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nightrnr
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Thrills & Woes of the Super Card (GBA)

by nightrnr Wed Aug 28, 2013 7:51 pm

...and other GBA flash nuisances.

Incoming wall of text :!: For my questions, skip to the end of post:

Intro:
I thought about reviving an older topic, but I thought this deserved fresh attention.
I'm no stranger to flash carts at this point. I broke cut my teeth on the EZ-flash IV (which is pretty awesome for GBA games), messed around with some DS carts, and had some fun with the simple, but enjoyable GBA movie players.

So before anyone says "Just use those", that's completely besides the point.
I just like seeing how much potential a device can have and re-purposing older handhelds that have been tossed by the wayside.

Most recently, I've been trying the Super Card (mini)SD (transparent purple card). It's still available and very affordable. As such, I think it's worthy of the attention of anyone with an GBA(SP) lying around.

Now, I know it's known to have slowdown issues with some GBA games, which is fine, if that's just how it is. But I've yet to come across a consistent and comprehensive compatibility list. I've even run into several forums where people claim to have games running at full speed (more or less) that most say otherwise.

A lot of how fast you can get a GBA game going has to do with what settings you have or leave out when converting the rom. Real-time-save and In-Game-Reset, I can live without, where necessary. But then I see other things you can do to speed up/fix, like a prefetch patch:
http://forum.supercard.sc/forum.php?mod ... 1#pid26966
and whatever this post is suggesting:
http://www.scdev.org/forum/index.php/topic,7770.0.html
I posted a solution near the end of this thread: http://scdev.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t= ... c&start=15

Using the method I describe will make FF4/5 run as fast as is possible on a supercard.

The link is inaccessible to me :(

Right now, I am just experimenting to see how Final Fantasy VI plays (slow battles).
However, I wonder what other games I should bother trying; I'm not sure I'm up for copying 3 or 4 of every game that has slowdown just to see if eliminating certain options will make a difference.

What I've learned about the Supercard so far:
-The Included emulators (while convenient) are lacking (slowdown in several games), compile your own with the latest versions
-GBA Games that have slowdown seem random to me
-Game saves must be stored in the same folder as the game
-Game Saves must be manually updated
-will only work with a 2GB or less minSD or microSD w/adapter. I tried a 1.8GB partition (Fat16 format) with no luck getting it to recognize the card.
-very few people agree on what games are playable at acceptable speeds (for example, I found Metal Slug Advance fine while another small list reported heavy slowdown)

Questions:
1. any info on this link?:
http://scdev.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t= ... c&start=15
from the post mentioned?:
http://www.scdev.org/forum/index.php/topic,7770.0.html
2. Are there any comprehensive compatibility lists? (Including whether turning off Real-Time-Save and/or Reset helps any)
3. Who else here has a Super Card Mini SD? (feel free to share your musings)
4. Am I missing something crucial about this cart (other than a lot of people say it sucks for GBA roms)?

--EDIT--
Just found this:
http://web.archive.org/web/200904090757 ... ASlowdowns
Which explains a lot that I heard mentioned on forums like fastrestart and why roms run slower (slow SDRAM)

Still need to try fastrestart on FF6 ti see if it makes a difference...
Last edited by nightrnr on Sat Aug 31, 2013 3:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Anapan
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Re: Thrills & Woes of the Super Card (GBA)

by Anapan Sat Aug 31, 2013 12:26 am

I still love mine. I spent a lot of time trying to get all the games I wanted on it going full speed using every trick I could find and doing lots of testing. There are a bunch I couldn't get going (sometimes just satisfactorily) unless I used the QPC save feature (Quick Power Cycle)

I don't think I've ever seen a comprehensive list; You can check the Supercard's bios change list for some games that got support through updates.

