Data exchange for consoles will be huge one day -- and InterAct has taken the first step.
a d v e r t i s e m e n t
IGN64's detailed review of InterAct's outstanding peripheral. Photos included.
January 26, 1999
You have just finished designing the coolest Top Gear Rally car design ever. You have spent hours perfecting the decals, everything is just as it should be. You plug in your Controller Pak and it tells you that there is not enough room available. Eeek! Should you erase the data and forever lose your custom team for FIFA 99? Wouldn't it be cool if you could view, or even back up the contents of the pak and make room for the TGR car?
Did you ever sit down and create 20 WCW wrestlers in WWF Warzone's create-a-wrestler mode, and you were dying to share them with everyone in the world? Did you ever want to copy a game save from one memory pak to the other?
Someone out there has heard your prayers. Even before any of the big game companies could release a modem attachment, peripheral maker InterAct has come up with a sweet peripheral that makes Controller Pak space problems history. But there is more. N64 or PlayStation owners with a PC are going to flip when they find out what they can do with this thing for the price of a game.
The DexDrive is a cubical unit a little larger than four Controller Paks. The product has a built-in serial cable (9-pin), and comes with a 12-volt power adapter that can be disconnected. The unit has rubber feet to prevent slipping (we have ours placed on top of the PC case). Plug the serial connector into the back of your PC, and install the software (two floppies are included, but you can also download the latest software from InterAct's website). The program is compatible with Windows 95/98 and NT 4.0.
We had absolutely no problems hooking the DexDrive up. In fact, as soon as we launched the software (called DexPlorer) it recognized the DexDrive right away. Shocking when you consider the fact that we expected to have to configure it in some way.
Once the software and unit is installed and you've plugged the DexDrive's power supply into the wall, just plug a memory card into the unit and let the fun begin.
The DexDrive will immediately recognize the memory card and display the file headers in the DexPlorer window. From here, you can back-up the entire memory card into a file (using .N64 file extensions), delete individual save files, reformat the entire cartridge (starting over from scratch), or copy one entire memory card to another.
The .N64 file saves all the data from the memory card, but you can append notes to each save file. For example -- say you've saved a Turok 2 game. You can attach a note explaining where exactly you are in the game for easy reference. Granted, these notes will not be carried over when you copy the save game back to the memory card, but it's a great feature when you give the .N64 file to a friend and helps you stay organized.
That's right, you can put the .N64 file on a floppy disk or, even better, e-mail it to a friend who also has a DexDrive. He can then throw the file on his own memory card and use it for his own benefit. You can even copy one save file from a .N64 file onto a memory card instead of copying the entire contents, simply by dragging the icon over to an empty slot on the memory card. Now that's ease of use.
Even though the main draw of the DexDrive is having the ability to transfer save files over the Internet, the peripheral has quite a few side benefits as well. First, the interface makes it a lot easier to manage your save files. We all know how slow and crappy it is to delete files through the Controller Pak menus in N64 games. You have to find a game that uses Controller Pak saving, you have to start the N64 while holding down START, you can... Woops, you can't even copy data from one pak to the other. With the DexDrive, it's all a matter of clicking on the file you don't want, clicking delete or copy, and you're done.
What About EEPROMs?
Yeah, what about all those games that use EEPROMs to save your game, such as Banjo-Kazooie or Star Wars: Rogue Squadron? Here's the kicker: If you own InterAct's GameShark, you can even transfer the EEPROM data to a Memory Pak and back it up on the DexDrive. Although the procedure is a little tedious, it works and helps with Nintendo in-house titles that have moved away from using Memory Paks.
Will it work with all Memory Paks?
Third party controller paks have a history of being unreliable and lose data. InterAct tried to make sure that the drive works well with all major Controller Paks out there, but you never know. If a pak is prone to losing data when you use it with your games, it probably will screw up with the DexDrive once in a while as well. We suggest that you get yourself a Nintendo Standard Controller Pak -- in our opinion still the only reliable memory pak out there. Here is a list of paks InterAct tested for compatibility:
- Controller Pak-Nus 004
- Mad Catz 1X
- Mad Catz 4X
- Mad Catz 16X
- Naki Memory Card Plus
- NitroBYTE-256 K
- Nyko Memory Pak X4-81012
- Nyko-Memory Pak-R349712
- Patent Pending-4X
- SV302-256 K
- SV375A-Memory Card Plus-S2397
There will be sites (IGN included) that will be dedicated to providing save files for specific games. In fact, InterAct is working on a website that will feature all the latest DexDrive files to download: http://www.dexchange.net and http://www.gameshark.com/dex. InterAct will have Saves of the Week and save file contests that will give users the opportunity to win prizes. And whenever InterAct updates the DexPlorer software, you'll find the new version available on its site. Speaking of which, we noticed notable improvements over earlier beta versions of the DexPlorer software. Filenames are now Win95 compliant and all the little bugs seem to have been ironed out.
Companies like EA Sports and THQ are already officially supporting the DexDrive with new statistics for some of its sports games or track data. Other companies, like Midway, and Acclaim have also expressed an interest in supporting the device. Hopefully, the DexDrive will also encourage developers to include such neat features as paint shops or customization screens (can you imagine a create-your-own deathmatch level feature?).
PSX vs. N64 DexDrive
Unfortunately, you need two different DexDrives if you own both a PSX and an N64 -- in order to keep costs down, InterAct chose to include only one controller slot per unit (you can see the two different drives in the pic above). However, the DexPlorer software is dual-compatible, which means you can hook up two drives and use the same program to manage them. Since the PlayStation has a built-in controller pak management menu that supports icons, it's optically a bit nicer to look at the different game saves on DexPlorer. The functionality is the same.
The DexDrive is great. We love it. The unit really opens up opportunities between long-distance Nintendo 64 users. You can now proudly show off your WipeOut 64 records or freely trade WWF Warzone (and Attitude) characters all over the Web. You can prove that you really beat Castlevania in four hours. You can even send your Mario Kart ghost data to your friends and challenge them to a race. Take pride in your work.
And we'll be using this thing to manage our many, many memory cards. Instead of Nintendo's horrible software Controller Pak management, we'll just use the DexDrive to back up our game saves to our PCs and delete unwanted game saves to make room for newer games. The DexDrive is something that should have been made a long time ago, but we're glad something like this is finally available. An outstanding new peripheral, that at a mere $39 delivers virtually unlimited storage and opens a new world to N64 gamers with Internet access. Nintendo, license this thing. N64 owners, buy it.
The DexDrive for N64 will ship in the first week of February.
Tested by Craig Harris and Peer Schneider