Published On: Sat, Jun 27th, 2020

Feature: Creating The Ultimate Game Boy

Game Boy Advance RetrosixGame Boy Advance Retrosix© Nintendo Life

Nintendo’s Game Boy family of consoles has, in total, sole around 200 million units during a lifespan, that stretched from a recover of a strange monochrome complement in 1989 all a approach adult to 2005’s Game Boy Micro, a final console to showcase a name.

While Nintendo has enjoyed poignant blurb success divided from a Game Boy code – a successor, a Nintendo DS, is a many successful Nintendo console ever, with over 150 million units sole – there will always be a special place for a complement that effectively combined a handheld console market, and determined Nintendo as a champion.

The Game Boys were my fun; we enjoyed upgrading them and putting my believe to use. As with anything we do, it tends to finish adult as a business

This adore for a Game Boy line has resulted in a colourful aftermarket attention that produces new shells, screens, buttons and other components in sequence to enlarge a capabilities of a bottom system. We’ve seen shade mods for a strange Game Boy and Game Boy Advance SP and even Nintendo DS consoles repurposed as GBAs, nonetheless RetroSix’s Luke Malpass has taken things to a subsequent level, building what can positively be described as a ultimate Game Boy console income can buy (at a time of writing, anyway).

Malpass got meddlesome in modding hardware not around a Nintendo system, nonetheless one combined by Microsoft. “I used to possess a business modding Xbox controllers,” he explains. “I was famous worldwide for a rapid-fire chips, and was a ‘hidden name’ behind roughly all of them on a marketplace – positively a many renouned ones – including my own, a Arbiter. we am we program developer by heart, and I’ve finished that given we was 10, nonetheless we also adore anything challenging. we can do plumbing, welding, soldering, mechanics, airbrushing, CAD, hardware and anything else that is cold and interesting. That’s where we get my pleasure; training new trades and creation things. we got into a Game Boy stage final year as I’d finished 5 years plain in a life-consuming program business that grew large, nonetheless was positively no fun. The Game Boys were my fun; we enjoyed upgrading them and putting my believe to use. As with anything we do, it tends to finish adult as a business.”

Malpass now runs his possess console alteration business, where he not usually reconditions aged systems nonetheless also sells kits people can fit themselves. While he also offers mods for other consoles – a Sega Game Gear ascent he offers is generally renouned – it’s a Game Boy that unequivocally seems to ring with his customers.

“It has survived a hurdles of time, and there are lots of inexpensive consoles and games accessible all over a world,” he replies when asked since such a large village has grown adult around a Game Boy family. “That, and a approach many complicated games are now – digital downloads, no earthy copies, online-only, filled with micro-transactions and so on – for many people, games are no longer fun. It’s all high-adrenaline, high-stakes and pressured gameplay, all directed during multiplayer and spending money. On a other hand, on a Game Boy, we buy a diversion for £5 and can play it peacefully, nonetheless stress, for weeks during no additional cost. I’ve always pronounced that complicated games increase stress, retro games decrease stress. With a additional highlight in a universe right now, we consider some-more people are bend to a stress-relieving things in life. With that comes a fulfilment that in a complicated world, a low volume, non-backlit and scratched shade don’t cut it anymore. With direct comes supply. People wish backlit screens, reprehensible batteries, improved sound and new-feeling retro consoles – and direct is usually removing bigger.”

What we did was mix any famous emanate of any GBA we have come across, and supplement it to my list of things we correct on any singular one, regardless of either it appears to have a error or not

Malpass is clearly a master during his craft, given a outrageous volume of batch he is changeable during a moment. “I’ve sole good over 1000 consoles in 18 months,” he says. With any complement he painstakingly restores, he learns a small bit some-more about a routine and factors that believe into destiny projects – and that even extends to regulating irritating issues that have been baked-into a hardware given it was initial made. “Let’s take a Game Boy Advance, for example,” he says. “As we work on them, we learn certain versions have certain issues, others have other issues. Most have a lot in common and as a faults are built into a production and a time a console has been around. The energy switch on a GBA is a many common fault; over time a steel finish turns to a black gummy non-conductive sludge, preventing a console powering on, or giving belligerent sound or ‘flickering red light syndrome’. Fewer have volume circle issues of a identical nature, causing scratchy sound or no audio. What we did was mix any famous emanate of any GBA we have come across, and supplement it to my list of things we correct on any singular one, regardless of either it appears to have a error or not.”

In a niche marketplace full of modders who take smashed Game Boy consoles, fit new screens and cases and afterwards sell them for a neat profit, Malpass stands apart; any complement he modifies effectively becomes a ‘new’ console, and he undertakes an downright ascent procession with any appurtenance that passes by his workshop. “Step one is a replacement of a console itself,” Malpass explains. “This involves a disassembly of a energy switch, cleaning contacts and reassembly. we also purify a volume circle internals and a cartridge pins and enlargement port. Button hit pads – a steel ones on PCB – are also spotless and easy to ideal condition. we afterwards commence a full exam of any aspect of a hardware and we correct any faults, such as blown fuses, bad capacitors, shorts or passed regulators.”

This initial step ensures that a appurtenance is as good as a day it rolled out of Nintendo’s factory, nonetheless it’s a subsequent is maybe some-more exciting; Malpass takes a common Game Boy Advance and transforms it into a complement some-more fitting of a 2020 gamer. “I usually sell a fully-upgraded consoles, no center ground,” he states proudly. “I reinstate a rubber hit pads with code new ones. The whole bombard is also replaced out for a mint expel ABS shell, that we designed and finished so a bombard is improved than strange quality. Pretty many all of a other third-party shells on a marketplace are low-quality injection-moulded ones; cave are expel ABS from Japan. Then, a cosmetic shade guardian is transposed with a gradual potion lens for improved clarity and protection, while all of a buttons are replaced for mint ones.”