Games that don't play full speed no matter what:

Street Fighter II
King of Fighters EXII
Tekken
Grand Theft Auto
Mario Kart Super Circuit
F-Zero - Climax (J)
Need for Speed Carbon - Own the City
Pinball of the Dead
Riviera - The Promised Land

Games that don't work at all:
Phantasy Star 1 from Phantasy Star Collection
Emulator: PC Engine - Castlevania Rondo of Blood
Darius R
Homebrew Orn

Games that need QPC (other patches may be necessary too):
Breakout Lander Millipede
Elevator Action Returns
Homebrew 4K Minigames
Uno & Skip-Bo
Megaman Zero 4
Polarium DB
Super Monkey Ball Jr
Tetris Advance
Homebrew AGB_Hack
Homebrew AGB_Rogue
Final Fantasy VI

The Supercard doesn't have a real-time-clock, but the games that need one can be patched.

I mostly only use the internal emulators on it. It's great being able to just dump roms on it with blank .sav files and having them work. The emulators are a bit outdated, but they mostly work fine. One thing I found is the PC Engine emulator only loads Japanese region games. You need to manually create GBA roms for the US games.

Some posts I made here earlier:

viewtopic.php?f=2&p=142343
viewtopic.php?p=137018#p137018

PM me :)
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Re: Thrills & Woes of the Super Card (GBA)

by nightrnr Sat Aug 31, 2013 2:28 am

Hey, thanks!

Yeah, I've run into those other topics. It was either necro-bump or make a new one :wink: . It's nice to have the links handy though.
Games that don't play full speed no matter what:

Street Fighter II
King of Fighters EXII

Those 2 make me :cry:
So do KoF EX1 and Street Fighter Alpha 3 work then?
At least Alpha 3 works fine :) , too bad about KOFII, but I'll try the 1st one sometime the 1st one works at least.

I forgot to mention that my Supercard came with the newest firmware (1.85) and used the latest converting software(v2.71). So any of my own testing has that for a base.

As convenient as the internal emulators are, I was less than impressed with several games.
Zelda II and Mega Man 5, for instance, played at about 56-57fps, which is just enough to throw you off your game. Messed with the settings as much as I could with no improvement (actually, I think the 56fps WAS the improvement).
Then I tried Golden Axe Warrior (terrible slowdown), and decided that the stock emulators just wouldn't do.

So, I'll make my own batches of games. The main menu scrolls one at a time, so too many files are a pain anyways. But as long as your willing to do the PC work, the Supercard is excellent for emulation.

The GBA movie Player (CF version) lets you just drop the nes, sms, gb files on there and use whatever version of the emulator you want, which is cool. It scrolls a page via pushing right/left too, so long lists aren't as much of an issue (I see that the supercard uses L/R buttons to scroll). It's almost a tie between the 2 cards when it comes to the 8-bit gaming.

As for GBA games, I just need to see what can be coerced to play full speed, and what is beyond its ability. I don't mind experimenting, but I DO need to know what is likely to make a difference. So far, I have turned everything off (no in game reset or RTS) and used that pfpatch (v0.9), which seemed to slightly speed up Final Fantasy VI, but battles are still a bit on the sleep inducing side. Fastreset (v0.1) made the game slower, so I still don't know what that guy from the links I posted were suggesting for the FF games maybe I patched things in the wrong order?).

I even used a real mini SD card (was using a micro to mini adapter), with no noticeable improvement.

Anything else you suggest for that game, or is this as good as it gets?
--Edit-- Did a little more research and I think the Euro version is a tad better... but not by much by my experimenting. I think I've got it the best it can get on the Supercard.

More ?'s:

1. Do any of the 256mb games play well on any setting?

2. Does game Size make a difference. If 128mb+ games (16MB+) are an issue, I'll just stay away from them on this card. (from what I'm seeing, it doesn't make a difference).

3.What other Patches would be needed for Mega Man Zero 4? That's a game I might want on my Supercard.
I can handle doing QPC and no RTS when needed, but that's a given.

4. Where do you find the Supercard's bios change list? It wasn't with the firmware files.

In any case, I like the card and might order a few for my other neglected systems (GBA-original, GBPlayer, Micro, DS).
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Re: Thrills & Woes of the Super Card (GBA)

by Anapan Fri Sep 06, 2013 4:45 am

Yes, very sad. I have handed off my GB Micro to people while on the bus a couple times (Playing GITS or FF8 on PSP) and had them exclaim "Whoa - SFII... Wait, why is it slow?"

