The Gameboy line of handheld systems from Nintendo have been wildly popular, but lack one major thing – a video output. This can be troublesome if you’d like to view the games on a bigger screen, for more comfortable gaming sessions or detail work like producing chiptunes. One option is to use the Gameboy Player for the Gamecube, however that system’s age means you’re out of luck if you want a crisp, clear picture on a modern digital display. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get HDMI output from a Gameboy Advance Instead?
When it comes to working with video signals, FPGAs can’t be beat. [Stephen] leverages an FPGA in this project to read the GBA’s video signals and convert them to the modern digital format. Unfortunately, it’s not a seamless install – limited space means the GBA’s screen must be entirely removed, replaced with the adapter in a manner resembling the terrifying Facehugger.
Packaging aside, the output from the device is nothing short of stunning – the graphics are absolutely crystal clear when displayed on a modern HDMI television. This is because the FPGA is capturing the exact digital output from the GBA, and piping it out as HDMI – there’s no analog fuzziness, conversions or noise to spoil the image. Output is a tasty 1280×720, upscaled from the GBA’s original resolution. For more details, check out the forum thread where [Stephen] runs through the build.
The only thing missing is details – we’d love to know more about the exact hardware used, and any trials and tribulations during the build! As far as we can tell, the build doesn’t stop at just video – a SNES controller is used instead of the original buttons, and we have a feeling sound is being passed over the HDMI channel as well sound is piped to the TV from the GBA’s headphone port.
It’s great to see these projects for old hardware come out – modern hardware has the muscle to achieve things previously unthinkable on retro consoles. We’ve seen similar projects before – like adding VGA to an original Game Boy.
[Ryzee119]’s GBA might not look so different at first glance. The screen is way better than you remember, but that may just be your memory playing tricks on you. The sound comes out of the speakers. It feels the right weight. It runs off AA batteries. Heck, even the buttons feel right.
It’s not until you notice that it really shouldn’t be playing any games without a cartridge inserted that you know something is not right in the Mushroom Kingdom. When you look inside you see the edge of a Raspberry Pi Zero instead of the card edge connector you expected.
It took a lot of work for [Ryzee119] to convert a dead, water damaged, GBA to a thriving emulation station based around a Pi Zero. The first step was desolder the components he couldn’t find anywhere else. The LR buttons, the potentiometer, and even the headphone jack. The famously hard to see screen, of course, had to go. It was replaced by a nice TFT. Also, the original speaker was too corroded from the water and he sourced a replacement.
Next he took a good photo of the GBA’s circuit board. We wonder if he used the scanner method mentioned in the comments of this article? He spent a lot of time in Dassault’s DraftSight, a 2D CAD program, outlining the board. Then, after thoroughly verifying the size of the board for the Nth time he imported the outlines to EagleCAD.
He managed to cram quite a bit onto the board while remaining inside the GBA’s original envelope. The switches, potentiometer, and jack went back to their original locations. Impressively, he made his own pad traces for the A, B, and D-Pad buttons. The mod even handles slowly decreasing battery voltages better than the original.
In the end it all snaps together nicely. He’s configured it to boot into the emulator right at start-up. If you’d like one for yourself, all his files are open source.
[Pepijn de Vos] was excited to interact with the world’s most popular augmented reality pedometer, Pokemon Go, and was extremely disappointed to find that his Blackberry couldn’t run it. Still, as far as he could tell from behind his wall of obsolete technology, Pokemon Go is all about walking distractedly, being suspicious, and occasionally catching a Pokemon. That should be possible.
Not a stranger to hacking Pokemon on the Gameboy, [Pepijn] put together a plan. Using his TCPoke module, he took it a step further. Rather than just emulating the original gameboy trade signals over the internet, he hacked a Pokemon Red ROM with some custom Z80 assembly to add some features to the Cable Club in the game.
After some waiting for the delivery man to bring a flashable cartridge and along with some Arduino code, he could now translate the steps he took in the game to his steps in the real world. Well, mostly. He could pick the location where he would like to catch a Pokemon. The character stands there. Somewhere around 100m the game will trigger a random pokemon battle.
