Homebrew solution: M3 Real

M3DS Real
Slot-1 (All-in-one)
Also needed:
MicroSD card
Price: $39 - $60
Find it: Real Hot Stuff, Amazon Marketplace, DealExtreme

With the M3 Real, it's easy for even the noobiest of noobs to get a grip on DS homebrew. If you know how to a) manipulate files on a computer and b) insert a cart into your DS, then you too can master the world of DS homebrew. It really is just that easy.

So you bought the M3 Real -- what now?

Once you've got the M3, with or without accessories (other than the necessary MicroSD card), setting it up is extremely simple. Before you do anything else, you'll need to:
  • format your MicroSD card (PC users, see here and here; Mac users, check here)
  • get the latest M3 loader firmware
  • copy the M3 firmware System folder to the MicroSD card
  • insert the MicroSD into your M3 cart (like this, not like this)
  • insert the M3 adapter cart in your DS and power it up
The first time you boot up your M3, you'll be prompted to select your language. If you happen to choose the wrong one, or decide to shift later, you can adjust this in the Setting menu from the main screen (see list of menu options to the right). After that, you're ready to go, and you've already become a part of the homebrew community. The M3 firmware comes complete with a built-in PDA app, so you've already got a program you can use. You've also got MoonShell packed in with your card, which allows you to access media files from your DS, just in case you want to, say, watch Night of the Living Dead. But in order to get that film, other media, or any other programs, you're going to have to plug that MicroSD back in to your computer and go hunting for software.

What kind of homebrew programs do you want to get? Frankly, that's up to you, and we'll provide some resources later that should help you choose. For now, however, we're just going to tell you how to work with your new homebrew cart.

How do I manage files so that my homebrew software will run correctly?

You'll need to place all of the loader files (.nds files) in the root directory (unless directed otherwise in the instructions for various programs) on the MicroSD card. This allows for automatic DLDI patching, which some applications require in order to run correctly. If your files are not in the right place, your programs may not work. If you're having any trouble, make sure the files are in the right place!

Your media files, however, can be organized as you see fit. Only .nds loader files for your homebrew programs need to be in the root directory. MoonShell has its own file browser, and supports several audio formats, including MP3, most basic image formats, and DPG video files.

As an aside, we recommend fiddling with your new M3's menus. You can't really mess anything up, after all, and you'll learn more about it. The firmware comes with several skins already installed (accessible through the 'Setting' menu), and you can cycle through those and familiarize yourself with the menus before digging too deeply into various programs.

To the right, you can see the basic menu options. You'll spend most of your time in "My Card," which is a file browser that lists all your homebrew programs. Open My Card, and from there, you can select the executable files.

For example, on the above screenshot, lj.nds is selected, which loads LOCKJAW, an excellent Tetris clone. Chat Noir is also shown. To get here, select My Card from the main menu, and scroll down to the files you want. Tap the desired file once with your stylus (or alternate pointing device), and again to load it. Or, if you prefer to use the buttons, A selects, and B will move back to previous menus.

Sound simple? It is. The interface is easily navigable, and the beauty of the all-in-one Slot-1 carts is that running homebrew apps is nearly as easy as booting a commercial cartridge. So many steps that were necessary with earlier Slot-2 homebrew solutions are automated here. Now anyone can get in on the homebrew experience.

Where can I go to for more in-depth information on the M3 Real?


Check out the official M3 Team site or the M3 wiki, as well as great community sites like GBATemp.net.

Features: Built-in media player and PDA functionality, HDSC compatible, skinnable interface, automatic DLDI patching, supports Slot-2 expansions
Possible problems: Official site difficult to navigate if you're looking for firmware updates; some people don't like the necessity of keeping things in the root directory
Accessories: GBA expansion, rumble pak
Language support: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Korean, Thai

Jargon flying right over your head? Check out our homebrew glossary for more information!

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This article was originally published on Joystiq.