Rescuing a Semi-bricked Japanese Wii
Recently I got a second-hand Wii in its original packaging with all the peripherals that was imported from Japan for 700TL, which is equivalent to $38 at the time being. I also bought a seperate EU adapter for 100TL in case the adapter bundled with it was something like 100V input. When I got it, everything was in the package, the device was in pristine condition and the adapter was indeed 100V. I hooked it up and wandered around, it seemed to be working. But when I went to the settings to change the language to English, well I couldn't. Because it prompted me a web page saying "You tried to access the address marc:JP/JP..." something. I kind of got baffled and looked up for the reason. Turns out, the device was semi-bricked, and the reason it happens is because of system menu / console region mismatch.
I think this Wii was modchipped to unlock the region restrictions, and Wii games update the system automatically if the system has a lower firmware. So what I think happened is someone put a PAL region disc with a high enough firmware that would normally get blocked if it weren't for the modchip, then the game started installing an European firmware which semi-bricked the console. I checked if that was the case and looked for the save files in the Wii. There were saves from couple of games that came out prior to 2007 but so far no indication that was the case. Out on a whim, I pressed the eject button. Turns out, my thought process was correct and a Wii Sports Resort DVD came out of the tray of the console. The reason why I didn't notice a DVD was inside the console was because it was inserted in reverse and the Wii couldn't read it. This DVD is important later on.
So, what can I do at this moment? There is no Homebrew Channel, I don't know the system version and if its 4.3, I don't
know its MAC address. Things seem grim, the 2 information that I need, locked away to eternity in the broken system settings...
It was actually not that hard to pinpoint these informations. First, I transferred one of the save files to the SD card from the Wii storage and moved it to my PC to extract the MAC address. The MAC address of Wii is saved on the 0xF128 offset of the save file, so you can use your favorite hex editor such as HxD to get it. If you're on a Unix machine, you can use hexdump to get your MAC address even easier with the following command:
hexdump data.bin -s 0xF128 -n 6 -C
I covered my MAC address from the pictures so that you don't accidentally use my address for LetterBomb and wonder why it doesn't work.
So, why did I need the MAC address again? So that if my system version was 4.3 I could use it for the LetterBomb exploit. Moving on, all that was left to do was determining the system version. We have some clues thanks to the Wii Sports Resort DVD we took out of the console. First, it is a PAL region game, along with every other game in Turkey, so the region must be E. If the game that broke this Wii was really Wii Sports Resort, then it came out in June 25, 2009, which means the firmware should be no lower than 4.0. So I'm looking at 4 possibilities here: 4.0E, 4.1E, 4.2E and 4.3E. For 4.0E and 4.1E I tried Bannerbomb v1 which didn't work. Then I skipped 4.2E and tried LetterBomb for 4.3E using the MAC address I extracted, but it also didn't work. It just froze the Wii when I opened the message. Lastly, I tried Bannerbomb v2 for 4.2E, and to my surprise, it actually worked! Now I could install the Homebrew Channel! Or, not.
The Hackmii Installer v1.2 I loaded with the exploit did not like my hardware, and said "This installer can NOT continue." I looked around and found out that it happens on older soft-mods like "cIOScorp" or "DarkCorp" that break the system files. In our case though, we just have a region mismatched firmware. It might also not be a modchip and be one of those soft-mods that corrupt the system files that unlocked the region, but not really important. All I know is that I need to fix this. Fortunately for me, there is a great modding tool called "ModMii" which can be found at modmii.github.io that creates various setups along with their guides for every use case. The option we want to use is "HackMii Solutions" which aims to solve this exact issue. So I select it and select 4.2 for my firmware, then it asks for a location to put the files in, and generates a guide for me to follow while downloading the files in the background. The guide is actually so well made and it also includes videos along with step-by-step instructions. I followed this guide and successfully installed the Homebrew Channel, along with BootMii in the boot2. That's good and all but it still didn't fix our problem though, which was a region mismatch. So for that, I started to take a backup of the NAND using BootMii before the next step.
Now what I did was a complete region change. I wanted to revert this console back to its Japanese firmware, so once again I used the great tool "ModMii" to generate the guide and files for me using the "Region Change" option. I followed the guide and successfully managed to save this Wii beyond its former glory. But there is one slight issue, my Japanese is bad and I cannot read any kanji. There is also no way to change the language to English on Japanese firmware as far as I know. Back to ModMii I go and follow the guide to change the region to USA. I use NTSC because I prefer higher refresh rate over resolution. 50Hz vs 60Hz difference is pretty noticeable to me whereas I cannot really differentiate much between 720x480 and 720x576. For your other needs, you can explore the other options on ModMii like USB loader setup and such.
Along with region change, I also installed the recommended cIOS'es and set up USB Loader GX with a 16GB flash drive I had laying around. Most of the time the backups wouldn't load and give me a black screen though, and the reason for that is probably because the USB flash drive is 3.0 and it either pulls higher amps but the USB2.0 on the Wii cannot provide enough or there is just some incompatibility. People online also recommend against using flash drives and they recommend USB hard drives. Unfortunately I had no USB hard drive, so I just used a 128GB SD card I found around. Also USB Loader GX cannot load backups through SD card, and it gives a crash when automatically loaded through Priiloader at system boot, so I switched to Wiiflow Lite. I think Wiiflow looks better and it boots up so fast with Priiloader. If you ever find a semi-bricked Wii, I hope this post helps you bring it back to life.