Decided to take the plunge and add a chip to my Wii because there was a number of Japanese only games I wanted to play or just games I wanted to play in their original Kanji context such as Muramasa The Demon Blade. It was also partly because the recent DriveKey chip doesn't require any soldering.
Despite saying that however, it's not easy taking apart your Wii to fit it in!
Hardware Modding with the DriveKey Chip
There's some good guides and even videos on the internet about how to disassemble your Wii already so I won't waste time explaining how to do it but, I will say that you will most likely not have a triwing screwdriver and you'll need one so be sure to order one together with your chip.
Nintendo obviously didn't want people tampering with their hardware because there's lots of hidden screws under the rubber feet and white stickers.
Ready to plug the Drivekey in.
Ribbons attached between the DVD drive and Wii console itself...
And then insulated with PVC tape so that it doesn't get short circuited against the metal heat sink.
And that's it! You don't even need to configure the chip to start playing back ups or other region discs.
Note that the Wii won't recognise the games you play because of the Japanese names and will list them with strange names such as "sample1" in your list of games played for the day.
There is a menu that you can enter if you really want which allows you to toggle the Drivekey, update blocker or region over-ride on or off. This can be accessed by entering the disc channel without a game inserted. You then press the Eject button three times quickly. For the first press, you'll hear an ejection sound from the drive which is normal. Try to finish the other two presses before the sound is done. You'll see the discs spinning and the Gamecube disc being inserted. At the menu, you use the reset button to cycle through the menus and holding it, changes the options. Not exactly convenient but you don' t have to change the menu much anyway.
So far I've tried unscrubbed ISOs of Oboro Muramasa, Fragile Sayonara Tsuki no Haikyou and Taiko Drums on my Wii with v4.0E firmware. They've all played smoothly for the majority of the game except for a bit of intermittent pauses between gameplay and pre-rendered cutscenes.
On the whole, it's an easy to install chip once you get pass disassembling your Wii.
However, there's a few points to bear in mind about this chip...
- It doesn't seem to work with "scrubbed" ISOs from the internet which are modified so that they can compress better. This seem to only affect Wii consoles with a firmware beyond v3.4.
- Pre-rendered cutscenes may lag depending on the DVD-Rs you choose to use.
Alternative Soft Modding
The software hack to get your Wii region free has gone a long way since the Twilight Princess "ELF" hack was discovered so if you don't like getting the Wii opened up, you can always use this method. It's relatively safe because now you can back up the Wii's internal memory with BootMii so that should anything go wrong, you won't end up with a useless "brick".
Before going ahead however, make sure your Wii console meet the following requirements:
- The firmware is v4.0 or lower. Check by going to the Wii settings screen.
- It isn't one of the newer models that have a serial starting with LU64xxxxxx.
Now, if you search for "Virgin Wii Downgrade Guide" or something similar (yes, "virgin" Wii...), you'll find all the steps and files you need to get going. You'll find they all download some official files from Nintendo's servers for patching ironically.
The benefit of soft modding the Wii is that you can run homebrewn applications such as the USB Loader which allows you to run games from a hard drive. You can have all your games in one place and they load a lot faster than from discs!
I managed to get it running off the Toshiba Store Alu drive which doesn't need its own separate power supply unlike the bigger desktop hard drives.
Now I wonder when Nintendo will start releasing their own USB peripherals?