|EZFlash V plus|
Much like the EZ2 powerstar and EZ4 lite deluxe and lite compact before it the EZ5+ is an upgraded version of the EZ5 flash cart from veteran flash cart makers EZFlash (also known as the EZTeam or EZgroup).
Flash carts are fairly unique in the world of electrical hardware in that most of their functionality appears well after launch and similarly a card which is good at launch can fall by the wayside without support (and sometimes quite rapidly).
Because of this fact this review will be a full review rather than an updated review of the EZ5 .
The EZ5 was the first foray into DS slot (slot 1) flash carts by the EZteam and the main feature the EZ5+ sports over that one is the addition of SDHC.
SDHC is a new standard based on the older SD standard which makes for larger storage sizes (the specification goes to 32 gigabytes) and faster speeds (there are speed classes defined unlike SD which is a proverbial lottery). SDHC devices can use SD but SD devices can not use SDHC without an upgrade (which in the case of the original EZ5 would be difficult to do).
Areas of interest for this review.
First impressions/cart build quality. From the box to your DS.
Compatibility with commercial roms.
Compatibility with hacked roms.
Compatibility with homebrew.
The user interface of the cart.
Not covered or briefly covered.
SDHC testing owing to lack of SDHC memory cards at time of review (will be added when possible).
Official Feature List:
Taken from website and FAQ.
* NOPASS technology, no need to modify DS console, keeps console warranty.
* Side mounted microSD slot, prevents the MicroSD/SDHC suddenly launching and looks like an original card
* Supports official Slot2 expansion device
* Support MicroSD/SDHC, high capacity, high speed, no more slowdowns.
* Direct save to MicroSD/SDHC, no more save loss.
Easy to Use
* Plug and play, no more passme
* Drag and play, no more conversion software
* Easy to manage. Support copy and delete onboard.
* Easy to link. support GBA/DS game linker, support single card download play.
* Video player, supports DPG 1.0 and 2.0
* Music player, supports mp3, wav, ogg and mod
* Text reading, bookmark support
* Picture viewing, supports jpg, bmp, png
* Graphic user interface, what you see is what you control.
* Game list with thumbnail, icon size adjustable
* Support touch screen and keypad
* Skin changeable
* RAM expansion, support official web browser
* Rumble support, strength adjustable
* GBA game support
* Light level adjustable
* Homebrew support, autoDLDI supported
* Use as a passme/nopass, boot GBA slot (slot 2) carts in DS mode.
Like the EZ5 before it the EZ5+ uses a side mounted microSD slot with no spring.
Previous carts had been known to have a problem with the microSD being difficult to remove in some cases (with people even resorting to tweezers) until the slot gets "broken in".
This time though the microSD fits snugly and comes out with minimal effort and use your fingernail.
The bundled reader did not function quite as nicely (it took some effort to remove the microSD) but it worked.
A common complaint of the China based flash cart makers is that there is little to no English support.
This reviewer has been a contributing member and/or staff of the EZFlash support forums for several years and is no stranger to digging up information buried deep in foreign sites on various things but going from the perspective of someone who was given the cart as a gift and consequently knowing nothing of the cart it would not be that hard either.
The box and cart itself has the web address of the cart maker prominently displayed.
Following it leads to a simple splash page offering Chinese (simplified and HK/traditional) and English (French and Russian are available from the EZFlash wiki and the other EZ5 guides that exist in other languages are still likely to be worth a read).
Following the English link brings you to a newly revamped website with links to a FAQ, software downloads and forums.
The forums are twofold, first there is a forum hosted on the site and a prominent link to the far more active semi official US forums (more on that in community/support later).
The FAQ and software downloads provide all that is needed to get it up and running (it amounts to downloading a pack and extracting it to the root of the card*).
*If you are a user of the original EZ5 be sure that the internal loader is updated, the EZ5+ ships with the most recent one however so that is not a problem here.
The EZ5+ respects the choice in the DS options to either load automatically or not to so from there it is simple enough.
This brings us to running/compatibility with commercial roms.
Loader used throughout the test is 1.84 with 12th of July resetsp.bin update.