[Pepijn] is now no longer a social outcast, as you can see in the video after the break. On a simple trip to the grocery store he caught two Pokemon!
He started with a 3.5″ LCD off eBay for about $25, and got it running with the Pi Zero. It’s only 320×240 resolution, but hey, we’re recreating a Gameboy — not a smartphone. The next step was rather finicky: cutting up the case to fit the new components in.
Using a collection of files he whittled down the screen opening in the case to make room for the LCD, a few hours later and it looked surprisingly good.
From there he started laying out the components inside of the case, trying to figure out the best layout for everything to fit nicely. To power the unit he’s using a lithium ion battery from a Samsung Note which should give him some serious play-time. It fits right in where the game card is suppose to go.
To add some extra control functionality he’s added the game-pad buttons from a SNES onto the back where the battery door is, he’s also got a USB port on the side, a MicroSD card slot, and even a new audio pre-amp with potentiometer for controlling the speaker volume.
[Furrtek] is a person of odd pursuits, which mainly involve making old pieces of technology do strange things. That makes him a hero to us, and his latest project elevates this status: he built a device that turns the Nintendo Gameboy camera cartridge into a camcorder. His device replaces the Gameboy, capturing the images from the camera, displaying them on the screen and saving them to a micro SD card.
Before you throw out your cellphone or your 4K camcorder, bear in mind that the captured video is monochrome (with only 4 levels between white and black), at a resolution of 128 by 112 pixels and at about 14 frames per second. Sound is captured at 8192Hz, producing the same buzzy, grainy sound that the Gameboy is famous for. Although it isn’t particularly practical, [Furrtek]s build is extremely impressive, built around an NXP LPC1343 ARM Cortex-M3 MCU processor. This processor repeatedly requests an image from the camera, receives the image and then collects the images and sound together to form the video and save it to the micro SD card. As always, [Furrtek] has made all of the source code and other files available for anyone who wants to try it out.
The plain old white mini fridge, a staple of many dorm rooms could use a little decoration. The resemblance to a classic gameboy is not that hard to imagine with some novelty stickers, but [ModPurist] went the extra mile with his Cold Boy.
Making a mini fridge into a playable gameboy involves taking apart the door, once in a Raspberry Pi 2 is fitted in along with a second hand “square screen” LCD. The front of the door is cut for some custom wooden buttons, which are connected to tactile switches. Once everything is fit and finished the door is reassembled, so the fridge can resume its normal life keeping soda and hot dogs good and cold. [ModPurist] covered the progression of the hack in his work log.
While it’s a little low to the ground, it should be a hit at college parties where being on the floor is not unusual. Join us after the break for a demonstration video and get your game on. It is, of course, missing one thing. There needs to be some type of latch inside to secure the beverages until the Konami code is entered.
[Mat] wanted a portable RetroPie project he could take while travelling. He made one with a laser cut plastic housing and, according to him, it turned out to be a ‘hideous deformed beast’. In version 2 he took a different approach and we must say it came out looking pretty nice.
This time [Mat] went with a 3D printed case. He designed it himself in SketchUp. Unfortunately, [Mat] doesn’t have access to a 3D printer so he had to send it out to a professional printing company to the tune of £60 ($90). Although that was a large chunk of change, he was happy with the quality of the print. The final exterior dimensions of the case is 13 x 13 x 2.5 cm.
A quick look at the controls will remind anyone of an SNES controller. [Mat] took the innards of an SNES-like USB gamepad and modeled the new case around it. Not having to cut up or otherwise modify the controller PCB makes for an easy addition to the project. Conveniently, the width of the controller was just about the same as the 4.3 inch LCD used for the gamepad’s display. Both fit nicely together.
Under the hood is a Rasberry Pi running RetroPie. An internal 2600mAh Lithium Ion battery provides up to 3.5 hours of game play. Battery charging management is provided by an Adafruit Powerboost 500 which also has a micro USB port that makes connecting an external charger easy.