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Nintendo DS

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Title Screen

Nintendo DS

Also known as: iQue DS (CN, original model)
Developer: Nintendo
Publishers: Nintendo (INT), iQue (CN)
Released in JP: December 2, 2004
(original), March 2, 2006 (Lite)
Released in US: November 21, 2004
(original), June 11, 2006 (Lite)
Released in EU: March 11, 2005
(original), June 23, 2006 (Lite)
Released in AU: February 24, 2005
(original), June 1, 2006 (Lite)
Released in KR: January 15, 2007 (Lite)
Released in CN: July 23, 2005 (iQue)

DevTextIcon.png This console has hidden development-related text.
DebugIcon.png This console has debugging material.
RegionIcon.png This console has regional differences.
Carts.png This console has revisional differences.

ProtoIcon.png This console has a prototype article
PrereleaseIcon.png This console has a prerelease article

Nintendo's first Dual-Screen platform, this third pillar happily coexisted with both its predecessor in the Game Boy line and its competitor from Sony by immediately monopolizing practically the entire handheld space. Known early in development as the Nitro System - a name which survives through the line's serial code, NTR - and later the City Boy, its intuitive touch-screen control, strong third-party support, and low-cost high-capacity game cards quickly resulted in it becoming the most successful handheld platform in history.

And it prints money!

To do:
  • Apparently the DS Lite has unused video-out firmware/hardware functionality.
  • At least some DS models (and maybe 3DS too) have pressure-sensitive Touch Screens, and software can make use of this. Supposedly, Nintendo didn't allow developers to use this functionality due to inconsistent hardware (and maybe because they didn't want users to break the screen; the system's manual warns about pressing too hard on the Touch Screen), but some licensed titles (and the Colors! homebrew title) did use it (see here).
  • Korean DS games have 0x1D set to 40, yet it seems that it does nothing.


Read about prototype versions of this game that have been released or dumped.
Prototype Info
Read about prerelease information and/or media for this game.
Prerelease Info

Debug Button

Elementary, my dear Cactus.
This needs some investigation.
Discuss ideas and findings on the talk page.
Specifically: Check which DS games still recognize or use the DEBUG button input.

Commercially-released DS consoles normally have the buttons A, B, X, Y, L, R, Start, Select, and the D-Pad - the ones used during normal gameplay in commercially-released games. However, there is another button called DEBUG which is only present in dev units. The DEBUG button is stored (like X and Y) under an address for DS-exclusive buttons, unlike the rest of the buttons which were also present on the GBA.

It is possible to get DS games to recognize this button input by using the DeSmuME emulator, but it is otherwise unused.

(Source: Project Pokémon, Kodewerx)

Hidden Key Combinations

To do:
How do DSi-exclusive games, iQue games and auto-boot demos react to this?

Like the DSi and 3DS, the original DS has hidden button combinations which are not documented in the DS' instruction manual. There are two requirements which must be met in order for these combinations to work:

  • The system must not be set up. If the device has already been set up, taking out the battery for some time will reset it into setup mode.
  • There must be a DS or GBA game inserted.

By holding A + B + X + Y + R while powering on, you can force a DS game to boot regardless of setting up the system. Holding A + B + X + Y + L will instead boot the inserted GBA game. Unlike the DSi or 3DS, booting a game this way seems to have little to no effect on its functionality: the user settings will be whatever the system had before reseating the battery (besides the time, which will be reset to its defaults), and connecting to the internet works normally.

If instead the console is in normal operating conditions with the game auto-start option enabled (which, after the Health & Safety screen, tries to autostart Slot-1 and 2 in this order before displaying the main menu), holding B during the end of the logo animation will skip the DS card, while Start will ignore both and force the menu to load.

Hidden System Settings Configuration


If the language or calibration settings are corrupted or erased, the DS will boot into a hidden setup menu which allows the user to set these settings. Corrupting these settings normally would be a very tough job, as the original DS saves its settings in two separate places; however, opening a firmware dump with a hex editor and changing the values at offsets 0003FE64 and 0003FF64 (or at offsets 0007FE64 and 0007FF64 for Chinese and Korean firmware dumps) to 06 will corrupt the language setting, causing this menu to appear. Upon startup, the user is prompted to first calibrate the screen, then set the language. Afterwards, the system will load the User Settings setup which normally appears when reseating the battery. The previously-mentioned button combinations will also work when used on this screen.

Developer Text

Failed sound alarm OS_SendMessage

This error message string exists in the ARM9 boot code in at least one version of the firmware.

(Source: Original TCRF research)

Unused Banners

All DS games have banners that show on the DS menu at start-up when the cartridge is inserted. The graphics for these banners are located in an overlay file called banner, under the ftc directory.

However, many games on the DS have duplicate and sometimes unused variants of their banner graphics lying uncompressed elsewhere in the ROM out in the open, often in a banner directory. It is unknown why, since the DS doesn't use or check for these files. Notable games with such unused alternate banners include The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and Learn with Pokémon: Typing Adventure.

DS-placeholder banner.png

On a related subject, Wi-Fi Download Play files are stored as standalone DS ROMs inside the main game ROM. They have data for banners which goes unused anyways. Often it is just a duplicate of the banner for the main game, but many pre-2006 games used a placeholder banner (pictured here) probably from an SDK for the banner. The internal title for these is Nintendo DS - Demonstration, translated to all languages.


There are also many DS games where this banner is a leftover from the DS SDK for the multiboot ROM header. The text is "icon" written in katakana. Examples of such games include Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates and LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars.

