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Tips for Buying EarthBound

March 17th, 2012 | EarthBound, Images, Merchandise, Uncommon Knowledge

A few weeks ago, segaboy/Corey posted on the forums about an EarthBound cart he bought that seemed odd:

Hi all, I’ve recently got a Earthbound cart for my birthday back in November. I went to open the cartridge to clean it, like i do all my snes games but this cart just wont open, the screws seem to be extremely striped. Now i do use a security bit to open my games and this is the only one I have ever had problems with.

(You can read the full thread here.)

Anyway, some of us suggested he find a way to take it apart so we can compare it with an official cart. For reference, here’s what an official cart looks like on the inside:

earthbound board
Official cart

And here’s the pic Corey took:

Fake cart

As you can see, the big black chip in the bottom right is completely different and looks soldered on, which is extremely suspicious. Just to make sure, I asked byuu, author of bsnes and all-around SNES hardware expert and here’s what he had to say:

That guy’s cart has an adapter board soldered on that interfaces a NAND flash ROM with the original mask ROM pinout.

Someone took a real(ly cheap) game, like a basketball title, and replaced the ROM and cart sticker. The tiny black chip on top with the really tiny pins is your NAND ROM. Poor guy. That cart won’t even function in a decade.

Apparently there’s a new flood of the above customizable PCB (byuu shared a link but I don’t know if it’d be wise to include it here), so I guess that means we can expect more of this sort of thing in the future.

While I was at it, I asked byuu about another unusual cart we’ve been curious about for a long time:

earthbound counterfeit board
Another counterfeit cart

To this, byuu said:

As for your other link, the second cart pictured is also a fake. But that one wasn’t made off of an existing cart, that one was made from scratch.

These aren’t the only fakes that’ve been found, there was this hilarious one a few months back:

And then there was this one with a description that was at least honest:

This auction is for a Reproduction Cartridge of “EarthBound” for Super Nintendo. It plays in Japanese, but works on a NTSC system.

To sum up, if you’re looking to buy an official copy of EarthBound, you’ll want to be careful before buying first. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure you’re buying from someone reputable, and follow some of the tips here.

It’s stuff like this that makes me wish Nintendo would just re-release the game in some form – even if it’s modified to take out certain songs or whatever. I’d be A-OK with that, personally.


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53 Comments to Counterfeit EarthBound Carts Exist

Satsy said on Mar. 17, 2012

I’m amused that someone took the time to make one of the game carts from scratch. That is dedication! 😉

It is a shame this game hasn’t received any further official releases. Playing it on some sort of official front (in a language I understand) would be really nice. But then there are a lot of things I’d like to see Nintendo do which would be great (and benefiting to both them and the customer!).

Mato said on Mar. 17, 2012

I’m thinking the one made from scratch might’ve been an old pirated one, which is probably where the ROM with all the piracy stuff cut out originated from.

Poe said on Mar. 17, 2012

shooooot, not good 🙁

RadicOmega said on Mar. 17, 2012

Over on Starmen.Net he posted the same thing,I belivie there is a little more information Here: http://forum.starmen.net/forum/Games/Mother2/Finally-got-my-EB-cart-Open-Not-looking-good/page/1#post1829441

Earth Saturn said on Mar. 17, 2012

Now we have to watch out for people trying to make a quick buck by scamming the innocent? This is nothing more than laughable, and dissapointing that people have stooped to this low.

Poe said on Mar. 17, 2012

People have been stooping this low for all of human history. I’m mostly sad that scammers are choosing to target EarthBound fans now, but that’s what happens when demand is high and supply is low.

C’mon, Nintendo! Re-release this game in some form and let us throw our money at YOU instead of scammers 🙁

Earth Saturn said on Mar. 17, 2012

@Poe I agree with you entirely. But as all of us are well aware of by now, for unknown reasons which Nintendo is obviously uninterested in talking about, the entire series probably has about a 1% chance of ever being re-released. Heck, it may even be lower than 1%.

man said on Mar. 17, 2012

I have no problem with ‘counterfeit’ carts, just as long as they are not sold for the price of a standard EB cart and are advertised as counterfeit.

It may look shonky but it’s a way to get Earthbound on the SNES for cheap.

man said on Mar. 17, 2012

@myself Oh, and there should be a small text disclaimer on the sticker, so you can easily tell it’s a replica without having to open it up.

man said on Mar. 17, 2012

@myself again Actually, I’m unsure, that still sounds pretty exploitable.

If I were a replica maker… hobbyist person, what I would do is try and make a PCB in a different shape to the standard SNES cart, as well as create a radically different shell. Then I’d sell these carts at the amount the creation of each cart cost, just so fans could get to play Earthbound (or what SNES game) on their SNES without breaking the bank. That way nobody will be able to hack together a convincing EB rip-off from my custom carts.

Okay I’ll stop babbling now.

