As you can imagine, during lockdown we had very little in the way of new games and absolutely zero game hunting expeditions. So with the COVID restrictions starting to lift we were rather excited (if a little tentative) to venture out and look for something to new add to our collection. For our first trip we decided to keep it relatively local and braved a nearby town centre. Their branch of CEX yielded nothing (as it often does), however we were rather pleased to see a selection of Gameboy Advanced Pokemon titles sitting neatly in little protective cases on a shelf in Cash Generator!
Now, having researched and collected games for a number of years, we have some idea of the types of games which are regularly forged and the kinds of things to look out for. Pokemon titles on the Gameboy Advance are notorious for fakery so we decided we need to investigate the cartridges before making a purchase. Upon first glance they looked the part; The plastic seemed to be the right colours and they didn’t have that cheap plastic feeling that so many plastic items do these days. The labels too seemed OK. They had all the right pictures and wording, including the Nintendo seal. One looked a little skew-whiff maybe, but not enough to cause alarm. They did have ‘E for Everyone’ ratings, suggesting that they were US cartridges, but as all Gameboy Advance games are region free, we didn’t think this was a problem. Next we looked at the cartridge bottoms (cheeky!). On genuine games, if you look up inside the end of the cartridge, you should be able to see the word ‘Nintendo’ printed on the circuit board. We checked that this was present on all of the cartridges so we decided that our inspection of the games was sufficient and bought the lot!
When buying game cartridges (or any gaming paraphernalia that comes apart) we usually take them to pieces as soon as we get them home; firstly to give them a good clean and secondly to check they’re not big fat fakes. Although we were pretty happy with our in-store game checks, we decided it was probably best to take the cartridges apart anyway and this is what we saw…
Where do I start with this abomination!? I guess I’ll start at one…
- The Nintendo Logo and AGB-E05-01 stamp are indeed present, but there is no date and now we can see text fully it just doesn’t look right…
- We’re also pretty sure that Nintendo don’t use huge chips with stickers on top of them.
- Neither do they use huge blobs of resin to hold things in place.
- The white circle outline that is partically visible on the right hand side of the board is a guide for where the button cell would be if this were the real deal (The absence of which would prove extremely frustrating to the unsuspecting owner of this cart because Pokemon games use a real time clock as part of the game mechanic meaning that saving on this thing would not work properly).
- We’ve no idea what those curvy rows of tiny holes are for, but they should not be present on a genuine cartidge (If anyone does know, drop us a comment below!).
- Here there should be a small notch cut out of the board where part of the rear casing fits snugly in to help hold the board in place.
We didn’t bother to open the rest of the games. Within 20 seconds of having the first cart apart we had spotted six telltale signs (and there are probably more) that showed instantly that all was not what it seemed. Our Pokemon GBA jackpot was too good to be true and jef headed out – carts in hand – to get our money back.
Here is a direct comparison of the counterfeit cart alongside a bona fide Pokemon Ruby. As you can see the real cart (on the right) has a smaller, sticker-less MX chip on the left hand side and a shiny button cell of the right (and no resin in sight!). It also has the proper Nintendo Logo & AGB-E050-01 stamp along with the date, and the little notch on the left of the board. The row of tiny holes is present, but it sits neatly along the top of the pins and not curving through them. And finally (you can’t really see it from the picutre, so take our word for it) looking at the plastic casings side by side it was easy to see that the fake was a little rough around the edges and the screw used to hold the cart together is of the standard cross-head variety and not a tri-wing, as you would expect to find on official Nintendo cartridges.
So there you have it folks. The fraudsters look to be getting better and better at disguising their fakes so if you are in the market for second hand games, particularly Pokemon games, do what Detective Pikachu would do and investigate fully before parting with your hard earned cash!