Everdrive N8 - An SD device for the NES? Oh yes! [ Hardware Review ]

Over the Christmas period we featured RetroTowers SD device for the Megadrive, the 'Mega Everdrive'. A device which allowed you to play thousands of Sega Mega Drive, Genesis, Sega Master System and 32X games through a single cart based SD in your Mega Drive. Well today we are going for the next cart system review, the Everdrive N8 for the NES.

This little beauty arrived in neat packaging and as you can see it stands out as a NES cart but with the all important SD card interface at the top. It did not however feature a manual which as you know kinda puts me off. Even if it's just a slip of paper with some small guidance of what you can and can't do goes a long way. Regarding the device it self, it works with the NES and a Famicom (if you use a NES to Famicom adapter), it supports roms NES and FDA, Game Genie cheat code are supported and the Everdrive N8 automatically backs-up saves to a SD card.

Furthermore FAT, FAT16 & FAT32 file system formats are supported and supportive of (SD & SDHC) cards up to 32GB. (Will not work with SD cards under 4GB. and Quick loading of game files (approximately 4-8 seconds).

EverdDrive-N8 hardware:
  • Powerful Cyclone II FPGA.
  • 2 x 512Kbyte SRAM for PRG and CHR data.
  • 128Kbyte battery backed memory. It write save data to SD.
  • Max II CPLD to handle FPGA reconfiguration, BIOS, SD and USB interfaces.
  • 1Mbyte flash BIOS.
  • Voltage shift buffers on PPU and CPU bus for matching levels between 5v NES bus and 3.3 EverDrive bus. Far better than simple resistor buffers at reducing noise and power consumption.

Moving on with the review, as was the case with the MegaEverdrive there is no point having an SD Card if it doesn't have any games to play. Thus with a bit of search know how, we grabbed the latest Everdrive N8 pack and unpacked it to our 1GB SD Card. The listing was already categorized and contains all the games you could ever want, from the original USA releases to homebrews and betas. Many of which I've never played and to be honest I only have three original games in my collection anyway, Dizzy, Pirates! and Defender of the Crown.

Each of the directories contains the ROMS needed to play, as stated in the online features they had to be either .NES or .FDA.

Inserting the SD Card and cart into the NES device was easy as.... Simply treat it as an original NES cart and you are good to go. You'd think it was actually an original game!

This is when we ran into a few problems and unlike the MegaEverdrive which was simply a case of downloading, unpacking, plugging in and playing. The Everdrive N8 said NO. The first thing that happened to us was a green screen and telling us that it was missing a number of files, which needed to be downloaded from Krikzz. This was not mentioned in any manual which has stated before I would always recommend that product sellers provide.

The second time we tried the SD cart, again we got a green screen and could not get it to work at all, thankfully this turned out to be an error on my part because I used a 1GB SD card and the online features clearly mention it has to be 4GB or more! My problem is I don't always read instructions, I expect download, plug and play.

So we tried again, nope still not having it. We were still getting that green screen and this time, the light kept on flashing over and over again. So by this time I was starting to become frustrated, this was becoming no simple task to get it to work. However by visiting the forums and a helpful bit of advice by goombakid the CIC chip should be re-configurated if region of console was changed. I just needed to push reset 5-7 times, until led will not stop blinking.

Finally the beast was alive, we could see all of our games neatly listed from betas to homebrews and original games. Pretty much the same style of listing you'd see on the MegaEvedrive.

By simply pressing the directional button you could scroll through the listing and play all of those fantastic games you either did or didn't grow up with.

Yet for us, once again we ran into issues. I could not get about 70% of the games working, it would come up with a rom unknown error and fail to play. I know for a fact that the roms were working, as I could play them all through an emulator on the PC. Also the fact that it does state in the features that it plays .NES roms.

In speaking to a helpful member on the forums the best type of roms are those that are NoIntro and are more likely to work. Not sure why this is as I don't know a lot about NES, but after downloading and unpacking all of the NoIntro files it worked great.  Perhaps this would be another worthy mention in a manual?

Now we have our games working we delved into the next best thing that the Everdrive N8 has to offer... Save States! Now just the like the MegaEverdrive, you can save at any point in the game and then come back to it later. So if you are stuck at a boss, save it before then load it after. All of this can be accessed through the options screen which can be turned on through the main game listing. You can if you so wish also change the buttons around to get the save state to kick in for example. Other options are also available such as audio mixing, file sorting and resetting to game.

For those of you who like to cheat, as if loading and saving isn't enough, the developers have also built in a handy Game Genie cheat mode option. So if you have the codes, just input them and cheat to your hearts content.

With all that out of the way we played as many games as we could and every single one of them loaded up with out fault. It's simply incredible to play so many games with such ease without having to constantly place in every single cart from your collection, or going out and spending hundreds of pounds on rare games. You can have thousands, pretty much every single game loaded up on the cart in ROM form, all just click and start. The second most useful being the save state option! No longer did I lose all my lives in Dizzy, and yes Dizzy is that difficult.

So it comes down to this, what did I think of the Everdrive N8? I personally think it's very very good, and I'm not just saying that because it was sent to us. It's a very positive device and one that every owner of a NES owner should have in their collection. If you want to have every single game playable in a single cart, with all the joys of saving, loading and cheating you can do no wrong with the Everdrive N8.

For my less than positive thoughts, I did find the Everdrive to be far more frustrating than the MegaEverdrive, it wasn't only the red light flash issue that I had to deal with, but there was no manual with no mention of having to have those specific bios files and that I would have to get NoIntro roms.  If I wasn't so knowledgeable about computers I would have most likely tried to send it back as faulty.

Putting those issues aside I still recommend everyone who has a NES to buy one, as long as you follow my issue guide and my personal experience.

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