Chinese Super Everdrive Clone Review

I avoided buying any flash drives for a long time because when I get access to piracy on a console, the breadth of choices for what to play can sometimes be paralyzing to me. I'm not sure why I have this problem really, because most of my systems are modded. Once I realized that, I decided it was time to go ahead and buy some flash drives. There's Chinese clone cards and then there's the official ones. The clones are very cheap... the originals really aren't. There's a lot of vitriol online regarding the clones, but my suspicion was that they are comparable to the originals. So far, it seems that my suspicion was correct.

Purchased from AliExpress seller Gamepad Boutique Store. The exact item that I purchased is listed here. Shipping took about 19 days to the west coast of the US.

Initial Impressions

I invested in two clone cards; one of the Everdrive MD (review unfinished as of 4/7, it will be comprehensive like this one once it is done. I actually started that one first but found this card to be a more curious beast due to some quirks.) and another of the Super Everdrive. While I got the Everdrive MD in a matter of days, it took a bit longer to get the Super Everdrive in addition to the price not quite being as nice. For the Super Everdrive clone I ended up paying $57.84, nearly double what the Everdrive MD cost. I lay the blame for this solely on the fact that this is a product related to a Nintendo console and that alone dictates that you must pay the Nintendo tax. If you read the Everdrive MD review, you saw a nice big long list of features like a Sega CD BIOS mode, Sega Master System compatibility... you don't get any fun bonuses like that with the Super Everdrive. You can play SNES games that don't have any co-processors. If you're not terribly familiar with the SNES, the hardware (while displaying an impressive amount of colors compared to the Genesis and having some nice built in sprite scaling) was quite lacking. Many of the later and more impressive games had co-processors on the cart in order to give the SNES a bit more horsepower.

If you're not familiar enough with the SNES and its co-processor games, I'll point you towards good old Wikipedia for a list of co-processor games. You'll notice there that co-processor games weren't even really a late development. Pilotwings, a US launch title, even had a co-processor (in Japan the game was released shortly after the Super Famicom's launch). What does that say about the SNES hardware that even Nintendo was needing assistance beyond what was in the box nearly immediately? Anyways, we're not here to talk about Nintendo's often foolish hardware design decisions.

Taking away the co-processor, the Super Everdrive should theoretically support all other SNES games and support saving. For my initial impressions, I'm not as wildly ecstatic as I was with the Everdrive MD. Because I have weebshit game tastes, the first game I went to try was Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei, an SNES upgrade of the original Megami Tensei games released for Famicom by Namco. To my surprise, I immediately hit an issue seemingly with the Super Everdrive's firmware. The translation patch for Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei appends additional data to the untranslated ROM image, something that wouldn't normally be an issue for real hardware as long as the ROM is expanded appropriately to fill the target EPROM if you were making a reproduction cartridge. Upon booting the game, I was met with the Atlus logo then a quick flash of corrupted graphics followed by a blank black screen and the hum of a CRT. First, I thought that because the appended data wasn't a nice round amount that would properly fill a ROM chip that the SNES might be loading a bunch of junk data from the Everdrive's memory and crashing. I padded the ROM to 2.5mb using Lunar Expand and tried again. Same result. I noted that on the ROM loading screen it reads the ROM size from the header, which was still showing as a 2mb ROM. This seems to have some sort of an impact on how the Super Everdrive either loads the game or passes the data to the SNES. I patched the ROM to 4mb (which also updated the header to 4mb, with the Everdrive recognizing this fact), which the Super Everdrive then loaded and happily played. Note that I also ran into this issue with Aeon Genesis' English patch for Live A Live, again fixed by expanding to 4MB. So, there's something to look out for if a game seems to be incompatible.

The Hardware

The Super Everdrive arrived rather plainly, without a label and in a decent fascimilie of a Super Famicom/European SNES style cartridge. Most of the clones listed on AliExpress seem to have a label on them proclaiming them to be the "Super Everdrive China VER" along with some flavor text about how they're the best flashcards ever made or some other nonsense. While this is a PAL style cartridge, it actually does have the cutouts for the cartridge slot nubs around the back so that it fits into US systems without modification.

We can see here that instead of the Gamebit style screws they've gone with a standard philips head, which is a bit nicer to deal with when you're opening the cart up. I'm not sure how often I'd recommend doing so though, as the screws seem to be of a very light metal and potentially very easy to strip if you're the impatient type.

Up top we can see that we've got a blue LED which lights up when the Everdrive is doing.. things. When you're navigating menus or rewriting which ROM is currently loaded to the cart it's illuminated. Once you start a game the LED turns off. We've also got our SD card slot. I'm using a 32GB class 10 SanDisk micro SD card formatted to FAT32. I wasn't too sure if it would support this much storage since the cloned Everdrives are duplicating a rather old revision of the hardware, but it has no problems. Going back to the cart construction, the plastic is certainly lighter feeling than an official cart but the construction is good. The clips up top hold the cartridge together very well when the screws are removed, even better than real carts.

