Game Boy Color Makes Itself At Home In A DMG-01

When we last checked in with [The Poor Student Hobbyist], he had just finished cramming a Game Boy Advance (GBA) SP motherboard into the body of the iconic Game Boy DMG-01, complete with an aftermarket IPS display. Unfortunately, after a few weeks of using the system, he ran into a few issues that sent him back to the drawing board.

This time, he’s revamped Nintendo’s classic handheld with the internals from its successor, the Game Boy Color (GBC). Obviously that means this new build can’t play any GBA titles, but that was never actually the goal in the first place. It might seem obvious in hindsight, but owing to their general similarity, it ended up being far easier to fit the GBC hardware into the Game Boy’s shell. Though we still wouldn’t call this an “easy” swap by any stretch of the imagination…

Whether you want to follow his footsteps towards portable gaming bliss or just want to live vicariously through his soldering iron, [The Poor Student Hobbyist] has done an absolutely phenomenal job of documenting this build. While he cautions the write-up isn’t designed to be a step by step instructional piece, there’s an incredible wealth of information here for others looking to perform similar modifications.

The build involved removing much of the original Game Boy’s connectors and controls, such as the volume wheel, Link Port, and even headphone jack, and grafting them onto a GBC motherboard that’s been physically trimmed down. At a high level it’s not unlike the trimmed Wii portables we’ve seen, but made much easier due to the fact the GBC only used a two-layer PCB. It also helps that [The Poor Student Hobbyist] has once again used an aftermarket IPS display, as that meant he could literally cut off the LCD driver section of the GBC motherboard. Of course there have also been several hardware additions, such as a new audio amplifier, power regulation system, LiPo charger, and 2000 mAh battery.

There’s a lot of fantastic details on this one, so if you’re remotely interested in what made the Game Boy and its successors tick, we’d highly recommend taking the time to read through this handheld hacking tour de force. His previous build is also more than worthy of some close study, even if it ended up being a bit ungainly in practice.

Dominate Video Calls With Game Boy Camera Webcam

We can’t promise it will all be positive, but there’s no question you’ll be getting plenty of attention when you join a video call using the Game Boy Camera. Assuming they recognize you, anyway. The resolution and video quality of the 1998 toy certainly hasn’t aged very well, and that’s before it gets compressed and sent over the Internet.

From a technical standpoint, this one is actually pretty simple, if rather convoluted. [RetroGameCouch] hasn’t modified the Game Boy Camera in any way, he’s just connected it to the Super Game Boy, which in turn is slotted into a Super Nintendo. From there the video output of the SNES is passed through an HDMI converter, and finally terminates in a cheap HDMI capture device. His particular SNES has been modified with component video, but on the stock hardware you’ll have to be content with composite.

The end result of all these adapters and cables is that the live feed from the Game Boy Camera, complete with the Super Game Boy’s on-screen border, is available on the computer as a standard USB video device that can be used with whatever program you wish. If you’re more interested in recovering still images, we’ve recently seen a project that lets you pull images from the Game Boy Camera over WiFi.

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Pi Pico Project Plays Pong Perfectly

Even as technology keeps progressing, we find ourselves coming back to the classics again and again. Pong is quite possibly the classic game, and the Raspberry Pi Pico is one of the latest microcontrollers. So [Nick Bild] combined them expertly in his Pico Pong project, which includes gesture controls and a custom VGA output.

Rolling your own VGA signal is no simple feat, and this project takes full advantage of the Pico’s features to pull it off. Display data is buffered in memory, while a Programmable I/O (PIO) program reads straight from the buffer via Direct Memory Access (DMA) and writes straight to the display. This allows for nanosecond-precision while leaving the CPU free to handle inputs and run the game. Even with the display work offloaded, the ARM processor had to be massively overclocked at 258 MHz, well over its 133 MHz specs, to make things run smoothly. And still [Nick] found himself limited to a 640×350 resolution and serendipitously-retro-accurate monochrome color scheme.

Gesture controls come from a pair of IR light beams hooked up to the GPIO. IR LEDs shine up toward reflectors, and the light bounces back down to detectors. Blocking one of the beams causes your paddle to move up or down, which looks pretty responsive in the video (embedded below).

We’ve seen [Nick] play Pong before, though at that time it was handheld and based on the venerable 6502. And just recently we wrote about the Raspberry Pi Pico powering another classic game: Snake.

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A Custom Raspberry Pi 4 Arcade Cabinet

Over the years we’ve covered quite a few Raspberry Pi based arcade cabinets, and admittedly many of them have been fairly similar. After all, there’s only so much variation you can make before it stops looking like a traditional arcade machine. But even still, we never tire of seeing a well executed build like the one [Dawid Zittrich] recently shared with us.

These days you can order a kit that has pre-cut panels to build your cabinet with, but looking for a completely custom build, [Dawid] decided to first model his design in SketchUp and then cut out the panels himself with a jigsaw. This obviously is quite a bit more work, and assumes you’ve got sufficient woodworking tools, but we think the final result looks great. Not to mention the fact that it’s going to be a lot stronger than something made out of MDF.

He also created the side artwork himself, taking the logos and names from his favorite arcade and Amiga games and putting them on a retro-looking gradient pattern.¬† The marquee on the top has an acrylic front and is illuminated from behind with strips of LEDs. It’s mounted on a hinge so that it can be lifted up and a new piece of art slid in without taking apart the whole cabinet. While it might be a little more labor intensive to switch out than some of the electronic marquees we’ve seen, we do like that you still have the ability to change the artwork on a whim.

