Turbo Everdrive review

Update July 2017 – Some electronics experts believe the use of certain flash carts, including the Turbo Everdrive Mark 1, may place undue stress on both the cartridge and your classic console. This is because the design of the cartridge drives certain components on the board at higher voltages than the manufacturer specifies. For more information, see the article here. Because of this, we’ve lowered the score for this unit by several points.

NEC’s PC Engine line of consoles were dazzling gamers back in the late 80s and early 90s with their excellent coin-op conversions and bright, detailed graphics. Technology may have changed an awful lot since then, but computers still talk in binary and with the right software and hardware it’s possible to bridge some gaps between new technology and old. Legendary hardware engineer Krikzz has produced a plethora of amazing cartridges for classic systems that allow modern memory cards to be used in place of the original media. The Turbo Everdrive is one such device, specifically designed for the PC Engine/Turbografx systems. Thanks to our friends at Retro Towers, we can bring you this in-depth review and tutorial of this amazing little device.

Turbocharge your PC Engine forever

Turbo Everdrive flash cartridge. Click the picture for a bigger view.
Turbo Everdrive flash cartridge. Click the picture for a bigger view.

Our Turbo Everdrive arrived promptly from Retro Towers a couple of days after we placed the order. The card comes without an outer shell, so take some precautions when handling it (try not to touch the chips directly) and you’ll be fine. Some sites on the internet do sell the unit with a simple plastic shell, though this of course comes at a premium. If you really don’t like the naked PCB there are sellers on some of the more popular forums that sell 3D printed covers too.

As you can see from the picture on the left, the card comes with a number of hardware features. In the top left, there’s a header for a USB connector. The version that we received from Retro Towers did not have the USB port connected, which is just as well considering the PC engine we’re using here is a SuperGrafx. The SuperGrafx isn’t compatible with the USB version of the Turbo Everdrive, this is due to the fact that when you switch the SuperGrafx console on, a small plastic tab slides across to prevent the removal of the Hucard. This tab just happens to be exactly where the USB port is on the USB versions of the card. The USB port isn’t used for loading game ROMs, but it can be valuable if you intend to develop homebrew apps for the console. It can be used for debugging output or even with some compilers to load development code directly onto the PC Engine.

Nearer the top right you can see a reset button. It’s easy to miss this or mistake it for something else when you first get the card. A quick press of this button will reset the console and return you to the main menu, allowing you to choose a different game. Since stock PC Engine consoles don’t have a reset button, having this here is very handy and saves having to power cycle your machine whenever you want to change games.

In the top right is the MicroSD card slot. You insert your memory card here, face up. The card should click into place easily, if it does not, carefully remove it again and check that everything is lined up. You can use a MicroSD card up to 32gb in size. Retro Towers can supply you with an 8GB card for an extra £10 when you order, but considering every single PC Engine/Turbografx game ever released only amounts to around 600 megabytes of data, you might want to recycle an older, smaller card you already have lying around.

There are no special steps required when preparing a MicroSD card for use with the Everdrive. Simply format the card to FAT32 and you are good to go. If you have managed to find a complete ROM set or a large amount of games, you should create sub-directories to make navigating the Everdrive’s menus easier. The maximum number of files you can store in a directory is 220, which should be plenty for most people.

Finally, on the left edge of the card is a region switch. You only need to set this once, depending on what model of PC Engine/Turbografx you own. Set the switch down for Japanese hardware or up for US hardware. You can load ROM images regardless of region from the Turbo Everdrive.

Everdrive in action

The Turbo Everdrive's menus are basic but practical.
The Turbo Everdrive’s menus are basic but practical.

Like Krikzz’s other flash cartridges, the Turbo Everdrive keeps things simple while in use. Don’t expect flashy menus and music like with the SuperUFO cartridge, for instance. Using the gamepad you can navigate the folder structure of the attached SD card. When you find a ROM you want to load, select it and press the Run button. The ROM is then loaded and run automatically. Compatibility is close to 100%, we are not actually aware of any games that flat out don’t work. If you’re lucky enough to own a SuperGrafx, the card supports the handful of SuperGrafx exclusive games too. As stated above, import titles will run perfectly regardless of what region your NEC hardware is. The only Hucards that may cause problems are:-

Populus – This is the only Hucard that ever featured a battery backed save. You can play the game on the Everdrive but you cannot save your progress.

Arcade Card – The Arcade Card contains extra RAM allowing a small number of enhanced CD-ROM titles to function. Since the Turbo Everdrive doesn’t have this extra RAM, you cannot emulate the arcade card.

It’s worth noting that although the Arcade Card does not work, other system cards do. So for instance, if you have a Super CD-ROM attached to your PC Engine, you can use a ROM image of the CD-ROM operating system card. What this basically means is you can leave the Everdrive connected to your PC Engine pretty much permanently and just load the CD-ROM operating system card when you want to run any of your CD games. A word of warning if you do this however, if you reset the PC Engine while CD audio is playing, the audio will continue to play until the CD-ROM is accessed again.

