The Freeloader for the Nintendo Wii is a recently released (at time of writing) unofficial product that attempts to do battle with Nintendo's region coding system, allowing players to use imported games, despite the fact that the console firmware is constantly updated via the internet. It is basically a third-party disc that is inserted prior to the game disc, altering the console boot to circumvent the usual securities.

For a little while at the beginning Nintendo wasn't too concerned with location coding for the Wii. Obviously, due to regional power and TV specs, unlike its friend the DS, a game from any part of the world couldn't be played on any console. However, Gamecube games that were region coded and played on the Wii could make use of the boot software Freeloader (an earlier version) to temporarily remove the lock and play successfully.

Come one fateful day when, after wirelessly updating the Wii firmware, I attempted to play my imported copy of Tales of Symphonia only to find that it strangely didn't work. Odd — it certainly worked a week ago. What had changed? In that recent update Nintendo had decided to remove a programming loophole in its code that the Gamecube Freeloader had been exploiting, immediately rendering the product useless. A gamer's collection of import games suddenly nothing more than polycarbonate plastic.

Enter Datel with the new Nintendo Wii Freeloader. They have claimed that the product will be unaffected by firmware updates, but whether that is the case is yet to be seen. Those of us in countries that aren't as important on the release date schedule will have to depend on Nintendo not releasing a minor upgrade that could render the freeloader and any import games obsolete.

The way this Freeloader works is by inserting a small Gamecube-sized disc into the Wii before attempting to run a foreign game. The program runs two "wipes" of the screen, making the TV look like an error is occurring and fooling me, and no doubt countless others, on the first attempt. After which, you remove the Freeloader disc and insert the desired game disc. If the import game is loading for the first time, some discs come with system upgrades that are designed to install on the initial run — just let the upgrade install and be glad the disc is reading at all; but you need to remember that after the upgrade you will have to start the sequence over again with the Freeloader. Also important to note is that the television has to be set to the right frequency to emulate the native region. For example, a PAL TV must be on at least 60Hz for a NTSC game to be viewed on it.

For the rest of the world that hasn't yet got Super Smash Bros Brawl, it's a small price to pay for Nintendo's greatest multiplayer feat. Other games from Japan, US or Europe can, for the time being, be played anywhere too. Personally, I hope Nintendo don't feel the need to be strict on region coding in the future because they could squash our fun in an instant with another unassuming upgrade. Nintendo is actually a corporation I respect, for some reason. To me they genuinely seem to be about innovation and game quality as opposed to blanket marketing and "crushing the opposition". We're very aware that not every country can have the same amount of focus for releasing games, so, Nintendo, bear a thought for the gamers that just want to experience the hyped games, the special games, the obsessed-over games and let us have our loophole.