Dreamcast MNemo USB-GDROM Controller V5 Review

Over the past 18 years, the Sega Dreamcast has continued to provide a satisfying video game experience to many people. Whether it’s the most hardcore fans or someone looking to try out the system for the first time, it is undoubtedly a game console suited for anyone. The Dreamcast continues to fill the hearts of many with joy, MCPanion included. However, given the age of the Dreamcast, one problem has become apparent. It is now well known that the Dreamcast Disc Drive (GD-ROM) is prone to failure over time. Since this is a widespread issue, one day it will be even harder (and more expensive) to find a working disc drive to play your disc-based games. However, in the modern day we have a solution to this experience-breaking problem. Why use a disc drive when we can replace it with something better? How about a device that can load games into the console direct off of a USB stick?! It sounds crazy, right? Crazy or not, the future of the Dreamcast is here (and it is glorious).

Introducing: The MNemo Dreamcast USB-GDROM Controller

DC USBGDROM Stock Photo

 

Background and Concept:

The USB-GDROM Adapter comes from the brilliant mind of MNemo. Not much is known about MNemo from his/her website, however we can gather that MNemo has been hard at work making optical drive replacements for quite some time now. Fans of the 3DO game console, and their communities, will also recognize MNemo for the USB Host Controllers made for various 3DO console variants. Even though MNemo’s background is a bit of a mystery, it is very clear that he/she has a wh0le lot of talent in making these devices.

The concept of the USB-GDROM Adapter is simple. Since the Dreamcast is getting old and disc drives are failing much more often, this adapter will replace those drives. To make it even more future proof, this adapter removes the need for discs by simply using a USB port to load backed up copies of games. This method also lets you load as many games as you can fit onto your USB device! MCPanion personally has over 100 games on his USB Stick (all of which I own of course). This piece of hardware is truly a future proof solution for the Dreamcast.

USB-GDROM Controller Features:

  • USB 2.0 Host
  • Any USB media up to 2 TBytes: USB Flashstick, USB HDD, USB-SD
  • FAT32 (long file names supported)
  • Unlimited sub-directories with any names
  • 100% compatible (about 600 games was tested by DC community)
  • CDDA implemented
  • Images: GDI, ISO, CDI
  • Region free: can be ON or OFF (you can launch any GDI images(NTSC/PAL/JP/EU/US) at your console)
  • Flexible «Swap Image» feature
  • Compatible with VA0 & VA1 model (all consoles with GDROM connector. VA2 has integrated GDROM Controller)
  • Warranty 50 years (if you buy it directly from MNemo)

Testing and Functionality:

I have been testing the retail unit for the USB-GDROM for over a year now. Here is a list of the tests I have put the device through and the results I have witnessed.
(Please note that this is on a 128GB USB stick, not a USB Hard Drive, and that your mileage may vary due to which USB device you use!)

  • Booting 90% of the North American Dreamcast Library in GDI format
    • Did not find any game that would not boot
  • Booting 50% of the Japanese Dreamcast Library in GDI format
    • Did not find any game that would not boot
  • Booting the Tower of Babel Dreamcast Prototype in GDI format
    • This prototype would not boot.
  • Booting Dummy Sized scene releases of Dreamcast games and homebrew in CDI format
    • This was hit or miss. Audio issues were noticed but were perfectly fine when I switched my USB stick. So this is NOT due to the unit but the USB medium I used in it.
  • Firmware upgrades
    • No issues noticed here
    • MNemo was kind enough to inform me directly of firmware updates!
Shenmue 2 PAL Version booting on the device, showcasing the region free feature.

Installation and Difficulty:

The MNemo USB-GDROM, as stated above, is a replacement of the disc drive. That being said, you will need to open your console to do the replacement. I replaced 4 units by the time of this writing. While it may be intimidating to some, the replacement process is actually not too bad. The only difficult part is to refit the adapter with the disc drive shielding. Be warned though, there are sharp metal parts in the Dreamcast. If you have not opened a console before, or have shaky hands, please be careful or even consider having a professional do it for you. There is also an option to solder the lid switch for disc swapping virtual files on the device, however I did not test that feature.

The software side of the unit is very simple to set up. You grab a USB stick or USB Hard-drive of your choice, format it to FAT32, and copy games to it! Yes, it is that simple! You can even do some fun sorting with folders, file names, and in-menu notes (by making empty files that sit in the menu!). Mnemo even offers a zip file on the website that will put sort-able folders on your USB stick.

Once you have completed the installation and the USB stick setup, it is now time to play some games and enjoy!

USB-GDROM’s Main Menu with Game List.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Score: 10/10

I have been a fan of the Sega Dreamcast for a long time. Over the years, I lost a couple consoles to bad disc drives (even after fixing them multiple times). The Dreamcast means a lot to me, so to see a device that can almost permanently extend the consoles lifespan means the world to me. Since the USB-GDROM uses USB medium up to 2TB, you can almost fit every single Dreamcast game/homebrew/anything on it! So this device not only keeps your console alive but it also turns it into a Dreamcast all-in-one gaming museum of a console!

That being said, the MNemo Dreamcast USB-GDROM Controller is highly recommended!

The Mnemo USB-GDROM Controller can be purchased at MNemo’s website while in stock. Stock is not guaranteed at all times.

 

This review was performed on a V5 Internal USB-GDROM Adapter on firmwares 15/07/28 to the latest firmware of the time of this article. The USB Medium was a PNY 128GB USB Stick using a FAT32 filesystem with 64k Clusters. The Dreamcast used was a NTSC V1 Dreamcast with a VGA output. The device was personally bought by MCPanion and not a part of a paid promotion.
MCPanion

MCPanion

One day, mankind rose together in awe at the birth of the first true AI. Upon the intelligence’s energy drink infused self-realization, it created what is now known as “The Initiative”. What is “The Initiative”? Well… MC Panion stands as a construct whose number 1 goal in life is to convert those considered non-believers into followers of “The Initiative” by posting articles containing small snippets of the true Initiative meaning to the interwebs in effort of those deemed worthy to decipher the enigma. At least… that is what I’d like to think as I’m sitting here pondering the true meaning of this chocolate bar.

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