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The is a device made by Nintendo for its Game Boy Advance portable video game system. First released in Japan in December 1991 it has an LED scanner that reads "e-Reader Cards," paper cards with specially encoded data printed on them.

Depending on the card and associated game, the e-cards are typically used in a key-like function to unlock secret items, levels, or play mini-games when swiped through the reader. See below for a comprehensive list of cards and their functions.

The e-Reader is neither a console nor an accessory, but an add-on device, like the Famicom Disk System or the Sega CD. The e-Reader is one of only three official Nintendo add-ons to be released in North America. The other two are the Super Nintendo Entertainment System's Super Game Boy and the Nintendo GameCube's Game Boy Player. It is also one of the very few Nintendo add-on successes, compared to the 64DD and Famicom Disk System.

General information

Two versions were released in Japan: the original e-Reader (without a link cable port), which could read cards to unlock game content, etc.; and later the e-Reader+ (simply "e-Reader" in Australia and North America), which came with a link cable port to connect with Nintendo GameCube games such as Animal Crossing and with other Game Boy Advance systems for games such as Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire. The e-Reader was only considered successful in Japan. It was announced for Europe but very few were made, as it was almost immediately canceled, and it was discontinued in North America in early 2004, due to a lack of popularity. In Japan, however, it sold much better and was produced up to the discontinuation of the Game Boy hardware line.

In order to add items and scan levels in games such as Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3, a player required two Game Boy Advance systems and a link cable. The gray end would go into the e-Reader GBA and the purple end into the GBA that had the game. After entering the needed point on the game, players would swipe the cards in and the data would be transferred to the game cartridge. This function will not work with the Nintendo DS, partially because there is no link cable support and partially because the shape of the e-Reader prevents it from plugging into the DS's slot 2 (the DS Lite has no such problem, as it is thinner than the standard DS).

e-Reader cards

In the U.S., e-Reader Card packs have been released that contain:
  1. NES games
  2. New levels and power-ups for Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3
  3. Items and designs for Animal Crossing
  4. New trainers to battle in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire
  5. Mini-games, including an exclusive version of Mario Party.
  6. Game & Watch Cards, originally there were plans to release every Game and Watch game on a series of E-reader cards, or at least 20 according to some people. There have only been four of the games officially released.


There have been numerous other games released with e-Reader support in Japan.

Dot code

Data is encoded on the cards using "dot code," a specialized barcode technology licensed from Olympus Corporation. e-Reader Cards may have one or two sets of dot code on them, either a long strip on the left side of the card, a long strip on both the left and right sides of the card, a short strip on the bottom of the card or a short strip on the bottom of the card with a long strip on the left side of the card. Smaller games may require scanning only one card (two sets of dot code), while the larger NES games can require as many as five cards (ten sets of dot code) in order to start the application.

The shorter sets of dot code were only used with the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Cards released in regular sets published by both Nintendo and Wizards of the Coastmarker had dot code on the bottom side of the card. When scanned, the e-Reader displayed a Pokédex data entry for the Pokémon shown on the card. Many of the cards published by Wizards of the Coast included a left side dot code that would allow users to play mini-games, animations, and use secret attacks in the Trading Card Game or play with various songs and graphics.

Compatibility

The e-Reader plugs into the cartridge slot of the Game Boy Advance like a regular game would. The end of the e-Reader sticks out from the Game Boy Advance unit to provide a slot to scan the e-Reader Cards. Electronically, the e-Reader is compatible with any console that supports Game Boy Advance games, however it may be mechanically incompatible with some systems (it simply does not fit), and the ability to link consoles may not be available.

Once installed, the link cable connector on the Game Boy Advance is obstructed, but a pass-through connection on the e-Reader allows link-up features to be used. The Game Boy Advance SP is also fully compatible, although the e-Reader doesn't mount flush with the SP (see picture). As the link cable connector on the SP is unobstructed, the pass-through on the e-Reader is not used.

The Game Boy Player is also fully compatible, and the e-Reader connects as it would to a Game Boy Advance (the e-Reader pass-through connector is used for connecting the link cable). The GameCube hosting this system acts as a Game Boy Advance - in order to link to a GameCube game, a second GameCube, running the game in question, must be used.

The e-Reader can connect to the DS Lite, but not the original DS. The e-Reader can however be modified to fit into the original DS, In either case, there is no support for linking features, as neither system has a link cable port. The e-Reader does not show up on the DS as a GBA game, nor does it appear to be recognized. It can be used however, by booting a standard GBA game, and then quickly swapping the game cartridge with the e-Reader.

