Hacking The BIG DS Flashcart F.A.Q. thread!

The Catboy

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Introduction

We had 3 major stickies that though useful, have become rather dated. Those three being:
"Why was my cart blocked?" "How do I unblock it?" "Firmware update?"
DS/DSi/3DS "hacking" F.A.Q.
Which Flash Cart Should I Get?

Now I was considering going through and making an updated version of all three of them, but there's really no reason to make 3 separate threads when it's only some of the information that needs to be updated. Thus I've decided that one large thread with updated information to follow up those three threads! I am not going to update any information that hasn't changed, there's no reason to try and rewrite something already written so elegantly.
Starting from the top and making my way down.

"Why was my cart blocked?" "How do I unblock it?" "Firmware update?"

All information is technically valid in this thread. All carts blocks by the 3DS OFW 7.0/7.1 and DSi OFW 1.4.5 that weren't able to update or didn't get a revised version to work past those updates will continue to be blocked. Nintendo however stopped updating the DSi after 1.4.5 and stopped updating the 3DS whitelist to block flashcarts after 7.0/7.1. This means any carts that got an update and or a revised version have continued to work onward into the present (as of writing this thread.) At the time of Rydian writing that thread it was still cat and mouse game between Nintendo and flashcart teams. Nintendo eventually did stop pushing out updates to block flashcarts and started focusing on 3DS feature updates such as themes and patching out vulnerabilities. Nintendo also pushed out one major update for the DSi that blocked several carts such as the Acekard 2i and stopped updating the DSi to focus on the 3DS.
I am going to quote from the DS/DSi/3DS "hacking" F.A.Q. thread here because this reply is relevant to those quotes.

Q - What about the 3/DSi/XL's firmware updates?
A - These will often block flash carts that haven't been updated to bypass the latest blocks. It's recommended that you not update your 3/DSi/XL until after you apply the latest firmware fix to your flash cart. The DS/Lite have no firmware updates and thus do not have this concern. This thread explains the concept.
Q - Are flash carts for the DSi or 3DS different?
The DSi added more checks, so normal DS flash carts will not boot on the DSi or 3DS, and you can't fix that. You will have to get a cart that specifically works with the DSi/3DS.
These threads were also written in a pre-CFW era of the 3DS, which means that though the information is still valid, it's also no longer a real concern anymore. Both the DSi and 3DS have CFWs (Custom Firmwares) that lift TWL (DS Mode) whitelist blocks and allow carts with any header to run on the DSi/3DS. In addition to CFWs, there are now homebrew applications such as NTR Launcher that allows the user to launch flashcarts like the R4 and DSTT to work on the 3DS and DSi.

Basically now we have a permanent method to unblock flashcarts on both the DSi and 3DS that no longer require updates to be done the cart itself. We now can simply remove the blocks ourselves. There's also no longer any worry about Nintendo updating to block these carts and even if Nintendo did update, the CFWs can simply be updated around that update.


DS/DSi/3DS "hacking" F.A.Q.

The Basics
  • Q - Is the DS/DSi/3DS hackable?
    A - Yes. The DS Phat, DS Lite, DSi(XL,) old3DS(XL,) new3DS(XL,) and 2DS(n2DSXL) can all be hacked.

  • Q - How do you hack the DS/DSi/3DS?
    A - There are several methods to hacking these systems. The DS(Phat) does require buying a flashcart in order to hack them. The DSi/3DS have several methods of being hacked and are listed in their respective guides.
    DSi Guide
    3DS Guide

  • Q - Aren't there any soft mods to do this? You know, for free?
    A - Yes there are actually several softmod exploits for the 3DS and DSi and several of them are free. For the 3DS, these exploits are OFW version dependent. Currently, as of writing this thread, the last free exploit was patched out with 11.4 and we are waiting for the exploits released by Smea during Defcon 2017 to be polished and ready for general use*. That being said, there are still several cheap methods that can be used to hack the 3DS and can not be patched by Nintendo's OFW updates. All methods are listed in the aforementioned guide posted above. The DSi has also been hacked and has a free method of hacking available and the guide posted gives step-by-step instructions to set up a CFW on the DSi.
*This section is subject to change as more development is done. These exploits were patched out in 11.8 and there is currently no free exploit for 11.8 as of the writing of this thread. 3DS sections are subject to change.