Every prominent cart on the market other than the stuff by Datel features near flawless compatibility with dumps of commercial roms and to do otherwise would undoubtedly be commercial suicide. In the GBA era the EZTeam had the reputation of being one of the most compatible brands when it came to commercial roms and any prospective buyers of the EZ5+ will be pleased to know it does not disappoint in that arena.
Detailed testing in a minute but unlike earlier versions of the EZ5 kernel which used a list of saves and adapted the cart itself for use with roms this version uses a file called resetsp.bin which usually gets updated within a short time of the release of a rom if it is necessary and saves directly to the memory card.
Extensive testing of all 2500+ DS roms available is well beyond the capabilities of this reviewer but there are a list of roms that cause problems with most carts.
The EZ5 save format today is the 512K padded raw save used by nearly every other DS slot cart on the market and easily converted with the save conversion site from Shuny http://www.shunyweb.info/
The EZ5 reads the DS clock and the user name from the firmware of the DS when required so you need not worry there.
The two main types of incompatibility are slowdowns and save problem/flash cart/peripheral checks.
Slowdowns are as the name implying games that load certain parts slower which in the case of games like Castlevania portrait of ruin actually cause the game to crash.
While this is normally solved with getting a faster memory card, defragmenting and using larger sectors or using the ram of a card (if present) if hangups in access time between the DS calling for some data and the cart fetching it from the memory card there can be a problem.
The EZ5 has long featured a so called hybrid mode which is used to make sure access time is reduced. While originally an optional feature today hybrid mode is always on.
Other types of incompatibility come from the save type not being supported or there being checks of some form by the developers (the recent final fantasy crystal chronicles) or there being an extra peripheral.
The peripherals tend to find themselves patched by third parties (see recent guitar hero work and the initial browser patches from triforce) while the other two tend to be left to the developers (third parties however have fixed nonworking roms on several occasions over the years).
Memory card used. 1 gigabyte SD-CO1G Japan Kingston (considered one of the top microSD for speed) and 1 gigabyte generic Sandisk (somewhat lower down on the scale).
Equivalent tests on an EZ4 (latest patch and loader) lead to the symptoms described on the test unless the Kingston or other high grade memory card with large clusters and no fragmentation is used.
Both carts were freshly formatted with the rom image copied over using rtoolDS (homepage) and trimmed (safe trim + standard safety factor) with the same tool.
Castlevania: Portrait of ruin (US version).
Lockups tend to occur when speaking to Wind and if the menu is called too often.
Wind spoken to repeatedly and start button spammed repeatedly for 30 seconds. First few levels played. Not a lockup to be seen.
Castlevania. Intro video can be slow/become desyncronised.
Megaman 5. Video sequences can be jittery. Original and hacked version (see hacked section for more) tested
The Incredible Hulk.
Daigasso Band Brothers DX (sequel).
The large save used is a problem for some carts.
A one and a half minute delay on the initial run as the release notes said there would be.
Downloadable songs also not present due to server side check against onboard ID which has limited downloads, hacks and a save with some of the songs are available or shortly available though.
Pokemon Dash (historically a problem rom).
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Has a timer in that detected most flash carts/rom alterations at the time of release causing a "thankyou for playing" screen to appear).
3 hours play/multiple dungeons and no screen.
Fix available by patch and cheat.
Download station 1.
This (and other download stations) have been known to cause problems with carts in the past. Also being part of the XXXX range cart makers have been known to slow to fix them.
Happily streamed several demos.
A selection of the latest releases (most likely to be unpatched/not to work).
When a magnet (like the one in the DS speaker) appears over a sensor above the DS buttons (start and select on the original model DS) the DS will usually enter sleep mode (in actuality it acts like an extra button so some roms and homebrew do occasionally use it for other purposes and a "timer" can be used to create the same effect).
Sleep mode is low power mode where the game is "paused". Some carts however can have problems with it (the DS will attempt to enter sleep mode but quickly pop out sleep mode leading to a clicking sound and the game not pausing).
No problems in homebrew or in a game.
While not formally tested the differences between other carts, official carts and GBA slot carts showed little difference (slightly lower for unofficial carts). Tested in original model DS with original battery and original model DS with 3 batteries in parallel.
