• Datel Freeloader Review - Action Replay Gamecube Region Free disc

    Once upon a time, there was a Freeloader. It was late, as usual, but everyone waited with baited breath, because it promised much.

    And so it came to pass, the Freeloader finally arrived, and oh what gifts it brought. The ability to de-zone everyone's Gamecubes. Finally, an easy (and cheap) way for anyone in the world to play games from anywhere else in the world. It was welcomed with open arms.

    Datel, after many delays, have now released their de-zoning disc. Twice. The first shipment, with discs marked version 1.04, worked almost as intended, but it soon became apparent that the US version of Resident Evil Zero did not work on PAL Gamecubes. This issue is fixed in version 1.06, which was released very soon after the first one. 1.06 also works a lot more smoothly than 1.04. Those who have received version 1.04 should send them to Datel for upgrade to 1.06. So everyone should be happy. Information on this update and where to send your 1.04 disc can be found on the forums at www.codejunkies.com.

    However, the reason for the delays was cited as time spent making the disc 100% compatible and so it remains to be seen what future games may also prove problematic.

    As usual with this type of product, there are issues and workarounds. None of them are particularly serious, but they make the Freeloader more accessible to some Gamecube owners than to others.


    Freeloader itself is region free, so it can be used in any type of Gamecube (Japanese, American or European). To use the Freeloader, like most bootdiscs, just insert the disc, turn on the Gamecube and remove it once the splash-screen appears. The prompt then tells you to insert your chosen game. The game will then load.

    There is another method to try in case this one does not work. It involves inserting the Freeloader disc, turning on the Gamecube and then pressing the Z button at the splash-screen, choosing the appropriate region for the game, removing the disc and then inserting the game. This method is included to try and make it more future proof and was not required for any of the games I tested.
    NTSC games on PAL Gamecubes
    The main intended use for the Freeloader is to allow PAL Gamecube owners to play Japanese and American NTSC games. No problems in using Freeloader for this have been reported thus far, as long as you have version 1.06. The games are output in PAL 60Hz mode, so essentially, all this means for PAL Gamecube owners is that to get the most out of Freeloader, you must own a television capable of displaying PAL signals at 60Hz (as well as the usual 50Hz). This will not be an issue for most people, but check our guide to televisions for more information. If your TV supports RGB, then using the Official RGB cable will give the best results.

    PAL games on NTSC Gamecubes

    The other groups of people wanting to make use of Freeloader are those with NTSC Gamecubes. They might want to rent some PAL games, borrow a game from a friend or get some second hand bargains. Or they may not have modified their Gamecube to allow Japanese games on their American cube and vice versa. Also in this category are owners of the Panasonic Q.

    Firstly, the good news is that US games work perfectly on a Japanese Gamecube/Q and vice versa. The not so great news is that when a PAL game is tried in an NTSC machine, the Gamecube tries to output the signal in NTSC, but at 50Hz. This format is incredibly rare and will appear as a black and white picture on most televisions when using composite or svideo connections. There is a way around this issue.

    If the PAL game supports a 60Hz mode, thus providing the more common NTSC 60Hz signal, this option will provide a colour picture on fully NTSC compatible TV's. The 60Hz mode in PAL games is normally activated by holding down the B button after inserting the game, until a prompt appears, asking if the player wants to enable the 60HZ mode. However, Freeloader makes this easy for you by forcing the prompt to appear (as long as the game supports it). Pressing YES will solve the problem, assuming the television supports NTSC properly, but if the owner has already been playing their NTSC Gamecube games via a composite or svideo cable, then it certainly does.

    However, not all PAL games support a 60Hz mode and this problem is difficult to get round. Using a VGA cable and a suitable display device, be it a monitor, plasma screen or projector, should solve the problem. But normal cables (RGB, composite, svideo) will all give black and white pictures on TV's.

    So, the Freeloader works. It is very straightforward to use, but you must have a television capabale of displaying the required signals. The niggling doubt about future compatibility still remains, as demonstrated by the Resident Evil Zero compatible version update. But let's be optimistic! It currently works as intended.

    And so the Freeloader stayed, having won the hearts of most of the villagefolk by making the rest of the world just that little bit easier to access. They hoped the Freeloader could cope for a long while to come. If not, they could always move to that other village. You know. Importland. Where they import the actual Gamecubes as well as the games.
    The End.

    Freeloader Version 1.04 and 1.06 were tested. See text for details, but basically make sure you have version 1.06.

    edit: There was also the Action Replay disc with memory card that had similar functionality and was marked 1.06B. There might have been a 1.06b (lower case) but my memory is hazy at this point - please post in comments if you know the details!)

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