Q - Can I run any DSiware games a flashcart?
A - There are still no flashcarts that can run DSiWare games, but CFWs on the DSi allows DSiWare to be run off the SD card and CFW on the 3DS allows the user to install DSiWare directly onto the homescreen and run them. As well DSiMenu++ allows the DSi to boot DSiWare as .nds files from the SD card.

Q - Can I make my own ROMs from my games?
A - For DS ROMs you can use a flash cart (or other tools) to copy your own games, this is known as "dumping" your own ROM/game. There's a guide for that here. There's no public method for 3DS ROMs.
I am keeping his information attached because those are viable methods of dumping your ROMs and saves. But I am going to expand onto this statements because there's now an easier method of dumping DS ROMs and of course there's now a method for dumping 3DS ROMs.
Both 3DS and DS ROMs can be dumped using GodMode9 on a hacked 3DS
  1. Launch GodMode9 by holding (Start) during boot
  2. Navigate to [C:] GAMECART
  3. Follow the steps applicable to your game cartridge:
    • 3DS Game Cartridge: Press (A) on [TitleID].trim.3ds to select it, then select “NCSD image options…”, then select “Build CIA from file”
    • NDS Game Cartridge: Press (A) on [TitleID].trim.nds to select it, then select “Copy to 0:/gm9/out”
  4. Your installable .cia or non-installable .nds formatted file will be outputted to the /gm9/out/ folder on your SD card
Source: GodMode9 Usage
Expanding onto this, you can also use GM9 as means of dumping your carts directly .3DS ROMs. Follow all steps mentioned above, but instead use one of two options:
Decrypt file: This dumps a decrypted .3DS ROM that can be used with the emulator Citra
Encrypted file: This dumps an encrypted .3DS ROM that can be used flashcarts like the Stargate 3DS

Q - Will 3DS games run?
A - There have been several 3DS flashcarts made in recent years, but have been made obsolete due to lack of support from their teams and free CFWs that provide both the ability to play 3DS backups (in the form of installed .CIA games.) 3DS CFWs also open the system to deeper modifications that you won't find with flashcarts.

Q - Will DSi games run on a flashcart?
A - Depends on what one defines as a "DSi game." If you are referring to DSi-enhanced games, they can be run on DS flashcarts as they are just DS games with additional hardware support for the DSi. DSiMenu++ also now allows DS flashcarts to be run through TWL clock speeds on the DSi/3DS*. At the same time, there is currently no active DS flashcart that can use the DSi-Mode on the DSi/3DS. There was the CycloDS iEvolution that allowed some games to use DSi-Mode, but the CycloDS team abandoned the cart before it really got off the ground. So there's still no method of running DSi-enhanced features with a DS flashcart on either DSi nor the 3DS.
If you are referring to the DSi-Exclusive retail games, like System Flaw. There was only 4 of them and there's no flashcart nor homebrew that can play these games (please correct me if I am wrong)

Will DSi-enhanced things run slower in a DS (or DS-mode flash cart)?

A - DSi-enhanced games do no run slower on DS flashcarts. Additionally DS flashcarts can be run in TWL sleep via NTR Launcher/DSiMenu++

Q - Will GBA games run?
A - Maybe. Most normal flash carts cannot run GBA games because you can't run them directly from Slot-1 (the DS card slot). You can either buy a slot-2 card (DS/Lite only) and use that, or buy a special Slot-1 card (with an on-board processor) that can emulate the GBA (this works on the DSi and 3DS as well).
The information isn't completely outdated, which is why I am quoting it. There actually have been two GBA emulators made for DS flashcarts, GBARunner2 and gbaemu4ds. They exist, but they aren't very good compared to using a Supercard DSTwo, which has an on-board CPU and RAM allowing GBA emulation. That being said, the DSTWO is no longer in production and becoming an increasingly rare flashcart. There are alternatives to this now, with a 3DS CFW you can use GBA injection to run GBA games in AGB mode (basically the mode that boots the 3DS into GBA mode.) DSi can make use of GBARunner2, but it's still extremely limited.

