Vintage & Modern Tech Blog

Tips - Selecting A Gameboy

January 20, 2017

I never had a Nintendo console when I was a kid. Recently, at Christmas, I decided I wanted a Nintendo Gameboy and considered which of the various models available would suit me.

I wanted to experience the old games from the 1990s, and maybe even try a little programming on the handheld console so, either an old Gameboy or one with backwards compatibility seemed like a good idea.

I was sure a Gameboy Advance, with it's ARM processor for newer games and secondary custom Z80 for playing Gameboy and Gameboy Colour titles was the best choice - I was about to make a Gameboy beginners mistake.

It turns out the original advance was notorious for having a very dull screen (Unlike in this photo) with no front or back light. To light the screen up, a variety of add-ons were around, including some daft thing that looks like a lampost attached to the GB Advance 'External' port.






Unsuprisingly, Nintendo were quick(ish) in solving this problem, by releasing the clamshell-style Advance SP (SP=Special) around one year later, which has either a front or back light built in, depending on the model.


There are also modded original Gameboy Advances (AGS-101) available, which have an SP screen squeezed into the first version casing - some gamers say this is the best, as it combines the larger buttons, ergonomic design, and overall feel of the original, whilst offering and improved, lighted TFT experience.


It has been noted that on the SP, that the larger,classic cartridges stick out towards the player, which may be a little awkward. 

So, there you have it - off-the-shelf, a Gameboy SP seems like the best option whilst, for the brave - modding, or getting someone else to modify your original Advance may be better.

If you want backwards compatibility, don't get a Gameboy Micro, as it only contains the ARM 32 processor, and excludes the Z80.

On a final note - if you are absolutely stuck with an unmodified early 2000s Advance, there is a hidden contrast screw underneath the serial number on the back plate. It requires a tri-wing screwdriver turn it and change the settings. 

Personally, I don't know if my efforts with the wrong kind of screwdriver made a difference but, with a probably expired warranty, you might find it worth a try.


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