Save games, the Turbo Everdrive Achilles heel?

One feature we would have liked to see in the Turbo Everdrive is support for save games. With the exception of Populus, PC Engine save games are a bit of a mess. The original spec for the console didn’t include any save game memory at all and Hucards were generally too small to easily host backup batteries. Save game functionality was eventually added with hardware like the Tennokoe 2 or the Backup Booster. This functionality was also built into the various CD-ROM units and also included in later revisions of the console like the Turbo Duo. Like all antique hardware, this backup memory is prone to failure, usually thanks to flat batteries. It would have been great if the Turbo Everdrive could backup save game files from the PC Engine onto the SD card, where they could then have been stored and backed up on the PC. There is another flash cartridge that can do this, the “NEO Power PC-E 128M+SAVE super flash cart”, however this cartridge is limited to 128MB onboard storage for ROMs and software and will set you back a cool $149.00. At that price, you’ve got to really love your PC Engine save games before you’d consider that flash cartridge over the otherwise excellent Turbo Everdrive.

While we’re nit-picking, it’s worth mentioning that there’s no cheat engine here either, so no action replay style infinite lives or anything of that nature. There isn’t any support for save states either, so no saving your game mid-session and coming back to it later, though the flash cartridges that successfully support this kind of functionality are few and far between anyway.

Final thoughts

The Turbo Everdrive is a fun piece of hardware to use, but given that it has the unfortunate design flaw that means it may cause wear and tear to those increasingly rare PC Engine consoles, we’d recommend you go for the Turbo Everdrive V2 instead.

5 thoughts on “Turbo Everdrive review

  1. Warp X says:

    While this card is amazing, there are starting to be more problems with timing as the newer versions begin to show up. I believe its more a memory card problem since not every memory card shows a class for speed rating (cl 10 or speed 6) these problems seem similar to tablet problems that show up when you use too fast a memory class for the SDHC cards. So start with the lowest (slowest memory speed 10) you can find, generally they are more stable. That’s the first level of troubleshooting, next check your contact pins and for dirt and debris in your console, TG-16 especially USA spec has problems with this, next remove any peripherals even your AV (try with RF only) finally you might also have a console that is stricken with the dreaded cheap capacitor problems, they do make kits if your solder savvy to repair them. If you have tried all this and failed, contact the seller and be patient, they are trying to fix the issues.

      • Nerd Noise Radio says:

        Why not?

        The way CD games work on the PCE is to load their data (in batches) onto the system card (HuCard) and then have the system read from the system card the same way it’d read, say, Keith Courage. In other words, the system card doesn’t point the “system proper” to the disc drive in order for the system to read from the disc directly. Instead, the CD “feeds” the system card, and then the system just interacts with the card like normal.

        So, the Arcade CD-Rom2 card, then, is not some kind of RAM booster for the system itself, so it can better handle the disc, as the article implies. The system doesn’t need extra RAM since unlike the Genesis and SNES (which can only read from RAM) it can read straight from ROM. Therefore, RAM doesn’t really matter, at least not in the way it matters for SNES/Genesis, or even for modern PCs. The CD writes to the the card, yes, but in terms of how the system “sees” and interacts with the ACDR2 card, it’s just a giant ROM. In fact, in terms of “ROMs the system ‘sees'”, it never even “sees” the disc. It “sees” the card which is in turn, “fed” by the disc.

        So, if all of this is true, then I see no reason why a CD Rom game couldn’t work from the everdrive SD slot since the system is going to be looking for the game on the HuCard anyway, and not the CD tray. I don’t know, maybe you would need to program the “load spots” into the ROM, so it doesn’t try to load the whole game at once. But unless someone can demonstrate that I just have a complete misunderstanding of the relationship between PCE and PCE CD, I am having a hard time seeing the problem here.

        If the everdrive doesn’t have the memory capacity of an ACDR2, then I can see how ACDR2 games wouldn’t work. And I also acknowledge that just like you’d need an actual Supergrafx with its second GPU in order to play Supergrafx games on the drive, you’d still need the actual CD add-on (or TurboDuo) present since some games use large ADPCM sound files (like voice clips during battle sequences or whatever) and those are all handled by an extra sound channel in the CD system itself (the ONLY thing CD adds to the hardware!)

        So no, you and an everdrive, and a plain Jane TG16 are not gonna be playing Double Dragon 2. But if all the requisite hardware is present and accounted for, then I see NO REASON why a CD-Rom2 ROM or even a SuperCD-Rom2 would not work on an everdrive.

        So help me out here, gang! What am I missing? Why don’t CD Rom games work if, assuming my hardware analysis is correct, they should work beautifully?


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