Reverse-Engineering a Game Boy Clone’s Boot ROM

[nitro2k01] got his hands on a Game Fighter, a clone of the original Game Boy. While there’s a ton of information about the boot ROM and operation of the original Game Boy, not much is known about these clones. [nitro2k01] wanted to learn more, so he used a clock-glitching technique to dump the device’s ROM and made some interesting discoveries about its copyright protection and boot process along the way.

Reading the contents of the Game Boy ROM is a bit challenging. The ROM is readable while booting, but afterwards the address space of the ROM is remapped for interrupt vectors and other uses. There are a couple of methods to get around this, but the simplest method involves glitching the crystal by grounding one of its leads. This causes the CPU to jump to random locations in memory. Eventually the CPU will jump to a location where the boot ROM is accessible (if you’re lucky!).

Although [nitro2k01]’s clone can run the same games as the Game Boy, it has a different boot ROM and also has some significant hardware differences. [nitro2k01] managed to use a modified version of the crystal-grounding technique to glitch his clock and dump the clone’s boot ROM. He found that the clone uses an unusual variation on the Game Boy’s copyright-checking technique, along with some other oddities. [nitro2k01] also posted a disassembly of the boot ROM, which he explains in detail.

Thanks for the tip, [Ove].

HDMI Out With A Brick Game Boy

A few years ago, some vastly clever people figured out how to listen in on the LCD display on the classic brick Game Boy from 1989. There have been marked improvements over the years, including a few people developing VGA out for the classic Game Boy. Now, the bar has been raised with an HDMI adapter for the Game Boy, designed in such a way that turns everyone’s favorite battery hog into a portable console.

Your classic beige or cleverly named Color Game Boy is composed of two halves. The rear half contains all the important circuitry – the CPU, cartridge connector, and the rest of the smarts that make the Game Boy game. The front half is fairly simple in comparison, just an LCD and a few buttons. By designing an adapter that goes between these two halves, [Zane] and [Joshua] were able to stuff enough circuitry inside the Game Boy to convert the signals going to the LCD to HDMI. Plug that into your TV, and you have a huge modern version of the Super Game Boy, no SNES required.

The HDMIBoy also breaks out the buttons to the classic NES controller connector. With HDMI out and a controller input, the old-school Game Boy become a portable if somehow even more brick-like console.

The Tale of Two Wearable Game Boys

We’re well past the time when Halloween costume submissions stop hitting the tip line, but like ever year we’re expecting a few to trickle in until at least Thanksgiving. Remember, kids: documentation is the worst part of any project.

[Troy] sent us a link to his wearable Game Boy costume. It’s exactly what you think it is: an old-school brick Game Boy that [Troy] wore around to a few parties last weekend. This one has a twist, though. There’s a laptop in there, making this Game Boy playable.

The build started off as a large cardboard box [Troy] covered with a scaled-up image of everyone’s favorite use of AA batteries. The D-pad and buttons were printed out at a local hackerspace, secured to a piece of plywood, and connected to an Arduino Due. The screen, in all its green and black glory, was taken from an old netbook. It was a widescreen display, but with a bezel around the display the only way to tell it’s not original is from the backlight.

Loaded up with Pokemon Blue, the large-scale Game Boy works like it should, enthralling guests at wherever [Troy] ended up last Friday. It also looks like a rather quick build, and something we could easily put together when we remember it next October 30th.

[Troy] wasn’t the only person with this idea. A few hours before he sent in a link to his wearable Game Boy costume, [Shawn] sent in his completely unrelated but extremely similar project. It’s a wearable brick Game Boy, a bit bigger, playing Tetris instead of Pokemon.

[Shawn]’s build uses a cardboard box overlaid with a printout of a scaled-up Game Boy. Again, a laptop serves as the emulator and screen, input is handled by a ‘duino clone, and the buttons are slightly similar, but made out of cardboard.

Both are brilliant builds, adding a huge Game Boy to next year’s list of possible Halloween costume ideas. Videos of both below.

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Twitching Fish Plays Pokemon Underwater

fishypokemon

Over a matter of a few days, thousands of people were simultaneously watching this fish named [Grayson Hopper] float around a bowl of water as a webcam recorded its every move and translated the directions it took into a working gameplay of Pokemon Red. Each section of the tank was split into partitions, with each section acting like a button. So when the fish swam over a specific area, the main Pokemon character [Ash] was told where to go.

