PLEASE READ - I can no longer recommend the M3 Real / M3i Zero flashcarts, nor can I recommend the TouchPod or M3 Sakura firmware anymore. Since M3i Zero was revised to GMP-Z003, it has locked out most custom firmware (such as WoodM3), effectively destroying any chance of the flashcart ever receiving any third-party support from independent coders. The M3 team is no longer active; the firmware was updated for the last time in early 2011. The M3 Real doesn't work on the 3DS, and apparently neither does the M3i Zero. Many of the previously-working features no longer function properly, and most ROMs released after March 2011 won't run on M3 Sakura or TouchPod anymore unless the ROM itself is pre-patched. There won't be any more support for this card.
For anyone considering getting an M3i Zero, save yourself some headache and get yourself an Acekard 2i with akAIO instead. It's way cheaper than any of the M3 cards and it has much better support (Normmatt and Smiths are boss). You can even get the full M3 Sakura experience on the Acekard 2i if you use MAIO. You can also get either an R4i Gold or a Supercard DSTWO (currently the best card on the market). Another reason to switch to one of these three flashcarts is that the Codemasters Project (CMP) cheat file doesn't support the M3 Real / M3i Zero, so you won't be able to use the latest cheat codes unless you know how to convert the CMP file into the M3 Real-compatible cheat.db format.
For what it's worth, thanks, M3 team. Your flashcart was awesome when you supported it, but now it's one of the worst flashcarts around.
Q: What is M3 Sakura?!
A: It's a loader by the M3 team that was first released in Japan (as v1.00) on 30 May 2008. Its current form as we know it (from v1.35 on) was released outside of Asia on 21 March, 2009. The loader was developed by Infantile Paralysiser (a.k.a. "Moonlight," the creator of MoonShell) for the M3 team. The firmware loads on the M3 Sakura, M3 Real and M3i Zero flashcarts. The M3 Sakura flashcart (which is basically the Japanese version of the M3 Real flashcart with a different label) is not available for sale outside of Japan. As such, for our purposes "M3 Sakura" will refer to the M3 Sakura loader and not the flashcart. For an in-depth explanation of M3i Zero/M3 Sakura, check GBAtemp's official review.
Q: Why should I use M3 Sakura?
A: M3 Sakura features a completely customizable GUI and employs a unique touch-and-slide navigation/control currently not found in any other flashcart. The controls are much more sensitive than M3 Real's original firmware (TouchPod), and overall much better-looking. M3 Sakura also has an integrated text viewer, image viewer, music player and video player, so there's no need to run a separate homebrew (e.g., MoonShell) to open various files. You can find more information on how M3 Sakura looks on the DS including videos here. Skyline969 has also done some comprehensive video reviews on M3 Sakura with an extensive commentary. His videos will give you a very good idea of what it is, but the firmware has seen some improvement since he made those videos. Skyline969 has a more up-to-date review of Sakura at his website, Skyline Reviews. Simply put, M3 Sakura is arguably one of the best firmwares available in terms of looks and functionality.
Q: My M3i Zero has a blue LED when I flash it, but I've seen pictures/videos online with a red LED. Is my unit defective?
A: No, your flashcart is fine. The first batches of M3i0 flashcarts were made with red LEDs, and newer batches may be made with red or blue LEDs. The color should be of no concern.
Q: I downloaded the firmware from the official website but it's an MSI file. What do I do with it?
A: It's an installer for the Sakura DSM Encoder. Go ahead and install it on your PC, then run the program. In the upper-right corner you'll see an option that says "Setup Sakura." Connect your MicroSD card to your computer, backup your important files, format the card and then click "Setup Sakura" to extract the SYSTEM folder to your card. Here's more info on the new Sakura DSM Encoder and v1.34 in general (in case you missed it the first time). If you don't want to bother with the Sakura DSM Encoder (or are unable to install it), just download the SYSTEM folder by itself in one of the links above.
Q: I bought my M3 Real in Japan. How do I get the English firmware to run on my cart?
