Gateway 3DS Review Initially, I had my share of doubts about this flash cart. I had always wanted a better way to make 3DS games more accessible, and having been attached to the DS scene for so long, I figured it was inevitable that something would come up. Sure enough, June rolls around and Gateway 3DS is announced. I wanted to see it succeed, truly, but I was skeptical because of the Crown 3DS incident. As time went by, delays were announced, and my eagerness sank further. Soon though, the Gateway team started delivering on updates, and once I read Devin’s review about it, my eagerness returned, and now that my own unit is here, I can say the exact same thing. The unit is fantastic and has a ton of potential that can be taken advantage of later. I truly hope that with this unit’s release to the public that the 3DS scene can finally bloom. And so, after a grueling night of testing and a brutal day of writing and editing (non-stop, I must say!), I am very proud to present another review of the Gateway 3DS. Very pleased with both product and review, as I actually haven't slept for about... 48 hours (because my body's weird like that LOL). Watching the release of new information on the Gateway brought eagerness and excitement to the table. I was eager to get my head into the game with a fresh version 4.5 3DS unit, having updated my main unit to play newer games. However, this confidence has been shattered with the evidence of bricking code embedded in the software of the Gateway's latest firmware. Introduction The Gateway 3DS was announced in late June 2013, a cartridge that generated massive amounts of hype in the video gaming world due to the fact that it was the first solution for users to be able to play 3DS ROMs on the Nintendo 3DS for the first time. Through small shipping delays and confusion, people began to lose faith in this potentially great cartridge. At the beginning of August 2013, however, Gateway managed to surprise the users with the first shipped units to the resellers spread throughout the world, shortly followed thereafter by resellers picking up and selling units to their loyal customers. The Gateway currently works only on the range of Nintendo 3DS Firmwares 4.1-4.5. Any firmware higher than that will currently require more work on the behalf of the Gateway team, however a temporary solution of sorts was reached in the form of a second firmware update v1.1a, which introduced a region free unlock of sorts and a firmware spoof. The second Gateway cartridge, designated in blue, will work as a Nintendo DS flash cartridge similar to the ones made popular years ago, on the 6.X firmware line and below. As of right now the Gateway is on the firmware release v2.0 with two beta firmwares, having released an emulated NAND feature that allows players to take advantage of the eShop and play current games while maintaining a low main firmware version. The Package Contents An outline of the contents of the Gateway 3DS I received is presented below. I was a bit disappointed by the rather mediocre presentation of the flash cartridge. I was initially expecting something more durable, or more “flashy,” I guess, as some units arrived in metal tins. There were also no miscellaneous freebies. I actually miss that free but terrible micro SD reader. It was a nice touch. Plastic Box Blue Gateway cartridge (operates as a Nintendo DS Flash Cart) Red Gateway cartridge (Plays the 3DS Games from 4.1 to 4.5 firmware) Setting up the Gateway 3DS Preparing the Exploit Below, I will be providing general instructions to prepare the Gateway 3DS for playing Nintendo 3DS Games. Step 1: Download the latest firmware files from the Gateway Downloads Page. Step 2: Extract the .ZIP file to your desktop. There should be six files. Step 3: Drag the files in the “Blue R4i folder” over to a FAT32 formatted micro SD card. Step 4: Turn on the 3DS system and run the Gateway installer. Press A to install. You will press A again after the system finishes, and power down, or return to the home menu. Step 5: Remove your big SD card in the 3DS, and copy Launcher.DAT from the downloaded files onto the root of the big SD card. Step 6: To launch Gateway mode (to be repeated every power cycle) go to System Settings -> Other Settings -> Profile -> Nintendo DS Profile. Step 7: Wait for several seconds for the system to reboot into Gateway mode. A small note on this step: I tested a ton of games, and in the course of doing so, I had one stray incident where the exploit failed to reboot to the 3DS menu, which resulted in a gray screen with lines on both screens, similar to a CRT television and static interference. Step 8: Players should verify the launcher.dat file and its MD5 checksum value with a known value, as any corruption of this value will result in an irreparable hardware brick. Preparing 3DS Games Step 1: Download Win32 Disk Imager here. Step 2: Open the program, and select so that you only view files