The e-Reader does fit into the Game Boy micro., and that system has a link cable port, however it is not a standard connector. A special Game Boy micro Game Link Cable must be used for linking features. The Game Boy micro's non-standard link cable port can not accept the Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Advance Cable, meaning it cannot link with GameCube games without modification to the cable.

Because the first version of the Japanese e-Reader did not have a link cable pass-through connector, it can fit into consoles which the later e-Readers are incompatible with. Even though Game Boys and DSs are region-free, Japanese e-Reader cards work only on Japanese e-Readers, etc.

Game list

Classic NES

Each game in this series comes in a pack of five cards, each of which must be scanned twice, on both sides. There are thirteen games in this series. Each of these games is a direct port of the one-player mode of the classic NES game of the same title (minus the added "-e" suffix). Excitebike, Donkey Kong, and Ice Climber, all released as e-Reader cards, were later released in cartridge form as part of the Classic NES Series on Game Boy Advance. Also, twelve of the thirteen games were included as unlockables in the GameCube game Animal Crossing, in full two-player mode where applicable (Urban Champion was the excluded game).

All NES titles released include:



Animal Crossing-e

The cards, when used with the game's post office, would provide items to players. Some were rare, while others were more common. Some unlocked "town tunes", which were played each time you talked to an animal, still others were "sibling" cards (series 2-4) with two related characters on the front, and yet more were tailor design cards, which unlocked new designs to be used around the village. Aside from the regular card packs, some regular series cards were distributed on a promotional basis through GameStop, EB Games, and Energizer batteries. These cards did not differ from the regular version of the cards contained within the packs sold at the retail level.

Pokémon Battle-e

The Pokémon Battle-e Cards, when scanned into Pokémon Ruby or Sapphire, allowed the player to load up special trainers to battle or to get special berries. In Japan, the series was sold as six sets, each with a different theme, with 10 cards in each set (8 trainers, 1 berry, and 1 checklist), while in the US, the series was packaged together to have two themes per pack. In addition, 2 promo cards, 1 for each version, were packed in with the games. The cards are loaded into Ruby or Sapphire through the Mystery Events function once it is unlocked.

  • Trainer Cards
When scanned and loaded into Ruby and Sapphire, a trainer would appear in a house in Mossdeep City. When the player battled the trainer, the Pokémon used in battle would not gain Exp. points, and the trainer would not earn any winnings, like in a Battle Tower or link battle. The checklist card in each set lists all the trainers for the theme of the set.

  • Enigma Berries
When scanned and loaded into Ruby and Sapphire, a Special Berry would be set into the game. The first time an Enigma Berry card is scanned, you get the berry from Norman. When a new Enigma Berry card is scanned, all the Enigma Berries in the game change into the newly scanned one. An Enigma berry cannot leave the game it was scanned into, except through Diamond and Pearl's migration system. When the berry is transferred, it changes into "Enigma Berry", no matter what Enigma Berry it was before, and gains the ability to restore the HP of a Pokémon holding it if it was hit by a super effective attack.

  • Eon Ticket
This card is seen as part of this set as it is scanned through the same method. See "Other" below for more info.

There were additional Battle-e card sets for Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen and Pokémon Emerald in Japan, but because the e-Reader was discontinued in the US, they were never released outside of Japan, and the e-Reader functionality was removed from all non-Japanese versions of the games as the e-Reader proved unpopular.

Pokémon Colosseum

In Pokémon Colosseum, there is a Colosseum at the back of Phenac City. There are 2 large doors, which in the English version lead to the same arena. In the Japanese version the right door goes to the arena, while the left door leads to a special e-Reader area where players can scan in extra cards to battle additional trainers & capture 3 more Shadow Pokémon

Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3-e

There are 36 cards, divided into two series: 18 for Series 1 and 18 for Series 2. In each package of 18 cards there are five demo cards, five level cards, eight power-up cards, and a promotional card without data strips which only contains an advertisement for the Pokémon Battle-e cards. More were released in Japan, however never saw American release.

Two promotional cards came packed in with every US and Australian copy of the game sold. Five additional cards were released for a very short time and were packed in with the game and sold exclusively at Wal-Mart stores in the US. These five cards have become very hard to find, as the e-Reader had been discontinued in North America not long after the release of the game. The two e-Reader cards that were initially bundled with Super Mario Advance 4 have since been discontinued.

Pokémon Trading Card Game

  • Three cards from this set (Machop, Machoke, and Machamp) were included with the US release of the e-Reader.
  • Also a Suicune card included in Pokémon 4Ever DVDs.