In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king (Desiderius Erasmus circa 1510 CE or Tom Waits on the track Singapore featured in the album Rain Dogs if your prefer).
The phrase means if everyone is equal he who is just slightly better will excel.
In much the same way as every cart sports near perfect compatibility and support for the largest memory cards available some seek the cheapest cart while others seek extra functionality to set themselves ahead of the competition.
Thus far DS carts have sported
*Slow motion (whilst not inbuilt like some other carts it can be implemented as a cheat in some cases and as a hack with a third party tool in others like DSATM)
*Real time save (owing to hardware limitations this is never likely to be emulator grade for any cart, not available at this time on the EZ5+)
*User interface based functionality (detailed later)
*Text reading in game. (not available on the EZ5+)
*Expansion pack compatibility (mentioned later)
*GBA linking (see expansion packs in User interface)
*Download play support. (see next section)
A concern for some DS lite owners as the switch on the DS lite can sometimes be unreliable while others simply prefer it.
Here the game is reset by pressing a series of buttons (usually more than a few to avoid accidental resets).
On the EZ5 the cheat menu needs to be on and the key combo is L, R, A and B. The newest games may not feature this as it is also controlled by the resetsp.bin.
nopass is the term used to describe the third generation of the "passme" devices (they are functionally quite different so the use of passme is generally discouraged when discussing them). It allows the DS to run DS code from GBA slot devices without modifying the firmware or using another method.
The EZ5+ has such an option although the EZ5+ is different in that the L shoulder button (rather than the R button the original uses) is used to trigger the nopass functionality on bootup.
There is also a small if you prefer: software option
These are not your up, down, left, right press a and start type cheats but cheats where the ram/registers the game uses are altered, fixed or added to to give infinite life, bullets, time and so on. The makers of DS cheats take this a step further and add more elaborate cheats ranging from button combos to control the backlight to changing the game in a manner not far off rom hacking as mentioned below (cheats and hacks (including game fixes) are often ported back and forth).
The EZ5 has 3 main cheating areas (outside of trainers and the likes of DSATM).
These take the form of action replay codes and the cht format used by the EZteam.
Only one format can be used at a time but in the settings menu of the EZ5+ there is the option to switch from one format to the other.
Cheats also need to be enabled at the main menu (press a button and select the codes to use after hitting run).
Action replay (ARDS) cheats
Action replay codes became the de facto standard among DS carts owing to several high profile carts and programs adopting them as well as the action replay device itself.
Today GBAtemp hosts a well respected database with which the EZ5 is compatible.
You need to convert it to an ezarcode.dat file using a tool provided by the EZteam. It is windows only but wine should be capable of running it (will probably require the use of some native DLL files) and the actual process can be done by hand too.
See also DS side updating of cheats (requires DS compatible wifi and internet connection). ezflash forum topic
cht format cheats
The cht format is an earlier format the EZTeam used when cheats were first added for the EZ5 and support for it is still there.
It is fairly simple to convert back and forth between ARDS cheats and cht format but the extra step proved unpopular so true ARDS support was added.
Today it is aimed more at quick testing and use of freshly made cheats rather than day to day usage (although it still can be used for that). It supports a cheat library in "cheatcode.dat" form and single cheats in .cht format.
The most commonly used conversion tool conversion software homepage
(it requires .net, see thread for hand conversion method: ezflash forum topic )
Grab xml file from gbatemp cheat database and import into application, conversion takes a matter of seconds for the whole database.
Picture of application
These also take the form of the EZTeam cht format although extensive libraries, tools and documentation exists as the format is common to a lot of older carts. More on this comes under the expansion pack section.
New cheats can be obtained from the database or made using emulators. Once on the cart the menu has to be activated before the game is launched (a simple touchscreen option on the main menu) and when launch is pressed another menu allowing you to select the cheats is displayed.
In game the cheats you selected can be activated and deactivated by pressing L, R and start and L, R and select respectively.
Sidenote on slow motion.
Slow motion works by adding extra work for the CPU and consequently the amount of slow motion varies rom to rom.
As mentioned it can be added as a cheat in some cases or as a hack with something like DSATM.
