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NeoFlash Review

Neo Flash is the first Nintendo DS backup device to run commercial NDS roms. NeoFlash Review : 512Mb 1GB kit. NeoFlash flash kit allows you to play both GBA and DS homebrew and commercial software. Inside the cardboard box are the following
- NeoFlash 512M or 1G NeoFlash cartridge
- SlimLoader III
- Magic Key
- USB extension cable
- 3 replacement batteries for the cartridge
- CD containing the software and finally
- NeoFlash Sticker to put on your DS.

Go to NeoFlash homepage and get the latest drivers from there. Installation of the software without a hitch; you simply run the setup files and follow the prompts. Once the software and drivers are installed you can start connecting all the parts together, the first job is the hardest, opening the battery slot to install a battery. I have done this a few times now on these types of cartridges and it doesn’t get any easier, just keep working at it with a knife tip and it should eventually pop out! After this connect the USB extension cable to the SlimLoader III and insert the NeoFlash Cartridge. Then you insert the extension cable into a free USB slot on your PC. After a few seconds of installing drivers the light on the SlimLoader should flash Red three times meaning that the SlimLoader is ready to be used.

Upon loading the Neo Power Kit program you are presented with a fairly standard looking screen. To the left are the menu options and the main part of the program window to the right is where the contents of your NeoFlash cartridge are displayed. Choosing ROMs to write to the program is a simple process, click on the Add option and navigate to the ROM file on your PC and choose OK. If the ROM is valid it will be added to the contents window. Once you are happy with your choice simply click on Burn All to start the process of writing the ROM to the cartridge. I have read reports of varying flash speeds for a 128M ROM, anything from 120 seconds to 360 seconds, my guess is this depends on what your computers specs are, for example CPU, USB version etc.

The software does have some problems, sometimes it will not recognize the SlimLoader or Cartridge and the program will freeze until the SlimLoader is disconnected or you end the program. This can also happen sometimes when you start burning the cartridge, it will do nothing and you have to close the program, reconnect the linker and start again. Apparently this isn’t a widespread problem and only affects some owners but seeing as the NeoFlash isn’t widely available I have no idea what number of people this is based o .

Although the NeoFlash is sold primarily as a DS kit it still functions as a GBA flash cartridge and it lacks some simple features which are standard with other flash kits. Missing features such as Saves backup/restore and issues with flashing multiple ROMs are the main problems, it just seems to give up flashing when it feels like it. If you are intending to use the NeoFlash for GBA you may want to wait until these are fully supported.

The software supports plug-ins which allows developers to add for example support for automatically building a ROM for emulators. Included with the software are plug-ins for PocketNES (NES), PCEAdvance (PC Engine) and Goomba (Gameboy) all of which work well. NeoFlash also supports JPG, GIF, BMP, PNG, TXT and HTML which work fine in the latest release of the software (v0.9).

Compatibility with commercial GBA games seems around average compared to other recent GBA flash cartridges, there were one or two problem games which didn’t work due to save issues but on the whole the games worked fine with the various save type versions of EEPROM, FLASH and SRAM.

The NeoFlash is the first piece of kit to go on sale which allows people to play DS homebrew and commercial ROMs. In order to do this a peripheral called the Magic Key is required to trick the DS into loading DS software from the GBA cartridge instead of a DS cartridge. For those familiar with the DS hacking scene, the Magic Key is basically a much nicer looking PassMe as you can see from the photos.

The Magic Key is inserted into the DS cartridge slot and then an original DS cartridge (not supplied) is inserted into the Magic Key. When the DS is switched on you will see a blue light on the Magic Key flash briefly, this is to show that it is properly connected. If you have successfully burned a DS ROM onto the NeoFlash cartridge it will automatically boot after the Health & Safety screen, otherwise you will get a white screen.

There are two main types of DS ROM file formats which can be used with the NeoFlash. The first is .NDS which is the standard and used for commercial ROMs and is starting to be used for homebrew ROMs. The second is .DS.GBA which is used for homebrew ROMs from being compiled for the PassMe and GBA Cartridges. I tried several homebrew ROMs and they all worked as they should, no problems with them at all.

Now onto the commercial ROMs… finally! At the time of writing there are only two working dumps that have been released, these are the Metroid Demo and Mario 64 DS. As with the homebrew DS ROMs there were no problems at all playing the games, no slowdown when loading as some people had thought there may be (due to it running from a GBA cartridge instead of a DS cartridge).

Currently the ROMs save to the DS cartridge and not to the NeoFlash as you would expect. This means that the save type of the ROM you are playing must match the save type of the DS cartridge, for example Mario 64 DS is a 64k save type (Metroid is 4k). If the two save types don’t match you will either get a save error (no save) or a corrupt save.

As there is no way of backing up the saves either from the DS or GBA cartridge you are soon going to be left with the choice of either overwriting a save or using another DS cartridge to save your game to when you play another ROM. I would imagine that by the time more ROMs are released this oversight will be fixed but its something to be aware of. Incidentally, I have an original Japanese Mario 64 DS cartridge and the save is compatible with the US ROM dump so it means I can continue playing in English now!

The NeoFlash is currently being sold for around the $200 USD price range for a 512M kit and around $260 for 1G. Compared to other GBA cartridges on sale this is quite expensive as you can pick up a 1G F2AU for around $150. Personally I think it’s overpriced.

Positive Points
- easy to install and setup
- easy to use software (when it works)
- good compatibility with GBA ROMs
- all in one setup for playing GBA and DS ROMs
- txt, jpeg etc features now working so removed this part from text

Negative Points
- expensive
- incomplete software (no multiboot for GBA)
- no way to back up DS saves and having to save to DS cart
- no way to back up DS cartridges

 


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