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3DS shader assembler and disassembler
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nihstro - 3DS shader tools

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nihstro is a collection of tools for 3DS shaders targeted at homebrew development and/or reverse engineering. Currently, it supports assembling 3DS shader binaries from assembly source code and disassembling shaders from shbin files. It also provides C++ interfaces for analyzing and runtime-compiling shaders.

This project is released under a three-clause BSD license. For details see license.txt.


nihstro is well-modularized to minimize dependencies for any particular use case.

Shader assembler

nihstro includes a standalone shader assembler for generating SHBIN files from human-readable shader source code (the syntax of which is called "nihcode"). It is perfectly suitable for homebrew development. Shader source needs to follow the nihcode specification.

Usage: nihstro-assemble <input_filename.vsh> -o <output_filename.shbin>

Reads vertex shader source code from the input file and generates a shader binary from it.

Further command line options:

  • -h, --help: Show command line usage
  • -i, --input: Explicit switch for specifying the input shader source filename (if omitted, the first switch-less argument is interpreted as the filename)
  • -o, --output: Output shbin filename (required)
  • -e, --entrypoint: label name in the input source at which shader execution should start (defaults to "main")
  • -g, --geo_shader: Compile shader source as a geometry shader

Shader disassembler

nihstro includes a standalone shader disassembler for disassembling SHBIN files and inspecting meta data (symbol information, constant values, etc).

Usage: nihstro-disassemble <filename.shbin>

Parses the shader binary header and outputs basic information on the DVLE sections.

nihstro-disassemble <filename.shbin> <DVLE index>

Parses the shader binary header and outputs basic information, but also disassembles the shader code using the information in the indexed DVLE (main offset, symbols, etc).

Shader bytecode and SHBIN C++ headers

The header shader_bytecode.h defines C++ data structures which describe raw shader binary code, while shader_binary.h defines the layout of SHBIN files. This allows for convenient inspection of data in C++ code. Note that these headers are currently not API stable.

Inline assembler (experimental)

The header inline_assembly.h provides an experimental mean for runtime generation of PICA200 shaders and SHBIN files within C++ code, so that homebrew authors don't need to ship shaders as precompiled files. While you could use nihstro's actual assembler to allow for runtime shader compilation, the inline assembler may be more convenient and is lighter on dependencies (since it doesn't require Boost to function). However, for obvious reasons it incurs a performance penalty and an increased memory usage compared to offline shader compilation.

A simple example program is included to illustrate how to use the inline assembler.

Note that the inline assembler is highly experimental. It may or may not work for you yet, and its API will change a lot in the future.


All nihstro components require compiler support for C++11 to work.

The C++ headers shader_bytecode.h and shader_binary can be easily be included in other project and hence are easy to integrate into any build system (as long as nihstro's directory structure is preserved).

For the standalone assembler and disassembler, you will also need CMake to generate build files (however it is simple to setup a different build system from scratch if need be), and at least parts of the Boost libraries installed (including Spirit, Fusion, and others).

Installing dependencies on Windows

You will need to download CMake and Boost from their respective download pages. Both projects provide prebuilt binaries. Note that the Boost binaries only work with MSVC, so MinGW users will need to obtain prebuilt binaries from an unofficial source (not recommended) or build Boost from source.

Installing dependencies on Linux

Chances are your Linux distribution already has CMake and Boost installed. Use your package manager to verify this is the case and to install them if need be. Note that most distributions provide program binaries and development libraries in separate packages; for building nihstro, both are needed.

Installing dependencies on OS X

On OS X, it is recommended that you use Homebrew to install dependencies. You'll need to run the following to build nihstro:

brew install cmake boost

Compiling on Linux, OS X, and other Unix-like systems

To compile the standalone assembler and disassembler, run the following commands from within the nihstro root directory:

mkdir -p build
cd build
cmake ..

This will build the nihstro-assemble and nihstro-disassemble standalone executables inside the build directory.

Compiling on Windows

Start the CMake GUI. You will have to provide two paths: The source code location and the build directory. Point the former to the nihstro root directory, and the latter to a subdirectory called build. You may need to create this directory manually if it doesn't exist.

To make sure CMake finds your Boost installation, press the "Add Entry" button and create a new PATH variable with the name BOOST_ROOT. Point it towards the root directory of your boost installation. The correct folder should contain a subdirectory called boost with lots of further child directories.

Once you're done, hit the "Configure" button and adjust the compiler settings appropriately (usually, the default settings should be fine). If an error occurs, CMake might have trouble locating your Boost installation, and you should double-check that you installed the correct set of Boost libraries and that you set up the BOOST_ROOT variable correctly.

If all went fine, click "Generate" and use the generated build files in the build subdirectory to build nihstro. In particular if you're using MSVC, open the file build/nihstro.sln in Visual Studio.


I welcome any contributions! Just create a GitHub fork and submit your changes back via pull requests.


A big "thank you!" to everyone who contributed to the information on 3dbrew, which has proven amazingly useful for my 3DS related projects. Another shout-out goes to smealum's aemstro, which served as a great reference when debugging nihstro.

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