Regional Differences

iQue DS

OnlyForiQue DS RegionLock.gif

iQue DS, the Chinese version of the original Nintendo DS, has region-protected games unlike all other versions. They are unplayable outside Chinese consoles, triggering an error message ("Only for iQue DS", in English) that changes from red, to orange, to yellow and back. This protection can be circumvented by changing 0x1D (ROM region) from 80 to 00. For some reason, the DSi and 3DS do not trigger the protection and will play iQue DS games.

A whopping five games were released for the iQue DS, not counting the Nintendogs game included in the iQue DSi internal memory and released as a demo cartridge:

Language Select

Regular DS systems have a language option in all firmware. The iQue DS replaced Japanese with Chinese, while the Korean DS replaced Italian with Korean.

Also, aside from some early DS releases (like Project Rub, Sonic Rush, and The Rub Rabbits), many Japanese games that were localized to the US or Europe have their Japanese language option unavailable, even when setting the firmware to Japanese. Likewise, US versions often dummy out in a similar fashion any languages other than English (and sometimes French and Spanish), and Japanese games that already have an English script (like Kousoku Card Battle: Card Hero) only have the Japanese language option available.

Wi-Fi Simple Start Mode

Japan Any other region
DS-Wi-FiSimpleStartJPN.png DS-Wi-FiStep2US.png
To do:
Showcase the English Simple Start Menu

Similar to the AOSS option in the US Wi-Fi configuration menu, there is also a Simple Start option, allowing to connect your DS to a Simple Start compatible router. However, since these routers are Japan-exclusive, the button for this option got removed from the Wi-Fi configuration menus in American, European, Australian, Korean, and Chinese games.

It can still be accessed in these versions, translated (to English only) and fully working if used with such routers, but you'll need to offset the Touch Screen calibration: at the very end of the calibration process, when asked to press the spot at the square's center, press its bottom-right corner instead. When you enter Step 2 in the in-game Wi-Fi configuration menu, you can access this option by pressing the pixel in the top-left corner of the Touch Screen. This is also still present (and much easier to trigger in native resolution mode) on the 3DS' version of this menu.

Revisional Differences

Brightness Levels

The DS Lite officially added four backlight brightness levels selectable with the brightness icon on the main menu, while the same action on the original would only toggle the backlight on and off. However, the last minor revision of the original model (which shipped with v5 firmware) supports multiple levels of backlight in hardware, which can be toggled using homebrew (such as many flashcard menus) or by installing FlashMe.

(Source: Wikipedia, PocketHeaven)

Conversely, if software capable of turning off the backlight (such as very early titles like Pokémon Dash, Super Mario 64 DS, or Nintendogs) is used on a DS Lite, the backlight will correctly turn off, but the Lite's non-reflective screens will be comparatively very hard to read.

Version Reporting & Revisions

The Nintendo DS has a few ways of verifying the console's firmware revision. One that isn't very reliable - but useful for earlier revisions is by reporting back a solid color. To trigger this:

  1. Power off the DS and insert a game cartridge (some GBA games, Slot-2 expansion cartridges, and DS flash cards do not work for this).
  2. Power on the DS.
  3. Launch PictoChat.
  4. While PictoChat is opened, eject the game cartridge.

If done correctly, depending on the firmware revision, a different color screen will be displayed. Later firmware revisions share the same color however.

Revision Console Region Build Date Type* Color
? NTR Worldwide 2004-10-05 11:07 FF None; Pictochat locks up.
? NTR Worldwide 2004-11-26 09:51 FF Blue (#304179)
? NTR Worldwide 2005-02-28 08:51 FF Green (#007900)
? NTR Worldwide 2005-06-06 14:48 FF Yellow (#FBFB00)
? NTR China (iQue) 2005-06-09 21:15 43 Green (#007900)
N/A USG-X2B (Prototype) Worldwide 2005-11-30 16:16 20 Magenta (#DB00EB)
? NTR Worldwide 2005-12-07 14:45 FF Magenta (#DB00EB)
NIS(L) NIS Worldwide 2006-01-26 20:19 1 None; Pictochat is inaccessible.
? USG Worldwide 2006-02-05 21:33 20 Magenta (#DB00EB)
? USG Worldwide 2006-03-08 11:19 20 Magenta (#DB00EB)
? USG China (iQue) 2006-04-26 15:35 63 Magenta (#DB00EB)
Ver1.0K USG Korea 2006-11-09 21:30 35 Magenta (#DB00EB)

The firmware build date can be found at the address 0x18-0x1C, with the format of hh mm DD MM YY. As an example, the date 2005-12-07 14:45 will be stored as 14 45 07 12 05.

The console's type value is reported back by Nitro EVA and can be found by going to Misc Menu > Test Nvram > IPL2 TYPE. Alternatively, with a hex editor, you can check value 0x1D.*

  • FF - NTR/Worldwide.
  • 20 - USG/Worldwide.
  • 35 - USG/Korea.
  • 43 - NTR/China (iQue).
  • 63 - USG/China (iQue).
  • 1 - NIS/Worldwide (Nintendo Zone Box).

Undumped Revisions

These revisions show up in F-Writer v1.0K with file paths, version and build dates. Nothing else is known about them, as the carts containing these firmwares haven't been dumped as of writing.

Revision Console Region Build Date
? USG ? 2005-12-09 09:36
? USG ? 2006-03-08 11:19 (FF)