This is a review of the 3DS-compatible R4i Gold from www.R4iDS.cn. The R4i Gold is a budget flash cart which still intends to deliver high compatibility and a solid product for the low price, with some people suggesting it’s DS game compatibility puts more expensive flash carts to shame. Being a modern slot-1 flash cart, it supports SDHC and it needs no additional tools to boot; assuming that it’s bootloader/firmware has been updated properly it will boot on any unmodified DS, DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL, or 3DS. With the latest version of the bootloader update to bypass DSi/XL firmware 1.4.2 (1.4.3 for China), the cart disguises itself as a Miami Nights game. Like most flash carts this cart operates in what’s known as DS-mode, meaning that even if you’re using it in a DSi, DSi XL, or 3DS, it’ll only play DS games and homebrew.
Features of r4i gold 3ds
- Compatible with all DS editions of different kinds of language
- Support SDHC (Micro SD 4G, 8G, 16G, 32G)
- 2nd generation storage device(no booting tool required)
- Flush fitting slot 1 card
- uses MicroSD card, FAT16 or 32
- Supports any MicroSD card speed with no lag in game
- Supports Clean ROM,drag and drop.Works on any OS
- Built in NoPass
- Automatically detect save type
- Save directly to MicroSD card,not to onboard chip
- Supports Moonshell and other homebrew
- User friendly skinnable interface.Touchscreen or button operation
- Supports the WIFI game,DS Rumble pak, DS Browser
- Supports changes of the background of Operation Interface
- Supports Skin DIY by setting background and font colors on Main Menu and Game Menu manually and automatically
- Supports 4-scale-lightness adjust ment(DS Lite only)
- Supports the Soft Reset
- Supports Action Replay cheat
- Moonshell 2.02 supports Software Reset function
- DLDI auto-patching
Within the box is a flimsy transparent plastic tray, within the tray sit the included MicroSD reader and the R4i Gold’s protective case.
The included USB MicroSD reader is unbranded and simple in design. It has a silver metal shell, a dim red LED indicating activity, and an opening for the MicroSD. When a MicroSD card is placed into it far enough for it to connect, it’s often difficult to remove it because of the tight fit. In addition even when placed into a USB slot without a MicroSD in it, the reader gets noticeably warm within minutes. This is often an indicator of bad design, and overheating MicroSD readers contribute to a bulk of corruption issues so it’s recommended that you use your own MicroSD reader instead of the supplied one.
The R4i Gold cart is kept within a standard DS cart protector. This protector consists of a folding plastic shell that clips together at the top, along with two rubber or soft plastic inserts. This protective case can fit two DS carts or slot-1 flash carts, and should have no trouble protecting the R4i Gold during shipping.
Hardware The R4i Gold is a simply-constructed flash cart, in line with it’s aim towards budget users.
From the front, the R4i Gold has the same shape as standard DS game carts, except it has two indentations (one on either side) near the top, presumably for better gripping with your fingers. The sticker has the common R4 design, with the team’s URL printed on it, and is not over-reflective. There is no noticeable bulge or bump underneath the sticker, indicated a slimmed design internally.
Going to the back, there’s a few things to point out.
- First is the MicroSD slot, positioned to the right. This slot is not spring-loaded, relying on friction to keep the MicroSD in place. Some people prefer this as it means one less part to potentially break, while others worry that since it doesn’t lock the MicroSD card into place it could fall out. I’m happy to report that I have no concern of the MicroSD falling out. It’s held in there tightly enough that it will not come out on it’s own, and it doesn’t require too much force to remove it.
- The second point is the contact area. The R4i Gold only has two lead “teeth”, which are meant to guide the contacts into place when the flash cart is inserted into the DS, but are also meant to keep fingers from directly touching the contacts, dirtying them. This may be a concern for some people, but many flash carts have less teeth than actual DS game carts, so it’s nothing unexpected. In addition, it makes padding the cart to fix “contact issues” easier. No natural contact issues with this cart have been observed, however some contact issues were experienced when shaking the ds unit. Other reviewers I contacted were not able to replicate this problem, so while one may not experience this it is possible that another will.