of the .3DS extension. Step 2a: Make sure that your micro SD is formatted to FAT32 or MS-DOS (FAT) if using a Macintosh. Step 3: Insert a micro SD card that is larger than the file you are trying to copy. Select the file you want to copy in WIN32 Disk Imager, and ignore the warning, hit okay. Step 4: When finished, remove micro SD card, make sure you are on Gateway mode, and you can now enjoy your 3DS games. Build Impressions The durability of the unit is impressive. The stickers on both chips did not feel cheap, and each chip felt strong in quality. From afar, the black chip and the white chip look like standard retail cartridges, with the slight exception of the white unit having a small nib on the back for a micro SD slot, which is spring loaded. Unlike most spring-loaded flashcarts, this one felt tight, and durable enough to last through dozens of micro SD card removals. Other units, such as my Supercard DSTwo, felt rather cheap and fragile. Ease of Use The Gateway 3DS unit is incredibly easy to use. There should be no issue for any user, no matter how new to the flash cart. The instructions provided were crisp and clear, with easy to follow pictures. Black cartridge operation was similar to that of an R4i unit. The visuals of the firmware were exactly the same as that of the R4i series, and games ran smoothly without issue on the latest Nintendo 3DS firmware. This chip is only supported up to 3DS firmware v6.1. As an extended note, the black Gateway chip is not required. So long as the files are on a micro SD card, the Gateway exploit installer can be run on any flash cartridge. The exploit ran successfully on my Supercard DSTwo. It is recommended to run the exploit with the provided DS flash chip as slight deviations may result in hardware error. The white Gateway cartridge was easy to navigate as well. The new user interface is extremely easy to navigate. Running the actual exploit took less than a minute. The only hiccup I had during testing was when I had to rerun the exploit, as an anomaly occurred when my unit failed to reboot to the 3DS menu. This only occurred once, and I felt that I should note the detail as it happened. However, with the dawn of the release of emuNAND and the 2.0 releases, these errors happen more often and can result in hardware being inoperable. Games Testing This portion of the review took the longest by far. I did not just power on the game to see if it worked. The tests were performed in the following manner: installation to Micro SD chip, test for boot, proceed to play game until first or second save point, save, quit game, power cycle, reboot exploit, enter game again, and check to see if data had been maintained. Powering on did seem tempting at first, though… All tests were performed on a Transcend 16GB Micro SD Class 10 card purchased from Amazon.com. ROMs were tested from a mixed batch of North American, European, and Japanese files. Small note: Sometimes, booting the game up initially took up a slightly longer period of time. This happens because the Gateway is searching for the save on the 3DS’s SD card, and if not detected, it will create a save manually. Also, online testing yielded an error 002-0123, which was an error related to the access point not being close enough to detect. I found it odd, and had this very same issue was confirmed by Devin of GBAtemp. Key: Green= Perfect! Yellow=Playable with slight issues. Red=Unplayable. Pokemon X and Y: Inoperable due to special NAND saving. Animal Crossing New Leaf: Save did not work due to special save format. Issue also confirmed by Gateway 3DS team. Bit Trip Saga Bust a Move Universe Cave Story 3D Code of Princess Disney's Epic Mickey Power of Illusion Donkey Kong: Country Returns Dream Trigger 3D Fire Emblem: Awakening Gyakuten Saiban 5 (aka Ace Attorney Dual Destinies) Kid Icarus: Uprising Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance Luigi's Mansion 2 Dark Moon Mario Kart 7 Naruto Shippuden 3D New Super Mario Bros 2 Paper Mario Sticker Star Professor Layton and The Miracle Mask Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked Super Mario 3D Land Super Street Fighter: IV The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Pros and Cons of the Gateway 3DS Pros of the Gateway 3DS The Gateway is a great flash cart because it not only is the first of its kind, but it allows the playing of multi-regional games on any 3DS, within a certain firmware. It opens up the door for more activity. Games also run extremely smooth, and no hiccups occur during gameplay. The flash cart is easy to set up, and the exploit quick to run. Gaming on the go has never been easier for a first generation flash chip. I was surprised at the lack of real “clunkyness” that similar first generation hardware was plagued by. Cons of the Gateway 3DS This part of the review is, to me, subjective. Having tested many different flash carts, I did not find many game breaking flaws with the