By following a series of steps outlined by project creator “Smealum,” 3DS owners can install The Homebrew Launcher via a previously downloaded copy of IronFall, the platform’s YouTube app, or the commercially available 3DS game Cubic Ninja.
Enabling homebrew has the benefit of bypassing the Nintendo 3DS’ widely criticized region lockout, which prevents users from playing legally purchased games from other regions. After enabling The Homebrew Launcher, 3DS owners in North America can play software imported from Japan, Europe, and other parts of the world.
The Homebrew Launcher also enables support for enthusiast-created software. Popular 3DS homebrew apps include the Portal clone Aperture Science 3D and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System software emulator blargSNES. Currently, the 3DS eShop’s Virtual Console service does not feature any downloadable Super NES games.
The setup process for 3DS homebrew requires users to download specific files to an SD card, which exploit loopholes within existing commercial software and allow the 3DS to execute unsigned code. Some installations may block eShop access, and Nintendo is likely to issue 3DS firmware updates that remove homebrew components from modified 3DS systems.
IronFall‘s removal from the eShop is Nintendo’s latest attempt to quell the spread of homebrew software on the 3DS. Nintendo previously pulled the 3DS platformer Cubic Ninja from the eShop after the discovery of similar homebrew exploits, and the company recently issued a DMCA takedown request for webpages that allowed users to play Game Boy Advance games via the Nintendo 3DS’ web browser.
The Homebrew Launcher is the latest project from an active development community centered around legacy Nintendo hardware. The Nintendo DS previously hosted a number of cartridges and exploits that enabled support for user-created software, and the Nintendo Wii features a wide variety of homebrew applications and emulators.