Download play is a feature of the DS much like the multiboot feature on the GBA. Here a small file is sent via the wireless networking hardware to another DS that lacks the game in question, this allows one of several things to happen. Usually this is either a demo of the game or a multiplayer client allowing others to join a game hosted by someone else.
Some consider it a very important feature so that is why it has a section rather than a note in the section above.
Download play is a method of running code without the use of a cart over relatively common/simple protocols so Nintendo naturally only allows official code to run that way (it does this by means of a RSA check which is nearly impossible to fake).
In older carts (or older firmwares of the newer carts) the signature could become broken by the patching used to get the game to run meaning support for download play games was not very high.
One way around this was to run flashme on the receiving DS which caused the check to be ignored (amongst other things) and thus most games able to be played.
Flashme is a modification of the firmware which technically voids the warranty of the DS (there exist many reports of people sending a flashme modified DS in and nothing being said) and also carries an element of risk when doing it, the main draw of flashme was back in the GBA slot/slot 2 days of the DS where GBA slot carts were used and required some method to dupe the DS into loading DS code from the GBA slot. In all but the very first DS slot carts this is not necessary and so flashme has fallen out of favour in recent times.
With flashme not a viable option for some the flash cart makers decided to seek a way to fix download play and the EZteam were no exceptions (although they did arrive a bit late to the party).
Download play is a common feature of DS games and much like commercial roms before it it would be impossible to check them all, unlike commercial roms though there is no list of problem roms. To this end the well rated games from first party devs, captive devs and third party developers (tetris, mario kart, advance wars, zelda, download station 1 (EU), .....) as well as requested titles were tested.
All that were tested worked and even the hacked version of Zelda worked (no hack in streamed version but hack present on original).
The major driving force of engineering and science is the belief that someone can do something better than what already exists and computing is certainly no exception.
Hacked roms are roms that have been altered by third parties to behave differently, in the case of the DS this usually takes the form of a translation of the rom although trainers, sprite hacks, text hacks, music hacks, level hacks and all manner of other hacks exist.
GBAtemp has become a major focal point for hacking of nintendo consoles (the GBA, DS, GC and Wii especially) and there are certain issues for some carts that come about for carts using hacked roms. This section is a test of the bigger hacks and an attempt to find a breaking point for the EZ5+ in this regard.
All hacks done using the developers suggested tools.
While the version used should not affect the hacks the version of ndstool used for initial hacks and guitar hero is the older version (pre secure area encryption support) available at
ndstool -x x.nds -9 arm9.bin -7 arm7.bin -y9 y9.bin -y7 y7.bin -d data -y overlay -t banner.bin -h header.bin
ndstool -c xmod.nds -9 arm9.bin -7 arm7.bin -y9 y9.bin -y7 y7.bin -d data -y overlay -t banner.bin -h header.bin
Basic ndstool deconstruct/reconstruct.
Multiple roms from the list above tested. All worked as expected.
Different size files ndstool rebuild (using a method known to be working on other carts).
The game of choice is the megaman 5 undub (untouched Japanese sound to US rom).
Zelda Wind Waker dpad hack (US).
Originally a Japanese hack and ported to the US. The game is originally controlled by the stylus with the dpad being used for map, menu and the like. This hack allows the use of the d-pad instead of the stylus/touchscreen.
Guitar Hero controller hack.
The game features some buttons that go in the GBA slot to simulate a guitar (generally called the guitar grip in the literature). This hack allows the face buttons and dpad on
the DS to be used instead. Also available in cheat form.
Jump Ultimate Stars translation (deufeufeu/geunt version)
Jump Ultimate Stars is a translation of a game where a load of the Shonen Jump (a Japanese comic franchise like Marvel or DC) characters come together in a fighting game. License issues mean a western release will likely never happen but the game is currently being translated by fans (presently only a small amount left to do).
Both a popular hack and a problem on a few carts.
Final Fantasy 3 Japanese to Thai translation.
"1 year on" version tested.
One of the first translations for the DS (actually beat the US release of FF3) and a problem rom for some carts.
All hacks worked (rom loaded/saved and hack worked).
