Homebrew DSi hacking: everything you need to know about it and more

Technicmaster0

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With the recent releases of DSi exploits like unlaunch, frogminer and Memory Pit it's time to sort the information.
Let's start with the easy things.

DS vs DSi mode

We have to differentiate between two modes of the DSi: the DS mode and the DSi mode. The DS mode mostly has access to the hardware that the original DS has (touchscreen, microphone, 4MB RAM etc) and is used if you launch a DS cartridge with a DSi. It has no way to access anything beyond that. The latter of both modes unleashes the true power of the DSi (WPA secured wifi, 16MB RAM, cameras etc) but is much better secured. Access to the SD card/ mass storage of the DSi is even further restricted. It can only be accessed from specific DSiWare games (and DSiWare normally can't access the DS Cartridge Slot). That made it really hard to get a convenient way to run unsigned code on the DSi.
Software that runs in DSi mode can be (and most often is) region locked.

ROMs of commercial games

DS ROMs
My recommendation is to buy a DS mode flashcart that works with your DSi system. Sadly both of my recommendations, the supercard dstwo and the r4i gold 3ds plus, might be hard to find these days.
The best alternative is to go with a Supercard DSONE these days. It's widely available on aliexpress (search for DSONE), has many features like RTS and has a more or less perfect game compatibility. It works out of the box with a DS and DS lite but you need a CFW and ntrlauncher to use it with a DSi or 3DS. Some of these cards have a PSRAM issue.
There are however a few other flashcarts that might be interesting for you:
  • R4i Gold 3DS RTS/Plus from r4ids.cn: official Wood R4 card. Good luck finding one
  • Supercard DSTWO (Plus): has a GBA/SNES Emulator and a few other extra features. Doesn't get produced anymore so good luck finding one
  • Acekard 2.i: also available on aliexpress. Works up to DSi version 1.4.4 and 3DS version 4.3.0 without patches. Has good game compatibility but less features than R4i Gold/DSONE
  • Any 2014+ card from r4isdhc.com (Dual-Core, Gold Pro, RTS Lite etc): very cheap but less game compatibility and less features than the r4i gold 3ds plus. Has a timebomb
  • R4i-sdhc.com R4i 3DS RTS: same as r4isdhc.com but more expensive. Has a timebomb
Put a MicroSD card with DS roms/ homebrew and the kernel from the website into the flashcart to use it. The cards from r4isdhc.com/r4i-sdhc.com have worse homebrew compatibility.
There is a free option to run NDS ROMs on DSi/3DS: TwiLightMenu++. But it has (in some regards) less features and requires more game specific tewaking of settings. It's definetly worth it to keep it in the eyes but it might be impractical for your purposes.

DSi Exclusive ROMs (not to be confused with DSiWare from the DSi Shop)
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First we have to declare the meaning of DSi enhanced and exclusive ROMs.
DSi exclusive ROMs are games that can be played exclusively with a DSi or 3DS. They have a white cartridge and the Nintendo DSi logo on the sticker. Launching them in an original DS/ DS lite results in an error: "For use with Nintendo DSi systems only."
These can only be used with TwiLightMenu++ but compatibility isn't perfect yet. There is no other public way to launch backups of these games, except for the original cartridges of course.

DSi enhanced ROMs
This part gets really tricky.
DSi enhanced ROMs can be played in DS mode but have additional features (like camera/ WPA Wifi support) in DSi mode. Their cartridges look like normal NDS games (at least in Europe) but their serial numbers start with "TWL" instead of "NTR". Some examples are Pokemon Black/ White 1 and 2.
DSi enhanced ROMs can be launched with most DS flashcarts but miss the enhanced functionalities in that case.
Due to problems with dumping the DSi enhanced part of the ROM many dumps are incomplete and miss the DSi enhanced features. However this problem gets better from year to year as many games get rereleased with more complete dumps that contain the missing part.
There are 2 options to run DSi enhanced ROMs in DSi mode: the first one beeing the CycloDS iEvolution Flashcart. But it is expensive, has many problems (only compatible with about 50% of the Proper dumps, no Wifi capabilities in DSi mode, no SD card/ NAND access etc) and only works up to version 1.4.3 in DSi mode (or with a custom firmware). It's not worth it in most cases.
The other option is TWiLightMenu++. It should work fine with most DSi enhanced games.

