3DS
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Hardware Info:

R4i Gold 3DS Plus Flashcart
Supports DS games and DS homebrew, including emulators
Easy access to ntrboothax/magnethax
Price: Approximately $25 at love-gamecard.com

Thank you to Love-Gamecard for sending us this R4i Gold Plus flashcart for review!

R4. I cannot think of any two characters placed in succession that has likely given Nintendo more headaches than those two. In the height of the Nintendo DS era, they were reportedly so common and easy to find in Japan that people could find them at corner electronics stores. The laws were changed so that this is no longer the case, but their impact on the Nintendo DS, both the market (financial and otherwise), and the legacy, is hard to overstate. Nevertheless, they live in a legal gray area that often leads to shutdown orders or copyright infringement.

Given this, why is Christ Centered Gamer reviewing a flashcart? *glares at person who requested it* Honestly, that's a really good question, and there is no easy answer, but let's give it a shot.

At our house, we love Nintendo systems, and the games available on them. As a result, we often collect quite the library; we have over 40 games on both DS and 3DS, and easily over 30 on GBA as well. This is a common pattern for us; over a system's lifetime, we tend to collect most of the best games for any Nintendo system, and the DS and 3DS has an excellent library.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Supports all DS games and homebrew; has built-in ntrboothax/magnethax support to make hacking fully updated 3DSs very easy
Weak Points: Build quality is not the best, as I had one of the tabs holding it together break on me; no convenient way to store the tiny magnet outside of the packaging
Moral Warnings: It's easy to steal games, and acquiring them may require downloading them from the internet unless you have a means to rip your own ROMs

This is relevant both because we don't have pockets of unlimited depth, and because we have children; we cannot practically carry that many games with us in cartridge form at one time wherever we go. This is especially important since we don't want to lose said cartridges when a child (or big kid) misplaces those tiny little wedges. So, for many years now, we have dumped our own cartridges (we are very strict about this; we do not download ROMs off of the internet) and put our library of games on our DS flashcarts. This protects us from losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars of games over time, while allowing us to still enjoy them (and even back up saves, which can be very convenient). We understand why some may feel differently, but by dumping our own games, it feels like a win-win – we are still giving Nintendo our money (we purchase each and every game) while still benefiting from the convenience that these devices offer. (And backing up your own games is actually legal.)

That is why I've always loved the ingenuity in the console hacking space. While these devices (or hacked consoles) can be used for nefarious means, or to avoid buying games, what really happens for us is that we end up buying more games because of the ease of carrying them around and not having to worry about losing saved games that these devices (or hacked consoles) can do.

The R4, as one of the most popular line of flashcarts of all time, is likely quite familiar to many readers of this review. It allows you to put ROM files on a microSD card, which you then insert into the tiny slot on the back of the R4 card. It has native support for Nintendo DS games; the 3DS thinks it's an obscure Japanese game, but once you launch it, you find a menu where you can browse the list of files available on the microSD card, and launch whatever games are listed there. You can put emulators for older systems there as well, along with required ROM files, and play those. Again, violating the law is made easy with these devices; please follow your conscience and be as legal as you can when taking advantage of these features.

The performance of this device as a DS flashcart is as good as it's ever been. The menus are easy to navigate, and launching games is quick and easy. The R4 doesn't take too much battery power from your system while in use, unlike certain other cards from other brands (like the Supercard line, which works great, but impacts battery life). Honestly, this functionality is more or less time-tested, and many reviews exist online (and this cartridge is more or less the gold standard), so I think that's enough about the DS functionality.

R4i Gold Plus DS Flashcart

What makes this model unique, versus the R4i Gold RTS which immediately preceded it, is the additional hidden ntrboot mode. If you open the actual R4i cartridge, and you pull out the PCB, you will find a tiny switch that switches between NTR and boot modes. Boot mode is just like previous R4i cards - it loads a DS menu and works as a flashcart. NTR mode is unique, in that it allows you to very quickly and easily hack a fully-patched 3DS from scratch in a matter of minutes, rather than hours like it used to be before the discovery of ntrboot.

You see, if you place the included tiny magnet in the spot that puts the 3DS to sleep (typically near the B button) and power it on while holding Start+Select+X, the system will go into a recovery mode, and will write to the firmware whatever is in the DS cartridge slot. (It's more complicated than that, but that's probably sufficient detail for the purposes of this review.) Hackers believe this recovery mode is what Nintendo uses to restore certain types of hardware failures, so it's not something they are easily able to patch out. And to date, they have not.

After following instructions listed on 3ds.hacks.guide by downloading files and putting them on the SD card inside your 3DS (not the one in the R4i cart) and following the provided instructions, you can quite easily hack the 3DS with the popular Luma3DS custom firmware. This allows you to not only play Nintendo DS backups with the R4i cartridge itself, but also 3DS and eShop titles. There is also quite a bit of homebrew software that takes advantage of the more powerful 3DS hardware, including things like emulators. Sadly, enough other players out there take advantage of cheating features of the custom firmwares to make 3DS online play not quite what it could be, but that's the price we all pay for giving enterprising users lower level access to the hardware they purchased.

Installing and using custom firmware is generally quite stable, but unexpected new bugs in operation are possible. It should also be quite expected that Nintendo will not repair any hacked systems under warranty.

The R4i Gold Plus DS flashcart is easily one of the most feature-complete DS flashcarts on the market. While the older Supercard DSTWO, for example, does have some nice features utilizing the onboard CPU, it also drinks batteries for breakfast. The R4i does not have this issue, and with the added ntrboot/magnethax support, is easy to recommend to anyone who enjoys making the most of the hardware that they have purchased. But whatever you do, please do not break the law, or violate your conscience in the process.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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