Other hacks can be tested if so desired but it is usually alterations of size of the binaries or the file system that cause problems.
This is but a very small sample of hacks, for much more you are directed the GBAtemp rom hacking section which as mentioned is one of the most active hacking sections for the discussion of hacking DS roms.
Presently the EZ5+ loader is based on moonshell (this section will be ammended if the situation changes which it looks like it might) which is something of a two edged sword.
On the one hand it is a bit more clunky than the simpler loaders of days gone by (roms and homebrew are simple enough to operate though) while on the other it does make for more customisation/wider range of available skins and some would argue visual appeal.
Icons for the roms are there in multiple sizes.
Navigation and launching is done with either the stylus or the d pad (up and down and 5 roms/a page with left and right).
Icons are displayed beside the rom list (using names from the microSD) on the top screen and can be changed from big to small.
The bottom screen displays the icon with the internal name (the name in the header) of the rom below it.
Help is available for the key combinations.
Moving and deleting of files is possible in loader. Copying speed is around 100 kilobytes a second.
Cheat menus are simple to operate. There is a button cheats on and cheats off (can also be disabled/enabled in game but needs to be activated beforehand),
Time to get from power on to game loading is short although perhaps not as quickly as other carts is still well within reason. First load of a new rom can take a little while but second load is quicker.
There are several translations of the loader at time of writing with more easy to make owing to them being fairly simple text files. English, Spanish, German, French, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese and Italian come with the 1.84 kernel.
Being based on moonshell the skin is little more than a group of ini files and bitmap pictures. Unlike some older carts changing skins them is a matter of replacing the files on your microSD.
Being moonshell based there is a lot to choose from in both moonshell skins (will need some tweaking) and EZ5 specific skins. There have been some changes to the menu however so some of the very first skins will not work "out of the box".
Media player. Moonshell is most well known for being a media player so testing the functionality of it is called for. Note that there are several other video, audio, text and picture players/viewers with features that may make them better for certain uses.
Video/DPG. This is a format based on mpeg1 video. The encoder that comes with moonshell is called dpgenc.
The test video is Betty Boop - Minnie The Moocher available from:
http://moonbooks.net/moonbooks/download.php?view.514 and skateboard video (Heroin Skateboards Live from Antarctica initial UK DVD release, main version of the film) encoded with dpgenc. The video was chosen owing to high motion, high detail, serious potential for bitrate spikes, noise owing to methods used which all in all a serious test of any video encoder/decoder.
Others encoders include batchDPG (currently forked and updated by Gh0st/ghost/i_Am_Ghost with homepage available on link (Korean language)), speru, EZbuilder by abraxas (no relation the EZteam or any EZteam software) and a *nix compatible (python) script.
As the formats are well known conversion/assembly by hand is also possible. Such things are outside the scope of this review though.
The Moon Books Project is a a site dedicated to bringing copyright free (either by way of age of copyright being surrendered) content to the DS and is well worth a look.
Moon Books Project homepage
There is even an online conversion option available there.
Test results. The moonshell used in the loader uses the last update available for video decoding so it plays about as well as can be expected. The Minnie the Moocher video played perfectly while the skateboard video suffered a slowdown/dropped frames during the intro sequence.
Quality is as good as your encoder and options used (moonshell while perhaps not suggested for audio is generally considered the best option for day to day use when it comes to video on the DS). Entire films and several TV shows are well within reason (especially with the high capacity SDHC carts now appearing).
The EZTeam claim support for MP3, Ogg, WAV and MOD in the loader. Being moonshell code it should have the same limits as moonshell. Samples were taken from a selection which made use of commonly used bitrates, methods (CBR, ABR, VBR) and numbers (44KHz) and all performed well.
Problems, if you click off the seek bar when playing audio then it can not be returned (pressing b to stop and then loading a new song is possible though).
Loader experiences a fractional amount of slowdown while browsing roms (loading icons) with audio playing.
The DS slot of the DS is too slow to run GBA code so it then requires the use of the GBA slot for GBA code. Some of the later model GBA slot carts were fairly feature rich and so quite expensive and not to desirable for some on top of a new DS cart.
