Music creation in your pocket — and a little Metroid Hunters to boot? Believe it. The Nintendo DS is taking off as a platform for homebrewed music creation. First glimpsed via comments here, Tobw has launched his NitroTracker for Nintendo DS. Based on tracker-style sequencers of old, NitroTrack is a sophisticated mobile composition tool, with sampling capability (via the DS’ mic), sample playback, and advanced song creation capabilities. In comparison to other game handheld trackers like LSDJ on the Game Boy, this one is a joy to use: you can just tap with your stylus to edit, rather than having to endlessly scroll with directional pads. The game even takes advantage of the dual screens of the DS for editing. I can’t wait to try it; now I just need to figure out which is the best CF/SD adapter to get for DS, now that I have reason to use it. (You need a memory card adapter in order to load this and other homebrew software on your DS.)

NitroTracker homepage with downloads, screenshots, docs

There’s plenty of potential for other homebrews on the DS, too. Here’s just a quick overview of some of the possibilities:

NDS Homebrews: DS homebrew ROMS and reviews community, with plenty of links and resources; a good starting point for learning about homebrews (and yes, as always, there are caveats when you’re learning to do this!)

Drunken Coders, news and resources for homebrew development on DS, GBA, SNES, and even Wonder Swan. Helpful if you’re learning about homebrews or developing your own.

Tobw’s simple sampling keyboard: Not as advanced as this tracker, but a fun toy

DS Wiki: Comprehensive info for homebrew users and developers alike; a must-visit

Make Blog How-To on running homebrew games with PassMe

Unlike Sony, Nintendo doesn’t appear to be quashing this sort of development on DS, thankfully. Now I just need to clear an evening for some tracking goodness — and Metroid, too. (CDM Metroid Wi-Fi clan, anyone?)

  • m15a

    this is perfect! not only combining creativity with the portability appeal, this also adds major retro appeal in my book. (based on good old fast fast tracker ii!)

    haven't really looked into this stuff because of all the different required parts (and options with these parts), but this might make it worth researching. what i'm seeing is that basically, the required hardware is:

    – a nintendo DS: $130
    – CF/SD media (and writer): maybe $15
    – a "passthrough device":$20 (passme2)
    – CF/SD reader: $25 (gbamp)

    assuming you already have a DS and since cf cards and readers are all over the place, the cost is only $45. considering the reusability, that's not bad at all . .

    i'd be interested to know what products you decide on and why. (btw, don't plan on getting mph, sorry.)

  • m15a

    since this thing has recording capabilities, does anyone know if the DS's (supposed) headset port would allow for recording from an external source (or mic)? that is, if one figured out how to plug in a device to the port, would it take input as the built-in mic does (without specific software requirements)?

  • admin

    It's a bit tricky, as the gbamp only seems to support CF for homebrew games. But I just found the MagicKey2, which reads SD all from one device that sits in the DS slot. So I'm going to try that. Total cost: $45, including shipping. Then you need an SD reader and card, both of which I happened to have.

    Not sure about recording . . . guessing no, but I'm not sure. I'd probably just record elsewhere, honestly, especially as you can then drop your samples onto the SD card for use with NitroTracker.

  • logo

    This is seriously dope. I need a DS.

    I've been using a Super Card (comes in both SD and CF flavors) on the GBA SP for homebrew. to much sucess. It should be just as well suited.

    They are cheap as chips on ebay (esp. the guy from DC, who sells the Super Card/Pass Key combo, def recomended)

  • funnelbc

    I am so up for this. I got my NDS flashcart yesterday and today this arrives. LOVELY!

    Will have a play with this as soon as i get home tonight.

  • tob

    Hi, this is Tob, the author of Nitrotracker,

    first of all: WOW! Thank you so much for this great article! Really, I don't know what to say, I'm overwhelmed by all the positive reactions that my project has caused. I just hope you guys won't get your equipment too soon, so that you don't find out how buggy it actually still is πŸ™‚ In fact, I never thought people would actually want to buy DS homebrew equipment just to run this. I really need to do something about the bugs quickly πŸ™‚

    OK, but before anyone buys something he/she will regret: What you need to run homebrew software on the DS depends on which kind of firmware your DS has. I have written an article about running homebrew on the DS, which I would recommend reading first (link). There are the "old" firmware versions compatible with PassMe 1 and the "new" firmware versions that require PassMe 2.

    For the "old" firmware, the best CF-Adapter is in my opinion the GBAMP. I use it for developing. It's cheap and it supports the most homebrew games/apps. Additionally, you need either a PassMe 1 or a Ralink rt2500 wireless card (not usb!) for using WiFiMe.

    For the "new" firmware, you need an adapter that has internal SRAM. Examples of these are Supercard or M3. You also need a PassMe 2 that needs to be programmed for a game you own (this is done by the vendor usually).

