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Skippy B. Coyote

The Official Game Boy Thread

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Hey there Game Boy aficionados! So this weekend I decided to try modding an original Game Boy Advance with an AGS-101 LCD screen for the first time. I've bought pre-modded systems in the past but this was the first one I've done myself.

 

The mod went smoothly except for one little problem I'd like some input on. No matter how I adjust the ribbon cable (Type B, 40 Pin) or the wire inside there's always a bit of a bulge in the housing next to the power switch when the system is closed up:

 

ChvrLDt.jpg

 

 

I was sure to shave down all the bits of the housing that contact the new AGS-101 screen completely flush, and the ribbon cable adapter is sitting neatly between the solder points at the bottom of the board and the first chip up from the bottom so there shouldn't be any obstructions keeping the shell from closing evenly, and yet I can't seem to find a way to get rid of that bulge in the shell by the power switch.

 

Is it normal for an AGS-101 modded GBA to have that little bulge by the power switch or did I screw something up?

Edited by Jin

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Oh, one other thing I wanted to ask about! I'm using a 40 pin Type B ribbon cable, so soldering the red wire to the upper left pin of DA1 is optional, but the screen brightness seems the same to me regardless of whether or not I solder the wire or leave it disconnected. Adjusting the trim pot next to the cartridge port has no effect on screen voltage on 40 pin models, so that's not the culprit.

 

I checked and reflowed the solder on both of the ends of the wire twice just to be sure and I honestly can't see any difference in screen brightness whether the wire is connected or not. Both just look like lower of the two brightness settings on a AGS-101 GBA SP to me. Is that normal?

 

fNR0XUH.jpg

 

FHXCFIQ.jpg

Edited by Jin

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The going rate for a fully modded GBA is $140 on eBay. Is that fair or high?

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The going rate for a fully modded GBA is $140 on eBay. Is that fair or high?

Seems fair. Since the big price jump in AGS-101 screens last fall the LCDs alone are selling for around $80 on most sites, then figure $30 for the donor GBA and another $15 for the new shell and buttons and you're basically paying $15 for the modding labor.

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Your bulge on the GBA is bad, potentially very bad. It's why I had never tried doing another after a horror story happened to me a few years back. Back then I had a busted 101 I had a good screen from, and had got a white GBA out of a garage sale for just 2 bucks, so I bought the ribbon and went to town. I didn't have proper tools for the plastic removal part, and like you, I wasn't flush, and that is possible and required. Why? Stress. That bulge has force to do that, which puts that force on your LCD screen since it's right there in the center. From this very desk below is carpet and a 3ft drop, a drop my GBA 101 mod hit the floor falling off of it, and that pressure was enough to crack the screen 2 weeks after I made it. I've never had the sourced parts since, didn't like the $40 LCD price since the Chinese knockoffs were dimmer and I think they had a slightly less nice refresh too, and never could get another busted 101 so I let it go. Eventually I did get a pre-101 modded cobalt blue one that slipped by on ebay for the value of a normal one, but that's a SP, and I didn't want to break a working GBA for a hack again.

 

You need to get the stress off that panel.

 

 

And I had not heard anything about a dry up of Chinese screens so it's up to $80 as that's asinine. You might as well murder a 101 with a beat to hell shell as it would cost less for a better panel.

 

 

Today was the first time since like 1990/91 that I was able to use a gameboy link cable with someone. My daughter and I both have original Tetris and the link cable I found the other week that's pink has a GBC/GBA style connector on it. I loaned her a spare GBA SP I had, used one of mine (that 101 cobalt blue) and we did 4-5 rounds of play. I had to eventually get myself starting with a lv4 junk block pile to have it fair for her. It was fun but she got a bit upset not winning a total set of games in a series.

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I didn't have proper tools for the plastic removal part, and like you, I wasn't flush, and that is possible and required. Why? Stress. That bulge has force to do that, which puts that force on your LCD screen since it's right there in the center.

The screen in mine is 100% completely flush with the front housing. I spent hours meticulously carving out all the plastic on the bottom and right sides of the front housing that contact the screen using an X-Acto knife then sanding it smooth. There is nothing putting stress on the screen in mine aside from the spot where the battery compartment in the back half housing contacts the lower left corner of the screen.