With the cabinet itself completed, [Dawid] turned his attention to the electronics. Inside you’ve got the aforementioned Raspberry Pi 4 (with a Noctua fan to keep it cool), an external hard drive, a HDMI to VGA converter with scanline generator to drive the 4:3 ratio Eizo Flex Scan S2100 monitor, and a rather beefy amplifier hanging off the Pi’s 3.5 mm analog audio output. All of which is easily accessible via a maintenance hatch built into the cabinet so [Dawid] doesn’t need to tear everything down when he wants to tweak something.

If you’d like to have that arcade cabinet feel but don’t have the space and equipment to put something like this together, you could always stick a Raspberry Pi into an iCade and call it a day.

Poking Around Inside A Pair Of Classic Gaming Gifts

Retro gaming is huge right now, and like probably millions of other people, [wrongbaud] found himself taking possession of a couple faux-classic gaming gadgets over the holidays. But unlike most people, who are now using said devices to replay games from their youth, he decided to tear into his new toys to see how they work.

The first to get pulled apart is a handheld The Oregon Trail game, which Hackaday readers may recall from a teardown we did back when it was first released. His work continues right where our teardown left off, by pulling the game’s two EEPROM chips out and dumping their contents. As expected, [wrongbaud] found that the I2C connected chip contained the game save information, and the SPI flash chip stored the actual game files.

Next up was an HDMI “stick” from Bandai Namco that allows the user to play a selection of NES games. Here again [wrongbaud] liberates the flash chip and dumps it for examination, this time using an ESP32 tool of his own creation. Inside the firmware image he’s able to identify several elements with the help of binwalk, such as splash screen graphics and text strings.

But perhaps most interestingly, he found that binwalk was able to automatically extract the NES ROMs themselves. After verifying they were standard ROMs with an NES emulator, he theorizes that repacking the firmware with different ROMs should be possible should anyone feel so inclined.

Both of these hacks are fantastic examples of how you can reverse engineer a device’s firmware with low cost hardware, open source tools, and a healthy dose of patience. Even if you aren’t interested in fiddling with¬†The Oregon Trail or swapping out the Mappy ROM for Contra, this write-up is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to do their own firmware analysis.

This isn’t the first time [wrongbaud] has hacked around inside these extremely popular retro games, either. Just last month we covered some of his previous exploits with the re-released versions of Rampage and Mortal Kombat.

Teardown: 168-in-1 Retro Handheld Game

The holidays are upon us, and that can mean many furrowed brows trying to figure out what token gift they can give out this year as stocking-stuffers. Something that’s a bit more interesting than a coupon book or a lotto scratcher, but also affordable enough that you can buy a few of them without having to take part in that other great holiday tradition: unnecessary credit debit.

Includes the NES classic Super Militarized Police Bros 3

Which is how I came to possess, at least temporarily, one of these cheap handheld multi-games that are all over Amazon and eBay. The one I ordered carries the brand name Weikin, but there are dozens of identical systems available, all being sold at around the same $20 USD price point. With the outward appearance of a squat Game Boy, these systems promise to provide precisely 168 games for your mobile enjoyment, and many even include a composite video out cable and external controller for the less ambulatory classic game aficionado.

At a glance, the average Hackaday reader will probably see right through this ploy. Invariably, these devices will be using some “NES on a Chip” solution to emulate a handful of legitimate classics mixed in with enough lazy ROM hacked versions of games you almost remember to hit that oddly specific number of 168 titles. It’s nearly a foregone conclusion that at the heart of this little bundle of faux-retro gaming lies a black epoxy blob, the bane of hardware tinkerers everywhere.

Of course, there’s only one way to find out. Let’s crack open one of these budget handhelds to see what cost reduction secrets are inside. Have the designers secured their place on the Nice List? Or have we been sold the proverbial lump of coal?

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An Epic Quest To Build The Perfect Retro Handheld

It’s a good time to be a fan of classic video games. Most of us carry around a smartphone that’s more than capable of emulating pretty much everything from the 32-bit era on down, and if you want something a little more official, the big players like Sony and Nintendo have started putting out “retro” versions of their consoles. But even still, [Mangy_Dog] wasn’t satisfied. To get the portable emulation system of his dreams, he realized he’d have to design and build it himself.

The resulting system, which he calls the “Playdog Blackbone”, is without a doubt one of the most impressive DIY builds we’ve ever seen. While there are still some issues that he’s planning on addressing in a later version of the hardware, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that there’s commercially available game systems that didn’t have half as much thought put into them as the Blackbone.

Which is, incidentally, how this whole thing got started. The original plan was to buy one of those cheap emulation handhelds, which invariably seem to come in the form of a PSP clone, and fit it with a Raspberry Pi. But [Mangy_Dog] quickly realized that not only were they too small to get everything he wanted inside, but they also felt terrible in the hand. Since he wanted the final product to be comfortable to play, his first step was to design the case and get feedback on it from other retro game enthusiasts.

After a few iterations, he arrived at the design we see today. Once he printed the case out on his SLA printer, he could move on with fitting all of his electronics inside. This takes the form of a custom PCB “motherboard” which an Orange Pi Zero Plus2 (sorry Raspberry fans) connects to. There’s actually a surprising amount of room inside the case, enough for niceties like dual speakers and a fan complete with ducting to keep the board cool.

Unsurprisingly, [Mangy_Dog] says a lot of people have been asking him if they can buy their own version of the Blackbone, and have suggested he do a crowdfunding campaign to kick off mass production. While he’s looking at the possibility of resin or injection molding the case so he can produce a few more copies, on the whole, his attention has moved on to new projects. Which frankly, we can’t wait to see.

If you’re interested in slightly more modern games, we’ve seen a number of handhelds based on “trimmed” Nintendo Wii’s which you might be interested in. While they might not have the sleek external lines of the Blackbone, the work that goes into the electronics is nothing short of inspirational.

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