Seeing this the EZteam released the 3 in 1 and others followed with release of their own expansion packs. These budget packs have enough memory to store/run a GBA game or two (main storage is on the DS slot cart) as well as some ram for various homebrew programs and the DS opera browser meaning you can have most of the functionality of a more expensive cart at a greatly reduced price.
The EZteam released source code to allow access to the 3 in 1 and so other progams and carts were able to use the 3 in 1.
Officially the EZ5 only supports the 3 in 1 and the support it has built in is fairly minimal at present for GBA roms with no onboard patching (there is a windows based patching program), the loader not using the ram but the NOR section.
GBA linking, DS rumble supporting games and the DS opera browser should work out of the box though.
There are however several homebrew applications to support various expansion packs including the 3 in 1 with the most commonly used being rudolph's exp pack which sports the "missing" functionality (can use ram and has extensive autopatching).
GBA cheats are supported by the EZ5 itself (cheats in gba .cht format added at time of patching) and there is also the likes of gabsharky and trainers
Some DS games will look to the GBA slot and see what GBA game is there. This can have several uses including, bonuses in a game (extra maps, missons, weapons) to full blown save importing.
In the case of the former DS games merely check the game and act accordingly while the latter will try to read the save memory of the game, with most flash carts not using the same memory type this reading fails and so the bonus does not happen. This is most prominent in the case of pokemon diamond and pearl which has support built into the loader (later reverse engineered and made into a patch for use on other carts).
As already mentioned the support of flash carts is vital to their chances of making it in a very competitive market.
One of the main complaints leveled at the original EZ5 was the lack of developer interaction (there were several people helping but the EZteam themselves were not as involved as they might have been).
The main point of contact with the EZTeam on the US forums is Windirt (EZ官方发言人 on the Chinese forums or Admin if you recall the old English .cn forums). He is the head coder and one of the main people behind the products.
Otherwise the forum is frequented by coders, skin makers, those knowledgeable in matters of the EZ5 and other uses from all over (several of which also frequent GBAtemp). There is a wiki, irc channel and a bunch of faqs on the forum.
Computers blindly follow instructions and to operate all but the most simple of things gets very complex so people abstract the basic operations to make it easier to work with and the text used to get the functionality of the program is known as the source code.
Open source as the name implies is when a developer makes the source code available to others and allows them to use it either for fixing what is there or adding new functionality.
Historically the EZteam have not been as forthcoming with code and information as the likes of the recent acekard RPG but the files used are usually in a fairly obvious format (naming lists, skins), some code tends to get released (in the case of the EZ5 an early version of the loader has source code, the 3 in1 has extensive libraries and technical data, there is write code (DLDI renders this somewhat obsolete though) and the skins have information on them) and most software coming from the EZteam is not adverse to being hacked (some others use compression, encryption and so forth but the EZTeam stuff tends to disassemble well).
As mentioned the EZTeam have been around for quite some time compared to some of the competition.
With regards to official support the older carts like the EZ4 are still looked after (last patching update (which also can be used for some of the even older carts) at time of writing was 9th of July 2008) and the software is the same for both the older EZ5 (original and NYE versions) and the EZ5+.
With EZ5 software there is usually a stable release and then a line of betas improving on it with the resetsp.bin being made available for all users.
The DS slot flash cart market is very mature these days with most new carts (including this one) being launched to consolidate features and any newcomers (be they from new teams or established ones) face a steep entry barrier.
In the case of the EZ5+ there is nothing to put it far above the competing carts and equally there is nothing really holding it back.
Compatibility for all areas of interest is high.
Developer and community support is there.
Price (taken at time of writing, early July 2008). Not as cheap as the likes of the ItouchDS but competitive with the likes of the SC DSone, r4 and DSTT/TTDS.
Extra features, while not presently having the bleeding edge features of some of the other carts like text readers in game and real time save there is a good cheat engine, soft reset and a functional loader.
Quality of build is good, sideloading without a spring means there is no chance of flying memory cards.
Ease of use can generally be considered trivial to use/get games running while still being able to bring the complexity and extra functionality that it provides when the time comes.
Presently there is nothing the EZ5+ sports that will set the world alight but it is unlikely you will regret the purchase.
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