SuperCard Review

Discussion in 'Official GBAtemp Reviews' started by Opium, May 22, 2005.

May 22, 2005

SuperCard Review by Opium at 1:05 PM (54,369 Views / 0 Likes) 1 replies

  1. Opium
    OP

    Former Staff Opium PogoShell it to me ™

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    SuperCard Review
    By Opium

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    Introduction:

    When Kick Trading approached me and asked whether I wanted to review the SuperCard for GBATemp I automatically said ‘Yes, of course I’d love to’. However I had my doubts about the card, until then I’d only heard sketchy details about slowdowns and non-working games that plagued the SuperCard. I wasn’t sure how it would stand up to the EZ-Flash 3. Truth be told, the SuperCard is unlike any other flash card on the market. As stated on the cartridge itself, it is a CF (Compact Flash) to GBA adapter. Being classed as an adapter it certainly isolates itself from the rest of the flashcart market. The SuperCard works so differently that there are various different factors to consider that you wouldn’t normally have to when buying a ‘normal’ flashcart. Having to buy a CF card in addition to the SuperCard is the most noticeable one, however pricing of the SuperCard is low enough to accommodate this. In any case I’m sure the question you’ll want answer to is ‘is it any good?’, my reply would be ‘yes’ but read through the review to find out why. The box comes with the SuperCard and that’s it. From Kick Trading you can order a CF card reader with the SuperCard for an additional price. This reader plugs directly into your USB port and the CF card plugs into the side of the reader. No drivers are needed what so ever, very easy and efficient to use and I’d definitely recommend this pack if you don’t already have a CF reader. Once again many thanks to the excellent Kick Trading for supplying this flashcart for review.


    Features:

    • Plays NES, GB, PCE, SMS/GG with no additional software
    • Watch movies (.gbm), play music (.gbs), read E-books and view pictures.
    • Super Game Cheat system.
    • Real Time Save - save your games instantly when ever you like it.
    • Four button reset to main menu.
    • Supports rom compression.
    • Supports semi-multitasking - switch between running game and other software without quitting the game.
    • Compatible with CF memory Type I (FAT formatted only).
    • Fast transfers, transfer 64M in approx. 5 sec.
    • Uses cheap CF cards.

    The Cartridge:

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    As you can see from the photos the SuperCard is purple and exactly the same size as any other Game Boy Advance cartridge. However there are two noticeable differences. One is that there is a slit along the top ridge of the cart for the CF card to go in. The other is that the cart seems to be made of cheapish plastic. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s pretty sturdy and isn’t going to fall apart on you, but still it has a cheapish type feel to it. On the bottom of mine there are some perforation marks where it was removed from the mould and it looks like it had been joined onto another piece of plastic. Originally the cartridge didn’t fit into my DS too well however I put it in and took it out a few times and now it fits fairly well. These are all very minor comments though.
    Once you place the roms and files you want on your CF card you then plug it into the top slot on the SuperCard as you can see in the pictures. This adds an extra length to the cart but doesn’t distract from general use. If I fold up my DS or SP I usually just leave the SuperCard in and remove the CF card.
    The SuperCard has 256mbits of memory space available on it. This is where roms and data are extracted to before they run, similar to the EZ-Flash 3. Roms don’t actually run on the CF card. There is a small loading time (loading times are shown in the performance section of this review) as the rom transfers from the CF card into the onboard SuperCard memory.
    Saving games is different to any other flashcart. Once you get up to a save point in a game and save the game be careful to not just turn the game off then and there. You may have just saved the game but the SuperCard did not transfer the save back onto the CF card. I’ve made this mistake before and it’s slightly annoying when you play the game again and find that there is no save file. To save your game to the CF card just save ingame like you normally would then press L+R+A+SELECT. This will bring up a save menu and if you select ‘yes’ it will save the save file to the CF card and your free to turn off your GBA/SP/DS. As long as you don’t forget to do this then everything will be fine. The real time save feature allows you to create a save state and save your game in absolutely any spot, I really nice feature I first managed to try out on the EZ-Flash 3. By pressing L+R+B+SELECT you bring up a menu similar to the save menu where you have the ability to make a real time save or load a previous real time save. I found this feature to be better integrated into the SuperCard software and cartridge than in the EZ-Flash 3. It seems more seamless and is much more stable than on the EZ-Flash 3. The SuperCard has the ability to play other roms as well such as NES and Sega Master System without any additional software. This acts just as if you were using the NES or SMS plugins in Pogoshell.

