Oh, EarthBound. Whatever will I do once you leave me? You're irreplaceable, as Nintendo won't re-sell you, and your internal battery will only last so long. What'll I do once you pass into Inanimate Object Heaven?
...I speak hypothetically for the sake of the article, as this cart already did away with my completed save one morning when the game glitched up. I started a new one, but since I've already played the game completely though twice, I didn't have the motivation. But assuming there WAS a hard-won 100% complete save here, how would I rescue it?
There's no way,
right? It's stuck in there, like every other SNES save I've built
up, and its extinction is assured.
....Except this isn't entirely true. If you can gather the right resources, you can rescue the saves of almost any game for any system. If you never knew how, you're about to....
|A German geek has
created a homebrew 16-bit solution: the Retrode
(not to be confused with the Retron, a similar
product that plays old carts but does not transfer data).
The Retrode also works for Genesis, and can back up any
save data from either console's games (including 32X).
The saves will work with any emulator, and unlike similar
unlicensed products, you can transfer your saves BACK to
the carts. The Retrode will even let you play games raw
off the carts using your PC, smartphone or whatever
you've attached to it as a monitor. Which is kinda
pointless with emulation, but the option is there.
The Retrode is a nice thing to have if you can afford the over-$80 asking price plus overseas shipping. But it's only a solution for two consoles, and there are plenty of other classic gaming systems with saves in peril!
N64: If you're worried about your N64 saves, there's good news. Most N64 carts contained EEPROM or Flash memory chips instead of batteries. Data recorded in Flash/EEPROM lasts a lot longer than data held together by battery energy, which is fortunate as a lot of good N64 games (as in, many by Rare) may never be re-released. There is a limit to how many times Flash can be rewritten before it bugs out, but this number is somewhere past 200,000 or so. You don't need to get your saves out of the cartridge, because everything will still be there if you plug the cart in 50 years from now. Sweet!*
*THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS.
Twelve, in fact. For unknown reasons, a dozen N64 games used batteries instead of Flash chips. They are the following:
Harvest Moon 64
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Major League Baseball featuring Ken Griffey Jr.
The New Tetris
Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber
Resident Evil 2
Super Smash Bros.
WWF: Wrestlemania 2000
Well, rats. Some good games are on that list. There have been so many re-releases of Ocarina of Time that you likely have a replayed save somewhere else....but what to do about Ogre Battle? That would be a tough save file to rebuild. Your only hope in rare cases like this is the Doctor V64, a Japanese device released shortly after the N64 came out. The V64 Jr, a smaller model from 1998, can plug into PCs and transfer data. This is the only known way.
GAME BOY: The good news is, someone came up with a solution to preserve Game Boy saves. The bad news is, that was a LONG time ago, back when that kind of cartridge was still being used. If you hunt around, you may be able to find the Game Boy Transferer 2, but you may have a harder time finding a port on your PC for the gigantic plug the device takes.
Over half the people searching for a way to rescue Game Boy saves have Pokemon in mind -- that may be what brought YOU to this page. Those old cartridges hold dozens of irreplaceable creatures from your childhood, and the batteries keeping them in existence aren't getting any younger.
You may have heard that batteries in the first generation carts (Red, Blue, Yellow) are dying out, but it depends on your particular cart and your treatment of it in the past. Many of them are not only still alive but should remain that way for a few more years. The second generation (Gold, Silver, Crystal) is a larger problem....beginning from that point, Nintendo started putting internal clocks into the carts. They used the same batteries, which were drained much faster. If you're reading this and you haven't transferred the mons in your Gold, Silver or Crystal cart yet...it's too late. Your battery's dead.
There's a much simpler way to save your Pokemon from the abyss if your cart still works, and it doesn't involve tracking down an obscure device. All you really need is a Nintendo 64, a Transfer Pak and Pokemon Stadium 1 or 2. Plug the Transfer Pak into the bottom of your controller, insert Stadium into the console and flip it on. You now have the ability to lift Pokemon off the Game Boy cart and into the safe Flash memory of the N64 cart, where up to 2000 Pokemon can be stored.
Now if your cart dies, so what? You can replace it with pocket change and you can always bring your old monsters back.
I never know what names I'm going to find when I boot up these old carts. Get Fuzzy characters?
GAME BOY ADVANCE: In Pokemon terms, I'm not sure which option is more expensive: tracking down the long-out-of-production Flash Advance Linker by Lik-Sang, or getting your hands on Pokemon Box, the version of Stadium's storing application for Ruby and Sapphire. You will also need a GBA and Nintendo's Gamecube-to-GBA connectivity cable, but Pokemon Box is by far the hardest and rarest Gamecube disc to get, as it was only available online and at Nintendo's New York store. Prepare to pay mucho pesos.
Starting with Fire Red/Leaf Green and onwards, Pokemon games stopped using batteries, so you can quit worrying at that mark in history.
I had a normal shot of this file screen, but one morning it loaded like this. Decided to use the more interesting photo.
PLAYSTATION: This one couldn't be simpler. First off, every PS1 and PS2 memory card uses Flash, so they will remain responsive for decades. That's all well and good for playing games on older machines, but what if you want to play them on a PS3? It contains no memory card slots.
|Back when they made fully backwards-compatible units, Sony proved themselves useful for once and provided their own solution. The PS3 Memory Card Adaptor plugs into any PS3 with a USB cable. You can use the cable to save games directly on the card or transfer them to the PS3 hard drive. From there, you can also upload the saves to a hard drive or USB stick and get them onto your computer, preserving them forever. This is one instance where the 60 gig Fat model is nice to have around -- otherwise you can only preserve PS1 saves, not PS2.|
Maybe you don't care about saves....mayhaps you're the type who wouldn't mind playing through an old favorite again, but won't as long as the battery inside can't be trusted. Replacing a cart battery is actually a simple process....provided you have the right tools and know how to use them. These tools include a soldering rod and a special size of screwdriver bit. If you've never soldered before, don't make the cart your first attempt and don't listen to the YouTube videos that claim tape works just as well. (Not for long it doesn't.) If you can't risk taking the life of your cart into your own hands, find a professional. A lot of independent game retailers offer repair services, and with many of them, replacing old cart batteries is on their list.
If there are none near you, there are plenty of individuals online who run their own battery replacement businesses...if you're willing to risk sending the cart across the country. But six bucks isn't bad for twenty extra years of playtime.
There's a way to preserve a save for almost every kind of console that had them, but some solutions are more of a pain than others. Though most of the saves are non-transferable once you get them on the computer, they will work with any emulator, so they can still be played with (and if you have a save, you own your own copy of the game). The best case scenario is for the 16-bit generations. With the Retrode, you can copy your save, replace the battery and paste the old save back in. With that kind of power, you might as well start your own battery replacement business and make some extra money. Hmm......
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