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Well something is causing that bulge and it really shouldn't be that hard to figure out what it is mechanically.. e.g. If you remove the components are you able to close up the shell fine? Then keep deducing from there. :)

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Yup flush or not, you're looking to perhaps have a similar fate. The fact you have it securely screwed down and its bending like that you'll have problems. I don't know if you put a glass lens or plastic on there, it would be less obvious with plastic, but it is bending the entire front part of the shell ever so slightly. Now and again as I used glass mine would pop up before it got wrecked. I didn't have the tools to get my flush as you did and as the pressure went over time it weakened and a drop finished it on a semi-soft surface. Maybe you have a ribbon cable fold over raising it too much by where it sits or something else, but it needs to be flat.

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Well, TIL that a bunch of the original Konami Game Boy titles like Operation C, Castlevania's, etc. were given full the Gameboy Color treatment if you play the European release of the Konami Collections.

 

Dang.. probably most who care, know this by now but it passed under my radar until now. And I just got through playing through Castlevania in plain old B&W :lol:

 

p0IrmTh.jpg

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Well, TIL that a bunch of the original Konami Game Boy titles like Operation C, Castlevania's, etc. were given full the Gameboy Color treatment if you play the European release of the Konami Collections.

 

Dang.. probably most who care, know this by now but it passed under my radar until now. And I just got through playing through Castlevania in plain old B&W :lol:

 

 

I've known about it since the media barely covered their release back around 99/00 and I found a shop in the UK even with shipping that would send me all 4 of them new for barely less than buying a standard US release. Sadly I lost them to time and I've been trying for years to recover them, well, one of them, for some reason 4 is hard to come by despite the fact they all were produced evenly so at the same time since it was a big compilation release package. I've got 1-3 currently, just the carts, and they're amazing.

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Or no need to mod a gba. A used DS LITE is just as good. GBA slot on bottom and bright screen.

DS won't play GB or GBC. Huge chunk of the potential library missing there

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Well... EZ Flash Omega + Goomba Color (which is pre-installed so games just boot)= GB + GBC. I do this on my GB Micro as it's quite handy given the size for stowing it away. Useless to test a legit 8bit GB game, but still, it's nice.

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"Game Boy" was in the New York Times syndicated crossword puzzle today. Despite knowing it, I wasn't able to complete the thing.

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So who's playing these days on the Gameboy family of handhelds?

 

Recently I picked up quite a lot of them mostly online though, good variety and deals, still have a few incoming I picked up in a second wave of goodies.  I tried to get a mix of stuff I haven't had in ages and then stuff I just never bothered to get before at all too and it has been interesting just keeping my handheld out on the desk and going to town on it when the mood hits. Wario Land 2 seems pretty solid but I've not poked at it a lot, it's just strange having no death.

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During the isolation, I started modding as a hobby and today I posted my first GBC tutorial (it's in Portuguese but even if you don't understand it's relaxing and pleasant to watch) =]

 

https://youtu.be/lVntbU0pXDg

 

Also I haven't felt this happy in a while. I think modding is a great hobby to me because it mixes the nostalgic joy I feel with retro Nintendo consoles + the joy of developing small projects + the joy of developing a new skill while having fun, not learning by obligation but by pure and natural insterest.

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That has been my jam for much of this year and currently trying to up swing the amount of projects I'm working on too.  Right now I have a GBA SP in the mail, in hand I have 2 GBA, 1 pocket, 1 color, and 1 DMG.  They're all going to get moderately to heavily overhauled, ugpraded, and refurbished.  New bright screens for the non-lit ones, new shells, new whatever suits them.  Not going to get all street racing ghetto with added battery leeching lights and not going to take away their using real battery advantages either with lame rechargeable cleanjuice (etc) stuff either.  People eat them up and it helps me start a savings account towards some needs that'll come sooner than later.

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This thread made me finish my Game Boy game I was working on. And it made me get back in to playing the Game Boy again. I love my Super Game Boy. And my Game Boy Everdrive. Both really helpful in testing. And playing Game Boy games. I have a brick one, a GBC, and a GBA. I saw in the old shop a GBA today but it also said "For" on it. What is that?

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I ended up purchasing several models of Game Boys in 2020, some pre-modded, some not.  With 2020 over, I think I'll just post my thoughts on each after somewhat heavy use, in order of how often I ended up using each model.

 

Game Boy DMG-01 (backlit/biverted; pre-modded)

I actually ended up using this the most, as the modder did a fantastic job with it.  There are three reasons for using an original Game Boy: large screen, excellent controls, and excellent sound.  The screen blurs a bit with movement, but the excellent contrast and large screen more than make up for it.  Longevity seems to be a possible issue for this mod.  I have three such DMG-01s, and two of them developed screen issues within just a couple of months—vertical lines on one, horizontal on another.  I could probably fix the vertical line issues if I wanted to, though.

