Unlocking Animal Crossing’s Debug Mode

Originally released on the Nintendo 64 in 2001, Animal Crossing was the first entry into what has become a massively successful franchise. But while the game has appeared on more modern Nintendo consoles, most recently Android and iOS, the version released on the GameCube holds a special place in many fan’s hearts. The GameCube version was the first time those outside of Japan got a taste of the unique community simulation offered by Animal Crossing, and maintains a following nearly 20 years after its release.

[James Chambers] has recently been investigating creating mods for the GameCube version of Animal Crossing, and in the process uncovered some interesting references to a debug mode. That launched a deep dive into the game’s assembly code in an attempt to find what the debug functions did and if they could be enabled without having to patch the game ROM. In the end, he was able to find a push button code that enables debug mode on the retail copy of the game.

[James] starts by using the debugger provided by the Dolphin GameCube emulator to poke around and figure out exactly what flags need to be modified to activate the debug mode. This leads to a few interesting finds, such as being able to pop up a performance monitor graph and some build info. Eventually he finds the proper incantation to bring up a functional debug display in the game, but there was still the mystery of how you do it on the real hardware with a retail copy of the game.

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that some special dongle or development version of the GameCube would be required to kick the game into debug mode. But through careful examination of the code path, [James] was able to figure out that hitting a specific combination of buttons on the controller was all that was required to use the debug mode on the stock game. Once the debug mode is started, a controller plugged into the second port allows the user to navigate through options and perform tasks. Not everything is currently understood, but some progress has been made, such as figuring out how to add items to your inventory.

It’s hardly Nintendo’s most popular console, but there’s still a healthy interest in GameCube hacking as the machine approaches its 20th anniversary. We recently saw some impressive work being done to reverse engineer the system’s wireless controllers, though some people are more interested in just cutting the thing in half.

[Thanks to Tim Trzepacz for the tip.]

Gamecube Dock For Switch Mods Nintendo with More Nintendo

[Dorison Hugo] let us know about a project he just completed that not only mods Nintendo with more Nintendo, but highlights some of the challenges that come from having to work with and around existing hardware. The project is a Gamecube Dock for the Nintendo Switch, complete with working Gamecube controller ports. It looks like a Gamecube with a big slice out of it, into which the Nintendo Switch docks seamlessly. Not only that, but thanks to an embedded adapter, original Gamecube controllers can plug into the ports and work with the Switch. The original orange LED on the top of the Gamecube even lights up when the Switch is docked. It was made mostly with parts left over from other mods.

The interesting parts of this project are not just the attention to detail in the whole build, but the process [Dorison] used to get everything just right. Integrating existing hardware means accepting design constraints that are out of one’s control, such as the size and shape of circuit boards, length of wires, and often inconvenient locations of plugs and connectors. On top of it all, [Dorison] wanted this mod to be non-destructive and reversible with regards to the Nintendo Switch dock itself.

To accomplish that, the dock was modeled in CAD and 3D printed. The rest of the mods were all done using the 3D printed dock as a stand-in for the real unit. Since the finished unit won’t be painted or post-processed in any way, any scratches on both the expensive dock and the Gamecube case must be avoided. There’s a lot of under-cutting and patient sanding to get the cuts right as a result. The video (embedded below) steps through every part of the process. The final screws holding everything together had to go in at an odd angle, but in the end everything fit.

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What Is This, A Controller For Ants?!

What’s the smallest controller you’ve ever used? [BitBuilt] forum user [Madmorda] picked up a cool little GameCube controller keychain with semi-working buttons at her local GameStop. As makers are wont to do, she figured she could turn it into a working controller and — well — the rest is history.

This miniaturized controller’s original buttons were essentially one piece of plastic and all the buttons would depress at once — same goes for the D-pad. Likewise, the original joystick and C-stick lacked springs and wouldn’t return to a neutral position after fidgeting with them. To get the ball rolling, [Madmorda] picked up a GC+ board — a custom GameCube controller board — just small enough to fit this project, eleven hard tact switches for the various buttons, and two squishy tact switches to replicate the original controller’s L and R button semi-analog, semi-digital functionality.

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Play A Few Games of Smash Brothers On The Go With A Portable Wii

How would you approach a build that required you to hack apart a perfectly good console motherboard? With aplomb and a strong finish. [jefflongo] from [BitBuilt.net] — a forum dedicated to making consoles portable — has finished just such a task, unveiling his version of a portable Wii to the world.

