When you look back at the decades of retro games we’ve played in the past, it’s safe to assume that hundreds of hours of time have been put into our favorite titles. Whether it’s saving Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past or completing the Pokedex in Pokemon Red and Blue, there are some experiences that can’t be replaced. It’s important then, to consider the inherent volatility of cartridge-based games, specifically when it comes to precious save data. Most retro game cartridges are powered by a battery with a limited lifespan, and when that battery dies, your saves are gone for good. If you’re a serious retro game collector with hundreds of physical cartridges, it’s a smart move to create backups of your favorite titles and their relevant save data, for both ease of use and safekeeping. Luckily, the Cartridge Reader, developed by Sanni and manufactured by the Save the Hero Project, is appropriately here to save the day.
"If you're a serious retro game collector with hundreds of physical cartridges, it's a smart move to create backups of your favorite titles and their relevant save data, for both ease of use and safekeeping."
What is the Save the Hero Project Cartridge Reader?
The Cart Reader is a device that enables you to backup the ROM and save data for a wide variety of cartridge-based platforms. It is an open-sourced project that was created by Sanni. Because it is open-source anyone can make the cart reader utilizing Sanni’s Github page. However, for those that want a high quality ready made Cartridge Reader, that’s where “Save The Hero Project” comes into the picture. Tokyo-based “Save the Hero Project” crowd-funded the production of the Cart Reader for those that just want to buy the device and not have to assemble and procure all the individual parts themselves. Outfitted with four slots, the Cartridge Reader supports Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and Nintendo 64 games, as well as Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance cartridges. By simply turning on the device and placing your desired game into its respective slot, you can easily offload your precious save data and ROM data. Now, without worrying about battery decay or digging through your collection, you can access your library of data without sacrificing the integrity of your physical collection.
Cartridge Reader Features and Tutorial
The Cartridge Reader has been designed as an easy-to-use device that any collector can enjoy, regardless of their hardware modification knowledge. While a 1GB microSD card is included with the device, you’ll need to supply your own USB mini-power brick or purchase one online. Any power brick used to charge a mobile phone should suffice. Before turning on the Cartridge Reader, locate the cartridge slot that corresponds with the game cartridge you want to dump and check for indicators that align with the four switches on the side of the device. For example, if you’re using a Super Nintendo cartridge, you will see “5V”, “CLK0”, and “CLK1” underneath the SNES heading. Ensure that the four switches are properly aligned and turn on the power switch.
With the cartridge correctly loaded, you are now able to manipulate the data using the display menu and the two small control knobs. By choosing the appropriate cartridge category, you can dump the ROM and save data directly to the inserted microSD card. Alternatively, you can write save data to the cartridge itself, whether from an emulated device or another cartridge. Once you’re done backing up the data, you can safely eject the microSD card and transfer the data to your main PC, or simply keep it on the card. All data is saved in folders that correspond with the original platform, so it’s easy to tell the difference between your Genesis and Game Boy data. Check out our step-by-step guide to using the Cartridge Reader for more detailed instructions.
Overall, the Cartridge Reader from the Save the Hero Project is shaping up to be an all-in-one back device that every retro collector should consider.
Our Thoughts on the Cartridge Reader
Overall, Sanni’s Cartridge Reader manufactured by the folks over at the “Save the Hero Project” is shaping up to be an all-in-one back device that every retro collector should consider. As an open-source device, it has inherent longevity, as the community can continue to make tweaks even after official support has ended. While it currently only supports a trio of home consoles and the Game Boy handheld family, there are plans to add support for consoles like the Neo Geo Pocket, WonderSwan, and more. With a pleasant variety of colors to choose from, a sleek design, and a vivid display, the Cartridge Reader is also an attractive piece to put on the shelf. There are a handful of downsides, namely the lack of NES support and the price tag of $110, but generally speaking, we think the Cartridge Reader is a great solution for backing up retro game data.