 

Sadly, the dpad has developed problems with diagonals and one of the screws is completely stripped so I can't try replacing the contact pad.  Nothing I tried helped with the screw, so my only options are to drill it out or perhaps cut a slot into it so that I can use a flat head screwdriver to remove it.

 

Game Boy Light (stock)

This was my go-to Game Boy prior to getting into all these backlighting options.  The benefit over a GB Color is the larger screen and (of course) the backlight.  It's a fine choice, but the screen suffers a bit from poor contrast (due to the texture of the electroluminescent backlight).  The gold/silver paint on the shell also tends to wear off, and it's very difficult to find one of these is decent condition.  If mods did not exist, I would have likely played this much more.

 

Game Boy Color (backlit w/ TFT LCD)

This was one I modded myself (it's a VERY easy mod, nearly plug & play).  It works great and looks fine, but it has two issues.  First, the screen is very small (even smaller than the already small stock Game Boy Color screen); this isn't a massive issue because the screen is so much sharper and clearer than stock that it more than makes up for it.  Second, there is a loud buzzing/hum when the screen is set to any brightness other than off or full; this is also not much of a problem as there's no reason really to ever run it at anything other than full bright (I could probably install an amp mod to resolve this).  Although the screen looks wonderful and the (stock) case and buttons are like new, I ended up not using this as much as I thought I would.  I came to realize that I really don't like such a pristine clean (almost emulator-like) look to the screen; it makes the colors way too vibrant imo compared with how they look playing on a stock GBC.

 

Game Boy Color (frontlit w/stock screen; pre-modded)

I threw this in the drawer never to be played again once I got the backlit systems.  The modder actually did a fantastic job with the screen, although there is a small portion near the upper left where it seems the LOCA has separated a bit (hardly noticeable when playing though).  The modder did a poor job, however, with everything else—the buttons were horrible and they had installed a "pro-sound" mod but had done such a poor job on the case that it couldn't even be screwed together flush.  I ended up removing the pro-sound install myself and reinstalling a stock speaker, and then replaced the buttons and contacts with those from a donor GBC I had around.  It actually feels great now, and over the last week or so I've been using it more often.  I like the stock screen and I feel that the frontlight results in colors that are more accurate to stock hardware; having said that, the frontlight install (using LOCA) does result in a slightly blurrier image over a stock GBC.

 

----------

 

This year, I'll be adding one more Game Boy to my collection.  I've got a stock DMG-01 in wonderful condition that I will be using to install the Funnyplaying IPS screen, as well as a rechargeable battery.  This screen is interesting in that it has an optional "dot grid" filter to give it a look somewhat similar to that of a stock screen.  It will be interesting to compare!

Edited by newtmonkey
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I received an addition to my GB/GBA hardware collection yesterday.

 

GBA SP AGS-001

Received in excellent condition, no scratches on the screen whatsoever and with all buttons and the pad feeling good as new.

 

I know this device has been somewhat relegated to the dustbin of history due to the release of the backlit AGS-101, but I think there's two things to recommend it over the 101.  First, it has a more responsive screen with less ghosting (though this is a very very minor difference in my experience).  Second, and more importantly, I feel that its frontlight is kinder to GBA graphics—many games were designed with very vivid color palettes just so that they would be viewable on the original GBA's unlit screen (compare FFVI to the SNES version, for instance), and the backlit 101 can often make these games look somewhat garish.  The frontlit AGS-001 is certainly not as bright and vibrant as the 101, but it also gives GBA games a much more muted look that is a bit closer to how the original GBA looked imo.

 

The only thing holding the AGS-001 (and the GBA SP line in general) down is that the buttons are simply not as good as on the original GBA.  It's not a deal breaker by any means, but becomes noticeable when playing hectic action games.

Edited by newtmonkey

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I think garish is a bit strong, they still look fine, just a bit brighter more poppy and things could be far worse.  The two benefits of the 001 you hit one, refresh(less blur) is better, also the front vs back lighting, front uses a bit less juice so the old handheld on a new battery will last longer than a 101 will on a new one too.  I think the button thing though, that's just a bunch of personal rose tinted experience, they work just fine as I can go well between any of them without an issue and many can really.  It's preference vs reality.

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I received the Funnyplaying DMG "Retro Pixel" IPS LCD kit today got it installed and working fine.  Other than having to desolder the speaker from the old board and solder it to the new board, this is basically a drop-in mod.  You do have to do some modding of the plastic shell if you want to use a stock shell, but you can also get an aftermarket shell if you would rather not carve plastic.