NorthofOnett said on Mar. 17, 2012

I don’t own the EarthBound cart (though I will be getting Mother 1+2 in the mail soon!), but I wish I did. Seeing this happen to someone really makes me mad, cuz I know how I’d feel if this happened to me. But this guy bought his from a guy in his town, not eBay. However, now that the news is out that someone was able to pull off a counterfeit EarthBound cart, expect to see more of them to pop up on eBay.

RandomGuardian said on Mar. 17, 2012

Man, I hope this person didn’t pay the full value of a real EB cart. Otherwise I would have been just happy with an authentic replica.

Hououin Kyouma said on Mar. 17, 2012

Not like I was gonna buy a copy of Earthbound any time soon but…
I’m not gonna buy a copy of Earthbound any time soon now.

@RandomGuardian: he paid $120. Ouch!

TragicManner said on Mar. 17, 2012

A couple years ago my EB cart was stolen (long story), so I got to work getting a new one online. Now I am wondering if it is legit, haha.

I suppose that, even if it is fake, I’ll just send pics of the board in so there can be more documentation to the issue.

Corey/segaboy7 said on Mar. 17, 2012

For those wondering, yes I did pay going price at the time $120 back in October just before the prices really skyrocketed. I contacted the guy i bought it from and he says he got it off ebay a few years ago but I am pretty skeptical on that because he always has adds for repo carts of japanese games translated to english on kijiji all the time. Anyway if you guys want, i can take some more photos of the cart and board, because i mean this thing looked pretty damn legit. It wasn’t till I tried to open it that i had my suspicions, the security bit would just spin on the screws and stripped them badly, finds out whoever made the cart glued them in.

Mato said on Mar. 17, 2012

Yeah, more pics would be great, plus if you could took a look at the label too maybe there are some other signs there that others can look out for.

DD said on Mar. 17, 2012

@Corey, that really sucks. I hope you can get a legit copy for a fair price. I think I’m just going to buy Mother 1+2. It might be a little safer.

It reminds me of that time I bought Tetris DS and the cart I received was a bootleg.

Ninten said on Mar. 17, 2012

Do you think it’s safe to buy one (expensive) with all the stuff it came with for all that money?

RadicOmega said on Mar. 17, 2012

@Ninten, These Conterfit work fine, for like a short time. That according to user Byuu: http://forum.starmen.net/forum/Games/Mother2/Finally-got-my-EB-cart-Open-Not-looking-good/page/1#post1829405

Corey/segaboy7 said on Mar. 17, 2012

ok here are some pic links

heres just the front sticker

front of the cart

back of the cart


fake chip

If there’s something else you guys wanna see and let me know, I’ll upload more

Mill said on Mar. 17, 2012

I wonder how many of these counterfeits will trigger the anti-piracy protection…

FlyingManCourage said on Mar. 18, 2012

Segaboy. Contact me. I have a spare EarthBound cart that’s legit that I’m willing to part with for very reasonable price…especially considering your circumstance.

I can’t believe this turned out to be fake. I was at the forefront of the “you’re being paranoid” brigade.

byuu said on Mar. 18, 2012

> I wonder how many of these counterfeits will trigger the anti-piracy protection…

It’s unlikely. The anti-piracy protection really wasn’t that ferocious. It’s just basic “is there more RAM than there should be?”, which was a problem with the earliest of copiers due to laziness on the copier makers’ part.

Even wildly bad emulators have no trouble with it, and they have serious timing and memory mapping problems.

Corey/segaboy7 said on Mar. 18, 2012

Well this one certainly didn’t trigger any of the anti-piracy measures. I have played through this copy from beginning to end and nothing suspicious game play wise.
So there must be a Rom that doesn’t trigger any of it and that’s what’s dumped on the chip. As for that other pirated cart that we have a pic of, on some other boards i have heard copies of games like Chrono Trigger and other rare titles with those exact small boards.

Mato said on Mar. 18, 2012

I’m no expert in color and printing, but that label definitely looks a little too “colorful” for some reason.

Anonymous said on Mar. 18, 2012

Gotta agree with Mato. Looks way too colorful to be legit.

NorthofOnett said on Mar. 18, 2012

I was about to say the same thing Mato. Almost plastic-looking…
And comparing it to this image from Starmen.net, there are some subtle differences on the left side of the sticker.
The bootleg cart’s Nintendo logo and such are cut off just a little too close to the edge.. And the font for the serial number is slightly larger than it should be as well.

It’s definitely not exactly like an original, but I don’t think anyone would have noticed this until really looking close at it. And if I saw an EB cart for sale, I would have snatched it up before looking at it under the microscope.

Poe said on Mar. 18, 2012

Hey Corey, can you get a picture of the label on the top part of the cartridge?

Anonymous said on Mar. 18, 2012

in one picture, it almost looks as though plastic is peeling off the label. Possibly it’s just laminated paper, not actual label paper…

SpinningHobo said on Mar. 18, 2012

@Mato and N.o.Onett,
X3 on the front label looking off. As Mato said, the saturation seems to have been cranked up. In comparing it with the image N.o.Onett posted there are other details that are just off. The triangle under the Nintendo logo seems too large and it’s position is off. There are colors (some purples in the swirls) that also disappear, mayhaps because of the over saturation?