Which Flash Cart Should I Get?

Community recommendations

R4i Gold Plus (r4ids.cn): The R4i Gold Plus is the official unofficial successor to the classic R4 and an "upgrade" from the R4i Gold. The R4i Gold Plus run Wood R4, which basically brings the vast majority of features from akAIO to the R4i Gold Plus (most, not all features.) Additionally, with these features, the R4i Gold Plus has RTS, something not found in akAIO. The major selling point for this cart is the on-board physical switch that allows the user to switch between NDS Mode and NTRBoot, allows the user to hack their 3DS with NTRBoot and switch back to NDS mode without the need for backing up/restoring the firmware. This is why this cart is heavily recommended over every other cart on the market. This card works with the latest OFW on the DSi/3DS. (Currently 3DS 11.8/DSi 1.4.5)


Acekard 2i: Although the team is long dead, the site is dead, and it requires a CFW to work on the latest OFW for DSi/3DS, but it's still one of the best carts out there if you are willing to put the work into getting it working again. Not only do you get the benefits of akAIO, you also get the benefits of having one of the most customizable carts out there. You can actually run homebrew like Moonshell and or MenuDO as your main launcher and use akAIO as your ROM loader. The cart is a tinker's best friend. This also coupled with the fact the cart can be flashed with NTRBoot and still be used as a functional cart with NTRBoot flashed onto it (it does require running the cart through an application like NTR Launcher.)

Supercard DSTWO: The DSTWO is one the most powerful carts out there due to it's on-board CPU and RAM, which allows for features like GBA/SNES emulation along side a wide range of other features. The DSTWO is still the only method of properly emulating the GBA (and decent emulation of SNES) on the DS/DSi without the need of additional hardware, which is still a major selling point for the cart. The Supercard Team had also released the source code for their emulators and SDK, which allowed the creation of community projects CATSFC and TempGBA. Additionally, the cart is also supported by DSiMenu++. The only real downfall to the DSTWO isn't currently supported by NTRBoot.

Budget carts

DSTT(i): The DSTT has always been a rather heavily recommended budget cart and that's mostly because it's cheap, but also because it's just as extremely customizable as the Ak2i. Much like the Ak2i, you do get the benefits of being able to replace your main kernel with a homebrew application instead and boot ROMs through Retro's YSMenu. It's not nearly as fine toned as the Ak2i, but it's still something for those who want a cheap cart to tinker with or just a cheap cart to play some games on. The DSTT can be compatible with NTRBoot, but it's very much dependent on the chipset. This cart requires CFW to work on 3DS/DSi.

R4 (original/1:1 copy): If you can still find one these and don't mind the non-SDHC requirement, you can get another extremely customizable cart with the benefits of Wood R4 as a ROM loader. The R4 was one of the first carts on the market and this allowed a massive community support for the cart and thus it amassed a large number of homebrews that can be used to replace the kernel with. The major issue with this cart is that it can be hard to find the 1:1 from time to time due to a large number of clones on the market. As mentioned already, it's also only limited to non-SDHC microSD cards and also requires CFW to work on 3DS/DSi. It's heavily recommended to go with the R4i Gold Plus instead, but if you can find one of these they are worth owning.

Budget clones

(Not recommended, but an option)​

Ace3DS (Plus/X): The Ace3DS is an R4i Gold clone and does support a hacked version of Wood R4. It does have all of the same features, minus the RTS. Additionally the Ace3DS does have both a NTRBoot support as well as a model called "Ace3DS X," which has a little switch on the side to switch between NTRBoot and NDS mode.