It was created during a hackNY hackathon within 24 hours when the fish started its journey in to the world of Pokemon. Already, a subreddit popped up documenting the adventure. Amazingly enough, [Grayson] chose Charmander as its starting Pokemon and has defeated its rival Squirtle.

This project was great for watching hours on end, especially at work, as the cute little fish went about its life unaware that it is becoming a popular internet star.

Check out the link above to stream the video. There is even a chat bar on the side, which allows anyone to jump into the fishy conversation. If the fish looks dead though, it’s probably just sleeping.

[Thanks for the tip Bailey!]

Also, Pokemon was reborn some vintage hardware recently which allows the player to game via the web. Check that out too!

Pokáde: Twitch Plays Pokemon, Reborn On Vintage Hardware

poke Early this year, Twitch Plays Pokemon, a webstream of tens of thousands of people playing the same game of Pokemon via web chat. It was certainly an interesting sociological phenomenon, but as in any system where thousands of people try to do a single thing, progress was exceedingly slow at points. This was compounded by the fact the Twitch stream delayed the chat by about 30 seconds.

At the time, there was some talk about setting up an alternative to the emulator-based Twitch stream. Ideas were floated, but until now, no one has yet come up with a workable solution. Now we have Pokáde: real Pokemon games (Red and Blue) running on real hardware (two Super Game Boys, two super Nintendos, and two Game Genies), streamed live to the Internet with an IRC-like chat function.

Simply for the ease of capturing the video of the stream, [Johannes], the guy behind all of this, is using a pair of Super Nintendos and Super Game Boys connected to USB video capture dongles. The Super Game Boys are modded to enable trading between the Red and Blue versions of the game, and controls are handled with a USB connection to the PC running the server.

Anyone can play the game, simply by going to the Pokáde Chat, entering the chat, and clicking on random buttons on the brick Game Boy GUI. The game ROMs have been slightly modified to disable the option of starting a new game, but this is still the classic Twitch Plays Pokemon experience: people all around the globe mashing buttons and creating a religion around a fossil pokemon.

Original Gameboy Gets Stuffed Full Of Cool Parts

Raspberry Pi Gameboy

One day at Good Will, [microbyter] came across an original Gameboy for $5. Who reading this post wouldn’t jump on a deal like that? [microbyter] was a little disappointed when he got home and found out that this retro portable did not work. He tried to revive it but it was a lost cause. To turn lemons into lemonade, the Gameboy was gutted and rebuilt into a pretty amazing project.

Looking at the modified and unmodified units, it is extremely obvious that there is a new LCD screen. It measures 3.5″ on the diagonal and is way larger than the 2.6″ of the original screen. Plus, it can display colors unlike the monochrome original. Flipping the unit over will show a couple of buttons have been added to the battery compartment door to act as shoulder buttons.

The brains of the project is a Raspberry Pi running Retropie video game system emulation software which will emulate a bunch of consoles, including the original Gameboy. The video is sent to the LCD screen via the composite video output. The Pi’s headphone jack is connected to a small audio amplifier that powers the original speaker that still resides in the stock location. Connecting the controller buttons got a little more complicated since the original board was removed. Luckily there is a replacement board available for just this type of project that bolts into the stock location, allows the use of the original iconic buttons and has easily accessible solder points. This board is wired up to the Pi’s GPIO pins.

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BigBoy Advance, a Giant GBA for Big Hands

big boy advance

Ever wish Game Boys came in a slightly larger size? [John], aka [Bacteria] of Bacman, decided to try something different with this retro console mod — the BigBoy.

In case you’re not familiar with the Bacman website, it’s a site dedicated to retro video game console modding — and our hacker, [John] is the man behind the scenes. We’ve shared plenty of their projects before.

The BigBoy is basically a Game Boy Advance — with an 8″ display. It uses the electronics from a knockoff copy of a RetroBit in a custom case that [John] vacuum formed at home. He sketched out the proposed outline, built a mold out of plastic sheets and hot glue, and created a concrete dummy mold for the vacuum former — meaning if he ever wanted to recreate this project it would be a piece of cake!

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