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GBA e-Reader emulators

14 bytes added, 15:27, 11 September 2018
The GBA e-Reader is an add-on for the Game Boy Advance released in Japan and USA/Australia. It was also slated for release in Europe, but the release of the device was cancelledcanceled, though the (now extremely rare, and undumped) European cards had an accidental limited release. It has a LED scanner that reads paper cards with data printed on them, called "e-Reader cards" or "e-Cards". These cards hold actual data. You can find a No-Intro set for those.
The e-Reader was originally released in Japan in 2001 without Link cable support (thus unable to link to other GBA/GC games), but that was added in a second version released in 2002 as e-Reader+ in Japan. That second version was released as e-Reader in USA and Australia.
The GBA e-Reader has three uses:
* '''Standalone:''' The only mode supported by the initial Japan-only release (the second Japanese release, "e-Reader+", and the US release supported the other two uses). The e-Reader add-on is plugged to a GBA unit, and e-Cards are scanned with it. Notable use include includes NES Classics (often mapper 0 ones), Promotional event cards with nifty animations and the Pokémon Trading Cards for example.
* '''Linked to a GBA game:''' This is how the e-Reader was used so that content scanned from e-Cards is used to unlock flags for data on the cartridge (or even add new data not in the cartridge, usually stored to the save data file for that game - like Pokémon Gen 3 guest trainer data, F-Zero Climax developer ghost data, or SMA4 e-World level data) new content in retail GBA games like Super Mario Advance 4 and Rockman Zero 3 among many others. Requires two GBA units - one with the game cartridge, the other with the e-Reader device, connected with a Link Cable, with the gray end on the second GBA. Sadly many of these features were made inaccessible without cheats, or deleted altogether, in Western localizations because of the device's impopularity unpopularity outside Japan.
* '''Linked to a GC game:''' Similar to e-Reader/GBA but with GC games. Notable examples include Animal Crossing and Pokémon Colosseum.
You'll need:
'''The e-Card images:''' Yes, these have actual data in them. The "No-Intro Game Boy Advance (e-Cards)" rom set romset is only missing 12 US cards (Pokémon TGC) and a few dozen JP ones (mainly F-Zero Legend, Rockman EXE 5/6, Pokémon Pinball). Either download the set or hunt down the device and obscenely rare cards to archive them.
The dumps are around 2.2KB, and are region-locked. No European-region dumps exist (even though really rare e-Cards do).
'''The e-Reader BIOS:''' A regular GBA ROM. Three versions exist, be sure to pick up the one with the same region as the e-Card.
* e-Reader (USA)
The e-Reader is region-locked. Make sure the e-Reader BIOS region, the e-Card region, and -if used- the GBA/GC game region, all match.
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* (i) means incomplete: these emulators will not recognize the games they're connected to. Normally, after choosing "Connection/to Game Boy Advance", the e-Reader should have "(Game Name) Game Data" pre-loaded in its internal EEPROM memory and appearing in a tiny black box on-screen, but this can't happen in either NO$GBA, VBA-M, or VBA e-Reader mods. Without this step done, scanning e-Cards will just yield an error message.
:e-Reader/GBA gamepack game pack emulation in these emulators can be still reached by ripping a save game from '''real e-Reader hardware''', with this step already done. Using this save with the e-Reader BIOS, it's possible to connect to the GBA gamepackgame pack, and scan e-Cards... though it's a very less-than-ideal solution and only pre-baked e-Reader save files for Super Mario Advance 4 (U), Pokémon Emerald (J), LeafGreen (J) and FireRed (J). No emulator to date completely emulates this feature without this dirty fix.
* No emulators yet support e-Reader / GameCube connectivity.
====e-Reader Alone====
'''Emulator:''' Open the e-Reader BIOS. It's a regular GBA ROM. <br />
The very first time it's loaded, it will save some e-Reader specific configuration, then reset the emulator. After that , it's all good.<br />
'''In-game, BIOS:''' Press A (or "Select" for a hidden bonus :P). Choose "Scan Card".<br />
'''Emulator:''' A window should pop-up. Now you can choose the e-Card roms (often RAW, but can be also BIN, or BMP/JPG images) you'll need. Choose the file and click OK.<br />
'''In-game, BIOS:''' In the same screen, press A to Scan Code. The data should be loaded. If you tried to do so before loading the next file, the BIOS would say you have already scanned it. Rinse and repeat until you get all parts.
