Hello again, today we have a fun review that has been a little while in the making. It’s the Plug and Play GC Loader from Black Dog Technology. You may have already seen the installation video I made, if not, you can find that article here. Or if you need to know how to set up the SD Card or update the device, I have links at the bottom. But if you’re here to find out if you should buy the thing in the first place, wait no more, the article has finally arrived. Let’s dig into it!
‘GC Loader PNP is GameCube DVD drive replacement that allows you boot homebrew and your existing library of games on DOL-001 and DOL-101 models. No longer do you need to worry about when your laser will burn out on your DVD drive. The GC Loader is a full replacement and acts exactly* like an original DVD drive but uses memory cards for its media.’
- ‘Easily launch homebrew and your existing library of games.
- Installation is fast and simple, direct plug and play.
- Full Audio Streaming Support.
- Swiss is supported
- Faster loading times compared to original DVD drive.
- Firmware is updatable and a simple procedure’
- Build Quality. I know nothing about what it takes to research and develop a product like this. I’m not an expert when it comes to PBC fabrication. I don’t have an engineering degree of any kind. But what I will say here is that I think this thing is built solid as a rock. The board itself is what I would consider a long piece, but it doesn’t buckle or bend like cheaper/thinner PCBs. Furthermore, the parts soldered to the board are what I can only assume is machine soldered. If this is done by human hands, I want to shake those hands, they are perfectly trained. Everything you need is right on the board and ready to go. There’s nothing that you have to switch on, connect, toggle, or configure. This feels, looks, and is built like a part that Nintendo would’ve made themselves.
- Installation. The installation of the plug and play GCLoader is leaps and bounds better than the previous model that had to be soldered. I have a video down in the “Extended Reading” section, but ultimately, I can explain it in a few short sentences. Turn your Gamecube upside down and remove the screws. Turn it right side up and remove the top half of the shell. Take off the screws on the three sides surrounding the DVD drive. Now take the mount that has the DVD drive connected to it out. Unscrew the DVD drive from the bottom of the mount and do whatever you want with the old DVD drive. Now put the plug through the hole of the mount and screw the three posts into the mount. Now it’s time to snap the mount back into the Gamecube and put every screw back in place. That’s it, you now have a GCLoader modded Gamecube.
- Setup. It’s not enough, of course, to simply install the easy to install hardware. You need to have an SD Card loaded with the proper software to make the magic happen. If you put in an incompatible SD Card or one that’s not properly formatted with the right files on it, you’re going to simply see the normal Gamecube main menu. Like I said before, I have instructions below, but I’ll still give you a quick rundown of how easy it is. It’s as simple as buying any SD Card (not you, PNY) up to 2TB in size. Then you’ll use your PC to format the SD Card to Fat32. After that, google Swiss and download the newest release. In the download you got, there is a GCLoader folder with a boot.iso file in it. Put that on the root of your SD Card with whatever games and homebrew you want to run. Now when you insert that card into your GCLoader, it will just work. It’s magical.
- Upgrade. You may be wondering if the device itself stays the same out of the box forever. Well, I’m excited to tell you that the GCLoader (both models) are fully upgradable. The simplicity that we just talked about is extended to upgrading too. I already have a quick tutorial on how to do so. I’ve got it linked down in the “Extended Reading” section below. But just know to follow @citrus3000psi to keep up to date on those things. Who knows, maybe any gripe you might have with the device could be fixed down the road.
- Multidisc. The GCLoader supports multidisc games for sure. The only funny thing is that I only have Resident Evil 0 as a multidisc game and I haven’t gotten to the end of it to see how it works. Just know that it is supported, absolutely.
- Support. The support for games seems to be more than what is advertised. What I mean by that is simply that, sure, you can run .ISO files on it (you can also shrink those .ISO files too. [more on this in the new “Rant” section at the bottom.]). But beyond standard .ISO files, the GCLoader supports other file extensions. You can get it to recognize .GCM files if you have one in that format from the good ol’ days. Additionally, you can run different kinds of homebrew from the GCLoader. These usually come in the .DOL extension and don’t have banner art like the retail games do. So if you have any of those three file types, they will run with no question on this beast of a device!
- Main Menu. If you need to reset a game, you always can get up and press the Reset button on the Gamecube itself. That function still works as it should with the GCLoader. There is also a method where you can put the igr.dol file on your SD Card which gives you a reset function. You have to use a hotkey to make it work. The IGR of the file means “in game reset” which is the same effect as when you press the console’s Reset button. What my complaint is that there is no way to do a hotkey combination to load the boot.dol at any time from in the game. I want a way to exit back to the Main Menu without getting up and power cycling the entire Gamecube. The reason I’ve put this under cons is because I’m uncertain if it’s a fault of Swiss or the GCLoader. You would think that it could be patched into the game on the fly the same way that the other settings are patched in. Surely I’m not the first person to want to exit back out to Swiss. Make this happen y’all!
This thing is, for lack of a more intense word, a masterpiece. Truly a work of art from people that know what they’re doing. All of the love of their favorite console is in there and so much care was taken. Care was taken in its compact design, meaning it wasn’t overdesigned. But also, care was taken to make sure it didn’t cause any damage to your Gamecube. The simplicity of installation makes this purchase worth the price. I could honestly sit here all day and gush over it. It’s a fantastic bit of tech that is simple to install, simple to set up, and it just works! I now have my entire collection of games ready to go on an SD Card and I never have to worry about swapping discs ever again. It’s all I could ever want.
Product Page (May be sold out when you check, follow @citrus3000psi on Twitter to know when more will be available.)
Click here for the install video.
Click here for how to setup the SD Card.
Click here for how to update the GC Loader.
Now I’m one who rips their own games and doesn’t use the Redump collections on archive.org to get backups of my purchased games. So I went down the route of using GCIT with it’s simple GUI to trim the fat off of the Gamecube games. The GCLoader definitely can load games that are shrunk with GCIT. There is a downside to loading GCIT shrunken games on GCLoader. And that downside is that Swiss itself. Swiss is a punk and shows you a message every single time you go to play one of those games that are shrunk with GCIT. It tells you “Disc shrunk using unsupported tool. Please use Nkit.” It then proceeds, as I said, to let you play the game anyhow.
I’m begging the Swiss dev to remove this warning or at least show it only once and then remember that it’s told you already. GCIT is a valuable tool and is simply much easier to use than NKit. This may seem like a con of the product I’m reviewing, but it’s not. Black Dog Tech simply makes the hardware and it’s Swiss that is the culprit. What’s even funnier is the fact that I downloaded a dump of a game that I own that was shrunk with NKit and it came as a .gcz file. That file type is not able to be run by the GCLoader and is not even recognized as a game by Swiss. So then I took the extra step of converting it using Dolphin. Dolphin then converts it to a .GCM by default with no way of choosing .ISO as the desired file extension. The .GCM file extension is usable in Swiss, but the file size went from being a ~160MB as a .GCZ to about 50MB more as a .GCM. So it doesn’t stay near as shrunk.