Saturday, June 07, 2008

Game Saves Backup Quest - The Betrayal

This is a warning. Some third-party gaming accessories bear misleading, nigh-deceptive, and confusing product packaging. The two I bought recently certainly didn't do what I'd purchased them for, and can't be returned (clamshell packaging and GameStop's return policy).

I've been looking for ways to backup all my game saves to my PC. Experiences with bad media and accidental erasures have motivated me to preserve my saves. Since none of the platform manufacturers (Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony) provide means to do this, the only option is third-party accessories. I've had mixed fortune with them.

The two I just purchased are the ones that did nothing I wanted them for. They are:

  • Action Replay DS
  • GameShark GameBoy Advance SP
Both products are, I'm sure, fine for their intended purpose - using cheat codes to make games easier. However, when it comes to transferring saves to and from a PC, they turned out to be useless.

The DS product I got has a cable to attach to a PC and upload/download, but it doesn't transfer saves. It only transfers cheat codes. The product I needed (I think) was the Action Replay DS Max, since discontinued. So I ordered one from a reseller. It's a minor difference in the product name, but a huge difference in functionality.

Sadly, the product I got from the reseller was the AR DS, not the Max. I returned it three times, and each time got an AR DS as a replacement. Apparently they've put AR DS units where the Max units were supposed to go...maybe they thought no one would notice? I also tried several big box brick-and-mortar retailers and they also had the AR DS on the shelf where the sticker said AR DS Max. So the only way I'll ever get one is an Amazon used products seller or eBay.

The GBA product I got was even worse. On that one I had done some online research, and found in the product's specs a cable, and I'd found uploaded saves on labelled with the product's name. When I looked at the product package prior to purchase, on it was a claim that I could "join the online community" and download codes and game saves.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the clamshell packaging and found that the portions of it meant to hold the cable and driver disk were empty.

Only after digging around for a while on the Gameshark website was I able to find a buried FAQ entry that explained that later versions of the same product have had the transfer capability removed, purportedly in order to leave more room on the cheat device for codes. There is apparently no way to tell which version you're getting without opening the package.


I suppose I could have "joined the online community" and downloaded cheats and saves as the product packaging claimed... for all the good that would do me without a transfer cable.

Well, it wouldn't have worked anyway; the transfer cable plugs into the GBA link jack rather than the cheat device, and I have a DS, which does not include a GBA link in its design. That oversight is my own fault for not doing enough research, but it's rendered moot by the fact that the GameShark lacked a cable.

So I'm still looking for a device that will let me transfer GBA saves to and from a PC. The only other thing I've been able to find is one of the devices meant for pirating GBA roms. I'd rather not purchase such a thing, though my intended usage of it is legitimate.

So if you want to make backups of your DS and GBA game saves, avoid the Action Replay DS. Also avoid the GameShark GameBoy Advance SP, unless you have a GameBoy Advance and can be sure you're getting one of the older cable-equipped models. A solution for the DS might be the Action Replay DS Max. Caveat emptor.

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