Gateway 3DS, many of these issues are in fact minor to those who have played with flash chips from ages ago. Most of the issues I encountered could be easily remedied with a bit of time. Instead, what I can do here is address the many major problems that I have read on several forums, and make an attempt to justify a purchase of the Gateway 3DS instead. First of all, the price of the Gateway 3DS is slightly higher than what a normal flash cart today is worth. The price really is not that bad. Several years ago, first generation chips used to sell for ~$150 USD. Micro SD cards used to be about $25 for 2 GB. Prices have since then plummeted. Thinking about it from another angle, for the price of 2 Nintendo 3DS retail games, you can open your library to several hundred titles. Second of all: Lack of true user interface. For some, the lack of an easy to use interface can be a game-breaking decision. Some people that may not be technologically gifted may find the Gateway difficult to use, and the lack of an interface makes things a bit more difficult to use. I like to think of it as a retail unit in itself once the exploit is set up. On another note, removing the game and installing a new one takes less than five minutes. Third: Micro SD cards. People have been balking at carrying multiple SD chips. An easy solution is to buy a micro SD card case, to remove the problem of losing SD cards. They are also inexpensive too, and easy to replace if lost. Fourth: No online multiplayer is another big issue, and I sympathize with those who really wanted online. I sort of do too, but a common mantra in the hacking scene is to never update, and thus lack of online is a sacrifice that one must be willing to take. Even so, the Gateway team is making efforts to bring online play to fruition. In the meantime, you will have to settle for local multiplayer. Fifth: The packaging and the lack of freebies such as the free yet terrible micro SD reader left an unfulfilling taste. The box was also a little bit dull with a simple Gateway 3DS logo on the front, with no listings of features on the back. Maybe this is the new style, simple boxes? Most importantly, as of several days ago, the Gateway unit has been encountering issues and some users have reported hardware bricks that became impossible to repair, even with a reflash of the system NAND. This is due to the eMMC having been rewritten with a NAND that is zeroed out. The Gateway team has come out with a statement saying to use the version 2.0b2 firmware, but this is not recommended at all as that firmware is the one that contains the bricker code. This code was implemented to target the clone devices that have entered the market, but users solely relying on the Gateway have been affected. Should You Buy It? At this point, I would not recommend a purchase of any 3DS flash cartridge. The many reports of bricked hardware have created distrust and damage to innocent users. Should the user wish to proceed, they are advised to revert to the earlier 1.2 firmwares as the latest firmware is the main cause of the bricking devices. This is advised for most derivative chips as well. Please do not use the latest firmwares for your chips until the dust has settled and more information has arrived. Final Thoughts The product does what it set out to do. It sadly does not play 3DS homebrew yet (though it’s being worked on), but this device will fulfill the dreams of many others who simply wish for an alternative to playing games at no extra cost. I think that the cartridge has a dark and clouded future, one that has been marred by the bricking issue caused by the latest firmware release. Unless the team creates steps to revert their code, their dominant position at the head of the 3DS flash cart industry is soon to be taken down. Credits and Thanks I would like to thank the resellers that I have been in contact with, and of course, the Gateway team for their help in making this review possible. I would also like to thank my friends here at the GBAtemp website for allowing me to post this review. Personally, I feel that it's my best one yet. You guys are incredible resources, and this could not be possible without you guys pushing me to be my best, especially Costello for allowing me to return to the GBAtemp site and Devin for confirming several issues I had run into with the cartridge and answering questions along the way. These past few months since I've returned have been pretty damn incredible, and I truly hope this review was informative and useful. If there are any inaccuracies, questions, or concerns, please feel free to voice them below. For game tests, I can happily do that for you. Please leave your request below, and I will have results privately messaged to you within 24 hours. Miscellaneous Gallery Shots Links and Information DSFlashcart Card-NDS NDS-Card Gateway 3DS Homepage Latest Gateway Firmware Download Official Resellers …and of course, GBAtemp.