problems should be fixed in no time.
    So, let's just hope their new line of products work on the same firmware as this version of the Ninja DS.

    The Ninja DS does offer some very tempting features. The biggest of which is the ability to run clean ROMs without any kind of patching or modification needed. The amount of time and fuss this saves compared to other kits on the market is staggering. The only thing you'll need to keep updated is the Ninja DS' firmware.

    Other great features this card has to offer are the FTP server - which works great, and is just an excellent feature to have built in from the start, an option to use the card as a PassMe and boot to other compatible GBA flash kits, a built in image viewer and MP3 player - though minimal at best are still handy, and other features soon to be added. The NINJAME option which is said to boot .NDS files directly on the DS across your Wi-Fi network sounds like a very interesting feature, but again; is still yet to come.

    Overall, the Ninja DS feels like it was released a few weeks too early. The firmware needs work, and hopefully will recieve the necessary updates. And if then, you can over look how the card sticks out, then the Ninja DS could be a very promising card.

    + Extremely easy to use
    + Supports clean ROMs
    + Expandable memory - standard SD cards
    + Great automatic save game system
    + Very nice additional built-in features - FTP, PassMe, media capabilities
    + GUI is nice, fast and simple
    + Skinnable GUI
    + Firmware updates seem to be very frequent
    + Supports sleep mode

    - Ugly design - sticks out of the DS and impedes its portability
    - The current firmware can be buggy at times
    - ROM compatibility currently not too good
    - Some advertised features not yet working
    - Needs more support on the homebrew front


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    Thanks for reading! [​IMG]

    This review was made for ONLY. If you see it on any other site please
    let me know via e-mail - shaunj66 [@at@] GBAtemp [.dot.] net

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