A: You can't. The official English firmware is for US and European M3 Real carts only. Fortunately there's an easy solution. Just download both the Japanese firmware and the English firmware, take the "messages.000" file from the English firmware (SYSTEM\m3sakura\language\messages.000), rename it "messages.932," transplant it into the same folder in the Japanese firmware and overwrite the existing file. Grab an English skin from the M3 Sakura Skins section and you'll have a fully-English GUI. The added benefit is that the Japanese firmware supports both Japanese and English text, so you also get improved functionality!
Q: I tried to run Sakura and it booted into a black screen. How do I fix this?
A: Hold down the A button when you turn on the DS to call up the dual-boot selection screen, and select Sakura again.
Q: Whenever I use cheats, soft-reset, or RTS, the game freezes. How can I fix this?
A: These features don't work perfectly for all games. The same can be said of all flashcarts. If you're experiencing freezes, simply load the ROM without enabling cheats, soft-reset or RTS. Your best bet would be to wait for a firmware update and see if it fixes the problem.
Q: Do MoonShell 2 .skn files work in Sakura? Do Sakura .skn files work in MoonShell 2?
A: No, and no. The skin formats are incompatible with each other.
Q: How do I encode DSM files? I keep getting an error whenever I try.
A: The Sakura DSM Encoder can do a straight conversion from .FLV to .DSM, so if your source files are in .FLV format, just feed them into the DSM encoder. If you have a non-FLV video source file, try using SUPER to convert them to AVI first. Then use the DSM encoder to convert the AVI. If none of these tips work, try them again, but using the Japanese Sakura 1.34 DSM Encoder 1st Edition instead of the 2nd Edition. For DPGs, the same procedure can be followed, just with DPGenc instead of Sakura DSM Encoder. You can also follow the directions on this guide.
Q: Is M3 Sakura compatible with DPG4 videos like Moonshell 2?
A: No, only Moonshell 2 plays DPG4.
Q: When loading GBA ROMs, is there any way to get them to display on the bottom screen?
A: For some reason, this can only be done through the GBA ROM settings in TouchPod. This cannot be done in M3 Sakura; when playing GBA games they will always be displayed on the top screen.
Q: How is the homebrew compatibility?
A: M3 Sakura was notoriously horrible with homebrew compatibility when the very first Japanese release was hacked to run on US/EUR M3 Real flashcarts; however, it seems that homebrew works much better now than on any of the previous hacked versions. Check the M3 Sakura Homebrew Compatibility List for a list of homebrew that does and does not work.
Q: Can I import my NDS .sav files from a DS emulator?
A: Yes, you can import .sav files created on NO$GBA into the M3 Real/M3i Zero. Check here for more info.
Q: Does DSOrganize work in M3 Sakura?
A: Yes, it does. One major grievance of M3 Sakura's poor homebrew quality in the past was that DSO didn't work. But there is now a workaround for that. Download this version of DSOrganize 3.1129, especially modified to run on M3 Sakura.
- The M3 Kaura FAQ (by DeltaBurnt) - This was supposed to be another firmware by the M3 team, but nothing ever came of it.
- The New M3 Quad-Boot (by A Gay Little Catboy) - This is another option for people who want to add versatility to their M3 DS Real / M3i Zero flashcarts.
- The M3 Sakura v1.12+a Archive - I've taken the original M3 Sakura FAQ down from the front page and relocated it because much of the information on it no longer applies to current versions of M3 Sakura; however, some of it still does apply, so if you need any info from the original FAQ, it has been archived here.
- GBAtemp's Official M3i Zero Review - High-quality photos and video of the product, as well as an extensive review by GBAtemp's own magazine staff, War and Minox IX.
- Skyline Reviews - M3 Sakura Review - A review of Sakura going over the features of the firmware.
- M3i Zero Official Forum - This forum has a FAQ, setup video and manual devoted to the M3i Zero flashcart.
- M3i Zero Review (by dudereno) - This review of the M3i Zero flashcart focuses on Sakura functionality, with images of its various features.
- Sakura Tools - This is the original tool pack that used to be bundled with Sakura before version 1.35. This tool pack includes a DPG video converter, an IPK album creator, a skin compiler as well as the default English skin source files, and a sound effects creator for the firmware. It is no longer bundled with current versions of Sakura, so this is the only place to get it.