Either way, sorry to hear that you paid $120 for this Corey. Hopefully you’ll find a legit one for a great deal.

Corey/segaboy7 said on Mar. 18, 2012

here is the top of the label, it is peeling a bit but at the time all i thought was that it was a cart that had gotten lots of love


NorthofOnett said on Mar. 18, 2012

Yep, that was definitely laminated; something that was never done to cart stickers.

NorthofOnett said on Mar. 18, 2012

Another thing I just noticed: there’s no TM* next to the logo on the repo cart. Most (if not all) titles/logos on the carts had that trademark symbol.

Corey/segaboy7 said on Mar. 18, 2012

Good Eye, looks like we are starting to get a good list of what people should look out for

Anonymous said on Mar. 18, 2012

Another tell. Notice how on the bottom of the front label there is a little bit of white on the edge where it has been cut unevenly? That’s two things: first the fact that the label was cut by hand, and also that before cutting, labels are printed larger than they need ho be, so there should be no white on the edge.

Aaron said on Mar. 18, 2012

Also, it says made in Mexico on the top right of the back of my real one. Not sure if that goes for all of them. Can’t read all of it, I’ll put the whole top back.



Yours also has no M/ i front of SNS-USA.

Anonymous said on Mar. 18, 2012

On the back sticker, just to the right of important, all my snes carts have a number imprinted in the label. The false cart in the picture does not appear to though. I only have 4 games though, so I don’t know if it’s true for all carts though.

ozwalled said on Mar. 18, 2012

Other possible differences I’m noticing, at least in comparing these images:



-purple triangle in upper left is much larger on the fake
-upper left Nintendo logo is larger and closer to the main image
-that triangle and Nintendo logo don’t line up the same on both carts as a result of this, making for an easy check on THAT particular counterfeit label: if you drew a vertical line between the right point of the triangle and the Nintendo logo on the REAL label, it should land between the “Ni” and “ntendo”, practically touching the start of that “n”. On the fake label, however, that vertical line would make contact somewhere past the middle of that same “n”. (Finally, a use for the Ruler!)

There’s more too, but those are two big ones that seemed like someone could easily see/ check if they’re looking at a photo of the cart or are seeing it in person.

Anyway, whether or not you want to keep this up here is up to you — on one hand it arms people with knowledge for a couple things to look for for a potential buyer not to get fleeced. On the other hand, I suppose it’s also a good resource for a counterfeiter to make a less obvious fake. I’ll let you decide.

ozwalled said on Mar. 18, 2012

Would also like to add that I suppose there’s a possibility that different print runs of the real cartridge might have labels that maybe look a bit different than the real on that was linked to, I suppose. I’m not sure.

Mato said on Mar. 18, 2012

I’m curious to know if maybe there ARE different, legit versions of the front label.

I’m kind of conflicted about this post and its comments too, it’s a weird situation we’re in now. I think helping fans not get ripped off is probably worth keeping it up, at least that’s how I feel right now.

NorthofOnett said on Mar. 18, 2012

Mato are you saying you’re afraid that people are going to take advantage of this knowledge and start ripping off the real thing now?

Dialga Thunderstar said on Mar. 19, 2012

Uh, why do people take apart carts besides checking if they’re legit?

Dialga Thunderstar said on Mar. 19, 2012

Another question: It is actually possible for anybody to make a cart from scratch?

Jungyin said on Mar. 19, 2012

Doesn’t the post itself say segaboy/Corey was opening it to clean it?

Corey/segaboy7 said on Mar. 19, 2012

For me it was for cleaning purposes and making sure i could open it incase the backup battery needed to be replaced. It was once I tried open it that the suspensions started

Dialga Thunderstar said on Mar. 19, 2012

Oh yeah… (palm meets forehead, and not with a phonecall)

Mikeja78 said on Apr. 29, 2012

Well, I am glad you pointed out which ones are fake.

Jay said on Jul. 14, 2012

Just sold this game on EBay. Get the guy asking if it’s a fake or not. I googled and found this page and confirmed it’s a counterfeit.

So not only did he almost get a fake cart, I got scammed when I bought it.

Spidey501 said on Jul. 30, 2012

Wait so you never played the game before you sold it^

Ness is the best said on Aug. 12, 2012

I’ll get a counterfeit cart and burn it.

Johnsie said on Feb. 13, 2013

Someone said somewhere than another way to know if you had a legit or a couterfeit was the weight of the cartridge itself. That person said that he heard that fake EB cart were a bit heavier than the legit ones.

Can someone actually say how much the legit cartridge weight?

Mato said on Feb. 14, 2013

I can weigh a few carts on some delicate scales over at Fangamer, but it’d help to have some actual fake ones to see if how big the difference is. There’s also a chance some legit carts were manufactured in one place and others elsewhere, with slightly different stuff/layouts/whatever, so it’s hard to say for sure without doing some detailed analyses.


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