Around back we can see that we've got a faithful recreation of the back of a PAL cartridge, sans Nintendo logo/copyright text. Along the bottom you can see the cutouts in the back so it fits into a US system. Onto the juicy stuff.

Getting to the PCB, we can see that it's using an Altera FPGA (near the middle), very popular for applications such as this. The current Chinese Nintendo 64 counterfeit cartridges also use Altera FPGAs to map the data on the EEPROM for the Nintendo 64 to access. Further down seems to be the EEPROM where the ROMs are loaded to from the SD card. We can also see that there is a voltage regulator translating the 5V from the SNES to 3.3V for the flash chips.

Around the back of the PCB we can see the SD card slot as well as an unpopulated USB header, likely micro USB judging by the size. I know that newer Everdrives do have the USB slot populated. I'm not entirely sure of the purpose, I believe it may be something mostly for homebrew developers to take advantage of. I'm not sure if this cloned card would have any sort of proper interaction with this USB port were you to solder one in. Now, to the right we can see an unpopulated DIP spot. Remember earlier the talk of coprocessors? This is actually a slot for a DSP-1 chip. This is a rather simple coprocessor used in Pilotwings and Super Mario Kart. Basically, you can pilfer a DSP-1 from a real cartridge, drop a BIOS file for the chip onto your SD card and play DSP-1 games. I'm not sure if this feature would work properly on a clone cart, however. The list of DSP-1 games is so small (and they aren't terribly expensive) that it's not worth the effort in my opinion. I've got Pilotwings already and I'm not a huge Mario Kart guy so it's useless for me. I've seen some discussion online saying that installing a DSP-1 kills clones, however most of this was happening on the forums for the developer of the real Everdrive cards. They have rather harsh opinions on the clones and there seems to be a lot of inaccurate information posted about them on there. I suppose if I paid as much as a real Everdrive costs I'd also be rather angry about clones. On this side we can also see what I'm figuring is the FRAM used for holding game saves. The soldering on the SD card slot looks a little bit janky, but there aren't any cold joints.

Using the Super Everdrive

Using the card is pretty simple. Place some ROMs on your FAT32 formatted SD card, put it in the Everdrive and turn on your SNES. There is nothing additional required. Official Everdrives do have firmware updates that can be installed but note that the firmware on clone cards cannot be updated. Trying to do so will kill the card. There is no Game Genie cheat support on the devices. The options are very few and nothing that I wanted to tweak or change. You can change whether the reset switch returns you to the game on the card or the Everdrive menu, but I just left it as is for returning to the Everdrive menu. Selecting start game loads whichever game you last wrote to the Everdrive and select takes you to a file browser.

When you go to select a game the Everdrive loads the root of the SD card. You can organize this however you want. You can see that I'm also using this micro SD card for my Everdrive MD and an R4i Gold DS card. None of these devices interfere with anything going on in any other folder, so save yourself some money on SD cards and just use one big one. Note that if you're the type who wants to just dump a full ROM set of a few thousand games onto this thing that there is a limit to how many files can be in one folder. The max that this device can handle is 200 files, so break them up alphabetically or however works best. The yellow text is folders, while white is single files.

Going into my SNES folder, we can see the first page of my ROMs. Using left or right will show more of the files in the directory. Now, you can probably see an issue here. The available characters for game names is rather small. The Dragon Ball Z Super Butouden games are cut off so I can't see which one is 1, 2 or 3. This isn't an issue for the Everdrive MD as the Genesis runs at a higher resolution than the SNES, allowing for more text on screen. It would be nice if the titles scrolled, but they don't. This is something to keep in mind when naming your files. Along the right column you can see the ROM sizes (note the 4MB Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei and Live A Live).

Once you select a game to play, you'll be greeted with a loading screen. The Everdrive will delete whatever game was previously on the EEPROM and backup the save data for that game to the SEVD folder on the root of the SD card. Then it copies the new ROM that you want to play and writes any save data for that game back to the Everdrive. The process takes about a minute or so, depending on the size of all of the data.

Finally, just a quick pic of my progress in Kyuuyaku Megami Tensei showing that the save/load function does work fine on the cart.

Final Thoughts

I think the Super Everdrive would be a good device for people who already have a fair amount of SNES games, most importantly those that have co-processors on the boards. If you purchase this and expect it to be a solution for playing all of the SNES games, you will be let down. You'd be missing out on Star Ocean, Yoshi's Island, Star Fox, Pilotwings.. so on and so forth, refer to the previous Wikipedia article. If you understand that this device will give you access to most of the SNES library and fan translations then I think you'll be more than happy with the purchase. There's nothing wrong with this clone card in terms of build quality. My major issue with the card (needing to manipulate ROM sizes) seems to come down to a firmware issue and not anything hardware related