 

The mod involves removing the LCD screen and front board from the Game Boy, and then connecting the replacement screen and front board to the original back board.  I had read that there were issues with poor controls with previous versions of these drop-in mods, but I'm happy to report that this revision is perfect; diagonals are even more accurate than my stock DMG (even using the same buttons and membranes!). 

 

It's a great looking screen, with excellent contrast and response!  The "retro pixel" edition has a dot matrix filter that really makes the screen look quite authentic to the original style of the GB screen.  The contrast wheel serves two functions now: brightness control (flick up/down) and "palette" selection (press in and then flick up/down).  It's still a B&W screen, so the "palettes" are just different shades.  It has some very nice options in there, including pure B&W and several options that are similar to the color of the Game Boy Light backlight.

 

Here's a shot I took after completing the mod.  I went with an aftermarket shell and was pleasantly surprised by its the solid construction; not 100% a solid as an original shell, but very close.  I'm using one of the palettes that's quite close to how the Game Boy Light looks.  I've also got the brightness at about 50%... it's a VERY bright screen.

 

DSC_0527.thumb.JPG.409aa502e2bbfb4d27a2488eaf26df9b.JPG

 

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I also installed the CleanJuice DMG XL Rechargeable Battery Mod.  This is truly a drop-in mod where all you do is press the kit into the battery compartment.  The board has a USB-C port for charging.  The IPS LCD uses much more power than the stock screen (it cuts battery life roughly in half from around 20 hours to around 10 hours), so it seemed like a good idea to install this, as it is said to provide 15+ hours of playtime on a single charge.  It's a bit fiddly to get in the compartment, but once it's in it feels quick solid.

 

---

 

I also took this opportunity to switch around parts from several partially functional DMGs so that I have one fully functioning backlit (w/original screen) DMG.  The screen had a vertical line issue, so I resolved that using the soldering iron technique (knock on wood...).

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The Retron Jr is still alive! Now it's called the Retron Sq!

 

 

Also: https://www.oldschoolgamermagazine.com/hyperkin-announces-new-name-and-console-features-for-retron-jr-project/

 

So the GBA support portion of the machine is now marked as "beta", which means it's a work-in-progress. So while there's still no release date on the thing, it can be assumed that they'll release it this year, sooner rather than later, with some firmware updates coming to fix the bugs in the emulation. Not really a problem if 1) they have some kind of official online hub where people can report issues, and 2) firmware updates are easy and straightforward.

 

So good news, I would say.  :)

 

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I am pretty happy with the modded Game Boys I already have, but I wanted to try one more... so I ordered a so-called "Game Boy Color V2 frontlight kit."  These are sold by the usual online vendors, but can also be found on Ebay by Chinese sellers.  These are very cheap kits that promise a decent quality frontlight without having to apply LOCA adhesive.

 

It comes with an ON/OFF switch for the frontlight, but I found it extremely difficult to install as it requires soldering two tiny wires to two tiny terminals on the switch.  I struggled through it with a standard soldering iron and got it working, but I ended up tearing one of the terminals clean off while routing the wires.  There's very little space in the Game Boy Color for a lot of wire routing, so I ended up just tossing the switch (why would I want to install a frontlight only to turn it off?).

 

So how does it hold up?  Pretty dreadful.  It DOES help with visibility in lit environments as the frontlight provides just enough of a brightness boost that you don't have to have the screen directly under a lamp.  It looks absolutely terrible in the dark though, resulting in a blurry dark mess—nearly unplayable.

 

There is therefore still no easy way to frontlight an original Game Boy Color screen.  With all the drop-in backlit options available, I suppose no one cares... however, for those of us who prefer to use the original screen for a more authentic experience, the annoyingly finicky frontlight + LOCA option is still the only option worth considering.

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Well now that's a good test.  Your results are what I figured was the case with the no LOCA solution on front lighting.  It has this hazy glow at any time, but while it may help in a lit area, the entire primary point was in not lit spaces and it's a ghosted out mess.  It's why I never bothered with it, and LOCA is a nightmare, even applied it's far more as people call it 'washed out' than the GBA SP is.  It's why I do projects now with minor case modding if needed, a little solder if needed.  Making old original DMG, GBP and GBC's great again, and a nice re-shell to a SP too.  I'm looking at the 001 SP mod, see how the screen replacement goes, haven't risked that one so far as the cutting looks a bit precise or you'll pressure kill a screen in there.

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