SD2SNES – The Ultimate Super Nintendo Flash Cart
Good thing Spider-Man’s priorities are straight. It is difficult to explain the SD2SNES without offering a frame of reference. Many people who have invested some time into this hobby have at least caught wind of flash carts, the descendent of the decidedly cumbersome and elusive cartridge copiers of yore. Gone are the days of fiddling with 1.44 inch floppies, questionable hardware, and shady back alley dealers. And that was all under the assumption you could even find one to begin with. Today, an entire library of games can be stored on a single SD card, housed within a single compact cartridge. As convenient as that is, the evolution to flash carts has not, however, mitigated one ongoing concern: which one do I buy? How do they differ?
The Super Nintendo, being one of the most popular and beloved classic platforms, is home to numerous flash carts but the SD2SNES is simply at the head of the pack for a variety of reasons so we’ll take this bit by bit.
One issue that has plagued both copiers and flash carts alike since the beginning has been the special co-processors that give a number of games their ‘oomph’: DSP-1 (Super Mario Kart, Pilotwings), Super FX (Star Fox, Doom), Cx4 (Mega Man X2/X3), SA1 (Super Mario RPG, Kirby’s Super Star), etc. Getting games that use these enhancement chips to work has been highly hit and miss. Only DSP-1 games have seen success based on how the DSP enhancement chip functions.
Going just by the numbers, this does not appear to be a big problem. Only about 60 games in the entire SNES library (consisting of over 2000 games across all regions) use these chips. So is it that much of an issue to lose compatibility with 3% of the library? For many the answer is yes. As it turns out, that 3% makes up some of the best games the console has to offer.
The current SD2SNES firmware (v0.1.3 as of this writing) supports all DSP revisions. It also supports Cx4 which is something others do not. In addition, this particular cart has the potential for further compatibility through firmware upgrades. That is really what separates the SD2SNES from its competitors. While others have to answer the question “Will Super FX work?” with “No, never,” the SD2SNES answers it with “Not right now but maybe with future firmware.” And since the firmware is very easy to upgrade, any SD2SNES owner immediately benefits from enhanced compatibility or new features as they come from creator Ikari01.
Furthermore, the SD2SNES supports an enhancement chip like no other, the MSU1. To be clear, the MSU1 enhancement chip is technically not a chip. It was the brainchild of bsnes creator byuu. It exists as a software implementation of a physical enhancement chip that does not but could potentially exist and only the bsnes emulator and the SD2SNES support it. The obvious question to ask is what’s so special about an enhancement chip no games actually use? The answer is “homebrew.” MSU1 allows the Super Nintendo to play actual FMV and CD quality audio and a few homebrew games (Super Mario Odyssey, Super Road Blaster) already put it to good use. The SD2SNES is currently the only means by which to play these games on actual Super Nintendo hardware.
With all these features, there is one downside. The SD2SNES is substantially more expensive than its brethren, coming in at about $190 for the board alone and about $260 for the deluxe cartridge case, packaging, and accessories you see below from Stone Age Gamer. So, while it is the best of the bunch, it is also a real investment.
The good news is that Stone Age Gamer’s deluxe treatment is fantastic and justifies the price tag. They offer two distinct cart shells, a standard North American shell and a Universal shell that resembles a Super Famicom cart but with the requisite modifications necessary to fit in an American Super Nintendo. Each shell can also be painted black or purple, depending on taste. The necessary holes for the SD card and LEDs, the paint job, and the glossy labels are professional and high quality, not something easily replicated by the average person. The deluxe also includes a 4GB SD card (upgradable to 16, 32, or 64), a 3ft retractable USB cable (the SD2SNES has a currently unsupported USB port reserved for possible future use), an instruction booklet, some promotional stickers, and a clamshell case with insert. It’s the Cadillac treatment for the Cadillac of flash carts.
There is not much else to say about the SD2SNES other than it represents the next evolution of flash carts which themselves were an evolution from the now ancient copiers. For those who are looking for a convenient means by which to store and transport your game collection as well as quality homebrew software, the SD2SNES is the best you can get.