Review of N8 Everdrive should really be one sentence; It works as intended with some exceptions. Check the unofficial compatibility list to see what works and what doesn’t.
Flashcarts are essentially a way to play a game’s image on real hardware. This has its benefits in that the game is supposedly going to run exactly the same as the real cartridge would. After all, the two share the exact same data. This is not exactly true, as game cartridges allowed developers to use different chips to add something special to the games. For example, Akumajou Densetsu, the Japanese Castlevania III, has a VRC6 coprocessor chip inside, which adds two pulse channels and a saw-wave channel. This makes the music sound much richer and more robust, and the music had to be simplified for the Western NES release due to the machine lacking support for expanded audio. Everdrive, or any other flashcart for the matter, do not have this chip inside of them. Instead, the chip’s functions are emulated.
Everdrive does admirable job in emulating the hardware the games were on. While NES/FC games have wide variety of hardware inside the cartridges, only handful of games use specialised chips. Some companies put out their own pieces as well, like the aforementioned VRC6 from Konami. While emulation on computer is pretty much wholly accurate, a lot of times they do away with some of the quirks of the original hardware, namely slowdowns. Other additional possibilities apply, like choice of different palettes, which can be a neat thing, even on physical consoles.
The Everdrive handles Famicom Disc System games just without any hitches, assuming your ROM image is good. Side changing is automated. I’ve been playing unlicensed games with the Everdrive, as there as some really mind-boggling peculiarities to explore for whole five minutes at a time. The FDS has a surprising amount of unlicensed games.
As I have the Famicom variant, it came inside a Famicom cartridge style casing. I say styled, because it has screws on the back and a cutout for the Micro-SD card and is made of different plastic. The slot was a bit too high in my piece, which is why I added a sliver of gray plastic to the top part. This stops misplacing the card inside the cartridge itself rather than being pushed inside the card slot. The casing is also slightly higher than standard Famicom cartridge.
The plastic used is very similar to the real deal, but slightly softer and allows the cartridge to bend more. My piece also had an awful self-printed label on it, which I intend to replace in the near future. There was no label on the backside at all, which I find lacking in a product of this price range.
The main question I had for the Everdrive was whether or not it would ultimately end up being the similarly useless thing as having ROMs on your computer’s HDD. Emulation sure simplifies things, but in the end it’s emulation and not the real thing. It’s like eating a copy of your favourite chocolate. It sure tastes similar, but it’s got that bona fide fake taste. We’ve talked about emulation before, let’s not go into that discussion here.
I have found myself enjoying Everdrive in a very different fashion from emulation on PC. Rather than giving some random game a go for five minutes until I’m bored, playing on actual hardware has that something in it. Putting the cartridge in, putting the console one and the software is on. It’s straightforward and fast. The OS in Everdrive is not pretty, and it only serves as the most minimal way to get you to the games. It’s a bit finicky at places, like how you are to input Game Genie codes before launching the game, but all this seems to be designed speed in mind. You don’t want to dilly dally in the menus.
Anyway, playing games on the real hardware and with the intended controller elevates Everdrive. It’s all in the feeling and looks of it all and how it runs. It is, without a doubt, the best play to a game on a hardware it was intended to be played on without having the real copy. Everdrive won’t ever be the same thing as the real deal, but it comes damn close. It’s an option, if you don’t want to put any stress on your collection, and of course it allows you to try out games before deciding whether or not you want to pay that overly high price some sellers are asking.
Is Everdrive worth it? If you’re in the niche who want to play ROMs on real hardware without collecting physical games, this is for you. Everdrives are constantly being developed forwards and the aim is minimize the incompatibilities even further. I do see it trivialising any game to an extent, as one of the thing with physical medium is that you feel the work you’ve done to gain it in your very hands. Everdrive in itself emulates that physicality, but is that enough? If your answer is Yes, then Everdrive N8 and its brethren might be up your alley.