For those new to Nintendo DS gaming consoles and R4 cards, buying the right R4 card can be a confusing issue – so start gaming by reading our handy beginner’s guide to R4 cards.
The R4 card was launched in early 2007 by Nintendo, which authorised developers to produce the technology.
Independent developers and hackers developed R4 cards themselves to circumvent the Nintendo DS console’s software and enable files like music or videos to be used on the DS Players.
These files were called Homebrew and also consisted of games developed for other brands of player, as well as mp3 music files and video.
The R4 card is a flash card into which an SD memory card is loaded to store games.
The R4 card originally had a spring loading system for the SD card and this had to be modified, as sometimes the memory card did not load correctly.
In later 2007, the R4v2 (R4 version 2) was developed without the spring loading system for the SD card.
In 2008 Nintendo stopped producing its own R4 cards as a result of a legal wrangle, but licensed other developers to develop R4 cards for the Nintendo DS console.
Genuine, authorised R4 cards are available through an authorised website – but there are now many other developers producing R4 cards to keep pace with the developments in the Nintendo DS console.
R4 cards have to be upgraded to keep up-to-date with software upgrades released by Nintendo for its gaming consoles.
These upgrades/updates serve two purposes –
• Updating the software to add more features to the DS or to combat errors or update features like the cheat app
• Nintendo prevents hackers from being able to sell unauthorised or fake R4 cards by changing the software as soon as the unauthorised R4 cards were offered for sale.
Independent developers of R4 cards and hackers have become adept at keeping pace with Nintendo updates for DS players and R4 cards, however.
When a new DS console is being released, it is usually only a matter of days before a whole range of unauthorised R4 cards appears online for purchase, as software developers hack or clone the original Nintendo software and adapt it to their own brand R4 card.
Because of this, Nintendo sometimes updates its software and accordingly its own R4 cards within days or weeks of a new DS console being released.
It is therefore crucial to make sure that any R4 card bought can be updated with upgrades – and that the maker of an R4 card offers a website with the latest upgrades, otherwise the R4 card will not work.
R4 cards have become a very active subject of debate online, and forums can be the best way of finding out what is happening with R4 upgrades and when they are being released.
R4 cards generally are updated frequently, so make sure you are aware of any upgrades – sometimes it is every few weeks or months.
R4 cards have been developed over the years and buyers will now have a wide range of options, including R4 and R4v2, R4i and its variations like R4i TT or R4i Gold – and the latest R4 cards for the Nintendo DS3D and 3DS XL, the R4 3DS, R4i 3DS, R4i TT 3DS and R4i 3DS Gold.
Nintendo usually backdates its software so that previous games and R4 cards will work on the new consoles, but often with limitations or requiring an upgrade.
For example, R4i cards will work on the 3DS without the 3D capability, so games will play in 2D. However, R4 cards will not.
It is likely that the earlier version of R4 cards will be phased out as the technology becomes more advanced.
Gamers using R4 cards also like to be able to play other games on the DS consoles and independent R4 developers and hackers often tweak the software to enable this.
Other games which have been saved to an SD card and uploaded to a DS console via an R4 card – whether Nintendo or by another developer – are known as Roms.
There are certain technological terms involved in getting to know R4 cards and how they work, and familiarising the main terms can help sort out some of the confusion surrounding what is becoming a complex area, simply because of the pace with which the technology is developing and the speed with which R4 cards themselves are developing to keep track of upgrades.
Beginners new to Nintendo DS should also be aware that there are many fake R4 cards on the market – and although genuine R4 cards use the suffix Gold or Gold Plus – generally R4 cards which adopt names to mimic the brand names of genuine R4 cards or alter the digit are fakes, eg:
• R5 or R6
• R4 Ultra
• R4 Advance, etc.
Choosing an R4 card from a reliable supplier or the authorised website will help protect against buying fakes or not being to access an upgrade when available.
The cheapest R4 card is not necessarily the best in the long run – and quite possibly will not even run for very long – so if you are a novice gamer or a parent buying a DS player as a present, avoid any R4 cards which seem too cheap to be true or websites and suppliers which do not offer upgrade downloads online.