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January 5, 2010 6:17 PM   Subscribe

Why does our Nintendo DS keep deleting our saved progress in Super Mario World?

We recently bought a used copy of "Super Mario World," which is a Game Boy Advance game that we play on a Nintendo DS Lite. We've gotten through the first couple map screens and have, as expected, been prompted a few times to choose "continue" or "continue and save." We generally select "continue and save." (If we've ever selected just plain "continue," it was by accident since it's the first option.) When we quit and start the game again, sometimes the first of three games will have our saved progress, but sometimes they'll all be "new" games.

We clearly did it the right way at some point or else we never would have been able to start over with our progress saved. We can't think of anything we've done differently to lead to these different results.

This is frustrating since we won't make much progress in the game if it keeps up like this. We played "New Super Mario Bros." a lot and never had this problem. I've Googled around but haven't found any reference to this issue.

Has anyone else experienced this with "Super Mario World" or other GBA games played on a DS? Any ideas how to fix it?
posted by Jaltcoh to Technology (11 answers total)
It's almost certainly an issue with the cartridge itself. My copy of Super Mario RPG does this if you so much as touch the cartridge when it's on.
posted by yellowbinder at 6:34 PM on January 5, 2010

Response by poster: Hm, so you think it probably has to do with the fact that we bought it used? Is there any way to fix this? Does that blowing thing we did when we were kids still work?
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:37 PM on January 5, 2010

Best answer: The memory that holds the saves on GBA carts requires power. If the battery is dead or the contact comes loose, you'll lose the saves.

The GBA port of Super Mario World came out in 2002, I think, which means the cart you have may be seven or eight years old at this point.

However, it's also possible you have a bootleg cart. A lot of bootleg GBA carts got onto the market thru eBay and the like, and they tend to be of a decidedly inferior quality and often have trouble with holding saves. If it's a legal cart, it should look like this and have an imprint on the back with the Nintendo logo followed by this:

Model No. AGB-002
Pat. Pend. Made In Japan

Regardless, while I think it's possible to replace the battery, it's probably not worth the money and effort; you'd be better off buying a new cart.
posted by Target Practice at 7:57 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hypothetical: Some older GBA games may save to volatile memory backed by a battery of some kind, just like old NES carts. The game was released in 2001. If it does indeed save via a battery-powered bit of memory, it could be that your battery is no longer reliable. There is aprobably a fix, but it's probably a pain.

Again, this is pure speculation, but it sounds like it could be an issue.
posted by GilloD at 7:59 PM on January 5, 2010

Best answer: This sounds a lot like your problem. The author indicates it's not a battery issue as most GBA carts don't use a battery. Sounds a little hopeless, but you're not alone!
posted by GilloD at 8:01 PM on January 5, 2010

Best answer: Many GBA games sold as used are actually counterfeit. Here are photos of counterfeit and authentic cartridges compared, and here's a guide on eBay (informative but unfortunately full of spelling errors) with information on how to tell the difference between the two.

Counterfeit cartridges often include faulty or inadequate memory, which causes saved games to disappear after a few minutes (or a few hours). I've had this problem a handful of times, and in each case it was because I'd (inadvertently) purchased a counterfeit cartridge.

Even legitimate retailers like GameStop will occasionally sell counterfeit cartridges---not because they're malicious, but because sometimes they just don't actually examine what they're selling before they sell it. If you do determine that it's counterfeit, you should definitely try to return it to the seller.
posted by aparrish at 8:07 PM on January 5, 2010

Plan B for you is of dubious moral backing, but: You could always buy one of the "pirate" carts for the DS. You can download ROMs to it (Usually via a Mini-SD) and play and save from there. This allows you to pirate games, but you can also download ROMs for games you already own. I do not know where that falls, legally speaking.

If you want to play GBA games in this way you'll need a GBA expansion cart, also. You can get them together for about $50. Just an idea!
posted by GilloD at 8:24 PM on January 5, 2010

Best answer: Follow up: This page indicates that SMA2: Super Mario World uses EEPROM for saves. EEPROM doesn't require a battery, so legal copies of the game won't even have one. I'd say there's an outside chance that the problem is caused by a faulty or dirty cartridge slot, but dollars to donuts you've got a bootleg cart.
posted by aparrish at 8:25 PM on January 5, 2010

More on EEPROM in GBA carts. This link has little practical use, but for the nerdier among us who may find this topic, there's your primer on GBA memory.
posted by GilloD at 8:42 PM on January 5, 2010

Best answer: Nthing bootleg cart. I bought a copy of this title from a 3rd party seller on Amazon 4 years ago and it wound up being a bootleg; it has save game issues. The box also features screen captures from Super Mario Sunshine on the back side.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:59 PM on January 5, 2010

Response by poster: Hm, I guess that's what I get when I buy the game for 10% of the cost of a new one. Too bad. Thanks, everyone.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:27 AM on January 6, 2010

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