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While not retro, the Gamecube is a mainstay among homebrew nerds who want to play retro games on newer hardware. However for some reason, Nintendo added checks to a bunch of their games on the Gamecube to see if the console is modified and the disc is valid. We don't condone piracy but we think this is good information to archive for posterity.

The protection

The protection normally takes the form of a check for copy protection data on the disc, a mini-DVD that most computers can't read without a mini-DVD drive. This data cannot be burned by even a mini-DVD drive. Usually, this will just make the system refuse to read the disc.

More protection!

All Gamecube games have a pair of flags in the first sector, marked as DOL_REFUSE and DOL_PROTECT. These two flags will decide whether pirated copies of the game can run or not. If DOL_REFUSE is set to 8, the Gamecube will refuse to start the game. However, if DOL_REFUSE is 16, the Gamecube will then check DOL_PROTECT. If this flag is 8, the game will still refuse to run, as it is not copy-protected by the developer. However, if the flag is set to 16, it will run the bootleg copy under the assumption that the developer has built copy protection into the game itself.

An example of custom copy-protection

To demonstrate this, we burned a few Nintendo-published games to mini-DVDs. The Wind Waker refused to start because DOL_REFUSE was set to 8 and DOL_PROTECT was also set to 8, meaning that the Gamecube should be responsible for copy protection instead of the game itself. Double Dash wouldn't start because DOL_REFUSE was 16 and DOL_PROTECT was 8, which indicates that a mistake was made in mastering the game, and the game does NOT have inbuilt copy protection. Twilight Princess had both DOL_REFUSE and DOL_PROTECT set to 16, but hung on the Nintendo logo at the beginning of the game. However, the most peculiar example was The Thousand-Year Door, which upon starting played as usual, because it had the same flags as Twilight Princess. Around 15 minutes into the game, though, it crashed. Upon restarting the game, it began to lecture me on piracy via a Powerpoint presentation embedded in the disc! This was perhaps the funniest anti-piracy I had ever seen, so I decided to fire the ROM up in my emulator with the "Pirated Disc" checkbox enabled, and got the following screenshots, just for you.

Bypassing this protection

This trick does not work on all games, only those with DOL_PROTECT disabled, or set to 8. Open the ISO file in a hex editor, and look for:

08 16
16 08
08 08
16 16
If you find any of the above, set it to:
16 16
This will tell the Gamecube that the disc has inbuilt copy protection and not to refuse it. Unfortunately, after around half an hour of playtime, it will shut off the system in suspicion of a poorly programmed copy protection system. However, you will be able to play the game for a while, at least! Just be sure to save more often.

Last modified 01/21/2004 by retronx