    The software:

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    The official software for the SuperCard is not a writing software like you would expect with other Flashcarts. Writing the files to the CF card is a simple measure of copying and pasting files onto the CF card using a CF reader/writer. The official SuperCard software is actually a patching utility. All roms need to be specially save patched to work with the SuperCard.
    First you add the rom or roms that you want to apply the SuperCard patches to then you double click each rom and select the options you want. You can see these various options in the picture below:

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    When you click ‘Out’ it will create the roms in the output folder you designated. There will be three files created, all with the same filename but a different section. These files are .gba (or .scz if your using rom compression), .sav and .sci. You need to copy over all three of these files into the same folder on your CF card.
    Now brings me to one of the major features of the SuperCard; GBA Media. As I’m sure you’re aware the SuperCard has the ability to play movies, music, e-books and view pictures. The software to do this comes in a pack called GBA Media. In this pack are three programs: Movie Converter, Music Converter and ToBMP (for pictures). As seen in the picture there are a host of options available to you in the Movie Converter.

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    You have the ability to alter the video quality, the aspect ratio and even sound options such as stereo/mono and the quality of the sound. There are enough options here for your tampering needs, I’m sure if you look up online you will find some optimum settings to fuel the quality vs. size debate. The music Converter is fairly similar, you have the option of choosing the sound quality, and yes there is stereo sound for music (something other available software doesn’t have). The files created by these pieces of software are .gbm (Game Boy Movie) and .gbs (Game Boy Sound). These types of files are only playable on either the SuperCard or the GBA Movie Player (a different product). So the GBA Media pack is useless to people with other GBA flashcarts. A .bin file called FilmPlay is required to play these files on the SuperCard. Simply copy over FilmPlay.bin (about 4MB in size) to your CF card then select it from the loader menu on the SuperCard. It will start up and with it running you are free to select the .gbm or .gbs files. FilmPlay is an interface you need to start up on the SuperCard so that you are able to run the movie and music files. The only problem I see with this is that FilmPlay still needs to load from the CF card to the SuperCard so it’ll take about 10 seconds to start up. But don’t worry each individual movie and music file does not require any sort of loading time.
    The actual SuperCard loader is fairly straight forward, you can choose the files you want to load, view the saver information, change options to enable ‘Auto load saver’ or ‘Enable set emu options’ and view a help file. The loader isn’t skinable like the EZ-Flash 3’s loader but it is minimalistic and simple to use.

    Performance:


    I’m sure you’re eager to know how well the SuperCard performs. The list of features is certainly there, but does it deliver?
    I, like many others have experienced non-working games and slowdowns with some GBA roms. This seems to be a current issue with the SuperCard and seeing as how the core operation of the SuperCard is to play GBA roms this can’t be overlooked. Below I have compiled the results from 10 test roms that I’ve selected completely at random, not knowing whether they would run or not. This is just to give you a basic idea on a very small scale; the results do not represent the SuperCard as a whole.

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    Test Rom 1 - Mario Party Advance
    64mbit
    Original Size - 8,192kb
    Compressed Size – 7,160kb
    Time taken to load - 10 seconds
    Time taken to load (when compressed) – 15 seconds
    Fully working - No

    Test Rom 2 - Zelda: The Minish Cap
    128mbit
    Original Size - 16,384kb
    Compressed Size - 9,887kb
    Time taken to load - 20 seconds
    Time taken to load (when compressed) – 30 seconds
    Fully working -Yes

    Test Rom 3 - Megaman Battle Network 4
    64mbit
    Original Size - 8,192kb
    Compressed Size – 5,383kb
    Time taken to load - 10 seconds
    Time taken to load (when compressed) – 17 seconds
    Fully working - Yes

    Test Rom 4 - F-Zero Climax (Jap)
    128mbit
    Original Size – 16,384kb
    Compressed Size – 8,403kb
    Time taken to load -20 seconds
    Time taken to load (when compressed) – 30 seconds
    Fully working - No, severe slow down

    Test Rom 5 - Metal Slug Advance
    64mbit
    Original Size – 8,192kb
    Compressed Size – 4,910kb
    Time taken to load -10 seconds
    Time taken to load (when compressed) – 16 seconds
    Fully working - Yes, but slight slow downs

    Test Rom 6 - GTA Advance
    128mbit
    Original Size – 16,384kb
    Compressed Size – 7,881kb
    Time taken to load -20 seconds
    Time taken to load (when compressed) – 31 seconds
    Fully working - Yes, but slight slow downs

    Test Rom 7 - F/A 18 Super Hornet
    32mbit
    Original Size – 4,096kb
    Compressed Size – 1,803kb
    Time taken to load -5 seconds
    Time taken to load (when compressed) – 8 seconds
    Fully working - Yes

    Test Rom 8 - Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events
    128mbit
    Original Size – 16,384kb
    Compressed Size – 14,657kb
    Time taken to load -20 seconds
    Time taken to load (when compressed) – 35 seconds
    Fully working - Yes