- M3 Sakura Bug-Reporting Thread (by Henry Hatsworth) - If you find any bugs that need to be fixed in M3 Sakura or TouchPod, please report them here. Not to be confused with the Suggestion Topic.
- M3 Sakura Suggestion Topic (by DeltaBurnt) - This thread is for suggesting features you would like to see implemented in M3 Sakura or TouchPod. Not to be confused with the Bug-Reporting Thread.
- M3 Sakura Homebrew Compatibility List (by Skyline969) - This is a compilation of the homebrew titles that have been verified to work (and not work) on Sakura 1.34 Beta. The list is an ongoing work in progress, and your help is needed to make the list as complete as possible. Go and post what homebrew you currently have on your card, which ones work in Sakura and which ones you need to boot into TouchPod to run!
- Cheat Forum for NDS ROMs - The ultimate resource for the newest cheat codes for all NDS ROMs. Over 1000 ROMs are in the cheat database and more are added almost every day!
- Cheat Forum for GBA ROMs - Get all the cheat codes for GBA ROMs here. Efforts are being made to translate the codes from the original Chinese into English, and the cheat files are updated periodically. This is the best place on the 'Net for GBA .cht file support!
- M3 Sakura FAQ (Spanish) - Nagaroth has been kind enough to translate this FAQ into Spanish! According to him it's a sort of hybrid between the original FAQ and the info on the current FAQ. Thanks, Nagaroth!!
- M3 Real Review (by Sinkhead) - Since the M3 Sakura loader runs on the M3 Real flashcart, a lot of the technical specs of the flashcart (SDHC support, etc.) can be answered here.
- M3 Real Guide (by tguellich) - The M3 Sakura FAQ is written under the assumption that the reader has some basic knowledge of the M3 Real flashcart. This comprehensive guide will get you up to speed on everything you need to know about it. It also wouldn't hurt to take a look at this if you're new to flashcarts altogether.
- NEW! SIMPLE (English) (by dylan2228) - An English-translated version of the original Japanese SIMPLE skin.
- Logatroth (by Critical_DS) - Screenshot
- French Skin (by Bidounet)
- Pure Sakura 1.2 (by bucow and Jaylen)
- Final Fantasy Sakura Skin (by kingcold9)
- M3 Sakura Skin Pack - Includes all of the Sakura skins below, including the ones in other languages...in one convenient download package! Skins appearing above this link are not included and should be downloaded separately.
- Castlevania Sakura (by Dark Justice)
- Grand Theft Auto 4 (by KingVamp)
- God of War Sakura (by KingVamp)
- Sakura Black and Red (by Magmorph)
- Floral Attentive (by DesuChan)
- Fade Away (by metron)
- Europe-Nintendo M3Sakura Skin (by gangsterboi)
- MadiColor (by metron) - This skin is truly special. By all means please ask the creator about it and download it to show your support.
- Sakura DSOne (by KH-Roms)
- Ubuntu Sakura (by powered_by_tux)
- DokiDoki Majo Shinpan! (Maho Akai) (by metron)
- Project Mayhem 3 Sakura v.2 (by Mathias Mahling, adapted for Sakura by Lathlas) - Includes skin source files.
- Sakura Black and White (by dohclude)
- VistaStyle - Aurora (by Axel-MaV)
- VistaStyle - Grass (by Axel-MaV)
-->VistaStyle Wallpaper Pack (by Axel-MaV)
- Default Green (by dylan2228)
- Moonshell Sakura 2 v.1.2 (by metron and dohclude)
- Moonshell Sakura 2 (by metron)
- Wii Thiim (by metron)
- Playstation Sakura Portable (by metron)
- AAA (Triple A) Jpop (by darknick)
- Gameboy Sakura (by metron)
-->Sound effects pack for this skin here.