The whole bombard is also replaced out for a mint expel ABS shell, that we designed and finished so a bombard is improved than strange quality. Pretty many all of a other third-party shells on a marketplace are low-quality injection-moulded ones; cave are expel ABS from Japan

All of this work effectively means you’re removing a mint console in terms of looks, nonetheless what Malpass afterwards does to a machine’s inner tech completes a encouragement The skinny strange orator and audio amplifier are transposed by a ‘CleanAmp’ procedure and new speaker, augmenting volume massively and improving both drum and treble. The aged TFT LCD – that caused so many problems behind in a day since it relied entirely on outmost light – is private in foster of a modern, backlit LCD with shining colour and rock-solid observation angles. Those annoying AA batteries? They’re gone, replaced for a rechargeable LiPo battery container regulating a ‘CleanJuice’ mod, so a console is good for around 20 hours of playtime and can be surfaced adult around a USB-C wire (you can even reverse-charge your smartphone regulating a console’s battery). The GBA is afterwards tested again to safeguard all is operative as approaching and packaged divided in one of RetroSix’s glorious bespoke boxes, finish with a little instruction primer that states we should put divided your mobile phone during use so we can combine solely on a fun of handheld gaming.

In Malpass’ eyes, this ‘prestige’ book of a Game Boy Advance is utterly simply a best Game Boy complement income can buy. The strange Game Boy Advance might have had a faults during launch, nonetheless a landscape form cause is some-more gentle than a rather tighten GBA SP and Micro, and it provides a 3.5mm headphone hollow (something that was blank on a SP). Unlike a little Micro, it can play a entire Game Boy library, too – right a approach behind to a strange monochrome system.

Having sampled one of these RetroSix systems, we can demonstrate to their quality. The bombard unequivocally does feel incredible; it’s lonesome in a soft-touch cloaking that increases hold and feels even improved than a strange case. The sound in also incredible, attack volume levels that a customary GBA could usually dream of, nonetheless any exaggeration or detriment of quality. Not carrying to worry about AA batteries is a bonus too, and a strong 20-hour stamina means we don’t have to worry about charging it any singular day. The complicated arrangement is maybe a many considerable component of a upgrade, providing a frail picture that can be played in any environment, no matter how dim or dimly-lit. The usually genuine locate is a cost; during £199.99, it’s significantly some-more costly than shopping a smashed GBA off eBay, nonetheless it’s also a unequivocally best instance of this kind of thing – is it probable to put a cost on perfection?

© Nintendo Life

Many of a mods Malpass is regulating in his consoles have seemed utterly recently, that begs a question, is there a roof on this technological wizardry? When will modders take a appurtenance as distant as they presumably can? “There will be a extent eventually, nonetheless we are distant from it,” he replies with confidence. His possess enterprise to strech finish soundness means that he’s always anticipating ways to urge his mods. “I don’t like anything reduction than ideal and we am always essay for that. I’ve expelled 4 revisions of a amplifier, any one improved than a last, 2 versions of a USB-C charger, 4 versions of expel ABS shell, and we have nonetheless to tackle a LCDs – that we am about to start doing myself, rather than relying on outmost suppliers.”

It costs a lot, and that’s since many do not do it; they don’t have a financial subsidy or technical ability, and they have some-more clarity than me than spending tighten to £150k on improving a few aged consoles

Malpass laments that a biggest problem with a modding village currently is that few share his enterprise to strech this turn of perfection, and a inexpensive inlet of a tools compulsory meant that many consoles are being upgraded on a cheap. “Injection-moulded shells from China anyone can buy, bad peculiarity potion anyone can buy, off-the-shelf audio and USB solutions, and so on. we came in and altered that. we finished my possess bombard moulds, that have cost me good over £50,000 for GBA and GB moulds so far, since we needed improved quality. we finished my possess amplifiers for cleaner, louder sound, and concept support for all consoles. we finished my possess USB-C house for a drop-in, no soldering energy solution, and we use a largest and by distant a many energy-efficient battery on a market. we finished expel moulds for a battery covers so a USB-C hole looks bureau stock; others only cavalcade out a hole. we box my consoles in mint tradition finished boxes and so on. we consider we see a pattern. we always go that additional mile, for that additional quality. It costs a lot, and that’s since many do not do it; they don’t have a financial subsidy or technical ability, and they have some-more clarity than me than spending tighten to £150k on improving a few aged consoles. But now, a unequivocally starting to compensate off, and a repute we have for going that additional mile is apropos known.”

Malpass is penetrating not to extent himself to a singular system, though, and is fervent to bend out in sequence to urge and ascent other handheld systems. “So distant we have tackled a GB, GBP, GBC, GBA and GBA-SP. we am only starting to reconstitute all a hardware for a Game Gear. After that substantially Neo Geo Pocket, afterwards maybe a Bandai WonderSwan.” However, there’s still unprepared business with Nintendo’s best-selling handheld. “I’m not finished with a Game Boy yet,” he says. “This year we will have one of a biggest announcements in a stage ever, around a perfect easy Game Boy. There are issues with a stream mods that take it divided from a origin. we adore strange and I’m all about creation it seem as strange as possible, nonetheless with complicated touches. There is a outrageous problem with one of a many renouned mods to a Game Boys and people won’t realize it until we recover what we have entrance – afterwards a nostalgia should lapse even some-more for those revolutionary retro fans who wish truly strange restorations, and not overly modernised versions.”


Thanks to RetroSix for provision a Game Boy Advance console used in this feature.

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