APRIL 15TH, 2024
Cubic Ninja (www.nesworld.com)
APRIL 17 2017


Cubic Ninja, a game created by Japanese AQ Interactive and released by Ubi Soft back in 2011. The game didn't really stir up much attention back in the day other than it was the first Nintendo 3DS game to not use 3D and that it required the player to use the handhelds accelerometer and gyroscope to play the game, which really did nothing but adding frustration for players.

The game was the one and only 3DS title to be created by AQ Interactive, AQ being short for Artistic Quality. The company merged with Marvelous Entertainment shortly after having shipped Cubic Ninja.

Cubic Ninja quickly found its way to bargain bins across the world. Only in Japan the game actually made it to the Nintendo eShop, but I'm guessing sales were so poor that Ubi Soft never bothered sell digital copies in Europe and America. The game, complete in box, could usually be found for $3-8 on ebay.

Now fast forward to November 2014. The Nintendo 3DS hacking & homebrew scene had, for quite some time, been looking for ways to be able to play homebrew on the Nintendo 3DS. Jordan Rabet, aka. Smealum, had secretly been working on finding ways through the Nintendo 3DS firmware and that's where the 3 years old release of Cubic Ninja came to use.

By using a QR reader feature in Cubic Ninja, Smealum was able to run his own code and 3DS homebrewers now finally had what they had been looking for, a backdoor to the 3DS - although with some limitations. On November 17th Smealum announced the "backdoor game" to the public and all of a sudden Cubic Ninja, a long out of print game, was unable to meet the demand, the game quickly disappeared from almost every bargain bin, prices on ebay sky rocketed to prices around 100 dollars, even GameStop tried to make an extra buck, the $4.99 game suddenly had a $39.99 price tag attached to it.

Even Nintendo heard the news of what was to come and within hours of the game announcement they pulled Cubic Ninja from the Japanese eShop.

At this time the actual guide on how to use the game to backdoor the 3DS firmware was not available. However by November 20th Smealum could smell the pressure to get the hack, later to be known as Ninjhax, out the door and the release was set to November 22nd.

Launch came and people were ecstatic, however only a few 3DS homebrews were available at launch, so there wasn't really much to do for the average gamer, though I'm sure the homebrew coders happy to finally get started. Besides a Minecraft clone and a few emulators, people didn't have much to play with though and I'm sure the interest quickly faded for most of those who purchased Cubic Ninja.

A feature that was announced as "being worked on" was the ability to play games region free, and by that I mean actual carts as there was no plans to use the exploit to run roms. However no news ever came of that feature.

Smealum himself early on predicted that Nintendo would patch out the exploits used for Ninjhax in the 3DS firmware, here's what he told Eurogamer on November 21st

"I think they're going to try and patch it out as soon as they can," he conceded, admitting that action from Nintendo was probably a matter of when, not if.

"I don't know how long it's going to take them - the problem is I've already been talking about this for a couple of months so its possible they may have figured out what I've been doing."

This is exactly what happened. Nintendo released firmware "9.4.0-21" December 9th, 2014. Once installed, it will render the exploit useless.

All of a sudden Cubic Ninja wasn't that interesting to anyone and prices are now down to $20 or so on ebay. The exploit is of course still usable if you do not upgrade, but not doing so disables the Nintendo eShop.

Nintendo has never officially commented on the Ninjhax exploit and their firmware log doesn't mention it either, Nintendo has once again used their usual quote for firmware changes, being "Further improvements to overall system stability and other minor adjustments have been made to enhance the user experience".

The Ninjhax/Cubic Ninja is now a fun little snip in the Nintendo 3DS legacy, but there's not really any future for such an exploit as Nintendo would soon patch it. With that said, I was really amazed by the interest in the exploit and I guess it shows that people are interested in 3DS homebrew, personally though I'm still hoping for a way to make the 3DS region free so I can play my European and American carts on the same handheld.

Well thanks to Smealum and the rest of the crew responsible for the release of Ninjhax, but made the world of 3DS gaming more "colorful" :-)

For more info on Ninjhax, visit the official website here.