Nintendo hid a load-your-own NES emulator inside a GameCube classic

Fans of the early-2000s era GameCube version of the original Animal Crossing likely remember the game including a handful of emulated NES titles that could be played by obtaining in-game items for your house. What players back then didn’t know is that the NES emulator in Animal Crossing can also be used to play any generic NES ROM stored on a GameCube memory card.

Security researcher James Chambers discovered the previously unused and undocumented feature buried in the original Animal Crossing game code and detailed his methodology and findings in a technically oriented Medium post this week.

The key to opening Animal Crossing‘s NES emulator is the game’s generic “NES console” item. Usually, this item simply tells players who try to use it that “I want to play my NES, but I don’t have any software” (separate in-game items are used to play the NES ROMs that are included on the Animal Crossing disc).

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Nintendo reportedly rolling out new, more hack-resistant Switch hardware

Months ago, word leaked out to the public of an “unpatchable” exploit method that allowed Switch users to run custom firmware, homebrew code, and even pirated software on all existing hardware. Now, Nintendo is reportedly selling Switch systems that have been fixed at the factory to protect against this exploit.

The report comes from prolific Switch hardware hacker SciresM, who writes that at least some Switches currently on retail shelves are not vulnerable to the coldboot exploit known in hacking circles as “Fusée Gelée.” SciresM suspects that Nintendo has used the iPatch system on the system’s Nvidia Tegra chip to burn new protective code into the boot ROM, cutting off the USB recovery mode overflow error that previously let hackers in.

These boot-ROM iPatches are relatively simple for Nintendo to implement in the factory when the system is manufactured, but they are impossible to load onto the tens of millions of Switch units that had already been sold before the exploit was made public.

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Many more indie games will be coming to Switch if Nintendo has its way

Popular first-party franchises and an innovative hybrid hardware design have been key parts of the Nintendo Switch’s sales success thus far. But the system also owes a lot to a wide selection of independent games that has helped round out the library of available titles between marquee releases.

So perhaps it’s not a surprise that Nintendo says it’s interested in expanding the range and number of indie titles on the system going forward. In an investor’s Q&A session this week, Senior Executive Officer Susumu Tanaka said, “In the future, we are looking to release around 20 to 30 indie games on Nintendo Switch per week, and we definitely expect to see some great games among them.”

That range would represent a big increase from the Switch’s current baseline of about 10 games released per week, on average, over the last year (a number that includes indie titles as well as games from major publishers). The Switch’s current rate of new game releases—which is comparable to that on the Xbox One—represents a huge increase from the Wii U era, when that system saw just three releases in an average week during its first year on the market in 2013 (and that number that was padded a bit by dozens of Virtual Console re-releases, to boot).

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Dealmaster: The NES Classic comes back tonight—here’s where to get one

Jeff Dunn

The NES Classic Edition is officially back in stores Friday morning.

Before we get into any background, and because time will likely be of the essence for those who want one of these things, let’s just lay out the US retailers that have confirmed to Ars that they will have the retro console in stock online on Friday. If you’re interested in picking one up, the links below should take you right to each store’s product listing:

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Switch pirates don’t want you to pirate their piracy-enabling firmware

As expected, the unpatchable Nintendo Switch exploit published months ago has now led to the existence of piracy-enabling custom firmware for the system. In an ironic twist, though, the makers of that firmware have introduced anti-piracy code to prevent people from pirating their own work.

While there is a free version Team Xecutor’s custom SX OS available online, loading that firmware only allows Switch players to play homebrew software. To load pirated (or “backed up”) versions of copyrighted Switch games, you have to buy a licensed copy of SX OS from an authorized reseller.

Trying to load the paid version of SX OS without a valid license leads the firmware to execute a “brick code” path, locking up the system’s internal NAND memory behind a password. It’s possible to recover your hardware from this “bricked” state, but regaining control can be an opaque process if you don’t know what you’re doing.

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Nintendo: Docked and undocked play time for Switch is “about even”

Since the Switch was first unveiled in late 2016, it’s been pitched as a “best of both worlds” way to enjoy portable and TV-connected gaming in a single console unit. Nintendo now tells Ars Technica that users are taking advantage of both of those play modes in roughly equal measure.

In a recent interview with Ars, Nintendo Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing Doug Bowser (yes, really) said the play time split between docked and undocked play on the Switch is “about even—about 50 percent in the dock and 50 percent away from the dock.” That latter includes both tabletop play and fully handheld play; Bowser said the company doesn’t currently monitor which “undocked” mode a player is using at any given time.

While overall play time for docked and undocked play is relatively balanced, the usage rates can vary by individual game, Bowser said. Titles like Just Dance are played mostly in docked mode, while games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are more equally balanced.

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Pokémon Quest hits app store with a jolt

Coming just shy of a month after its original release on the Nintendo Switch, Pokémon Quest has hit the the App Store and Google Play Store today with an impressive response. According to analytics by Sensor Tower, the app on iPhone is already at No. 2 in Japan and No. 3 in Korea. While hovering at No. 5 in the U.S., the momentum looks like it could carry it to No. 1 by the end of the day.

The game itself is designed to be an easily accessible, free-to-play RPG that features your favorite pokémon from Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue — with a geometric twist.

Taking a left-turn from their typical animation style, the pokémon in Quest have been transformed into cube versions of themselves and inhabit a brightly colored — also 90-degree angled — terrain called Tumblecube Island. After choosing a pokémon companion to begin your quest, trainers are tasked with exploring the island for hidden treasure.

But if Minecraft-ified Pokémon is not exactly your cup of tea, don’t worry, Nintendo has more up its sleeves.

In a joint announcement in Tokyo this May, Nintendo, the Pokémon Company (the group behind Quest) and Niantic (the creators of Pokémon GO) announced a plan to release four new Pokémon titles by 2019.

Pokémon Quest jump-starts that plan and two new Switch titles  — Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! — are slated to be released to the Switch in November. A yet untitled “core” game is scheduled to be released by the end of 2019.

The companies plan to begin weaving these platforms, games and fans together, including allowing users to transport their pokémon from GO to the Switch titles and the creation of a “real” Poké Ball for the Switch.

It’s too early to speculate on the success of these grand plans, but it’s an exciting prospect for pokémon trainers worldwide.

You can now play Mario Kart 8 with Labo’s cardboard motorbike controller

In a surprise announcement this morning, Nintendo revealed a free downloadable update for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe that will allow the Switch game to be controlled using the Toy-Con Motorbike controller constructed with the Nintendo Labo Variety Kit.

As shown in a brief preview video, the cardboard enclosure uses the Joy-Con’s gyroscopic motion sensing to detect a handle twist for acceleration and leaning to steer. Cardboard protrusions on the motorbike controller can push buttons on the Joy-Cons to activate items, braking, and drifting. Four sets of motorbike controllers can be used on the game simultaneously.

The setup reminds us of nothing so much as the plastic Wii Wheel accessory that came with Mario Kart Wii, albeit with a bit more assembly required—Nintendo recommends 90 to 150 minutes to put together the Toy-Con motorbike.

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