So, here I am again, it's time for another review and I'm yet again back at reviewing the Everdrive64. However the Everdrive64 has undergone a few changes since my
"harsh" review of the initial release, better known as version 1 perhaps. The latest version is 3, and even version 3 has received a few changes since it first batch and
the Everdrive64 sure has come a long way since my last review.
WHAT THIS THING IS
The Everdrive64 is a cartridge for use with the Nintendo64, but not just any cart. It has memory built in which you can load N64 games, also known as ROMs, on to and then play them on it
on an actual Nintendo64 just as if you owned the original game cartridge. But that is not all, it also allows for homebrew (games not released commercially) and emulation of other game systems
like the Nintendo Entertainment System.
The first, and to me as a collector most important, part is that no old Nintendo64 carts are harmed in the process of making Everdrive64's anymore, not even the vital CIC chip
is being butchered off old PCB's and stuck on the Everdrive64 board. The CIC is a security chip Nintendo invented so only licensed cartridges would run on the Nintendo64 and such chips
have been around since the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, the N64 variants are a little more complicated though.
Well now Krikzz has invented a CIC boot emulator, called UltraCIC, which basicly makes the Everdrive64 region free, with the from a small switch on the PCB that lets you toggle between
European (7101) and American/Japanese (6102) CIC's.
That's not all though, Krikzz is now offering two aftermarket shells for the Everdrive64, a grey like the original N64 carts and a transparent red, which looks very nice, and
who knows what the future holds, I've seen Krikzz post a picture of an transparent orange too, but at the time of writing it's not available. The label art has also come a
long way since the initial Everdrive64 release, where it was non-existant. The new label represents the Everdrive64 well, it's nothing too fancy but it's looks great.
One of the main differences from the older revisions of the Everdrive64 is that the new release features a Real Time Clock (RTC). It's not that useful when it comes to N64 as,
if I remember correctly, only one game, the Japanese Animal Crossing, made use of such. But hey it's a neat feature that maybe could be used for something in future homebrew.
The cart has 64Megabytes (512 megabits) of SDRAM, this is used to load RMO data to and as the maximum rom size of an N64 game is 512 megabit, this cart is capable of hosting every
Nintendo64 game released. It also supports all known save types and features 256K of battery backed Save RAM. Another new and great feature is that a hardware reset no longer is
needed to save, the Everdrive64 automaticly saves to the cart, making it act pretty close to an original N64 game cartridge.
Game images, or ROMs, are stored on SD cards and as far as I can tell the Everdrive64 supports all SD cart sizes and has a transfer rate of 23 Megabytes per second, which means
it'll load most games almost instantly.
SD cards are inserted through a slot, now located on the top side of the cart, unlike the side on older versions of the Everdrive where it was located on the side of the cart,
making it impossible to remove the SD card without having to remove the Everdrive64 from the N64 console first.
For homebrew developers there's now also a USB port included by default. Not really useful to the general gamer though, but a nice feature still.
FIRST USE AND MENU FEATURES
To be able to use the Everdrive64 you will need an SD or MicroSD with SD adapter. This is used to store both the N64 roms as well as the Everdrive64 Menu binary, Also known as the Everdrive64 "OS".
At Krikzz' website you're able to download the latest version of the OS binary which is contained in an "ED64" directory that need to be stored on the SD card as is.
N64 roms can either be stored in the SD root or in directories at your own choice.
The OS includes a set of features like...
GameShark Engine by "Parasyte", meaning you can enter cheats for games if you wish. The option seems "half-baked" though as it's noting more than a list of GameShark Codes, it seems like there's no way to connect
a GameShark code with a specific game. It would be cool if it was possible to have a text file with codes that could be maintained away from the Everdrive64 GUI.
A ControllerPak Manager which isn't what I thought it was. Basicly all it does it to allow you to backup a ControllerPak to the Everdrive64 as a ".mpk" file, and copy it back on to a ControllerPak later, or you
just format the entire ControllerPak. I had hoped that something like the old Blackbag Memory Manager released back in the N64 heyday for use with Game Copiers, something that would allow you to edit the content
of a ControllerPak. 2 of 7 ControllerPaks I tested wasn't detected by the Everdrive64.
A Self Test program, woo... nifty! :-)
Last but not least there's a list of options to mess with, but honestly if you don't know what they do there's really no need to mess around here. The high-res menu option looks like crap if you ask me, so don't bother :-)
The menu does what it's supposed to, it's nothing extravagant and and maybe a little too dark for my taste. Fortunately there's something you can do about that. It's actually possible to change the background, simply by
saving a 640 by 480 pixels Windows Bitmap (BMP) to the SD card, and it can be set as wallpaper from the Everdrive64 menu.
The Everdrive allows you to play games from any region, something an original game cart doesn't allow. The only limit might be your TV's ability to display both PAL and NTSC signals. But if you're
lucky enough to own a TV that's both NTSC and PAL compatible, which most European TVs are today, then you are in luck and you'll be able to enjoy some of the games that never reached European
Some of the games I would recommend is Battletanx, only the sequel reached Europe.
The classic Dr. Mario... now 64
Last but not least.... okay maybe not really one to play... but another US exclusive, Elmo's Letter Adventure (and Number Adventure)
Then there's the huge archive of development builds, also known as prototypes, games that never saw the ligh of day like Glover 2, 40 Winks, O.D.T. Olympics 2000, Frogger 2,
the legendary Robotech 64 and so on. Then there's the builds like the Superman 64 development build that is very different from the final. This is really the gems that makes a cartridge like
the Everdrive64 worth the money, getting to play the stuff you weren't supposed to see and that on the real system.
I don't really want to go into too much detail about the games the Everdrive64 doesn't run, because there's only a little handful that needs some sort of patching and some like the European version
of Banjo-Tooie that has no patch and because of clever CIC checking by the guys at Rareware and Nintendo, the game isn't playable unless the Everdrive64 has a specific CIC chip installed, that then
again will cause problems in other games. In other words, don't bother unless a patch for the CIC checking magically appears.
Then there's the game hacks where most won't run, mostly because they were "developed" for emulators and therefore use "extra stuff" an original Nintendo64 just can't handle.
But the Everdrive64 has a realtime clock (RTC) which means that games like Animal Crossing, known as Animal Forrest in in the US/Europe, should be playable and an English language patch even exists,
as this was an exclusive title to Japan only.
PRICING AND FINAL WORD
The Everdrive64 V3 is a whopping $190 with UltraCIC, Krikzz own CIC clone, and a red aftermarket plastic shell. It's a lot of money for sure, but video games are supposed to be played on the real
hardware and not emulators. It would of course be possible just to purchase the few games you might want to play - but doing so you may still hit $190 mark pretty quickly and then you won't even be
able to play prototypes and homebrew. Also, the convenience of having every game one one cartridge is just awesome.
Right now there's also work in progress that will allow you to play 64DD (Disk Drive) games on the Everdrive, and the Aleck 64 Arcade System games have already been modified to run on a retail Nintendo64, adding
even more games to the archive of games.
Krikzz' Everdrive64 does what it's supposed to, it offers a simple interface, and the UltraCIC is a very neat addition to an already well working cartridge.
If $190 is a little too steep, there's another option available from Krikzz, the Everdrive64 V2.5 with a little less features but it also comes at a lower cost, $122 incl UltraCIC and shell.
The sample used for this review was provided by shop.krikzz.com