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Reading and writing N64 savegames from and to a real cartridge
Topic Started: Oct 27 2015, 07:17 PM (3,668 Views)
sanni
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Some might still remember my portable N64 controller tester from 2 years ago:



But for this year I tried reading out something else, game cartridges. Both the rom and of course those precious savegames.

The Nintendo Cartridge Reader is a personal project that I have been working on since 2014, its goal is to allow a multitude of Nintendo game cartridges to be saved to an SD card.

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The source code and the pcb gerber files are available on my github: https://github.com/sanni/cartreader
So anyone who enjoys building stuff can make the Nintendo Cart Reader at home for free.
Also since it is basically a shield for an Arduino Mega 2560 and written using the Arduino IDE it's very easy to add your own code extensions in case you need it to do more. I myself also try to constantly improve it and add new features.

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Now while this is not a commercial project each time I design and order a new version of the PCB for myself I build a few readers to do some more extensive reliability tests. Therefore all cart readers offered here are in used condition as I did many tests on them.

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One thing to point out is that this cart reader is not a fool proof consumer product and you really have to read through my wiki before using it. However thanks to the modular design only using widely available off-the-shelf parts if you break something you can easily replace it.
The wiki can be found here: https://github.com/sanni/cartreader/wiki/Setup-&-user-guide
Last but not least since this is just a hobby project please don't expect production level quality.

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What is it?
The Nintendo Cartridge Reader is a custom developed and custom build standalone device that allows you to plug in Nintendo cartridges and save their content to an SD card.
You don't need a PC to operate the cart reader as it comes with its own display and buttons. All you need to provide is power over a microUSB cable like your phone's charger and a full size SD card.

Video

(Wait times have been cut out to make the video smaller. In reality flashing of the 8MB file took 5 minutes. I also changed Conkers 6105 CIC to a standard 6102 CIC)

And finally some pictures of everything it can do


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Read N64 roms out of their cartridge. Read and write save games from and to the cartridge.

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Read and write N64 Controller Paks and also test the N64 controller's buttons and give the exact values of the thumbstick.

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Re-write those $16 chinese N64 reproduction cartridges from ebay. Be aware that those repros have a fixed cic and save type that can't be changed with my cart reader.

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Read SNES roms out of their cartridge. Read and write save games from and to the cartridge. (For SA-1 carts you need the Adafruit clock generator which is not included)

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Write flashroms for making custom SNES reproduction carts. (flashrom adapter pcb included but without the zif sockets)

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Read and write Nintendo Power SF Memory cartridges. (Adafruit clock generator not mandatory but makes it more reliable)

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Read Game Boy (Color) roms out of their cartridge. Read and write save games from and to the cartridge.

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Write custom made Game Boy flashcartridges based on a MBC5 game and a 29F033 flashrom.

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Read Game Boy Advance roms out of their cartridge. Read and write save games from and to the cartridge.

Not everything is working 100% all the time as I am still in the process of fixing bugs.
Anyway I hope I didn't bore you too much :pika:
Edited by sanni, Nov 25 2017, 01:15 PM.
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Rocky
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Not boring at all, this was a very interesting read man. I love seeing custom N64 projects like this that make the community stronger! How did you learn to do all this stuff? I'm guessing you have a programming/engineering background? :capice:
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Nindif
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Awesome project Sanni.
How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living? - Henry David Thoreaux

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sanni
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Thanks :)
Edited by sanni, Nov 25 2017, 05:58 AM.
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Cabanon
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that's some serious dedication projet. looks very good and it works.
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Bamboozled
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Edited! Sorry.
Edited by Bamboozled, Apr 23 2016, 03:32 PM.
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kartmaster
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This is really cool, Sanni. Pretty inspirational. You have me trying to think of ideas I could use adruino for now (but would be within reach of an ultra beginner) haha.
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sanni
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I ported the complete controller test I wrote 2013 over to the Cartridge Reader platform, because why wouldn't you want that ;)

Edited by sanni, Nov 25 2017, 05:59 AM.
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sanni
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Since the voltage regulator included in every Arduino is 5V but the N64 carts need 3.3V, the N64 adapter comes with a new voltage regulator onboard which powers both the Arduino and the N64 cartridge. I also put a Controller Pak connector on the pcb so you can read and write mpk files from and to the Controller Pak.

Now I can finally hunt down those bugs in the code without accidently ripping of a wire like I did with my previous wire and perf board build of the adapter.
You can't imagine how much it hurts when you spend 2 hours reading every line in your code twice because suddently writing to eeproms stopped working and you can't find what you changed that caused the issue and then you notice that there is a loose wire dangling around that should have been connected...like two hours ago. >_<
Edited by sanni, May 3 2016, 01:14 PM.
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mikezelot
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Star Wolfs Worst Nightmare
Do you plan on making more and selling them?
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Both the n64 and the ps4 have 64 bit processors. Now I'm not saying the 64 could run crysis at 60 fps but I'm not saying it couldn't.
115 games
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LinusHofmann
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Quote:
 
...find what you changed that caused the issue and then you notice that there is a loose wire dangling around that should have been connected...like two hours ago.


Sounds awfully familiar that experience! :facepalm: Haha :D

This is another really awesome project, never even thought about carts losing saves being an issue. But after 20 years the batts have got to be getting pretty low in there. Cool stuff, looks super professional too.