If you're done with all parts (could be one part in many cases), and all is fine, the BIOS would suggest you save the data to the e-Reader's SRAM. (You can then conveniently grab the .sav file for use with other emulators).
This prevents the data from getting deleted when rebooting the device or scanning other e-Cards. You can then access it from the title menu with the new third option, "Access Saved Data" (and the app name shows below too!) In case you want to delete it, hold L+R at console startup (you can use the numeric pad * (multiply) key to reset).
Next use the Player 2 controls you mapped out to navigate the e-Reader menu to "Access saved data". "Super Mario Advance 4" should be displayed as the saved data.** This should take you to a communication screen just like SMA4's next to it. Hit A on SMA4 to begin communication. Go to "File" and then "Load e-Reader Dotcode" in NO$GBA and navigate to the .RAW Level Card dotcode files you downloaded. Double-click one and the e-Reader should accept it and send it back to the SMA4 ROM. The SMA4 ROM will then tell you that a Level Card was received.
Now here's the catch. SMA4 will not let you save a level permanently and then scan more levels until you beat the level you just scanned at least once. So you either have to beat the level now in the emulator or load the save back onto your real game, beat the level, and then repeat this entire process for the next level. It's cumbersome, I know, but in the end , when you have all the levels scanned in and you've played them all it'll be well worth it; these are some of the coolest levels in the entire Super Mario series!
If you choose to beat the level using your original game cartridge, another emulator or are just ready to transfer your save file back, then press Start in NO$GBA on SMA4 and hit "Save". It will take you back to the title screen. Go back into Level Card and check to make sure the level you just scanned is still on the level list. Close out of NO$GBA and go into the BATTERY folder. Copy the .SAV file from SMA4 and paste it somewhere else: you can import it in other emulators or even real cartridges.
* VBA 1.6e e-Reader + Link
Old versions of VBA (later VBA-M) were modded for e-Reader support. The version lacking the Link feature though is useless for cards to be used with GBA games. Regular VBA, and VBA-M versions (until very lately, before r1353) do not have e-Reader support at all.
Not that different from No$GBA. You open the e-Reader BIOS first like any regular GBA ROM.
Whenever the game tries to scan e-Cards, unlike with NO$GBA a window will always pop up asking you to choose your e-Card dump (can be only a RAW file in VBA's case). It's more straightforward here, and the NES compatibility is even better. That said it's more of the same. Read the NO$GBA section for more info.
Check under Emulator if "Save e-Reader RAW Files" is checked. "Pause when Inactive" needs to be disabled if you ever intend to link between e-Reader and a GBA gamepackgame pack. The 1.73 mod works with Pokémon games.
==Alternatives for e-Reader emulation==
You can also get to enjoy e-Reader content even on emulators without Link Cable or e-Reader emulation.
===Preloaded Save Files===
'''Battery backup files (sav)''' from people '''who had already scanned e-Cards.''' Their data gets stored in the .sav file for the e-Reader BIOS rom, ROM or the GBA game with e-Reader features. This is one convenient way to play the exclusive levels from SMA4 if you just grab a save file with the levels already stored and import it in your emulator for use with that game (also the only way to get it to work on PAL SMA4).
===Cheat Codes===
'''Cheat codes''' enabling the e-Reader unlockables in some games. Only works if the "dlc DLC data" is already included in the cartridge - so it wouldn't work with SMA4's levels or F-Zero Legend's developer ghost data for example. It's also useful to get data that was removed from US versions (since the e-Reader was discontinued outside Japan very early) - including notably Pokémon ColoseumColosseum, Mega Man Zero 3, and Megaman Battle Network 5 (6 JP included the data on-cart already, the US didn't and made heavy content cuts)...
===Game Re-releases===
Some game mods implement the data from the e-Cards inside the game's ROM, eliminating the need for swapping saves, cheats or e-Card dumps, and making the game mostly self-sufficient. This is the case for the official mods by Nintendo released for the Wii U Virtual Console for various GBA games restoring some (but not all) of its e-Reader exclusive content. Some of these were preserved as IPS patches to apply to specific No-Intro versions of the ROMs, available for download [ here].
The DS compilation for the Megaman Zero games also implements bonuses previously locked out behind e-Cards in the Japanese version.

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