The homebrew scene for the Nintendo DS is pretty much alive, and one of the main reasons would be the abundance of third party carts such as the Supercard series for Slot 2 on the NDS as well as Slot 1 solutions such as the R4 (Revolution 4 DS). The box which it came in is pretty simple, an opening it revealed a CD containing the electronic version of a user manual and Moonshell files to get you started, a microSD memory card reader, and the R4 cart itself.
Since the R4 cart fits into the Slot 1 on the NDS, it makes perfect sense for it to come in the exact dimensions as a regular NDS cart. There is a small opening at the top end of the R4 for you to slot in a microSD memory card before you can use it. Any microSD memory card up to 4GB in size can be used with the R4, ensuring you have more than enough space to store all your digital music, video, and homebrew ROMs. The microSD cart is inserted in pretty much the same manner you insert an NDS cart – push it in completely until you hear a resounding ‘click’. To remove the microSD memory card, do the same thing – push it in until you hear a ‘click’, and it should pop out without any problem whatsoever.
After installing all the necessary programs (actually the ‘installation’ required a simple drag and drop action) including a ROM, all I had to do was test it. Turning the NDS Lite on, the R4 booted without a hitch. I quickly fired up Metroid Prime Pinball via the Moonshell interface, and the ROM loaded like a charm. Unlike Slot 2 solutions, you don’t need to convert any of the ROM files using any software, hence you don’t get bloated files and get to cram more ROMs onto a single microSD memory card.
This is a two-pronged review, since I decided to test out the R4 with a third party Rumble Pak as well. Now this third party Rumble Pak does not jut out from the Slot 2 just like the original NDS Rumble Pak that shipped with Metroid Prime Pinball, but fits in perfectly into the NDS Lite. There was no need to patch the ROM since the Rumble Pak got into action immediately once you turn the NDS on. Metroid Prime Pinball was the perfect game to test the Rumble Pak with, as the game itself involved a whole lot of rumbling whenever the ball hit a bumper. The Rumble Pak can be used with other Nintendo DS games that support the rumble feature, although to date there are less than 20 NDS games which offer rumble support. I personally find this third party Rumble Pak offer a more noticeable presence compared to Nintendo’s original Rumble Pak, but it loses out to the Supercard Lite Rumble by a slight margin.
Overall the R4 is a great tool to have for homebrew developers as it doesn’t require your NDS to be flashed in the first place, and you don’t need to have a PassMe or FlashMe cart occupying the Slot 1. Of course, some might fall to the dark side and actually use the R4 for nefarious purposes such as playing hundreds of available ROMs without paying a single cent for it. Since there is no need for a PassMe cart or any other kinds of bypass mechanism, battery life can be prolonged.
The R4 retails for $42 at Brando, while the Rumble Pak is going for $12. This third party Rumble Pak is definitely much cheaper than the original, and offers a smaller form factor that fits into the DS Lite perfectly.