Hardware Info:

Stargate 3DS
Supports 3DS and DS games
Supports ntrboothax/magnethax
Supports some emulators
Fully updatable
Price: $80

Thank you StarGate for sending us this flashcart (available from nx-card.com) to review!

Let's get the obvious elephant in the room out of the way: Why is Christ Centered Gamer reviewing a flashcart? *glares at person who requested it* Honestly, that's a really good question, and there is no easy answer, but let's give it a shot.

At our house, we love Nintendo systems, and the games available on them. As a result, we often collect quite the library; we have over 40 games on both DS and 3DS, and easily over 30 on GBA as well. This is a common pattern for us; over a system's lifetime, we tend to collect most of the best games for any Nintendo system, and the 3DS has an excellent library.

This is relevant both because we don't have pockets of unlimited depth, and because we have children; we cannot practically carry that many games with us in cartridge form at one time wherever we go. This is especially important since we don't want to lose said cartridges when a child (or big kid) misplaces those tiny little wedges. So, for many years now, we have dumped our own cartridges (we are very strict about this; we do not download ROMs off of the internet) and put our library of games on our DS flashcarts. This protects us from losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars of games over time, while allowing us to still enjoy them (and even back up saves, which can be very convenient). We understand why some may feel differently, but by dumping our own games, it feels like a win-win – we are still giving Nintendo our money (we purchase each and every game) while still benefiting from the convenience that these devices offer.

Stargate 3DS

Strong Points: Supports most retail 3DS games in your region and all DS games and homebrew
Weak Points: Some 3DS games do not work; DS mode does not currently work with a CFW 3DS; homebrew 3DS games nor eShop titles work; no simple way to dump your own games using just this that I am aware of; battery life is fine during gameplay, but sleep mode time is much shorter; if you accidentally press the buttons on the back, you can lose some game progress
Moral Warnings: It's easy to steal games, and acquiring them may require downloading them from the internet unless you have a means to rip your own ROMs (in which case you probably have CFW installed and may not need this cart)

That is why I've always loved the ingenuity in the console hacking space. While these devices (or hacked consoles) can be used for nefarious means, or to avoid buying games, what really happens for us is that we end up buying more games because of the ease of carrying them around and not having to worry about losing saved games that these devices (or hacked consoles) can do.

What the StarGate team has done is create a flashcart that is dual mode: it has a 3DS mode, and a DS mode. In 3DS mode, it shows you a game icon, just like any other cart. To switch games, you cycle through them via a set of two buttons, which can be thought of as next and previous buttons. These are installed by placing clean dump 3DS ROMs on the root of the filesystem of a microSD card that you put inside of the Stargate 3DS itself. There is also a microUSB port for flashing firmware in case Nintendo blocks the cart somehow, which is fairly forward thinking in that way. All of that functionality is a tight fit, but it works very well.

DS mode is not unlike other popular flashcarts like an R4 or Supercard. When in this mode, you see an icon for 'Alex Rider Stormbreaker THQ' like many other flashcarts show. I have never seen anyone actually play Alex Rider, but there are a lot of people with that game in their play history. When launching it in this mode, it starts an easy to use menu where you can browse the integrated microSD card's filesystem and choose a .nds file (Nintendo DS ROM) to launch. You can also chose a .3ds file (3DS ROM), and it will exit out to the main menu, after which you will find that 3DS game selected on the 3DS home screen.

I did not have any large microSD cards that have a lot of space free on them available, so I setup a 1GB card with five 3DS games, as well as five DS games. I tried a recent title by itself (Metroid: Samus Returns) and the other smaller titles (Cubic Ninja, Jewel Master, Angry Birds, Adventure Time, and Freakyforms) together and they all worked flawlessly. The StarGate team has made it clear that a few games do not work yet (Pokemon Sun and Moon, and others) and they are working on fixing these compatibility issues soon.

The emulator features promise to offer NES, SNES, and GBA compatibility. These features are not released yet, so they could not be tested as of the writing of this review. Any DS compatible homebrew will work as is, so emulators for older systems like the Game Boy and such should easily be covered by the DS homebrew community.

Stargate 3DS

This is the only card in existence that I know of that has all of these features. It does a lot, though the MSRP of $80 is only for the most committed. The real challenge for them is that hacking the 3DS to install CFW (custom firmware) has never been easier. If you have a supported DS flashcart (which typically cost around $20), you can install a special installer onto it, and then install a CFW onto your 3DS in about 5 minutes.

Installing CFW is more complex than using this cart, but it's also much more powerful. You can run 3DS homebrew, dump your 3DS cartridges yourself, use the same SD card that your 3DS uses, and more. In the absence of CFW, this card would be fantastic. But as is, it's really only meant for those not able or willing to install a CFW on their 3DS out of fear or a lack of technical skill. And while you can use this cart to install CFW via ntrboothax, once that process is completed, you can't use this cart (at least in stock form) in DS mode on that 3DS anymore. I didn't prove that this was the case, as I don't want to hack our last non-CFW 3DS, which would make continued testing of this cart a little difficult.

I did find a couple of downsides to using the Stargate. For one, sleep time battery life, where you close the 3DS, seems to be quite significantly impacted. On the 3DS we used to test, while in a game or in the main 3DS home screen, in neither case did the battery last the night while closed with this cartridge inserted. Another issue (which is more user error than technical) is that whenever the cartridge buttons are pressed, it will switch games - which is by design, but you can be in for a real shock if you bump it in the middle of a game, or while putting it in your pocket. As long as the 3DS is not powered off, the cart will change games, as well as draw some power.

The Stargate 3DS card strives to be the easiest solution for someone who wishes to carry their library around with them in the simplest way possible. It's also practically risk free, since there are no console modifications that can get in the way of future system updates, or cause problems for users (or even be a bricking risk, despite how small that risk is). If you are risk averse, or want to stick with the strict non-modification guidelines that Nintendo requires for your 3DS to still be covered under warranty, then the Stargate 3DS is an excellent choice. It's just a shame that there currently is no way to avoid either having a CFW'd 3DS around to dump your games, or otherwise requiring a visit to the darker parts of the internet (and the moral and legal hazards that requires) to get them.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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