While this bears the general appearance of a portable GameCube, it’s what inside that counts. A heavily modified   Wii motherboard — to reduce size — forms this portable’s backbone, and it includes two infrared LEDs on its faceplate for Wii Remotes.  A single player can use the built-in controller, but [jefflongo] has included four GameCube controller ports for maximum multiplayer mayhem. Although he’ll likely plan on taking advantage of the built-in AV Out port to play on a TV and charge port for those extended gaming sessions, four 3400mAh batteries — with an estimated four hour battery life — should keep him satisfied on the go until he can recharge.

While the electronics display an impressive amount of work, but the final piece is a sight to behold. Check out the demo video after the break!

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Reverse Engineering the Nintendo Wavebird

Readers who were firmly on Team Nintendo in the early 2000’s or so can tell you that there was no accessory cooler for the Nintendo GameCube than the WaveBird. Previous attempts at wireless game controllers had generally either been sketchy third-party accessories or based around IR, and in both cases the end result was that the thing barely worked. The WaveBird on the other hand was not only an official product by Nintendo, but used 2.4 GHz to communicate with the system. Some concessions had to be made with the WaveBird; it lacked rumble, was a bit heavier than the stock controllers, and required a receiver “dongle”, but on the whole the WaveBird represented the shape of things to come for game controllers.

Finding the center frequency for the WaveBird

Given the immense popularity of the WaveBird, [Sam Edwards] was somewhat surprised to find very little information on how the controller actually worked. Looking for a project he could use his HackRF on, [Sam] decided to see if he could figure out how his beloved WaveBird communicated with the GameCube. This moment of curiosity on his part spawned an awesome 8 part series of guides that show the step by step process he used to unlock the wireless protocol of this venerable controller.

Even if you’ve never seen a GameCube or its somewhat pudgy wireless controller, you’re going to want to read though the incredible amount of information [Sam] has compiled in his GitHub repository for this project.

Starting with defining what a signal is to begin with, [Sam] walks the reader though Fourier transforms, the different types of modulations, decoding packets, and making sense of error correction. In the end, [Sam] presents a final summation of the wireless protocol, as well as a simple Python tool that let’s the HackRF impersonate a WaveBird and send button presses and stick inputs to an unmodified GameCube.

This amount of work is usually reserved for those looking to create their own controllers from the ground up, so we appreciate the effort [Sam] has gone through to come up with something that can be used on stock hardware. His research could have very interesting applications in the world of “tool-assisted speedruns” or even automating mindless stat-grinding.

Case Modding The Old School Way

Since the release of the Raspberry Pi, the hallowed tradition of taking game consoles, ripping all the plastic off, and stuffing the components into nice, handheld form factors has fallen off the wayside. That doesn’t mean people have stopped doing it, as [Akira]’s masterful handiwork shows us.

This casemod began with a Nintendo GameCube ASCII keyboard controller, a slightly rare GameCube controller that features a full keyboard smack dab in the middle. While this keyboard controller was great for Phantasy Star Online and throwing at the TV after losing Smash, the uniqueness of this controller has outshadowed its usefulness. [Akira] began his build by ripping out the keyboard and installing a 7 inch LCD. It fits well, and makes for a very unique GameCube case mod.

The rest of the build is about what you would expect – the motherboard for a PAL GameCube is stuffed inside, a quartet of 18650 batteries provide the power, and the usual mods – a memory card is soldered to the motherboard and an SD Gecko allows homebrew games and emulators to be played.

The completed project is painted with the same theme as [Samus Arans]’ Varia suit, making this a one of a kind casemod that actually looks really, really good.

Converting A GameCube Controller To USB

The GameCube controller is a favorite among the console enthusiasts new and old, and with Nintendo’s recent release of the Smash Bros. edition of this controller, this is a controller that has been in production for a very, very long time. [Garrett] likes using the GameCube controller on his PC, but this requires either a bulky USB adapter, or an off-brand GameCube ‘style’ controller that leaves something to be desired. Instead of compromising, [Garrett] turned his GameCube controller into a native USB device with a custom PCB and a bit of programming.

First, the hardware. [Garrett] turned to the ATtiny84. This chip is the big brother of the ubiquitous 8-pin ATtiny85. The design of the circuit board is just under a square inch and includes connections for the USB differential pairs, 5V, signal, and ground coming from the controller board.

The software stack includes the micronucleus bootloader for USB firmware updates and V-USB to handle the USB protocol. There are even a few additions inspired by [Garrett]’s earlier shinewave controller mod. This controller mod turns the GameCube controller into a glowing hot mess certain to distract your competitors while playing Super Smash Bros. It’s a great mod, and since [Garrett] kept the board easily solderable, it’s something that can be easily retrofitted into any GameCube controller.