Not surprising your card came with the latest bios; It hasn't been updated in ages (about 4 years ago), and the updates weren't that signifigant anyway. Mostly internal patches for specific games applied at load-time to compensate for hardware defencies as they were identified, emulator updates didn't happen on the last bunch. I have to give some kudos to the software developer tho, he was very resourceful and listened to user complaints constantly back in the day trying his best to get every game working with the hardware when he was active on the forums.

I just tended to work on the games I played the most, and would've actually built a batch program to turn each one into a separate .GBA rom which would've made the compilation bigger and I'd lose my game count. You're right tho... I think I'll do that for my next revision and lose the games that aren't good enough to actually attempt playing.

One thing that I did was create a compilation rom for the Famicom Disk System games I wanted to play using FCA - Radia Senki, Seiken Psycho Calibur, and Excite Bike (saveable level editor).

I also make a 2-player only NES rom for link-cable usage. My brother and I played a lot of NES games on GBA.

FCA's scaling routine is much different from Pocketnes's, and in most ways superior (no need for those text-fix patches for NES roms on Pocketnes). If it weren't for the bad compatability, it'd be a superior emulator for that feature alone. As it is, it'd be a OCD dream project/nightmare to compile a comparative list of compatable games and their playability. (OCD ppl please chime in - I'm very interested, but don't have the guts to take it on)

Just using a directory structure to organize your compilations is enough, but I really prefer to reduce the time-to-game. Just having this conversation makes me want to remake my compilation.

Now I'm wondering if the load-time for pogoshell might make for a better experience - Does it suffer from the slowram thingy, or could you make the experience of getting to any game that played better worth having it load first before you get to a master game menu?

It's been a couple of years since I really messed with this stuff, but I think I remember that there was an order preference with the patches to get optimal results (don't quote me on that)
I did have a routine when I was compatability testing small batches, but I cannot remember it at all - I found post-it notes for them, but the x, /, -, *, + code wasn't documented...

About the Mini-SD. I have a bin of micro, mini, SD, CF, MS, MMS, etc cards. The SC doesn't care. Buy the cheapest - it won't mind. Get 2GB of non-SDHC tho, it can do that so why not get twice the fun?

___

256? Dunno. I doubt it. I've never had anything good happen with them.

Game Size? I don't think so. It's mostly programming tricks with the vblank that make it lag.

MMZ4 - See PM

Revision list - used to be in a different place, but I tracked it down - Supercard.cn

There are better cards now, but I like the Supercard's interface, loading speed, and instant emu-rom loading. I wish it were documented how to cook your own bios rom so it'd have the latest emus.
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Re: Thrills & Woes of the Super Card (GBA)

by nightrnr Sun Sep 08, 2013 2:09 am

Yeah, so I think I've given up on getting FF6 to work at an enjoyable state. I guess I'll just save that for my EZ-Flash IV cart exclusively (but I'll still keep it on my Supercard too).
Even tried the Soundfixed hack (with all the other tricks) and really didn't notice any real improvement (outside of the music, which rocks like it's on the SNES 8) ).

I think I'm just going to keep it simple and only patch games for saves and do hard resets. If I absolutely need a game to have Real-time-saves (not likely), I'll cross those bridges one at a time.

So, no hardcore OCD testing for me, but I will share what works at good speed for me and what doesn't.
I know these games work well:
LoZelda:ALttP
Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland
Dual Blades
G&W Gallery 4
Street Fighter Alpha 3

...so there's good hope for a lot of others too... just need to test 'em.

Anapan wrote:There are better cards now, but I like the Supercard's interface, loading speed, and instant emu-rom loading. I wish it were documented how to cook your own bios rom so it'd have the latest emus.

