Wii Homebrew Adventures

While out thrifting recently, I found the score of the century. I went to a locally owned thrift store, one that's pretty much frequented only by older people who are out shopping for furniture and more high-end clothing, so niche items can sometimes stick around for quite a while before somebody picks them up. I was just on my way out after having not been able to find anything I was looking for, but something prompted me to poke my head in the puzzle and game section, and... SCORE!!

What did I find? Well, if you take a look at the title of this page, you might have a pretty good idea. I found what appeared to be (at least to me) a pretty much pristine Nintendo Wii, complete with a few accessories in the bag. I didn't believe it at first, and though I must be misreading it, but sure enough, the label said 'Nintendo Wii.' It was priced at $10. I really could not talk myself into passing up such a good deal... especially when I found a bag of two Wiimotes in the same area for $6. For the folks keeping track, that would be a grand total of $16 for what could potentially be an entire console system.

I bought it, willing to take the gamble on the off chance that it didn't work. I'm honestly really interested in the process of repairing/modding/working on older and retro video game systems. I don't really have any electrical or software knowledge, but I know that there are lots of tutorials floating around, and I remember seeing an article once about how Wiis make great hardware for running emulators. I really like the concept of emulators and even have some on my computer, but I really prefer playing things with a controller on a couch instead of my laptop, so I decided this would be my first project: to get emulators working on this Wii I bought! Plus, I wouldn't feel too anxious if I messed something up, since I got it second-hand.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about. The Wii came with the power cord, sensor bar, and even a LAN connector (which I didn't need), and it worked immaculately. The last time I used a Wii was pre-2008 when I played over at my friend's house, so I had a bit of a panic worrying that I didn't have a cord to charge the controllers before I realized they took batteries. (Also I thought the sensor bar was optional and it took me longer than I'd like to admit to actually get things up and running lol.) But anyway! We got there eventually and that's what counts.

I looked up a bunch of information, and found a few different sites/articles with guides, but wii.guide seems to be the go-to, and I used wiibrew.org as well, which is a Wikipedia clone. Both sites seem very professional, up-to-date, and are easy to follow along with. However, it took me a few days and a few other changes from the wii.guide tutorial to get everything working.

When it came to actually setting up the Homebrew Channel, it took me two days because I didn't start out with the easiest installation method, which is a mistake I would repeat again on some later steps. At first, I tried using the str2hax exploit to install Homebrew, because it didn't need an SD card. However, this was a nightmare, and I highly recommend using LetterBomb instead (it requires an SD card but it's so effortless for real). This linked guide worked flawlessly, although you need to make sure that you select '4.3U' on the LetterBomb menu when you download the package, because it has 4.3E selected when you first go to the page. When you hook the SD card into your Wii and look for the red envelope in the message list, you might need to scroll to a previous day for it to show up, depending on when you downloaded it.

My entire process of modding my Wii has been somehow simultaneously very easy and very complicated. The literature surrounding the mod scene is designed to make things as easy as possible, but every single step of the way, I seemed to run into an issue because of either my oversight of a very small detail or my stupidity/bad luck in general. Honestly, it's more funny than frustrating, but it definitely is frustrating as well.

Once you've finished the LetterBomb install, you need to get the Homebrew Channel installed (this part was easy luckily). Then, you get to do all of the fun stuff - i.e., pick out emulators and get your games. I currently have Snes9x GX to emulate Super Nintendo games and VBA GX (Visual Boy Advance GX) to cover Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games. These were insanely easy to install - you pretty much just download them to your SD card, make sure you have the games installed in the right folder, and then you're good to go. You access these emulators and all other hombrew apps by going to the Homebrew Channel on your main Wii menu.

Now, here comes the other portion of this endeaver that gave me a massive headache due to one tiny, miniscule misunderstanding - installing cIOS, which is required for WiiFlow, which I wanted to use so I could launch Wii and GameCube games. This guide is simple and well-written, but for the life of me, I could not find the v10 version that they were telling me to install. It took me two to three days of re-downloading the installer numerous times, resetting my Wii, etc., etc., before I found another guide informing me that you select all of the settings using the left and right D-Pad arrows before pressing 'A' to continue and install. Okay. Maybe I'm just stupid. But I COULD NOT FIGURE THIS OUT on my own. Anyway.

It still took me another four or five hours to get cIOS installed. Why? Because I was battling tooth and nail against the online installer. It just WOULD not work. I eventually found this offline method, which saved my life. I re-downloaded the installer from this guide, making sure I had the .wad files, and then followed the settings instructions from the first cIOS link I posted. AND, more than four days after I first attempted to mod my Wii, I was mostly done. But this would not be the end of my story.

(Stay tuned for the installation of WiiFlow, my inability to get my Japanese game working, and my Wii2HDMI woes.)

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