Since 1996 the Pokemon series of games has moved through eight distinct generations, which roughly parallel the lineage of Nintendo’s handheld gaming systems. While the roster of “pocket monsters” has been updated steadily, players have had the option of bringing captured Pokemon from the older games into the newer releases. But there’s always been a gap in this capability. Due to hardware differences, the Game Boy and Game Boy Color generations of games were physically unable to communicate with the titles released for the Game Boy Advance.
But soon, that may no longer be the case. [Selim] is hard at work on Lanette’s Poke Transporter, a hardware and software solution for bringing Pokemon from the first and second generation games onto the third generation GBA games. Once they’ve been loaded there, players can move the creatures all the way up into the contemporary Pokemon games via official means.
The project was started in July of 2020, with [Selim] first focusing on the logistical challenges of bringing such early Pokemon into the newer games. Because so much changed between the different generations, there are many sanity checks that need to be made during the transfer. For example, the moves and techniques that the creatures are able to learn isn’t necessarily consistent between these early entries into the series. But after about a year of effort, the software side worked reliably on emulated games, and it was time to start thinking about the hardware.
Ultimately, [Selim] wants to create a physical device into which players can insert their Pokemon cartridges and trigger an automatic transfer. The code is already able to read and write to the cartridges, and has been ported over to Arduino so it doesn’t need a computer to run. A few prototype PCBs have been created, and beyond the inevitable bodges, it seems like they’re functional. There’s still breadboards and jumpers for as far as the eye can see, but this is the first step towards producing a dedicated Pokemon “time machine” that can transport them from the late 1990s to the present day.
As explained in the video below, the adapter is essentially just a Raspberry Pi Pico paired with some level shifters so that it can talk to the Game Boy’s link port. That said, the custom PCB does implement some very clever edge connectors that let you plug it right into the Link Cable for the original “brick” Game Boy as well as the later Color and Advance variants. This keeps you from having to cut up a Link Cable just to get a male end, which is what [stacksmashing] had to do during the prototyping phase.
Of course, the hardware is only one half of the equation. There’s also an open source software stack which includes a Python server and WebUSB frontend that handles communicating with the Game Boy and connecting players. While the original game only supported a two person head-to-head mode, the relatively simplistic nature of the multiplayer gameplay allowed [stacksmashing] to expand that to an arbitrary number of players with his code. The core rules haven’t changed, and each client Game Boy still thinks it’s in a two player match, but the web interface will show the progress of other players and who ends up on top at the end.
To be clear, this isn’t some transparent Link Cable to TCP/IP solution. While something like that could potentially be possible with the hardware, as of right now, the software [stacksmashing] has put together only works for Tetris. So if you want to battle Pokemon over the net, you’ll have to do your own reverse engineering (or at least wait for somebody else to inevitably do it).
[Samuel] is working on one of the most important electronics projects of our generation. He’s building a device for the Game Boy that will allow Pokemon trades between generation II and III. Yes, This means bringing your Charmander from Pokemon Red to your team in Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, or Emerald. and finally completing the National Dex you’ve been working on for 20 years. Before he gets to designing this system, he first needs to listen in on the Game Boy Link Cable, and that means creating a breakout board.
The Game Boy Link Cable – sometimes inaccurately referred to as the Zelda cable – is a special proprietary connector. The design is well documented, but unlike the Wii Nunchuck controller, there’s no readily available breakout board available for this piece of obsolete technology.
Together with a his friend [David], [Samuel] loaded up a copy of Eagle and designed a board that will fit on a small piece of copper clad FR4. This design was then sent over to a small CNC mill, The traces were machined away, and a sextet of pins were soldered into the holes.
With a breakout board for the Game Boy Link Cable, [Samuel] now has a great platform for peering into the strange and magical world of Pokemon. He’ll be using a Teensy microcontroller for his trading device, and with several similar projects already completed by others around the Internet, the potential for a Gen II to Gen III Pokemon trader is palpable.