- The PCB for this version is a deep red, and a small white number 6 is visible on the PCB, in the uppermost portion of the right contact slot.
There seems to be a size issue with the cart. When placed into certain DS units, the R4i Gold makes an audible click about 3/4ths of the way down. When attempting to remove it past this point, it literally seems to get stuck. This is not simply a friction issue, as fatter flash carts do not make the click, and are simply held in by friction. On the contrary, the R4i Gold seems to be caught on something, as I have to pull it to the right in order to free it (while pulling it to the left simply hooks it harder). The cart requires minimal force to remove from the DS Lite, and is quite easy to remove from the 3DS due to it’s physical wider slot-1, but the cart literally gets stuck in the DSi and DSi XL.
The native firmware for the R4i Gold from www.r4ids.cn is the R4i Gold Kernel, the tested version was 1.51. This is a modified version of Moonshell, which is the standard home media viewer for the DS series. The version modified here is 2.02. Moonshell is naturally capable of playing various audio formats, viewing various image formats, and even playing videos converted into a specific format (DPG). It’s not uncommon for a flash cart team to modify Moonshell to fit in with their cart, so it’ll be interesting to see what this team did.
The first visible change is that the R4i Gold Kernel boots into a DSi stylized main menu. From left to right, the options are Game, Audio, Video, NotePad, Picture, and File Browser. To further add to the feel of the DSi’s menu, there are 12 empty icons to the right of the main ones. The R4i Gold team informs me that you will be able to add your own icons in a later version of the kernel to boot directly to your favorite games.
- The Game option currently launches Wood at the base menu, though this may change in a later version.
- The Audio option launches moonshell’s file browser, displaying all compatible audio files on your MicroSD.
- The Video option launches moonshell’s file browser, displaying all compatible video files on your MicroSD.
- The Notepad option launches moonshell’s file browser, displaying all compatible text files found on your MicroSD.
- The Picture option launches moonshell’s file browser, displaying all compatible image types found on your MicroSD.
- The File Browser option launches moonshell’s file browser at the root of your MicroSD.
While automatically viewing all the files of a specific category located on your MicroSD seems like a useful feature at first, many homebrew games and programs keep their resources in various folders as plain files. This means that most people will open up one of the options only to be greeted with a huge list of files that are useless on their own, with the files they actually want interspersed. Another issue is that these lists will contain files that cannot actually be played, such as some tracker formats. Taking these drawbacks into consideration most people will end up using the File Browser option so they can choose their media manually by browsing folders. Upon using the file browser it appears that many options from Moonshell have been removed or locked, and any attempt to run an NDS file (retail game or homebrew) simply launches Wood (at it’s default screen).
- While the R4i Gold site has information and download links for various themes/skins, these are for the older version of the kernel. The current version uses a different type of skin (SKN file), and the team tells me they do plan to release a tool for it.The native firmware consists of one file and a system folder. The file is _DS_MENU.DAT, and the folder is _SYSTEM_. The _DS_MENU.DAT file is what the R4i Gold cart attempts to boot off of. In the Wood R4i Gold distributions this is replaced with a copy of the WOODR4.NDS file, so if you’re upgrading just the Wood R4 firmware and want to keep the R4i Gold Kernel as default, do not replace the _DS_MENU.DAT file with the one that comes with Wood (otherwise your R4i Gold will boot straight into Wood every time).
Wood is an alternative firmware for flash carts which focuses on game and homebrew playability, the tested version was 1.29b. It started off as an alternative for the Acekard R.P.G., but was then ported to the old-model R4, before being ported to the R4i Gold/DSN. The port for the R4i Gold is officially-supported, and is currently what is used to launch games and homebrew. The modified version for the R4i Gold adds a new option to the bottom of the main menu (Return), which boots back to the R4i Gold kernel if it’s installed (otherwise it just resets Wood). Wood consists of a WOODR4.NDS file, and an __rpg folder.
- Use And Feel
Wood uses the DS’s screens independently.
- The top screen consists of a calendar along with the time and month/year.
