Pump It Up Gets Homebrew GBA Port That Rocks

Pump It Up is a popular music video game that hails from South Korea. It’s similar in vibe to Dance Dance Revolution and In The Groove, but it has an extra arrow panel to make life harder. [Rodrigo Alfonso] loved it so much, he ported it to the Game Boy Advance.

The port looks fantastic, with all the fast-moving arrows and lovely sprite-based graphics you could dream of. But more than that, [Rodrigo’s] port is very fully featured. It doesn’t rely on tracked or sampled music, instead using actual GSM audio files for the songs.

It can also accept input from a PS/2 keyboard, and you can even do multiplayer over the GBA’s Wireless Adapter. What’s even cooler is that some of the game’s neat features have been broken out into separate libraries so other developers can use them. If you need a Serial Port library for the GBA, or a way to read the SD card on flash carts, [Rodrigo] has put the code on GitHub.

As you might have guessed, this isn’t the first time [Rodrigo] has pushed the limits on what Nintendo’s 32-bit handheld can do.

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This Tiny Game Boy Lets The Real Thing Play Online

Back in 2021, [stacksmashing] found that it took little more than a Raspberry Pi Pico and some level-shifters to create a USB connection with the Game Boy’s link port. Add in the proper software, and suddenly you’ve got online multiplayer for the classic handheld. The hardware was cheap, the software open source, and a good time was had by all.

Inspired by both the original project and some of the hardware variations that have popped up over the years, [weiman] recently set out to create a new version of the USB link adapter that fits inside a miniature 3D printed Game Boy.

The big change from the original design is that this is using the far smaller, but equally capable, RP2040-Zero development board. This is mated with a SparkFun logic level converter board (or a clone of one from AliExpress) by way of a custom PCB that also includes the necessary edge connectors to connect directly to a Game Boy Link Cable.

Once the PCB is assembled, it’s dropped into the 3D printed Game Boy shell. [weiman] really worked some nice details into the case, such as aligning the d-pad and buttons in such a way that pressing them engages either the RESET or BOOTSEL buttons on RP2040-Zero. The screen of the printed handheld also lines up with the RGB LED on the top of the dev board, which can produce some cool lighting effects.

The original project from [stacksmashing] was an excellent example of the capabilities of the Pi Pico, and we’re glad to see it’s still being worked on and remixed by others. Even though the state of Game Boy emulation is nearly perfect these days, there’s still something to be said for working with the original hardware like this.

Reflecting On The State Of Game Boy Emulation In 2024

Considering the decades that have passed since Nintendo’s Game Boy was considered the state-of-the-art in mobile gaming, you’d imagine that the community would have pretty much perfected the emulation of the legendary family of handhelds — and on the whole, you’d be right. Today, you can get open source emulators for your computer or even smartphone that can play the vast majority of games that were released between the introduction of the original DMG-1 “brick” Game Boy in 1989 through to the final games published for the Game Boy Advance in the early 2000s.

But not all of them. While all the big name games are handled at this point, there’s still a number of obscure titles (not all of which are games) that require specialized hardware accessories to properly function. To bring the community up to speed on where work is still required, [Shonumi] recently provided a rundown on the emulation status of every commercial Game Boy accessory.

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Easily Add Link Cable Support To Your Homebrew GBA Game

The Game Boy Advance (GBA) link cable is the third generation of this feature which originated with the Gameboy. It not only allows for peripherals to be connected, but also for multiplayer between GBAs – even with just one game copy – and item sharing and unlocking of features in specific games. This makes it an interesting feature to support in today’s homebrew GBA games and applications, made easy by libraries such as [Rodrigo Alfonso]’s gba-link-connection.

This C++  library can be used in a number of ways: either limited to just the physical link cable, just the wireless link option or both (universal link). These support either 4 (cable) or 5 (wireless) players to be connected simultaneously. As additional options there are the LinkGPIO.hpp and LinkSPI.hpp headers which allow the link port to be used either as a generic GPIO, or as an SPI link (up to 2 Mb/s). The multiboot feature where a single ROM image is shared among connected GBAs is supported with both wired and wireless links.

It’s heartening to see that a device which this year celebrates its 23rd birthday is still supported so well.

Thanks to [gudenau] for the tip.

Frog Boy Color Reimagines The Game Boy Color Hardware From The Ground Up

Sales figures suggest Nintendo did pretty well with the Game Boy Color during its original run, even if the hardware and visuals feel a tad archaic and limited today. [Chris Hackmann] has taken the Game Boy Color design and reworked it from the ground up as the Frog Boy Color, kitting it out with modern upgrades in a GBA-like form factor while retaining the original hardware underneath.

[Chris] went to the wide-style GBA layout for comfort, which he considers superior to the original rectangular Game Boy format. He iterated through over 50 3D-printed enclosure designs to get the design to work, ensuring that the final housing could be CNC machined. He then set out to trim down the original Game Boy Color circuit layout to cut out hardware he considered unnecessary. The original LCD driver could go, since the Q5 replacement LCD he intended to use didn’t need it, and he also considered the IR port to be surplus to requirements. He also set out to replace the original audio amp with his own stereo design.

The result is a wide-format Game Boy Color with a gorgeous modern LCD, USB-C charging, and excellent compatibility with original games and accessories. Files are on Github if you want to build one yourself. Of course, he’s not the only person working on building the best Game Boy ever, but we always love seeing new work in this space. Video after the break.

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Why Game Boy IPS Screens Flicker

The Nintendo Game Boy was a very popular handheld in its time, but its display technology has not aged gracefully. Ripping out the original screen and dropping in a modern IPS LCD is a popular mod, but that often comes with a weird flicker now and then. [makho] is here to explain why.

The problem was that the Game Boy didn’t have any way to do transparency in the original hardware. Instead, sprites that were supposed to be a little bit transparent were instead flickered on and off rapidly. The original LCD was so slow that this flicker would be largely hidden, with the sprites in question looking suitably transparent. However, switch to a modern IPS LCD with its faster refresh rate, and the flickering will be readily visible. So it’s not a bug — it’s something that was intentionally done by developers that were designing for the screen technology of the 1980s, not the 2020s.

IPS screens have become the must-have upgrade for modern Game Boy users. Most would tell you the improved image quality and rich color is worth a little flicker here and there.

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Reverse-Engineered GBA Board Could Come In Handy

Retro gear is beloved, both for what it can do, and what it reminds us of. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, after all. But then, so is corrosion — and the latter has a habit of killing hardware and driving up prices for remaining units. Thankfully, hard workers like [NatalieTheNerd] are out there, creating reproduction PCBs to keep old hardware alive. Her Game Boy Advance (GBA) reproduction PCB is a great tool for the restoration and modding communities.

The board was reverse engineered, with [Natalie] sharing various scans and schematics of the GBA’s motherboard on the Modded Game Boy Club website. The project recreates the AGB-CPU-03 version of the GBA, and is designed to be produced on a 1 mm board with an ENIG process. You can combine the PCB with some salvaged parts and a new shell and build yourself a remarkably fresh GBA, if you so desire.

Beyond it’s intended use, [Natalie] points out the board outlines could be used as a basis for RetroPie or ESP32 projects that fit into a standard Game Boy Advance form factor. We love that idea. We’ve seen [Natalie’s] work before too, in the form of this neat little macropad. Nifty as always!