DSiWare (from the DSi store)
I suggest to run DSiWare with TWiLightMenu++. More about that one later.

3DS ROMs
You can't play 3DS games on a DSi.


Homebrew Exploits

Running homebrew (mostly free games by independed people like you and me) in DS mode is as easy as to launch it with a DS mode flashcart. Nothing special required. Running your own code in DSi mode is a bit more complicated. All of these exploits work with the latest DSi version.

UGOPWN/ Flipnote Lenny
This exploit uses the flipnote studio to gain access to the system. It was the first way to run homebrew on a DSi with 1.4.5 for free (if you had the flipnote studio). I suggest to use Memory Pit instead.

Failzone
This exploit uses the DSi Nintendo Zone to gain access to the system. It was never released. I suggest to use Memory Pit instead.

Memory Pit
This is probably the easiest launching the homebrew menu in DSi mode will get. Full instructions are at https://gbatemp.net/threads/memory-pit-a-new-dsi-exploit-for-dsi-camera.539432/ (seriously, it's just five steps). You can get the latest hbmenu at https://github.com/devkitPro/nds-hb-menu/releases; use the BOOT.NDS. The exploit needs to be redone each time you exit the homebrew launcher via the power button.
You can use the DS Homebrew Menu to launch homebrew applications from your DSi's SD card in DSi mode. Keep in mind that many (especially older) DS homebrew applications might not work properly because they weren't made for the DSi mode. This is your first step to install a custom firmware on the DSi.

Custom firmwares

Custom firmwares always give you more options for your system. On the DSi these options are among others brick protection, compatibility with old flashcarts (even ones that never worked with a DSi), installing homebrew directly to the DSi menu, playing DSi enhanced and exclusive games from other regions etc.
The next step is to install unlaunch, a custom firmware and bootcode exploit collection. The bootcode exploit allows you to exploit the system directly while the DSi boots so that you don't have to press anything to launch a custom firmware. I'd suggest to use the hiya custom firmware.
There is a good guide to install a CFW (first unlaunch, then hiya and twilightmenu++) on a DSi already: https://dsi.cfw.guide/installing-unlaunch . However I wouldn't replace the DSi menu with twilightmenu++ as described at the end of the guide.

Homebrew

Finally a few homebrew apps that you can use in DSi mode:
  • NTR Launcher: allows you to launch flashcarts that don't have an actual game as header (pre DSi cards)
  • Wood Dumper DSi: can be used to dump DS games to the DSi's SD card
  • Twilightmenu++: menu/ ROM launcher which includes GBARunner2 among other features.
  • NDSi-Savedumper: dumps save games from cartridges. Needs to be launched with Twilightmenu++
  • NitroHax: cheat menu for cartridges
  • Title Manager for HiyaCFW (TMFH) : for Installing DSiWare and homebrew onto your EmuNand home menu.
  • GodMode9i : file manager for the DSi where you can browse files, including deleting, copying, and moving files.
  • MakeForwarder - able to create DSiWare forwarders for your games to be used with hiyacfw

The famous moonshell media player doesn't work in DSi mode. You can use MPEG4Player by Gericom (https://gbatemp.net/threads/mpeg4-player-for-ds-and-dsi.544095/) or the RocketVideoPlayer (https://github.com/RocketRobz/RocketVideoPlayer/releases/) instead but I didn't test it.
I made a (not much used) spreadsheet for DSi Mode Homebrew Compatibility a while back. Feel free to look if you find anything that you want to play or add games you tested: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1x7Z2rz3XObOCLIZOX9vbT0PDKFkKIxkkwyaTP3dRYKw/edit?usp=sharing

GBA

you can also play GBA games with gbarunner2 on a hacked DSi but it's running in DS mode.
 
Last edited by Technicmaster0,

RocketRobz

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Regarding TWiLight Menu++, many ROMs are working with a few exceptions, such as Pokemon Dash, Pac n' Roll (working on latest nightly), WarioWare DIY (saves on latest nightly), Jam with the Band, and Golden Sun: Dark Dawn.
Also, the Rocket Video Player link should not point to a release number.
 