- The bottom screen contains the file list, and is where you navigate around your MicroSD, as well as access menus to do certain functions and change certain settings. The bottom screen’s default view is split into two sections, an option to browse the MicroSD for files, and a Favorites folder where you can access shortcuts you’ve placed to your favorite ROMs and homebrews.
Files can be listed three different ways.
- Filename only.
- The ROM’s embedded icon with the filename.
- The ROM’s embedded icon with the embedded name data.
The bottom menu can be navigated with the DS unit’s buttons, or the touch screen.
- When using the touchscreen you can swipe up and down to scroll within the current folder, tap a game or folder to launch/enter it, and tap the folder/arrow icon (depending on the skin you’re using) in the upper-left to go back to the previous folder. Tapping the Start icon in the bottom left or right of the screen (depending on the skin) will bring up the main Wood menu.
- When using button controls you scroll with the D-pad, press A to enter a folder or launch a game, and press B to return to the previous menu. Pressing Start brings up the main Wood menu, which contains many different functions, and pressing Select changes the file list mode as mentioned above. Pressing X automatically jumps to your Favorites folder, where you can paste shortcuts to your favorite ROMs and homebrew, after using the option in the Start menu to copy them. Pressing Y brings up the properties for the highlighted object, if this object is a DS game ROM you get access to additional settings, and if this is a GBA ROM you can choose whether to flash it to RAM or NOR of the slot-2.
The start menu’s options are as follows.
- Copy copies the selected file.
- Cut cuts the selected file.
- Delete deletes the selected file.
- Paste pastes the copied or cut file. If pasted within the Favorites folder it simply places a shortcut, but if pasted elsewhere it actually makes a copy.
- Settings accesses the main Wood settings menus.
- File Info brings up the information for the highlighted object.
- Help brings up a window with various control information, as well as information on the current Wood build and the hardware it’s running on.
- Tools brings up various tools for using the 3-in-1 expansion pack.
- Return exits Wood and boots the R4i Gold kernel (or reboots Wood if the R4i Gold Kernel is not installed).
The main settings for Wood are split into multiple sections. The sections can be changed via the touchscreen by pressing the arrows at the top of the options box, and also through the L and R shoulder triggers. Within a section the D-pad can be used to navigate and change options, and for touchscreen the arrows function the same. Global/main settings can sometimes be overridden on a per-ROM basis via the use of settings changed in a ROM’s properties. - System settings -
- User Interface Style is the skin selection menu.
- Language determines which language is used.
- Set file list type determines which file types are listed, NDS, NDS+SAV, or ALL.
- Safe Mode is an option that locks the start menu, to prevent children from accidentally erasing things they shouldn’t. Since the settings menu will not be accessible when Safe Mode is active, the user will need to edit the settings file on the MicroSD from a computer to disable Safe Mode.
- Interface Settings -
- Scrolling speed determines how fast things scroll.
- Filelist style determines which of the three file listing types is used. While you can change this live via the Select key, the change is only saved if this setting is changed.
- Animation determines whether a highlighted file’s icon pulses or not.
- 12-hour clock determines if the time is displayed in 24-hour or 12-hour format.
- File system settings -
- Show hidden files determines if files with the hidden attribute are listed.
- Trim rom when copy will automatically “trim” a ROM when moving it around, if enabled.
- Save extension determines which extension Wood uses and looks for, either .sav or .nds.sav.
- Patches -
- Reset Hotkey determines which hotkey is used within a ROM to reset the flash cart (not the game). The default is L+R+A+B+Down, but there’s five combinations to choose from.
- Cheat in Game(AR) is the global cheat setting, on or off.
- Reset in Game determines if the soft-reset hotkey is enabled for ROMs.
- Reset in Homebrew determines soft-reset for homebrew.
- GBA settings -
- Universal sleep determines whether the GBA’s sleep function is on universally or not.
- Backup save at startup is a bit complex. If enabled, the 3in1?s most recent save (PSRAM or NOR) will be written to the MicroSD card when the firmware boots. If disabled then the save will be written when a new ROM is flashed (i.e. flash a PSRAM file and the PSRAM save in SRAM will be backed-up).