I share those sentiments. I wish the emulator just had to be at the root of the memory card or allow you to flash the file via menu or something.
As for better cards, I still can't get over how affordable and available the Supercard is right now. Despite it's limitations, there's still a lot that it CAN do. Also they make great options for game starved nephews, whom I'd much rather not use/abuse/lose actual game carts. Just tape that thing in with several choice games loaded, and they're good for a long while.
...and anyway, for some reason I just like flirting with potential gameplay boundaries of hardware.
I mean, lately I've been having fun just playing the sparse selection of games that the GBA Movie Player (SD version) can do. I have a GBA-SP unit devoted just to that.

I don't really use pogoshell (although I think my GBA movie player CF version uses it or something similar). Making batches of games is effective enough for me, but I understand the appeal of having all games in a nice structured list.

FCA doesn't interest me too much in practice, especially if compatibility is low. I never played Famicom-Disc games, so it's not a huge loss IMO. Saveable tracks in Excitebike is cool and all, but save states will do just fine too.

I'll post my next findings in a day or 3.
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Re: Thrills & Woes of the Super Card (GBA)

by nightrnr Wed Sep 11, 2013 3:32 am

Here's my most recent findings:

I tried doing the "fastreset" patch on a few of my games AFTER I already converted them to the memory card. So far, I notice no ill effects, even though instructions say to patch, then convert. I hope it's fine to do so.

I wonder if patching restart/sleep options via GBAtool is any better/worse? for games on the Supercard?, or if it even works (and if so, why does "fastrestart exist"?

I'm starting to see the need for the reset option, as I have a 2 Supercards, 1 which seems to have a dying battery. It ALMOST killed my Final Fantasy VI game save (which I have been playing, even though it's slowish). QPC (less than a second) to save (near)corrupted the file, but I somehow managed to get it to load after a few tries and re-save everything on my good card. Too bad a reset option slows the games down so much :( Still playing/saving it via QPC on good faith and a couple extra save backups I alternate.

So, to all who have or plan to get a Supercard, Do NOT trust the battery. Fastrestart (not the client version) is probably your best option to ensure the safety of your saves (unless you vigilantly replace the battery, which I'm a bit scared to do on a tiny and packed board like this; batteries resting directly on chips/components make me nervous).

Tried a few 256mb games with good success (no patches except saver, so far):
Yggdra Union
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team
Legend of Spyro: Eternal Night

I hear Kingdom Hearts:CoM is pretty slow and Riviera doesn't work, so I didn't bother with those 2 yet.

So the Supercard has taught me that size doesn't matter :mrgreen: . It's just a fickle little monster.

Tried the Castlevania games and noticed some slowdown when a marginal amount of action (more tha 2 enemies, a big enemy, or lots of attacking/throwing crap, etc). But for some reason it doesn't bother me too much.

Anyone still reading? Good, I have a question:
Does anyone know where to find the Supercard Client software version 2.50? One compatibility list had Mario Kart as compatible using that particular version to convert. I doubt it's accurate, but I'd like to try it out. Already tried version 2.57, with no improvement.

...and my quest for Supercard nirvana continues...
Last edited by nightrnr on Thu Sep 12, 2013 3:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thrills & Woes of the Super Card (GBA)

by zerexerez Wed Sep 11, 2013 9:35 am

nightrnr wrote:...Anyone still reading? Good, I have a question:
Does anyone know where to find the Supercard Client software version 2.50? One compatibility list had Mario Kart as compatible using that particular version to convert. I doubt it's accurate, but I'd like to try it out. Already tried version 2.57, with no improvement.

...and my quest for Supercard nirvana continues...


Try their official download site.
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Re: Thrills & Woes of the Super Card (GBA)

by nightrnr Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:26 pm

zerexerez wrote:Try their official download site.

Hey thanks! :)

I'll have to do some more trials tonight/tomorrow.
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Re: Thrills & Woes of the Super Card (GBA)

by nightrnr Wed Sep 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Here's some more results:

Mario Kart is ALMOST playable if you disable everything (including saver) and do the pfpatch. The first cicuit isn't too bad, but I tried one of the later tracks and it was a choppy mess.
The SC software v2.50 did not help any. I assume that it was the 1st version that Loaded/played the game and that's all.