R4isdhc GOLD Pro (URL: r4isdhc.com)
: Hear me out on this one because I technically have to recommend a budget cart and I have some good reasons to recommend this budget cart over other budget carts. I know the official kernel has a "timebomb" built into it, but that is easily bypassed by using Retro's ysmenu files. This basically makes talking about the official kernel's features redundant because it's not worth using it. The reason why I added this to the list is that you are basically paying the $10 for the same cart from the same team that is being marked up to about $14 to $16. Thus you are paying the least amount for the same cart as the R4i-SDHC/R4i-B9S with this cart. This cart can also be flashed to use NTRBoot, but has to be restored back to NDS Mode. This cart works with the latest OFW for the DSi/3DS (Currently 3DS 11.8/DSi 1.4.5)

R4-SDHC (URL: r4i-sdhc.com): Honestly this is just the cheapest of cheap, while still being functional thanks to Retro's files (official kernel has a timebomb.) This cart is compatible with NTRBoot, but you need a CFW for this cart to work on your DSi/3DS.

F.A.Q.

Why did you make this thread?
Because the other threads have great information on them, they just weren't up to date anymore. It also wasn't really worth rewriting everything when there were only a few parts that needed to be updated. This is the reason I sighted them and linked directly to them for context.

Why didn't you include this cart?
Chances are it's a cheap clone and I've already listed a cart that fills that spot. The R4i-SHDC for example has countless clones and they are all using the same hardware, there's no reason to list them when one can rule them all.
 
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The Catboy

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From the guide, it looks like the R4 SDHC is NTRBoot flashable. I don't have one to test to verify that, though. Have you tried?
It looks like things have changed recently. The first time I tested this cart it won't work and even came up as "not compatible" in a later update. I tested it now on that very same cart and it actually works now. Neat! That officially means it's the cheapest cart (to my knowledge) that can use NTRBoot!
Thanks for pointing that out to me, I shall make a correction now.
 
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kuwanger

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Thank you. You motivated me to try out ysmenu again. The theming options may be a bit limited, but I got something that looks presentable to me. Not sure why red was chosen as a font color by retrogamefan as the default. Still oddly the case that some games take a lot longer (10 seconds vs 3 seconds) than others without it being tied to the game size. *shrug* Still better than having to deal with a timebomb.
 

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A few faults etc:
-7.0 wasn't the last update to block DS flashcarts; update 7.1 blocked the DSTWO (but not many other ones)
-you can use wooddumper on DSi to dump ROMs. Deserves to be mentioned
-"At the same time tehre is currently no active DS flashcart" - typo
-DSimenu++ supports Pokemon Black 2 which is DSi enhanced - idk whether in dsi enhanced mode or only nds mode. The ROM needs to be AP patched
-DSTWO still deserves to be on the "Which Flash Cart Should I Get" list - you can still get them used (e.g. in the trading area) and they deserve a place especially if you suggest the ak2i which is even older
-I'm against recommending any card from r4isdhc.com or r4i-sdhc.com. And you should mention that ysmenu looks like crap and misses lots of features (RTS/DSi compatibility/3in1 support etc). You can as well suggest the original r4 since it's even cheaper and supports wood
-I wouldn't consider cards from r4i-sdhc.com low budget

And last but not least:
Comparing the prices of only one shop is bullshit. You can get DSTT/DSTTi cards for under 10$. You can't say that shops are not thrustworthy simply because you didn't use them yet. I've made good experiences with 3ds-flashcart.com and apart from them there are very reputable and old stores selling the ace3ds+ and other cards (like the ievo or a DSTT clone):
https://www.shop01media.com/en/Nint...tendo-DS-DSi-3DS-Ace-3ds-plus-flash-cart-pink
https://www.shop01media.com/en/Nint...lash-cart-nintendo-NDSi-XL-NDS-NDSL-3DS-white
https://www.shop01media.com/en/Nint...oy-DS-DSTT-flashcard-Nintendo-DS-Lite-microSD
 
