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Hacker finds Nintendo 3DS exploit, turning a forgotten game into a hot commodity

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Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

A 22 year old Parisian hacker named Jordan "Smealum" Rabet appears to have finally cracked the Nintendo 3DS in an attempt to enable homebrew software development on Nintendo's handheld gaming device. And the game that facilitates that exploit, a 2011 Ubisoft-published 3DS game called Cubic Ninja, is enjoying heretofore unknown popularity because of it.

Earlier this week, news of Rabet's Nintendo 3DS exploit was posted to the GBAtemp forums. The exploit is described as being similar to one that helped bring homebrew software to the Wii, and requires an internet connection, an SD card and a copy of Cubic Ninja to run.

The exploit is described as "versatile" and can be installed on "virtually any Nintendo 3DS console out there, regardless of firmware." More specifically, that means "versions from 4.0 to 9.2, all consoles 3DS, 3DS XL, 2DS, N3DS, N3DS XL," Rabet says. It's possible, and probably likely, that Nintendo will work to close the exploit in a future firmware update.

According to a report on the GBAtemp forums from a member who says they've played a homebrew Minecraft clone on a hacked 3DS, the newly publicized exploit will make homebrew games, applications and emulators possible on the system. But it won't enable the use of "backups" — or pirated copies of games — on the 3DS.

Rabet's exploit is scheduled to be released this weekend on Nov. 22. But the identity of the game that makes the exploit possible was revealed last night, and that announcement has caused the price of Cubic Ninja to skyrocket.

Copies of Cubic Ninja were going for as low as $3.00 earlier this week on eBay, but are now being listed for 10 times that amount, with some sellers highlighting the game's homebrew-enabling feature. Amazon sellers have jacked up their prices, leading to a range of prices between $40 and $500.

"Use this game to open up the world of Homebrew!" proclaims one seller of a "very rare" Australian PAL copy of the game. It's listed for AU$179.00.

Cubic Ninja was developed by AQ Interactive and published by Ubisoft. The developer, the parent company of Artoon, Cavia and Feelplus, was responsible for the Korg DS titles, Blue Dragon Plus, Bullet Witch and Vampire Rain. It merged with Marvelous Entertainment in 2011, a few months after the release of Cubic Ninja. AQ Interactive's fate led Rabet to point out on Twitter, "the studio behind Cubic Ninja went under back in 2011. Wonder how it'll be fixed."

Rabet is a game developer and hacker who is also responsible for the technically impressive Aperture Science DS, a homebrew developed homage to Portal for Nintendo DS. Read Polygon's interview with Rabet here.

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