Exciting World of Flash Carts

Posted 2010.01.20 13.13 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

A few weeks ago I posted about poking around inside a Nintendo DSi – I took mine apart and had a peek inside, and was looking for any info out there on hacks or mods for it. I was more thinking about hardware hacks, but most of the ‘hacking’ people have been doing appears to be in terms of running homebrew apps and games and stuff.

Anyhow, so eventually I learned about ‘Flash Carts’, although this isn’t actual news to anyone who’s been a gamer any time in the last 10 years I’m sure.

These things are neat though – one of the things I wanted to do with my DSi was to be able to copy some of my games onto an SD card and then I’d have my favorite games in there all the time. Most DS games are less than 64MB in size, and with a 4GB SD card you can fit a whole lot of games. But Nintendo doesn’t let you do that. For one thing you can’t copy the game data off the game card, and then even if you could, the DSi won’t run games from the SD card.

So back to the Flash Carts – in olden times, these were a dedicated cartridge that had a flashable memory chip (i.e. instead of a factory-burned ROM it was an EEPROM that could be burned, erased, rewritten, etc.) and with special hardware you could copy a game file onto it, or if it had lots of memory you could copy a few game files onto it.

Nowadays they have Flash Carts that themselves have a micro-SD slot, so you can put any size micro-SD card into it and have almost unlimited storage space. I got one of them, an “Acekard 2i” and a 4GB micro-SD card.

I’m somewhat tech-savvy but definately no gamer. I had no idea how to work it, and it didn’t even seem to function in my DSi. I ended up spending several hours mucking about with google trying to find instructions and downloads and all that fun stuff. Eventually though I got the answers I wanted.

The Acekard is not as slick as an official Nintendo thing would have been of course – the DSi has a menu with all sorts of ‘game slots’ and you can’t take advantage of that with the Acekard. On the other hand, once you ‘run’ the card (as if it were any other NDS game) then it has it’s own menu and you can list as many games or apps as you like. You can even re-skin the menu system to make it look however you like.

I get the feeling that Flash Carts like the Acekard are, maybe not illegal, but probably skating a fine line. Which explains the steep initial learning curve and difficulty in tracking down initial information.

Now that it’s up and running though, I’m actually very happy with it. I’ve got game files now for all of the DS games I’ve bought, and using a USB backup thingy I was even able to capture my game-save data out of my game cards and put them onto the Acekard so I don’t have to start over on anything. So yeah, it’s the exciting world of flash cartridges.

Now my DSi can carry all my games internally, I don’t have to carry my original cartridges around, and can play them all at any time. I can even make routine backups of my gamesave files just by copying the data from the micro-SD card back to my computer. Wee!

Leave a Comment