Super Street Fighter II Turbo Revival is maybe playable if Barebones as well. I was able to play through as Blanka and most as Ken. Slowdown is noticeable, but manageable. Worth having on your card IMO.

Konomi Krazy Racers seems tolerable (only saver enabled), but I haven't thoroughly tested and it did seem a little slower.

Non-working:
Super Dodgeball (can't get to gameplay; freezes when you try to load save slot, disabling saver has no effect) :cry: .
Duke Nukem Advance
Medal of Honor: Infiltrator
(way choppy Slow)

Working (assuming Saver patch and fastrestart only):
Klonoa 1&2
Tetris Worlds
Bust a Move
Dr. Mario/Puzzle League
Lord of the Rings: Two Towers
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Shining Soul
Shining Soul II
Sonic Advance
Advance Wars (nevermind, fastrestart makes it crash, but works without it)
Mega Man & Bass
Ninja Five-0
(which is unplayable on EZ-flash IV :o :D )

Games that do NOT need a save file, I left out the saver patch and fast restart):
Dark Arena
Sega Arcade Gallery
Sega Smash Pack
(only tested Golden Axe)

Other Notes:
-Fastrestart may be applied AFTER running through SC software, if needed.
-Don't forget to GBATool patch the saves for Flash save games (Shining Soul, Pokemon, Tactics Ogre, Sonic Advance, etc).
-Turning off and Immediately turning on again (split second) SHOULD allow you to update your save without corruption, even with a bad battery; but you need to be VERY fast. This doesn't work on a DS of course, just GBA/SP. Fastrestart is more reliable, but still makes some games slower.

Finally, I've decided that Final Fantasy VI is playable at acceptable speed if you only patch with saver and pfpatch. It's still sluggish, but in my opinion not much different that playing the PS1 port (for different reasons, of course). For this game, the SC is a tolerable alternative if you have no other method. Played up to about halfway and only stopped because I was going for a full bestiary and missed an enemy I can't go back for.
If anyone has ANY other way to speed up gameplay for FF6 on the SC without losing save, please speak up. (I'm still paranoid that I missed something from that lost link from my 1st post: ("Using the method I describe will make FF4/5 run as fast as is possible on a supercard"). But I assume it's just using the pfpatch with bare saver option.
Last edited by nightrnr on Wed Nov 20, 2013 5:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thrills & Woes of the Super Card (GBA)

by nightrnr Sun Oct 06, 2013 12:47 am

Sorry if my updates are annoying, but I'm using this as a test journal of sorts.

Breath of Fire 1 and 2 need the Euro version to work right. I got the US ones running, but they refused to retain the game saves.

Wario Land 4 does NOT work. The game freezes at part or the end of the tutorial level. I didn't try it without fastreset though. So I'll report back on this later.

System compatibility:

Tried the "change game" option on the Game Boy Player and it appears to allow you to update the save file... but you have to be very quick.
I don't trust it completely, as you still have to reload the game (which only partially stays in memory and doesn't load, so what if that occurs with the save?). If I dedicate a card to the GBP, I think I'll just choose games that can handle fastreset.

Also have issues using the Super Card on an original GBA. Sometimes the games don't load right or at all. That might be because of my rechargeable batteries (2x 1.2v NiMH AA's= 2.4 volts) and the GBA SP battery is rated at 3.7 volts. So I theorize that the SC needs a pretty steady flow of 3 volts or so.

Lastly, I put one if my sister's GBA-SP and it kept putting it in original "Game Boy" mode (did not load at all). I discovered that the SC cart was hitting the switch that activates GB/GBC mode (the space that misses the switch was a little thicker than a regular GBA cart and this particular GBA-SP had a pretty close fit)...
...so I shaved off part of the cart and now everything's fine.
Anyways, just thought I'd mention it in case anyone has run into that problem.
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