This original creation gives players the opportunity to not only play cheap mini-games on their Game Boy Advance, but also upgrade or enhance games that feature e-Reader functionality.
e-Reader cards are basically standard trading cards, but with one difference: a strip of dots on the edges. By scanning the edge into the e-Reader device, users can upload game data, graphic data, sound data, and text data into the Game Boy Advance. Though the e-Reader's been available in Japan since the end of last year, Nintendo of America actually went back to the drawing board for the North American version of the device to improve it and make it even more worthwhile to own. The US version features more memory, more internal software, and, most importantly, a pass-through link port so that users can connect their GBAs to their GameCube while the device is in use (the Japanese version did not feature this support, making its functionality extremely limited in comparison). The US version also features a female voice that instructs users as they swipe their cards through their device...not really a necessary function, but it does brighten up the unit's interface.
The package that the e-Reader ships in includes the e-Reader device as well as two foil packs of cards. The first pack contains a collection of five e-Reader compatible cards: A Game & Watch mini-game (Manhole), three Pokemon Expedition cards (Machoke, Machop, and Machamp) that give players a unique mini-game, and an Animal Crossing compatible e-Reader card that will transmit a letter to your mailbox in the GameCube title. The second package features one of two NES games, clearly marked on the package (either Pinball or Donkey Kong Jr.)...the NES game faces outwards on the back of the blister pack, so you know exactly which NES game is inside.
This device could potentially revitalize the whole card-collecting industry; to unlock certain animations and games, you need more than one card to combine, like the Pichu/Hoppip combination in Pokemon Expedition, for example. If you don't have one needed card within the combination, there's no way to load in the designated data. Even if you borrow a friend's card, the mini-games that are scanned in through the Pokemon Trading Card Series aren't saved to the e-Reader...you have to scan those cards in every time you turn on the e-Reader for the first time If you want to play that specific game, of course.
Over the time between the announcement of the e-Reader and the actual release of the device, a lot of folks have shrugged their shoulders with the ol' "so what?" attitude. On the surface, sure, it seems like an idle gimmick...some companies could potentially limit their GameCube games by "locking out" special items that can only be obtained by scanning the appropriate e-Reader card. But it's these cards that have the potential of sustaining the life of the GameCube game beyond its first few weeks out of the box. Animal Crossing is going to show how developers can utilize the e-Reader to its fullest potential, with its ability to load custom textures and songs directly off of data cards, as well as unlock furniture, clothing and other items through other strips. Nintendo could essentially include cheap e-Reader cards in magazines like Nintendo Power, or boxes of cereal, or within the game packaging itself to let players take advantage of their gaming investment.
And, of course, how cool is it to carry NES games in a deck of cards?