Was curious what the voltage on those batteries was at so I grabbed a random game and whipped it open, DK jap, nope eeprom, then another (Mario 64 players choice) of course it uses eeprom as well so I had bad luck trying to find a battery today.

I should probably go through all my games, check the ones with batteries/sram memory and make sure I'm not at risk of losing something I'd be annoyed about.

Cheers
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sanni
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Just got the final revision of the pcb's in

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LinusHofmann
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Looking very nice!
Out of interest, where do you get your PCBs made?
I've only tried OShPark myself.
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sanni
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I'm using elecrow.com. :wub:
Only downside is that you have to buy 10 pcbs each time.
Edited by sanni, Apr 14 2016, 05:23 AM.
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buddy1983
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This is the sort of thing I would love to get into but my soldering skills are so far behind being able to do this. I'd end up with big blobs of solder everywhere.
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LinusHofmann
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Ooh I'm tempted, but I don't think I'd get round to actually doing anything with it for ages. :)
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sanni
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mikezelot
Feb 23 2016, 09:06 AM
Do you plan on making more and selling them?
I will put the 8 spare pcb's I still have together into complete ready to use standalone units and sell them.

They will look exactly like the last two images I posted and include the Arduino, the display and everything with the only difference being that instead of the Controller Pak slot on the back I will add a N64 controller plug. So you can read both the Controller Pak and test your Controller.

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All the parts have been ordered and should arrive in about 6 weeks.
Edited by sanni, Apr 20 2016, 11:03 AM.
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sanni
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Made a little video:


Features:
- Reads SNES roms and reads/writes save games from and to the SNES cartridge
Supported cartridge types so far: LoRom, HiRom, ExHiRom, SuperFX, SuperFX2, SA1(can't write save back to SA1)
- Read and writes SFC Nintendo Power Cartridges
- Reads N64 roms and reads/writes save games(4K/16K Eeprom + Sram + Flashram)
- Reads and writes N64 controller paks and also can test a N64 controller
- Reads Game Boy Roms and their save game and also writes the save game back to the cartridge (only tested with MBC5)
- Programs Flashroms like 29F016, 29F032, 29F033, 29F1610 and 29L3211(needs 3.3V).

Fast forwarding did mess up the stop watch, so here are the actual times:
- reading Super Mario 64 (8MB): 39 seconds
- reading LoRom SNES Game including Checksum calculation (1MB): 10 seconds
- reading HiRom SNES Game including Checksum calculation (3MB): 26 seconds
- reading Nintendo Power cart (4MB): 19 seconds
- writing Nintendo Power cart including verification (4MB): 3 minutes 33 seconds
- writing 29F033 flashrom(4MB): 2 minutes
Edited by sanni, Jun 1 2016, 11:43 PM.
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Cabanon
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how much r u asking for these little babies ?
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sanni
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I haven't received the parts yet so I can't say with absolute certainty.
I will only sell a handful though in hope to get at least some of the sunk costs back.


Edited by sanni, May 31 2016, 02:39 PM.
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Cabanon
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you might wanna try ebay and see how quick it sells. you could be very surprized how fast it could go. y'never know.
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Rocky
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Can I reserve one? :P
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jonesalmighty
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sanni
Apr 24 2016, 04:45 AM
I haven't received the parts yet so I can't say with absolute certainty but I'm aiming for 43 USD + shipping for a complete ready-to-use unit if nothing goes wrong from here on out.

I will only sell a handful though in hope to get at least some of the sunk costs back. So far I've spend over 650 USD and countless hours developing this thing.
But hey it's a hobby and don't we all spend crazy amounts of time and money on our hobbies. :phear:



I would also love to reserve one. I don't mind if it is a kit I need to solder together myself, I just haven't got the time or patience for hunting down all of the components needed at the moment... :n64: :yeah:
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sanni
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I'm not selling any do-it-yourself kits right now.
Edited by sanni, Jun 7 2016, 04:32 AM.
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HelloGoodLuck
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I'd really really love one of these. Any chance I can be wait listed for one?
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sanni
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I started to write the documentation while I'm waiting for the parts to arrive:
https://github.com/sanni/cartreader/wiki
Edited by sanni, Jun 7 2016, 04:32 AM.
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nickelplant
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Reading through the wiki now, I might need to build one my self. :D
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sanni
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Go for it :)
It's a really useful tool and if you have any questions/problems with your build just write me a message.

It feels so good to be able to backup your Zelda savegames that you spend so much time on before the battery in the cartridge runs out of juice and you lose all your hard work.

I also like to download savegames from the internet and put them on my cartridges for example if my friends come over to play Diddy Kong Racing and none of the courses are unlocked because I just received the cartridge. With this it's just a matter of seconds and we can have all the race tracks.

Or in commemoration of our childhood I gifted a Goldeneye cartridge to one of my friends and it was just cool to copy over my 007 save to his cartridge so he can have all the levels and all the cheats and just have casual fun without unlocking everything first.

And don't get me started on Controller Paks, you can never have enough unless you own this cartridge reader and can backup your Controller Paks at anytime, so you only need one Controller Pak from now on. :lol:
Edited by sanni, Jun 2 2016, 05:34 AM.
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nickelplant
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I have so much time put into OoT saves from my childhood that I would love to save for nostalgia. :link:

I already have some of the odds and ends laying around so I think I could build it cheap.
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lugia7
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Beautiful work sanni!
I'll keep and eye and try to get one!
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