    But, you only need PassMe (1 or 2) once! You can use PassMe to flash a hacked firmware to the DS, that takes over the "job" of PassMe. So, if you know someone who has a PassMe, borrow it from him/her.

    Concerning the microphone. I don't know of any headsets that are currently available for the DS. However, the jack is there and I think it's just an oddly shaped connector for normal microphones. But the microphone recording is just a gimmick anyway.

    Anyway, if you want to make tracker music and you are at home, any PC tracker is still 10x better than NitroTracker. This is because NitroTracker is still unstable beta software, it is still missing most of the features of XM, and because tracking with mouse and keyboard is still much easier than using the very tiny screen of the DS. I don't know how close I will get to the feature set of FT2, but I assume that it will remain a subset, because of the tiny screen and my limited time.

    Long story short: This tool is intended for the little tracking fun on the bus, in bed or in boring lectures but will probably not become as professional as PC-Trackers. But I assume that was clear already πŸ™‚

    So long and thanks for all the fish!

  • admin

    I think we know we're getting into bleeding-edge tech. Now, if someone out their has some coding skills to lend a hand with the bugs . . . πŸ˜‰

    Anyway, it'd be great to see this alongside Nanoloop / LSDJ . . . keeping a mixer handy if it crashes!

    I read your firmware tutorial, but I couldn't determine my firmware version using the Pictochat trick. (i.e., the screen did not change color)

    Seriously, though, thanks for the work, because having things to tinker with on DS = priceless!

  • thesimplicity

    Concerning the microphone, the input is just a basic stereo signal. I'm guessing Nintendo made it a square shape instead of an 1/8th inch jack to prevent people from mixing them up. I built a 1/4" line-in adapter no problem just using two wires molded in a piece of plastic.

    I'm currently working on building a 'dock' for my DS with an A/B switch and a limiter. It's a nice little toy and I'm dying to use Electroplankton on stage.

  • admin

    Keep us posted, won't you, thesimplicity? Would love to see your done rack / onstage rig when it's done. πŸ™‚

  • m15a

    thanks for the info, tob. even considering that there are better trackers available for pcs (and the fact that most people don't choose to use those), there's still a lot of appeal to something like this. at the same time, don't sweat the bugs too much. we'll all gladly beta test and the price of the homebrew equipment isn't much of an issue, since i imagine most people are just looking for an excuse to buy it. :grin

    also thanks for the mic info, the simplicity. been wondering about that for a while . . . time to visit radioshack. πŸ™‚

  • mns

    I've ordered the necessary parts, and hope to try this out in the next week or so, then perhaps incorporate it into a performance in LA in June.

    As well, I'd totally join a CDM WiFi Metroid clan, except that I suck entirely too much at the moment, and would be little more than cannon fodder. I seem to have mastered drawing fire, though.

  • ebot

    hi friends , how, Where can buy nitro tracker?????????

  • It's free, ebot.

  • marek

    Does any one know of the specifications of the mike in port?

    I've found in hard to find something that fits the ds mike port, think I'l end up cutting up a mike headset to fashion a line in.

  • I only bought a DS and an R4 after using a friends copy of Nitrotracker! Seriously it is a lovely piece of software and I cannot wait for the next version (which will hopefully include amplitude controls for each note, loop point support for wav, maybe a few filters?)…

  • John

    A Noob question: Can I use the Nitrotracker on DS Lite. Or should I go around looking for a DS?

  • jph

    yeah me too, I got a DS just for this, well it pushed me over the edge and I decided any way,. I also intend to do some homebrew games for it myself,. look for some basic codeing tutorials now,. can't wait for my R4 so i can try it,.

  • busoni

    fresh and simple. not too much functionality but well designed. i like this type of application which can't really do anything serious but makes musical material fun to play with through an enjoyable interface. would be nice for educational purpose, like, teach the basics of sample playback, bit- and sampling-rates and loops. can this record also?

  • Jay Vaughan

    i have been running nitro now for a year and its a rockin' little app .. it totally blows away anything else out there for pure pick up and play, from the $100-$2000 range of plaything. I'm ignoring synths and 'studio gear' worth "1,000"'s, and just kicking back on the couch to make tunes.

  • Jay Vaughan

    PS-yes, DS Lite is great for this .. mic input is really easy: just cut up the NDS remote cable and make your own little breakout bundle .. (what good musician can't solder, eh?) ..

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  • Miller

    Hey I was just looking for a person who knows how to create homebrew applications from existing older pc games my suggestion is this old game named Harvester which I think would work really well on the ds.

  • Axaj

    I suggest that y’all get a R4DS card. It’s a slot one card with μSD/TF slot in it. I’m going to get one soon (I hope!).

  • kelo

    This is great

  • Beautiful and great tracker !

    Other trackers :