Distinguishing Reflashable Bootlegs

Some bootleg games can be reprogrammed with your own ROMs. But how can you tell if you have one of these hidden gems, and is it worth your time and effort?

Do note this method will require a screwdriver, but what type may vary from bootleg to bootleg. It should be one of 3 types: philips head, tri wing or game bit like the official carts. This will be up to you to figure out, your best option is to get a screwdriver set with multiple heads. There are many options online for these sets, and you can find one we use here along with a Game bit here if needed (GB Studio Central earns a portion of sales for these sets).

You will also need a flasher that is compatible with flashing bootlegs. I mentioned a few in my previous article.

Step 1: Opening The Cart

The first thing you need to do is open your bootleg. A number of different revisions have been released over time, and the best way to identify which one you have is to open it up. All you need to do is remove the tiny screw from the back of the cart, then slide the front part of the shell down so it can be pulled towards you.

A Pokémon Crystal Bootleg
A Pokémon Crystal Bootleg
A Game Boy cartridge opened with the printed circuit board exposed.
How the cart looks when opened.

Step 2: Identifying The Cart

Now that the cart is open, you need to work out which cart you have. How can you tell if it’s flashable? Luckily, someone has done all the hard work for us!

Over at https://flashcartdb.com/ there is a curated list of reflashable bootlegs. In the contents at the top of the page, click the link for GameBoy Clone/Repo Flash Carts. This will give you a table with pictures of the boards of a bunch of carts you can compare to your cart. Some of The Joey JR information may be outdated, check out the BennVenn discord for more info.

In my case it was a M29W640 SD007 48BALL-64M. It is reflashable but has no battery or holder, so saving won’t work unless one is installed.

https://flashcartdb.com/index.php/M29W640_SD007_48BALL-64M

What To Do Now?

The first time you plugin your bootleg, you should make a backup of the ROM. This is not crazy important, but some have modified roms to handle batteryless saves and they could be useful sometime in the future or if you ever want to revert back to the original ROM. Now you are ready to reflash your bootleg with your GB Studio game. These bootlegs don’t have any write protection so they can be reflashed as many times as the flash chip can handle so don’t worry about having to reflash if you need to update your game.

Final Notes

Bootlegs may vary in size. A lot of them are either 2 MB or 4 MB – this is massive in size for a Game Boy game. You will be hard pressed to try and fill all that space with a GB Studio ROM, and the max size a GB Studio Game can be is 4 MB. These bootlegs are perfect for personal use with GB Studio games. I myself have about 20 of them I use for multiple games and for $3 each you really can’t go wrong.