With Pokémon X and Y just a few months away, I really wanted to take a look back and revisit some of the older Pokémon games. I played the original Pokémon Blue for the Gameboy when it came out. My friends and I caught all 150 legitimately. Well, I never had Mew but hey, it’s still 150. I was a lapsed player until I picked up Pokémon Pearl, excited by the possibilities of the online features and wireless trading. I finished Black and just started Soul Silver, which made me really want to play the original game again. So, I decided to buy the remake, LeafGreen, on eBay.
I was aware of fake cartridges but the pictures on eBay looked like a legitimate copy of the game. Plus the seller was based in the USA. It had all the signs of a legitimate cartridge listed in this guide.
When I got the game, the plastic felt a little bit cheaper than the GBA games I’m used to, but the cartridge seemed to show a bit of wear and tear, like someone had played it back in 2004. After playing the game for a few minutes, it became clear there was something off about the cartridge I had just purchased.
It seems like the people who made the cartridge did their homework about how to make a good counterfeit cartridge. It has a metallic label, it has the Nintendo logo printed on the circuit board and has all the correct letters on the front and patent number on the back. Plus, everything is spelled correctly.
So, how can you tell when a much more convincing cartridge is a fake?
1) The Nintendo Logo
Here’s the easy one. Notice how in the real logo, Nintendo is perfectly centered within the red border, with the ® symbol a little above the last letter in Nintendo. In the fake logo, Nintendo is off-center because the ® is in-line with the text. Also, the fake’s border is a lot thinner and the font is a little different.
2) The Nintendo Seal of Quality
This should have been the first red flag for me, but everything else seemed legitimate so I brushed it off as shoddy camerawork. As you’ll notice, the text on the seal is very hard to read on the fake cartridge, but is clear as day on the real one. Also, in the ® symbol has a solid white background on the fake cartridge, instead of being transparent so you can see the metallic green behind it.
3) ID Code and Impression
This one is a little bit more difficult. You can see how much bolder the font looks on the ID code on the fake cartridge. Also note the extra space between the end of the ID code and the edge of the label. More importantly, on the real cartridge you can see numbers impressed into the label behind the letters (Note: To my knowledge, these impressed numbers might be much higher or lower on the label, but are always on the right side).
4) Gameboy Advance logo
5) The ESRB Rating
Here’s another subtle one pointed out by reddit user _Vote_. The most obvious problem with the fake cartridge is that there’s a typo in the ESRB rating; the added space in the word “content,” making it read “con tent,” is a dead give away. Also notice the rating is much closer to the edge of the label, the “E” is a thinner font and is rotated a bit more counter-clockwise compared to the real cartridge.
6) Inside the cartridge
Unfortunately, I couldn’t open the cartridge to check the inside because I did not have the proper screwdriver. However, holding the cartridge up to light reveals the silhouette of one of the chips inside. As you can see, the chip within the fake cartridge is horizontally orientated, like the older-style fake FireRed cartridge found on the other guide. The chip should be be vertically orientated, so it should appear much thinner from this angle. As far as I can tell, the new fake cartridge lacks the save battery found in the old fake one.
7) Playing the game
You should not see the message, “The previous save file will be loaded.” The cartridge I got already had a save file on it labeled “Test,” which was probably just the seller making sure the game would save properly, so I don’t know if this message will appear if there is no save on the cartridge. So, if you don’t have a save file when you boot it up, just start the game, save the first chance you get, and then reset and see if you get the message.
When playing the game, you might encounter other problems. While saving, the music will drop out in the middle of the process. When it comes back, other sound effects, like from navigating the game’s menus, will be much quieter than the music.
Also, you may notice the game will hang for a second or two when exiting menu screens.
8) The Pal Park
If you have the cartridge in your Nintendo DS when you start up a Generation IV game, you will not be able to access the Pal Park, which is how you transfer your Pokémon from Generation III to IV. The game will not recognize that the game is in the cartridge slot, so your Pokémon will be trapped in their original game.
9) The eBay listing
Fake games are much likely to be cheaper than real ones. Expect to pay about twice as much for a legitimate copy. Look very closely at the pictures of the game, and never buy one that uses a stock photo of the box. If you’re unsure if it’s legitimate, you could ask the seller for additional photos. If it looks real, drag and drop the picture into Google Images. If the exact photo shows up from a different website, the seller probably got it from another source instead of taking one of the listed copy. I did a quick search on eBay for “LeafGreen real” and got two results with “real” in their titles that did, in fact, look legitimate.
10) Read the previous guide
There are still older fake versions out there, so make sure you know what you’re looking for. Read it!