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A few faults etc:
-7.0 wasn't the last update to block DS flashcarts; update 7.1 blocked the DSTWO (but not many other ones) I tried my best to do as much research as I could, but things do fall through the cracks. The most I could find was people talking about 7.0 blocking them and I couldn't find any posts beyond that. I shall amend that information.
-you can use wooddumper on DSi to dump ROMs. Deserves to be mentioned I forgot all about wooddumper, I shall add that.
-"At the same time tehre is currently no active DS flashcart" - typo Thank you.
-DSimenu++ supports Pokemon Black 2 which is DSi enhanced - idk whether in dsi enhanced mode or only nds mode. The ROM needs to be AP patched I actually knew this piece of information, but I wasn't sure if used the DSi enhanced features or not. I was meaning to ask on the official thread, but got side tracked and completely forgot.
-DSTWO still deserves to be on the "Which Flash Cart Should I Get" list - you can still get them used (e.g. in the trading area) and they deserve a place especially if you suggest the ak2i which is even older I was mulling over the idea of adding it and didn't based on what research I could gather on the current production of the cart. I've still been considering adding it, so I guess I will change that.
-I'm against recommending any card from r4isdhc.com or r4i-sdhc.com. And you should mention that ysmenu looks like crap and misses lots of features (RTS/DSi compatibility/3in1 support etc). You can as well suggest the original r4 since it's even cheaper and supports wood Personally the main reason I recommended those two is based on two facts. The R4i Gold Pro is the cheapest flashcart that works on stock OFW and can use NTRBoot. The R4-SDHC is the literally the most bottom barrel cart that I can find. I actually looked for a shop selling a 1:1 R4 cart and I seriously couldn't find one. I could easily miss them because the market is so overly saturated with R4 clones, that it's easy to miss them. I will include that note of the dated look and lack of features for YSmenu though.
-I wouldn't consider cards from r4i-sdhc.com low budget They are cheap as fuck though.
And alst but not least:
Comparing the prices of only one shop is bullshit. You can get DSTT/DSTTi cards for under 10$. You can't say that shops are not thrustworthy simply because you didn't use them yet. I've made good experiences with 3ds-flashcart.com and apart from them there are very reputable and old stores selling the ace3ds+ and other cards (like the ievo or a DSTT clone):
https://www.shop01media.com/en/Nint...tendo-DS-DSi-3DS-Ace-3ds-plus-flash-cart-pink
https://www.shop01media.com/en/Nint...lash-cart-nintendo-NDSi-XL-NDS-NDSL-3DS-white
https://www.shop01media.com/en/Nint...oy-DS-DSTT-flashcard-Nintendo-DS-Lite-microSD
So my issue with that shop came from the fact that I found a lot of threads having issues with them, but no one ever confirming if they ever resolved those issues. Which left me in a real bind. If they didn't resolve those issues, then the site can't be trusted. If they did resolve those issues, then it was just a misunderstanding. Regardless this lack of communication left me feeling very unsure I went with my gut on this one. So if I was wrong, I am willing to admit that my gut was wrong. I am only trying to do what's right for the community and I don't want to recommend anything that could possibly cause them issues.
I've actually never heard of that site, but I do trust you.
 

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So if I was wrong, I am willing to admit that my gut was wrong. I am only trying to do what's right for the community and I don't want to recommend anything that could possibly cause them issues.
I've actually never heard of that site, but I do trust you.
Regarding 3ds-flashcart: sometimes they may not live up to the western customer support standarts, but they always replied to my emails and I could even negotiate about the shipping costs :D
But sometimes they list articles as "in stock" even if they don't have them in stock; you may want to ask them per mail if you want to buy non-mainstream cards. It's the chinese shipping experience.

Regarding shop01media: they have been in the business for a very long time and I've ordered there for many years. The same applies for a few friends of mine. Their issue are high shipping costs (about 10€) and additional payment costs (up to 10€).

But there are still many other shops: elespiel.com, axiogame.com, ozmodchips.com.au, digimartz.com, prima-module.com, spitzenkarte.com, vartis.net, elewelt.net, jvmonde.com, digitopz.com and modchipsdirect.com. I didn't order from them, but some of them are in the game for a long time, too.
 
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Regarding 3ds-flashcart: sometimes they may not live up to the western customer support standarts, but they always replied to my emails and I could even negotiate about the shipping costs :D
But sometimes they list articles as "in stock" even if they don't have them in stock; you may want to ask them per mail if you want to buy non-mainstream cards. It's the chinese shipping experience.

Regarding shop01media: they have been in the business for a very long time and I've ordered there for many years. The same applies for a few friends of mine. Their issue are high shipping costs (about 10€) and additional payment costs (up to 10€).

