Disclaimer: Any hacking you do is at your own risk. While both methods are well tested and quite safe we are not responsible for anything involved here. If you want to get into homebrew you should make sure you are well informed. We will not take any questions on this in comments, nor will we take any questions about how to pirate. Also, all consoles show in video or image in this article are my own, so you know I’m running this before I write a word.
If you’ve been following the homebrew community for the current generation of handheld consoles then you likely know that it’s been a very interesting week. Both the 3DS and Vita received a hack for the latest firmwares, and surprisingly both work in essentially the same way. They both use the web browser to install a hack, and thus require no paid software whatsoever. In this article I’m going to discuss why these hacks are unique, define a few terms you’ll hear in the homebrew scenes and I’ll show you how to install each hack. Let’s get to it.
All any of these hacks are is a way to run unapproved code on your handheld systems. Usually, this involves finding an exploit which is a way to crash a game in a way that lets the code run. This allows an entry point for the installation of homebrew software, which is any software that is made by hobbyists without the permission of the console manufacturers. Homebrew software is a varied thing, but the one that most people seem interested in is emulation and both consoles have a great variety of them. Interestingly, neither of the current hacks allows for the piracy of 3DS or Vita games which is something a large amount of homebrewers are firmly against. Considering that console manufacturers often complain that homebrew is only there to allow piracy I felt I had to make that point.
Now almost all other hacks for these consoles required a purchased game to trigger the exploit. While it could vary from hack to hack, some were used multiple times – the big example is the otherwise mediocre 3DS game Cubic Ninja which has become rather hard to find and expensive due to its use in homebrew. The Vita has had a wide array of exploitable titles but almost none repeated – Pool Hall Pro being the only one I can think of. While a hack released in any month for either console is news, the fact that both had one in the same week is unheard of and is the most exciting thing to happen to console homebrew in a very long time. The Vita actually got the best of the two, but I’ll go into that later on. Let’s look at how to hack the 3ds. How’s about a video? One caveat: both hacks require the consoles to be on the most current firmware.
Installing browserhax on 3DS
TL;DW Download Smealum’s starter kit and make sure it’s on the root of your 3DS’s memory card. Aim your 3DS web browser at http://smealum.github.io/3ds. There will be a section called web browser. Click to open it up and find the link to the browserhax. Go to the site, then go to the auto detect page in the upper section. This will install your browserhax. For more info and how to install the very useful menuhax please read Hackinformer’s guide. Don’t worry, Vita owners, I’ve got you covered as well.
Installing HENKaku on PSVITA
TL;DW This one is even simpler. Point your Vita’s browser at henkaku.me. Click the orange install button, hit OK and let it do its work. It will finish and install a file browser app called Molecule. Inside this app hit select to open up FTP, and it will give you the address. All Vita homebrew must be .vpk to be installed. Copy over with FTP, then tap “X” when you’re on the program to install it. One big mea culpa: at the time I recorded this I didn’t know the “install” button on the app for reinstallation after a power off still required internet connection. My mistake. Wololo has a great write up on the HENKaku hack here.
Now while the 3DS hack is certainly a big deal, the Vita hack is the one I want to focus on first. This hack did more in the last 5 days to excite the Vita community than Sony has done in the last five months. When Sony decided they wanted the Vita to play PSP games they didn’t include the UMD drive to play discs, but they did put most of the guts of a PSP inside the Vita hardware. This means that whenever you download a PSP game from the PSN store it’s essentially running on a PSP, which is often referred to as the “ePSP” or emulated PSP. Of course, this means that while running PSP applications the Vita can only use horsepower to the level of the PSP, which is a good deal less than the Vita sports. Until recently all but one hack ever released for Vita utilized an ePSP exploit which meant dealing with lower power. The exception was a hack called Rejuvenate that used the PS Mobile system to affect a “native” Vita hack. What this meant was that the Vita itself was hacked, not the ePSP, so that homebrew applications could use the full power of the Vita, which is quite substantial. This remained the solo native hack until the release of HENKaku on July 29. While Rejuvenate was a bit hard to grasp – when I installed it back then I spent most of an evening messing with it – HENKaku takes just a few minutes. I saw the release Friday morning about 20 minutes before I had to leave for work and I had it up and running with enough time to browse for software. The Vita has some serious firepower and so it will soon make an even better handheld emulation machine that its predecssor. I actually prefer playing GBA emulated on the Vita over my GBA with a flashcart. While there were some native Vita programs made during Rejuvenate, and they do work fine, more will surely be coming soon as the new HENKaku hack is not even a week old as of the time of this writing. For more Vita homebrew goodness check out HENKaku’s showcase or check the sites listed in the end to keep up to date.
There are a few terms that 3DS hacking sites will throw around that you need to know. The browserhax that the video starts off with is what’s called a “primary” exploit as it requires no other exploit in order to function. I mention installing menuhax which is a “secondary” exploit as it requires a primary, such as browserhax, to function. However, once installed menuhax allows you to boot the Homebrew Loader at any time, without the need to go online to reinstall browserhax. While the 3DS certainly lacks the raw power of the Vita it boasts a far more vibrant homebrew community as it has had native hacks for just about every single firmware. It even possesses a CFW, or custom firmware, that allows the system to do more than Nintendo ever intended. The rather famous ability to stream 3DS games to a TV requires the installation of a custom firmware, but that’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a 3DS capture card. Unfortunately, the current hack does not allow the installation of CFW but again, it’s early so that may change. While you wait for what I hope to be the inevitable release of a new CFW you can avail yourself of a wide range of homebrew software available that is constantly being updated. Check out the subreddit 3DSHacks for much, much more information.
Now homebrew is certainly a scene that requires informed decisions. I cannot recommend Wololo.net and Hackinformer enough for all up-to-date news, tutorials and information. The subreddits, 3DSHacks and Vita hacks are also great for the novice homebrew fan. I recommend going through the subreddits’ wikis for links to all the myriad homebrew applications and emulators available. The one thing I would recommend not holding your breath for is any kind of piracy from either hack as the developers of both are firmly on record as hating piracy. Hell, the Vita ROM wasn’t even cracked until 2016 so that’s a real pipe dream anyway. Despite what some like to say most homebrew is focused on just being able to run applications without Sony or Nintendo dictating terms. While most applications are emulators, there are many that add or restore functionality to consoles. The “whitelist” for PSTV allow the system to run Vita and PSP games that Sony decided it shouldn’t. This is not a incompatibility issue, just Sony being assholes. Even if you don’t plan on hacking your console I recommend taking a look at the information linked as it’s very interesting to see what gets made when you aren’t worried about what you’re told you can do but instead worried about what you’re able to do.