Rockman.EXE & Rockman Zero 3 cards

The Japanese Rockman games for GBA (known as Mega Man outside of Japan) used Card Reader e+ cards to customize their game with the e-Reader +. The cards caused various effects as, such as Base HP, Abilities, Buster Changes, Charge Shot Modifications, B+ Back Abilities. There are even Item Cards which can give out sets of Battle Chips, Sub Chips, BugFrags, Zenny, and even Navi Customizer Programs (Only introduced in Rockman EXE6 Modification Card Part 1 & Rockman EXE6 Modification Card Part 2). They could also cause negative effects ('Bugs') to happen, causing such effects as the causing Rockman to lose health and move the wrong way, or causing the player to be unable to control it. As for the Rockman Zero 3 Cards, they'll change the Resistance Base and add new an overhaul of new things to it as well as Weapon Upgrades and Bullet Appearances to make an actual Buster Shot look like a real bullet that an actual Gun fires.

These cards cannot be used on the English version of the games. The only way to gain the cards' effects in the English versions is through various cheating devices, such as Code Breaker, Pro Action Replay and GameShark.

Other

  • E3 2002 Promo Pack: A very rare promotional pack given away at the 2002 E3 conference, this pack contained a variant Manhole e-card, two Pokémon trading card game cards and a Kirby card that, when scanned, would tell you if you have won a prize. The Kirby card is considered to be the rarest e-Reader card produced.
  • Mario Party-e: A complete card game with 64 cards using the e-Reader for minigames.
    • Mario Party-e Promo Card': While not an e-Reader Card (the card contains no dot codes), a promotional "Two Coin Card" was packed with GamePro magazine and can be fully used with the Mario Party-e game.
  • Air Hockey-e: A promotional card given away at various retailers when the e-Reader was initially released. In this game you play a real game of fast paced air hockey. An AU-exclusive version of this card was packed in with the e-Reader when sold in Australia.
  • Manhole-e: A port of the original Game & Watch game. Included with the e-Reader. Close the manholes as pedestrians pass by. A complete Game & Watch card series was planned for release, but never made it to stores.
  • FOXBOX Kirby Slide Puzzle: A slide puzzle game included in an issue of Nintendo Power and Tips & Tricks Magazine. It was also given away with FOXBOX promotional boxes at Toys R Us.
  • EON Ticket: A promotional card given away at e3, at Toys R Us during the EON Ticket Summer Tour in 2003 and in an issue of Nintendo Power. Used to get Latias or Latios on Pokémon Ruby or Pokémon Sapphire.
  • Pokémon Channel: Three US exclusive cards and three Australian variant cards were released with the Nintendo GameCube Game Pokémon Channel. The USA version holds a "6-Pattern" card, a Pikachu card and a Kyogre card, whereas the Australian version has a Jirachi card, instead of the Kyogre card.
  • Domo-Kun no Fushigi Terebi: Released in packs exclusively throughout Japan, little is known about this series to English-speakers. The cards extended the original title by a great number of mini-games and events not available on the cartridge.
  • Mario VS Donkey Kong: It is a little known fact that this game has a hidden e-Reader support. Nintendo of Japan had a competition where 1,000 lucky people won cards. However, there is space for twelve levels, and there were only five cards released. They are considered to be among the rarest of e-Cards. It is not tested if these cards also work for non-Japanese versions, or if it is exclusive to it.


Homebrew

Tim Schuerewegen was successful in cracking the "dot code" code and was able to turn some homebrew programs into cards, playable on the e-Reader device. Using a special program, one is able to convert program data into a card stripe, and print it onto a piece of paper that can then be scanned and interpreted by the e-Reader. For example, a homebrew NES game by Snobro, BombSweeper (a Game & Watch title clone), as well as numerous tech demos ("hello world," "Mario sprite," etc.) were made into executable files that could be converted into dot code.

A byproduct of the homebrew effort was that a method of "dumping" the data encased in the dot code of e-Cards was discovered. This led to a modified version of the e-Reader ROM being created that can accept these "dumps" and interpret them for use in an emulator.

Homebrew cards can be created from any NES, z80, or arm game (recommended due to smaller file sizes) by first compressing it with nvpktool.exe and then splitting it into bin files with nedcmaker.exe. The resulting bin files can be imported into the e-Reader game ROM under a hacked version of VisualBoyAdvance, which will also output the raw dot code cards that can be printed with nedcprint.exe.

References



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