    Test Rom 9 -Racing Gears Advance
    64mbit
    Original Size – 8,192kb
    Compressed Size – 5,488kb
    Time taken to load -10 seconds
    Time taken to load (when compressed) – 18 seconds
    Fully working - Yes

    Test Rom 10 -Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2
    64mbit
    Original Size – 8,192kb
    Compressed Size – 4,679kb
    Time taken to load -10 seconds
    Time taken to load (when compressed) – 15 seconds
    Fully working - Yes

    Hopefully this data will demonstrate (on a small scale) the performance of the SuperCard. Important things to note include the file sizes when compressed. I am quite happy with the rom compression on the SuperCard, it works very nicely as you can see; freeing up space for you to fit even more roms onto your CF card. So far the SuperCard and the EZ-Flash 3 are the only GBA flashcarts to offer rom compression and both perform relatively similar. There have been some reports that certain roms would work on the SuperCard when using the GBA and not work when using the DS. I haven’t come across this yet. Every rom I’ve tried that either works or doesn’t work performs the same on both platforms. Out of the 10 random roms 2 wouldn’t work. F-Zero Climax technically works but the slowdowns are so severe that it becomes unplayable and Mario Party Advance actually stops working once you get into the game. The SuperCard seems to be plagued with more non-working games then any of the other current generation of flashcarts; this is the most significant problem with the SuperCard. However it is important to note that the software is gradually being updated to accommodate for these non-working roms. With continued software updates the rom compatibility is increasing.
    I have no problems with the Movie Converter or Movie Converter outside that fact that for the GBA they seem more like a gimmick than an important feature, the Music converter more so. While the music quality is very nice for GBA standards it simply doesn’t do for constant music application. If you were thinking of getting a SuperCard for the music feature in the hope of not having to buy an mp3 player, think again. Your much better off just buying a cheap flash based mp3 player. If you are going to play music with the SuperCard however I recommend using the DS’s speakers, it’s good for a short time but there is too much distortion for this feature to become anything more than a gimmick. As for the Movie converter, it is much more useful. The program breaks up the source video file into smaller .gbm files. Creating a series, so that when using FilmPlay you select the first part to the video and once that is done it seamlessly carries onto the next video. This is how the SuperCard manages to play large full length movies when the GBA can only support up to 256mbit sized roms. There is no loading time for the next file, all the files play automatically. My test CF card is only 32MB in size so I wasn’t able to try out a full film but I did manage to watch some rather amusing Saturday Night Live Celebrity Jeopardy videos. Just picture me and a few friends waiting for someone else, huddled around my DS watching some short comedy shows. The DS is the best set up for movie viewing; the brighter screen and stereo speakers work wonders. I found the medium settings for video quality to be good enough for casual watching. If you are interested in watching full length films on the GBA/DS (good luck straining your eyes for that long) then you will most likely need something like a 256/512MB CF card.
    The save files seem to handle well on the SuperCard, just make sure you remember to use the key combination to save your save file onto the CF card before turning the game off. The save file will automatically load when you start the game again the next time. As I stated earlier I found the Real Time Save feature particularly good, it worked well for each rom I tried.

    Conclusion:


    The SuperCard has many useful features outside of playing GBA roms; most of these features work well and help to create an all round GBA flashcart. Some slowdowns and non-working roms distract from the overall performance, however the cheap and affordable price makes up for this. You are free to buy more CF cards for use with the SuperCard so ultimately you can buy more rom space for your Flashcart. If you bought a few 512MB CF cards you could literally take every GBA rom ever released with you, this is not something to be taken lightly. With the SuperCard you do not have to sit around waiting for your roms to flash onto a flashcart, simply drag and drop the files onto your CF card. All in all the SuperCard is affordable, simple to use and loaded with features. It is only brought down slightly by the rom compatibility. I would recommend it to anyone not wanting to pay hundreds of dollars for an expensive flashcart or to anyone who already has a Compact Flash Card.

    Pros:

    -affordable
    -plays movies and music
    -supports rom compression
    -expandable capacity (just buy another CF card)
    -real time save
    -simple to use
    -no write times

    Cons:

    -Non-working roms
    -slowdowns with some roms
    -with CF inserted adds extra length to GBA/DS
    -Do you really want to play distorted music on your gba?

    Overall:



    7.9/10



    Links:


    The SuperCard + CF reader combo is available from Kick-Trading for $64.95 US

    Kick Trading: http://www.kicktrading.ca
    Official SuperCard site: http://www.supercard.cn/eng/
    Unofficial SuperCard site: http://supercard.mine.nu/

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