- Slot-2 mode is whether the firmware should boot slot-2 into PASSME/NDS mode, GBA mode, or ask the user each time.
Per-Game Settings These are the settings that are displayed if you press Y when highlighting a game, and choose to enter it’s settings. These settings will override the global settings on a per-game basis.
- Compatiblity -
- Features -
- Select a save type is where you can manually override the automatic save size detection. Options range from 4Kb to 64Mb.
- Link with GBA determines if the DS ROM’s ability to link with a GBA ROM in slot-2 is enabled or not.
- Rumble strength determines how strong the rumble feature of some slot-2 carts is (and if it’s enabled).
- Cheats in Game(AR) overrides if cheats are enabled.
- Reset in Game overrides whether soft-reset is enabled.
- Choose Save Slot lets you select which game save slot is currently used, as Wood has the ability to handle up to three save files per game.
- Show icon determines if the game’s icon has transparency or not.
- Language determines which DS language the game detects.
The Wood firmware is entirely skinnable, and many skins have been created. Wood uses the same skin files as the AKAIO system software, so there’s literally hundreds of skins out there, and various tools to make your own. Skins are placed in their own folder in the /__rpg/ui/ folder, after that they show up in the skin selection menu. Skins can be changed from the Start -> Settings -> System Settings -> User Interface Settings menu. Unfortunately most skins for AKAIO/Wood were only made with a specific number of main menu options, so the additional “Return” option added for the R4i Gold port appears below the main menu, and can look odd depending on the skin you’re using.
The Wood software for the R4i Gold supports clean ROMs, it’s suggested that you play clean ROMs as ones pre-patched to remove Anti-Piracy (AP) can interfere with Wood’s ability to automatically remove AP. ROMs can be placed anywhere on the MicroSD (except hidden folders like the /__rpg/ folder), and you simply press A when highlighting a ROM to launch it. I tried a variety of ROM types including ones known to be problematic, and Wood R4i Gold 1.29b has no issue loading trimmed ROMs, and even works with translation and level-edit patches correctly, such the fan translation for Tales Of Innocence, and New Super Mario Bros. 3 level-edit patch.
- Animal Crossing: Wild World: Works
- Bangai-O Spirits: Works
- Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow: Works
- Castlevania: Portrait Of Ruin: Works
- Kingdom Hearts Re:coded: Works
- Mega Man Zero Collection: Works
- Meteos: Works
- New Super Mario Bros. 3: Works
- Okamiden: Works
- Pringe Of Persia: The Forgotten Sands: Works
- Pokemon Black: Works
- Pokemon HeartGold: Works
- Rhythm Heaven: Works
- Sports Collection: Fails, there’s no sound, no save file is made, and no events can start.
- Tales Of Innocence Translation: Works
As we can see many games that are known to cause problems on lesser carts work fine, only one of the most recent games didn’t work. This is a normal situation as games come out with new AP measures, and it’s important that flash carts update to bypass new AP measures. Overall Wood has excellent DS game compatibility, and it’s often hard to find a game that doesn’t run on it.
Unknown to most people, MicroSD cards (especially MicroSDHC) have varying speeds. The aspect most often discussed is the write speed as that’s what matters for normal cases, but the read speed is also important for when you’re running things off of a MicroSD (as with flash carts). MicroSDHC cards are rated with a “Class”, such as Class-2 or Class-6, and while the Class dictates the write speed, in general a higher-Class card will be made better. In the past flash carts have been very susceptible to read speed issues on MicroSD cards (especially latency), so a slow MicroSD card could cause a game to malfunction when it would normally work fine. Modern firmwares such as Wood have advanced programming methods within them to alleviate this issue, and I tested the games on three different cards. The first was a 2GB PNY, the second was a 4GB Class-2 Sandisk, and the third was an 8GB Class-6 Transcend. I’m happy to report that Wood R4i Gold does not exhibit latency issues on a standard Class-2, though it should be noted that if the MicroSD you’re using is old, failing, or fake then it may simply not be able to feed enough data for the game, even by Wood’s standards.