But there are still many other shops: elespiel.com, axiogame.com, ozmodchips.com.au, digimartz.com, prima-module.com, spitzenkarte.com, vartis.net, elewelt.net, jvmonde.com, digitopz.com and modchipsdirect.com. I didn't order from them, but some of them are in the game for a long time, too.
Having been dealing with these shops for years, I know what their customer service can be like. They are far different and require a lot of getting used to and that was something I had to pick up on. I've been considering buying from 3ds-flashcart to fill my collection a bit more, but I was skeptical of them because of my own research. I may actually give them a try with a cheap cart and see what happens.
So based on your suggestions, I actually did some overhauling on that section. I moved some things around and decided to pull back on some of my bias (like my bias feelings towards the Ace3DS.) I also decided to remove the links to nds-card and I think I am going to make another thread asking for a list of trusted dealers and link to this thread instead. That way I can remove bias on my end have recommendations be based on the community over my own suggestions.
 
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Having been dealing with these shops for years, I know what their customer service can be like. They are far different and require a lot of getting used to and that was something I had to pick up on. I've been considering buying from 3ds-flashcart to fill my collection a bit more, but I was skeptical of them because of my own research. I may actually give them a try with a cheap cart and see what happens.
So based on your suggestions, I actually did some overhauling on that section. I moved some things around and decided to pull back on some of my bias (like my bias feelings towards the Ace3DS.) I also decided to remove the links to nds-card and I think I am going to make another thread asking for a list of trusted dealers and link to this thread instead. That way I can remove bias on my end have recommendations be based on the community over my own suggestions.
Nice. Maybe the DSTT would be a better fit for budget cards since it lacks some features etc. Same applies for ace3ds +/x.
Other useful stuff you might want to add:
-non-sdhc generally means up to 2GB for the R4
-Maybe it might be useful to add that most multigame cards are ace3ds plus cards
 

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Nice. Maybe the DSTT would be a better fit for budget cards since it lacks some features etc. Same applies for ace3ds +/x.
Other useful stuff you might want to add:
-non-sdhc generally means up to 2GB for the R4
-Maybe it might be useful to add that most multigame cards are ace3ds plus cards
I threw that all together just to have an idea of where to go from there. Thanks for the advice though!
 

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When you recommend the R4i Gold Plus (r4ids.cn) you mention that it has most, but not all features from AkAIO. I am curious, what features dont come with it from AkAIO?
 

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When you recommend the R4i Gold Plus (r4ids.cn) you mention that it has most, but not all features from AkAIO. I am curious, what features dont come with it from AkAIO?
Mostly small features like on-the-fly AP patching and a few minor toggles features that they both share, but akAIO allows them to be toggled. I really need to sit down though and compare them again.
 

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hello guys i have ds lite black and recentley buy a ds lite white referbeshed for my sister now i have some question
for my black ds lite i have picture below flashcard r4 clone but its ram unfourtunatly missing and my sister flashcard r4 clone is white and have 4gb ram work fine but when i insert ram in my old r4 did not work and loading screen appear now i want ask how i can found out 1-my old r4 clone and my sister r4 clone model (dualcore or gold and etc) 2-how can i run my r4 clone on my ds 3-where can i download framwer and update kernel for this two r4 and i download which ones 4-can this 2 r4 support 8gb ram class 10 on ds lite?
at last excuse me for my bad english type :shy:
 

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good informative list! wish it was made 2 years ago cause i choked and chose the r4i sdhc 3ds rts over the r4i gold, although ive never ran into a timebomb.
 
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Clydefrosch

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This guide recommends the R4i Gold Plus (r4ids.cn) and while I love the menu and the way it displays all the cheats for pokemon games unlike my r4i-sdhc, I can't get any of the games with piracy protection to run.
I mean, they start, yes, but the AP stuff happens.
Using DeadSkullJr's cheat database, and the AP cheats, it's still not working, i get i.e. whitescreens in heartgold and random crashes in Chrono Trigger. Both games run fine on m old r4i 3ds rts cart.

I'm running the lastest 1.64 wood firmware i could find and I just dont get if I'm missing something here.

I guess I can live with it because ultimately, I bought this just in case I needed NTR boot in the future. But I would've loved to use this new menu...
 
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