I’ve recently been adding a bit to my video games collection, and yesterday a package arrived in my mailbox. I only had one of the Super Mario Advance games on my shelf, so when an eBay seller offered all four in a conveniently affordable package I decided to place a bid. Apparently, this wasn’t a particularly good idea. For a collector, the genuine article is worth infinitely more than a bootleg, which is what asia-xpress appears to be selling. Yes, I know, the name and the location (Hong Kong) should have been warning enough, but once in a while you have to give them a chance.
So how do I know these cartridges are bootlegs? Well, for one, like I said, I have a genuine Super Mario Advance 2 cartridge to compare with. The colour of the sky on the label of the bootleg is slightly darker than on the real one, almost purplish. Something like that might be due to fading though, or a just bad batch at the printer’s, but there are other clues. If you look closely at the Nintendo logos on both real and fake cartridges, you’ll see that they are slightly different. It’s hard to explain, but the font looks a little, eh, fatter on the fake. And yes, all the real ones are identical, and all the fake ones are identical, so this probably due to differences in the mould. A more apparent difference is that the cartridges are ever so slightly larger, that is, taller. This won’t work if you’re using a DS or DS Lite, but if you have an original GBA or a GBA SP, you’ll notice that a genuine Nintendo cartridge is perfectly flush with the hardware. The counterfeit cartridges, however, protrude a couple of millimetres. Then there’s the circuit board. This is a bit tricky to do, and requires good lighting, but if you look up past the connectors underneath the cartridge, you’ll notice a date (well, year), the word Nintendo, as well as some other information printed on the board. The bootlegs do not have this.
Finally, there’s the fact that when booting up Super Mario Advance 4 (that’s Super Mario Bros. 3), the Game Boy Player logo shows up for some reason, followed by an error message. Then the game starts up normally. The other three don’t seem to display any kind of irregular behaviour, they all play fine. Now, you might argue that if the games work, what is the problem? Well, for one there’s the appeal of owning the genuine article; for a collector this is important. Secondly, if only the game mattered and I didn’t mind setting the legal aspects aside, I’d simply get a ROM myself, rather than supporting these parasites. Thirdly, people who manufacture and sell these things are ruining the market for the rest of us. Not only are they making it harder to find the real deal, but they are also driving the prices down, devaluing items people have paid for. They also waste my time by having me email back and forth with both them and with eBay customer service. When I contacted asia-xpress, the immediately offered me a refund if I returned the games, but I’m not going to do that. I want this person out of eBay. I guess I’ll have to wait and see what customer service will do about it.