We awoke this morning to find FreeLoader sitting on our doorstep. We didn't know what it was until we ripped the padded envelope to shreds of course, but once we had it in our hands it wasn't long before it was in our Cube, booting the likes of Metroid Prime faultlessly first time. Perhaps all the things being said about Datel's latest are, as one of our forum pundits put it yesterday, "an RTFM issue".
Or perhaps not. We flipped the disc and spied a little bit of text. "FreeLoader - version 1.06" it says. Eh? A bit of background: Yesterday afternoon, we bought FreeLoaders for the entire Cube reviewing staff, which seemed like a sensible idea at the time, in the interests of both thoroughly testing them and having a means to play imports. Flip the disc on those and you'll see "version 1.04".
So what's the difference? As far as we can tell, the difference is compatibility. Datel has done some testing and have today announced a reissue of FreeLoader, something they confirmed this morning in the following statement. "We've just launched a new version 1.06b of FreeLoader. The first version of FreeLoader which shipped last weekend was 1.04 (to find which version you have just look at the number in the top right of your screen when FreeLoader loads)." Datel apparently waited until version 1.06b was available to ship Eurogamer's sample.
"It's been discovered that although some people have experienced problems with one game using v1.04, Resident Evil Zero, there have been no reported problems with this or any other game on the newer v1.06b." This is true. We know this because a) virtually nobody has version 1.06b yet, and b) Kristan is sitting in his flat with a copy of Resident Evil Zero, a copy of FreeLoader 1.04 and a rather grim look on his face.
But don't despair if you ended up with version 1.04 and don't know what to do. Datel will swap out your busted FreeLoader for the price of a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Just send your disc (not case) and the SAE to Customer Services Department, Datel Ltd, Stafford Road, Stone, Staffordshire ST15 0DG, and Datel will send you back a version 1.06b. "This offer applies whether you bought your FreeLoader direct from us, or from a retailer." Or stole it, presumably, since there's no apparent verification.
We fired off some questions to Datel about the change, hoping to find out how many customers were affected and whether any other games were victims of 1.04's apparent problems, but the company did not respond by the time of going to press.
However, we're concerned about the current model, which suggests that getting imports to run on PAL Cubes is not a simple software problem to solve, because it wouldn't be too hard to imagine Nintendo or third party publishers tweaking their games slightly to cut off FreeLoader support. From the manual: "There may be some import titles in the future that do not work with FreeLoader." What's the plan, Datel? Free six-month updates? A professional support package? Or was this a one-off?
We'll be bringing you our thoughts and experiences with version 1.06b early next week.