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Technicmaster0

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What about Godmode9i?

And some more personal choices, TMFH by JeffRuLz and Forwarder Maker by Edo9300, and also NitroHax DSiWare by Chism
Regarding godmode9i: I'm not sure how many beginners need it or how good it works.
I'll look into the forwarder makers. Did you try NitroHax for DSi? Did it run good?

Regarding TWiLight Menu++, many ROMs are working with a few exceptions, such as Pokemon Dash, Pac n' Roll (working on latest nightly), WarioWare DIY (saves on latest nightly), Jam with the Band, and Golden Sun: Dark Dawn.
Also, the Rocket Video Player link should not point to a release number.
Do DSi enhanced games work with twilightmenu++? That are more exceptions than with a flashcart and there are also issues with slowdowns etc.
Thanks for the hint, I've changed the link.
 

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Regarding godmode9i: I'm not sure how many beginners need it or how good it works.
I'll look into the forwarder makers. Did you try NitroHax for DSi? Did it run good?

It works well in my experience. It doesn't work on DSi-Enhanced games though, it's mostly just a placeholder app until TWLMenu++ gets real card cheating support.
 
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Technicmaster0

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Yes, DSi-Enhanced games work, but they currently only work in DS mode.
I've tested twilightmenu++ again and it seems like it had many improvements since the last time I used it, so I will have to revaluate it's position.
Do you have any information on the battery consumption? I had the impression that it's much higher. Is there a way to disable the intro to get faster loading times?
 

atoxique

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Very teeny tiny grammar nitpick: "Software that runs in DSi mode "can (and most often is) region locked" should be "... can be (and most often is)..."
 
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I've tested twilightmenu++ again and it seems like it had many improvements since the last time I used it, so I will have to revaluate it's position.
Do you have any information on the battery consumption? I had the impression that it's much higher. Is there a way to disable the intro to get faster loading times?
The loading time of TWiLight can reduced to 3-6 sec. on fast SD Cards.
- disable Quickpad/Intros/Health screen.
- boot TWiLight direct without HiyaCFW (set in Unlaunch) - Games and DSiware works as great as with HiyaCFW

The Game loading depends on game itself.The first boot lasts a little (save creation etc.),but on second boot the games loads very quick.As you said very much imrpovements to get Flashcard "speeds".:yay:
 

Technicmaster0

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Very teeny tiny grammar nitpick: "Software that runs in DSi mode "can (and most often is) region locked" should be "... can be (and most often is)..."
Thanks telling me. It should be fixed now.

The loading time of TWiLight can reduced to 3-6 sec. on fast SD Cards.
- disable Quickpad/Intros/Health screen.
- boot TWiLight direct without HiyaCFW (set in Unlaunch) - Games and DSiware works as great as with HiyaCFW
I ment all the intro sequences etc. - they all add to the loading time and I didn't find an option to disable them (only the quick start menu).

You could add also my save dumper tool to the homebrews https://gbatemp.net/threads/release-ndsi-savedumper.515520/
Done. Can you add an .app file that can be launched directly from the DSi menu?
 
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I ment all the intro sequences etc. - they all add to the loading time and I didn't find an option to disable them (only the quick start menu).

In the TWiLight Settings "hidden" under Misc (last Screen):

-Nintendo DSi Splash Screen - hide
-Health & Safety Splash Screen - hide
-TWLMenu++ Logo - hide
-Standard Launcher - set to TWiLight Menu++

:)
 

Ryccardo

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I ment all the intro sequences etc. - they all add to the loading time and I didn't find an option to disable them (only the quick start menu).
Yeah, there are 2 options (one for the official-lookalike intro, one for Robz's one) in the twilightmenu++'s settings (sorry, I don't remember the names - which weren't too obvious at first glance - because I don't use it much since I don't see much point in software virtualization of DS cards - now, if/when it'll run DSi card backups and have builtin anti-AP patching...)

You checked all 4 pages of settings, right?


For "DS/Lite exclusive" autobooting flashcards, you may also be able to run then directly from Unlaunch - that's the case with an original R4, at least :)
 
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