- VistaDX (by Aphexdash)
- SAKURAtemp (by metron)
- Don't Panic Marvin (by VatoLoco)
- Sakura Dark Beam v.1.2 (by metron)
- Blue Fluff (by metron)
- Mother/Earthbound (by metron)
- Mother 3 (by metron)
- Pokemon Platinum Sakura (by metron)
- Tomboyish Mermaid (by metron)
- Princess of Hoenn v.2 (by metron)
- Shadow_4.67 (by lilkerv90210)
- DD (Dawn) (by metron)
- Tragedy of Bashitarlle v0.99 (by RyukeDragon)
- Pokemon Master (by metron)
- White DS Firmware (by metron)
- Black DS Firmware (by metron)
- Sakura Wolf (by metron)
- Midnight Flower (by metron)
- Smash Bros. Brawl Sakura (by metalliguy)
- Lulz Pirate (by RyukeDragon)
- Death Magnetic Sakura (by metalliguy)
- Sakuratronic (by Toni Plutonij) - Sakuratronic discussion topic can be found here.
- Sakura Clearlooks v.1.01 (updated) (by strata8) - Includes skin source files.
- Ghost in the Shell DARK (by EeeKay)
- area o4.2 (by strata8)
- Ghost in the Shell v.2 (by EeeKay)
- RevenG (by DesuChan) Original Link
- Aero: Ultimate (by strata8)
- Aero: Fish School (by strata8)
- Aero: Grass (by strata8)
- Moonlight White (by Chaos45)
- Exultation v.2 (by Geo411m)
- Chaos Black (by Chaos45)
- Sakura-Vista Ultimatum (by gangsterboi)
- Paradise (by strata8)
- DS OS (by wabsta)
- Sakura-Electric Blue (by gangsterboi)
- Sakura Classic Default v.4 (by mercenary96 and dylan2228) - The Pink, Blue and Green skins in one package.
- Aqua (Japanese) (by M3 Sakura)
- Buccaneer (Japanese) (by M3 Sakura)
- Dashboard (Japanese) (by M3 Sakura)
- Default (Japanese) (by M3 Sakura)
- Sakura Blue (Japanese) (by M3 Sakura)
- SIMPLE (Japanese) (by M3 Sakura)
- Faith (Spanish) (by Nagaroth)
- Vista Rus (Russian) (by mc_B3oWoLF)
- NEW! M3 Skin Maker (by Stormwave) - This app not only allows you to preview and compile skins, but also to decompile existing skins into their source files. Includes support for Kaura.
- M3 Sakura Skin Tool - This is a utility to create custom skins for Sakura. Use the included image source files as a reference to help you create your own skins. Manipulate them any way you want in your preferred image editing software (just don't change the pixel dimensions), and compile them using the skin tool.
- M3 Sakura Skin Tester (by gatsu80) - This will let you view a skin so you can see how it will look before you load it onto your card.
- M3 Sakura Skin Tester (by Eatitup) - This is another skin tester that includes a skin creation guide and a sample Castlevania SotN skin.
- M3 Sakura Video Player Skin Template (by Aguilera_87) - This is a template showing the positions of all of the buttons and other components in the M3 Sakura video player GUI.
- Vista Skin Source Files v.2 (by strata8) - An alternate set of image files you can use for creating new skins with the M3 Sakura Skin Tool.
- M3 Sakura Wallpapers (by osckeitaro) - These are not skins, but rather wallpapers. To set them as the background for your GUI, place them on your MicroSD card, browse through them in M3 Sakura, open one that you like and press START.
- Essentials: TouchPod and Sakura Skins (by Rockstar) - Check here for the most popular skins if you need help deciding which ones to use.
- Panasonic SD Card Formatter - An app specially designed to format SD (and MicroSD) cards. It is advised that you use this instead of formatting through Windows.
- HDD Low Level Format Tool - If you ever have a corrupted MicroSD card that your PC won't recognize anymore, this little app can work miracles! Thanks to letsgo for finding this.
- NDSTokyoTrim (by BrianTokyo) - A tool to safely trim your ROMs so that they take up less space on your MicroSD card. If you experience any problems after trimming a ROM, stick with the untrimmed ROM.
- SUPER - The ultimate video converter. It converts from any video format into any other video format (including DPG), and it's free. The download link on the official SUPER homepage is rather elusive, so the setup file has been hosted at SuperUploader for your convenience.
- BatchDPG (by i_Am_Ghost) - This is another option for converting videos into the proprietary DPG format supported by M3 Sakura. The link contains other links to tutorials, so check there for support.