Unless you’re a die-hard 3DS collector, you’ve probably never heard of Ubisoft’s obscure 2011 platform release Cubic Ninja. However, many people are talking about and looking for the title today, after a hacking group announced that it is the key to the first exploit allowing 3DS hardware to run unsigned, homemade code.
It all started early Monday, when the GBATemp hacking community (known for publishing many previous Nintendo console exploits) announced that a hacker working on smealum got homebrew code on a 3DS after months of work. The first post noted that the exploit requires a specific 3DS game to work, but the group said they would keep that title’s identity a secret until the exploit was officially “released” to the public on November 22.
Since then, however, GBATemp says “plans are being accelerated,” and smealum revealed on Twitter Monday night that it was abusive play Cubic Ninja, a tilt-control action-adventure that received terrible reviews just after the launch of the 3DS in early 2011. While the game is available for download from the Nintendo eShop, only the Japanese version of the download can be used for the homebrew exploit, according to lubricant. To get homebrew running on North American or European hardware, you’ll need to track down a genuine copy of the game card.
What happened next was eminently predictable: Cubic Ninja literally went from a basement bargain to a much sought after find overnight. On eBay, copies of the game were generally still selling in the $3 to $7 range as recently as yesterday, with one copy finishing auction last month for just $1.04. In the 15 or so hours since the exploit was announced, selling prices on eBay have skyrocketed to $40, with even the “cheap” North American Buy It Now auctions costing a minimum of $25. Right now, an eBay freeloader is asking $300 for a new sealed copy, noting in the auction title, “This is the game you need for the Homebrew Project. These games are getting harder and harder to find due to game developers hoard these games.”
It’s the same situation elsewhere on the web. A few weeks ago, Amazon sellers offered copies of Cubic Ninja for just $2.07, with numerous listings for new copies well under $10. Right now, the cheapest copy available from an Amazon seller costs more than $24, with one seller asking as much as $500. New or used copies of Cubic Ninja were available last week for just $5 with instant shipping on the Gamestop, Wal-mart, and Best Buy websites. Now all three retailers have sold out online and copies are difficult or impossible to find in stores, according to online inventory checkers.
As a final bit of irony, the game’s original developers at AQ Interactive won’t even be able to really enjoy the game’s sudden, unexpected surge in popularity; the Japanese company was incorporated in Harvest Moon creator Marvelous Entertainment soon after Cubic Ninja‘s release in 2011. Ubisoft, who published the game outside of Japan, could in theory make money by re-releasing the title to retailers and enthusiast consumers, but Nintendo probably wouldn’t allow such a move unless the homebrew exploit already patched .
Once the exploit is fully revealed this weekend, players will be able to get a copy of it Cubic Ninja will reportedly be able to boot via a custom boot file on the SD card Cubic Ninja, which in turn will install a “homebrew channel” on the system which can then execute arbitrary code on the hardware. While Nintendo can and likely will update the 3DS firmware to stop this exploit, Smealum notes on Twitter that it currently works with all firmware versions on any edition of the 2DS/3DS hardware, also stressing that the exploit cannot be used to run “backups” of legitimate 3DS games, and it’s only useful for running homemade code, such as a version of Minecraft shown as a proof of concept in online photos.
Console hacking fans may recall that the Wii had a similar homebrew hack that required a copy of the launch title The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. When that hack was patched into a later version of the Wii firmware, a number of other Wii hacks were developed, some of which required copies of less popular game discs.
Even if other exploits are eventually found and developed for the 3DS, that is Cubic Ninja has already been saved from a life of infamy to become a footnote in 3DS history.
List image by GBATemp