The R4i Gold lives up to it’s claim of being a budget cart with high compatibility, and indeed puts many more expensive carts to shame. The cart lacks more advanced features such as in-game menus and real-time save, but this is expected with a budget cart. The team is attempting to create their own OS for the cart, and while it’s still in the early stages of usability it does show that the team cares about supporting their cart. In addition to the team showing interest in patching the cart for new devices (such as the 3DS) and new firmwares (for the DSi/XL) it looks like this cart intends to give the kind of support a decent flash cart needs, which is what’s important in the end.
+ SDHC support
+ Automatic DLDI patching
+ Cheats/AR support
+ Save type detection
+ Multiple save slots per game
+ Game compatibility
+ Simple/Sturdy design
+ Functional menus
+ Some native slot-2 support
+ Quick and easy shortcuts list
+ Regular updates
- Cart physically sticking
- Homebrew soft-reset is buggy at best
- No support for 4KB homebrew
Wood uses the standard RAW .SAV type, directly compatible with other modern flash carts using RAW saves. Saves are created in the same folder as the game ROM, and the extension can be .SAV or .NDS.SAV, selectable in the main settings. The save size is automatically detected, and the supported size ranges from 4 Kilobits to 64 Megabits, so even games like WarioWare: DIY that use a very large save file can function.
Wood has cheat support, the standard and editable usrcheat.dat can be placed in the /__rpg/cheats/ folder and cheats for each game will be populated as needed. When viewing a ROM’s properties by pressing Y, you can press X to pull up the cheats list for the highlighted game. Cheats can be sorted into groups, groups can be expanded or shrunk with the A button. When highlighting a cheat, you can press Y to view the entire name (if the name/description is too large to fit on-screen at once), and press A to toggle it on and off. Cheats that are currently enabled have a mark to the left of them, and the L trigger is a shortcut to disable all cheats.
Wood supports DS homebrew as well, and homebrew is launched the same way that DS game ROMs are, but take note that some homebrew require themselves to be in a specific part of the MicroSD (such as the root, or a specific folder). DLDI patching is done automatically.
- bitbox: Fails, was not even detected as a game.
- bitbox (safe): Works
- CLIRC: Works
- CarPhysics 5: Works
- Colors!: Works
- Game Melody Oratorio Volume 2: Works
- It’s 1975 and this man is about to show you the future: Works
- Jelly Blocks 1.3: Works
- Lack of Disco: Works
- Lone Wolf: Flight From The Dark: Works
- Lone Wolf: Shadow On The Sand: Works
- Mind Maze Beta: Works
- NitroTracker 0.4: Works
- Nyan For NDS 1.1a: Works
- Pocket Physics: Works
- Powder 115: Works
- Red Temple 1.5a: Works
- sd-4K: Fails, was not even detected as a game.
- Space Impakto DS: Works
- Still Alive DS: Works
- TheSnowman-NDS: Works
- Vector Tower Defense DS: Works
- World Of Sand: Works
Overall we can see that Wood has good homebrew compatibility as well, though it seems incapable of detecting 4KB homebrews. Wood includes a soft-reset option for homebrew, but upon testing I found it to be very buggy. Some homebrews such as Lack Of Disco will not even start when the option is enabled (whitescreening instead), the soft-reset does not work in all games, and after soft-resetting in some games (such as Still Alive DS) the touchscreen would not respond in Wood or another homebrew until a DS ROM was launched.
Wood updates quite regularly, it went from version 1.14 to version 1.29 in a period of only six months. When popular games come out with new AP, Wood is often released within a week or two, so with Wood you won’t be sitting around for months waiting for an update or hoping for a patch like you will with unsupported flash carts. The Wood updates come with both an updated WOODR4.NDS, and a replacement _DS_MENU.DAT. It’s important to note that the _DS_MENU.DAT that comes with Wood updates is set to launch Wood, not The R4i Gold kernel! If you replace the default _DS_MENU.DAT with the Wood one, then the flash cart will only boot Wood until you reinstall the R4i Gold Kernel. Other than that, updating Wood is as simple as deleting the WOODR4.NDS file and __rpg folder to replace them with the new versions.