Before iPads, smartphones and other similar devices came along to dominate everyone’s attention, there was an altogether more modest little hand-held device entertaining gamers all across the world, the Nintendo Game Boy. Despite originally launching with a monochrome screen with no back-light and with a processor slow even by 1990s standards, the device went on to dominate the handheld market, significantly outselling competitors such as the Sega Game Gear. Receiving only a modest upgrade in the form of the Game Boy Color in 1998, the machine continued to dominate right up until its successor, the Game Boy Advance, was launched. All those years on the market, coupled with the relative ease of game development means that there are thousands of Game Boy and Game Boy Color games waiting to be rediscovered. This year marks the machines 25th anniversary, what better time to dust off your old Game Boy and rediscover those games? Then again, carrying your old Game Boy is one thing, but in these days of gigabyte smartphones and digital downloads, do you really want to carry around a sack of Game Boy cartridges too? Of course not, but now thanks to hardware genius Krikzz, you don’t have to.
Boy, that’s a lot of ROMs
The Everdrive GB, just like other Everdrives, is a flash cartridge system that allows you to play ROM image files from an SD card on your original Game Boy hardware. No more lugging huge collections of cartridges when you play your classic handheld. Our diminutive Everdrive GB cartridge arrived swiftly courtesy of those lovely folks over at RetroTowers.co.uk. The cartridge is housed in a transparent Game Boy cartridge shell with a MicroSD card at the top and a nicely printed label on the front. After loading a suitable, FAT32 formatted MicroSD card with a bunch of ROMs, we popped the cartridge into a Game Boy Advance console and powered it on. Despite the relatively modest Game Boy hardware, the menus on the EverdriveGB were quick to navigate, even with directories containing several dozen different files. To load a game, simply select it with the B button and choose “Load And Start”. The Everdrive will then back up any save game data from the game you were previously playing, flash the cartridges internal flash memory and start the game. Flashing is usually quick, though on larger games it can take several seconds. During the flashing process, the cartridge glows an almost eerie red colour from the internal LED. Once a game is flashed, you can play it again without having to re-flash it simply by pressing the Start button on the Everdrive’s main menu.
While working with the Everdrive, a small number of options can be accessed by pressing the consoles “Select” button. You can swap the functions of the A and B buttons and also enter game-genie style cheat codes. Note that you may need to upgrade to the latest firmware to access all of these options, but this is a relatively painless process. Simply download the latest official firmware from Krikzz, unzip it and place it in the EDGB folder on your MicroSD card. Then, pop your MicroSD card out of your PC and back into the Everdrive GB and simply browse to the firmware file and run it.
The Everdrive GB has excellent compatibility both with games and with Game Boy hardware. Both Game Boy and Game Boy Color games are supported (but not Game Boy Advance games of course). We tried the unit in a Game Boy Advance initially and experienced no problems. Moving up to the big screen, we tried the unit with the official Game Boy Player software on the Gamecube, as well as the recently released homebrew “Game Boy Interface” software. The Everdrive GB worked perfectly with the Gamecube’s GBA Player no matter which particular software we tried. As for ROM images, we tried a whole range, from well loved Game Boy classics such as Tetris and Super Mario Land 2, to homebrew demos and obscure ROM hacks. All of the ROMs we tried booted, some of the hacked games displayed strange behaviour, but of course that’s to be expected (and likely to happen no matter how you run them). There are a number of known games that do not work with the Everdrive GB, but the list is limited to very obscure Chinese games and a number of bootlegs (e.g SACHEN games). The most mainstream games that struggle to run are games which have an internal clock, such as Pokemon Silver or Harvest Moon. Since the Everdrive GB does not have a Real Time Clock (RTC), you may need Game Genie codes to access the various RTC controlled features within these games. It’s a shame RTC could not have been included, unlike the Everdrive 64 where there’s barely any games that use this functionality, many gamers will have fond memories of the various Pokemon games that introduced the day/night cycle that’s unfortunately lost when running the game from your Everdrive GB.
Krikzz has delivered once again! While flash cartridges have existed for the Game Boy for some time, they typically use serial connections and allow for only a small handful of ROMs to be installed at once. Worse still, many of these older cartridges struggle to run successfully on more modern versions of Windows. The Everdrive GB solves that problem for the foreseeable future. At £64.99, the device is cheaper than Everdrives on some other systems, but still a significant investment for many gamers. While it’s great to have all the classic Game Boy games available on one cartridge like this, keep in mind that the Game Boy’s hardware is so modest that any reasonable spec PC can emulate it pretty much perfectly. Furthermore, while there are of course stand-out titles in the machines catalogue, a lot of the games have aged pretty badly, being designed for low power early 90s hardware means games are usually simple, though it’s often surprising just what skilled developers were able to do with such limited hardware. Of course, if you scoff at the idea of emulation, or the notion that classic Game Boy games aren’t what they used to be, then the Everdrive GB is definitely for you.
There’s more to just games on the system too, the Game Boy is such a huge part of pop culture that homebrew demos are still produced and some musicians even use the machines distinctive chip music in live performances. Could you imagine musicians using the “distinctive” sound of an iPad in 25 years time? It does seem rather unlikely. Thanks to the Everdrive GB, loading homebrew and music creation software just got a whole lot easier, opening up more possibilities than ever before. The only small disappointment is the lack of a real time clock, but even so this is still an essential purchase for any Game Boy fan and brings the little handheld nicely into the modern age.
The Everdrive GB is available NOW from RetroTowers.co.uk. We were sent our review unit free of charge, but no other incentives were given for this review.