Last night I finally got around to installing homebrew support on my old
DS. Now I've got the DS Lite as a game machine, and the original DS as a
music sequencer using NitroTracker. I'm loading files
from the GBA Media Player (Lik-Sang),
which uses cheap compact flash and is itself pretty inexpensive. A lot of
homebrew supports access to the FAT32 on the GBAMP, so that's a gig of
space on my DS for samples and songs if I wanted.
Here's the process I used to get everything up and running:
- Reflashed the firmware on the GBAMP to support homebrew (both .gba
and .nds) using this firmware
- Installed WiFiMe drivers
on my laptop. WiFiMe is basically a PassMe device delivered over 802.11 to
the DS, and it tells the handheld to load DS code from the GBA slot. You
have to have a special chipset for the driver to work--I picked one up
cheap from NewEgg about a year ago, and set up my laptop to use the hacked
drivers (which can't use any of the normal networking functions) only when
it's in the second PCMCIA slot. In the first slot, it's a regular network
card. You can also use the drivers to capture and trade the downloadable demos,
like having your own store kiosk.
- Using WiFiMe, I booted FlashMe,
upgrading the DS firmware to run
unsigned code from the GBA slot automatically. Once that's done, the DS
will run homebrew on its own, without having to keep a PassMe plugged in
or the laptop handy. It's not entirely clear to what extent this
interferes with online games--and you can't install it using the 802.11
method on newer models, because Nintendo updated the firmware to stop
WiFiMe. These are good reasons to find an old model to use for your
homebrew. If you decide to try it on the newer firmware versions anyway,
you'll have to buy a PassMe2 to get
around Nintedo's changes, and it complicates the process quite a bit.
- Finally, installed the Mighty Max bootloader
on the flash card, along with Nitrotracker, DSLinux, and a bunch of other
toys. The bootloader brings up a menu for browsing through different
programs--without it, the GBAMP can only run the file currently named
If you try to do this with a DS Lite, you have to be careful, because it's
much easier to touch the wrong contact during the flash upgrade and brick
the whole machine. But on the other hand, at least you're not
masochistically struggling against Sony the whole time, as with PSP
homebrew. Nintendo seems to have taken steps to prevent this, but it
looks like a half-hearted effort at best.
Every now and then I reluctantly dip a toe into the GameFAQs Message Board
for Metroid Hunters. I say reluctantly because it's a seething hive of
vicious junior high students in there, and the air is thick with ignorance
and bile. But I persist because I am the only one who cares about you. And
that's why I can mention this little tidbit: over the weekend, the kids
figured out a glitch in the nickname code. Using the % character, followed
by random characters, produces random strings of code with the possibility
of crashing and corrupting not only your game, but likewise anyone who
connects to you
and sees the nickname. The message board monsters were mystified. Having a
more background in coding, it sounds like a kind of memory leak to me,
where using % is somehow directing a pointer to another place in the ROM.
guessing this because people not only get random gibberish, but also
strings from the game like "Alt Form: Halfturret."
It's a Bad Thing, and Nintendo almost immediately fixed it by
banning anyone from logging on if their nickname contains the bug-inducing
character. So you are safe for now. Regardless, I don't want to
fear-monger, but let's point out once again that the Internet is a wild
place, and increasingly consoles are connected to it. It's not like games
self-select for a mature and considerate population.
So there's this Spring
Tournament of Bloggers thing, where a bunch of people (read: 6) will
compete over the Internets in Metroid Prime: Hunters. And I'm signed up.
Granted, I can only see statistics for Brin and Seth, but it looks like
I've easily got the most online experience of the group. I hope to parlay
this into THE CRUSHING DEFEAT OF MY OPPONENTS. With that said, I'm not
above jotting down a few observations that might help even the playing
- Keep your options open: Every hunter has an affinity weapon,
which gets special abilities and availability. Learning to exploit the
affinity is important, especially since you'll be carrying it a lot. But
note that at least half of my kills come from non-affinity sources. If you
only learn to use that one weapon, you'll create a psychological barrier
to the others, and then you'll be cornered by someone who can control the
map better than you can. Also, just because it's your affinity doesn't
mean it's perfect for all situations.
- Deathalt: The deathalt is an item that locks you into the
alternate form, but grants one-hit kills. It is obscenely overpowered. If
you play on Ice Hive or Headshot, be prepared to race for this item, or to
defend against faster players. Luckily for the tournament, in 2-player
games it only spawns once or twice, and so it hopefully won't unbalance
matches too much.
- Ice Hive bites: That reminds me: because of the deathalt and
the ridiculous spawn design for Ice Hive (i.e., all four are located
right next to each other), it is the worst map ever. No fun to play.
Please don't pick it.
- Alt game: Alt abuse is one of those strategies that seems like
a good idea at the time. In the lower levels of play, I've seen a lot of
Kanden and Trace reliance, and the former is especially annoying. But
strategies evolve pretty quickly to counter them, and it's hard to control
the map as easily in an alt-form (although it's not impossible). The alts
are also extremely individual from hunter to hunter. Some of them are
offensive, and some are defensive, and they all have different movement
speeds. What works for Samus will not work for Spire. Learn when and how
to exploit your character's alt.
- Secondary fire: Not just the charged shot, but also the
different firing characteristics of each weapon, whether or not it's your
affinity. For example, the Judicator and Magmaul bounce off level
surfaces. Surprisingly, this makes them useful for not aiming at
opponents. In the Judicator's case, you can even use it to frag
out-of-sight enemies. In maps like Combat Hall, sending Judicator shots
bouncing down the side tunnel can finish off a fleeing victim. Likewise,
it's not immediately obvious that the Volt Driver is fully
semi-automatic--I don't know that there's a top limit to its firing
speed. The Shock Coil won't target alt forms. Knowing these quirks lets
you fully exploit--or avoid--each weapon.
- Headshots: Most weapons do anywhere from 150% to 200% normal
damage with a headshot. A full burst (three automatic and one charge) from
the power beam will do 70 damage as headshots. It is worth the effort,
with beam weapons, to aim for the head.
- Might as well jump (jump!): I'm not saying that you should
spend the whole match bunny-hopping around--this isn't Counterstrike. But
keep in mind that jumping can play a couple of important roles in this
game. The jump pads scattered around can be used to reach unconventional
areas using mid-air control, like the rock archway in Alinos Perch. Some
levels also boast low-gravity zones, which can be exploited. Just be
careful, because low-gravity jumping also makes you an easier target.
It may make newcomers feel better to know that Nintendo's ranking system
is pretty easily manipulated. The overall ranking at Nintendowifi.com is
basically a measure of your time spent online, and doesn't decrease with
losses (although it may with disconnects). So while I'm ranked in the top
3000, that just means that I've played online more than most. Playing
against friends and rivals still counts for points--so being better than
your friends list is a good way to rank high on the consecutive kills or
win percentages. Basically, as with just about everything in this hobby,
it's biased towards spoiled 12-year-olds. We should probably be used to
that by now.