Feature: Creating The Ultimate Game Boy

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Screenshot 2018 12 17 At 12.19.19

The humble Game Boy is probably older than many of the people reading these words right now, but it nonetheless remains an utterly iconic piece of consumer tech. Since the start of the Game Boy line way back in 1989, the range has undergone several revisions and has sold millions of units all over the globe. Despite the fact that handheld tech has progressed to the point where Nintendo’s monochrome marvel seems laughably primitive, there exists a modest demand for the original hardware, surrounded by a vibrant and growing community which seeks to improve the system with more modern features.

We’ve covered this kind of modding before on Nintendo Life, but we’ve recently become acquainted with a company which seeks to create the ultimate Game Boy system; a console which combines the comfy form factor of the original DMG-01 with the amazing AGS-101 screen from the Game Boy Advance and the ability to play every single Game Boy game – be it black and white, ‘Color’ or Advance.

That company is Jellybelly Customs, run by Matt Whitehead, and the product is the Game Boy DMG-102. This all-in-one wonder system can play the entire Game Boy software library, has an amazing backlit screen, rechargeable battery, loudspeaker and amplifier. Whitehead has fully desoldered the guts of a GBA SP and attached them to a totally bespoke PCB which neatly fits inside a DMG shell via a series of 3D-printed components to achieve a modification that is free from messy wires and unsightly blobs of hot glue – it’s so good, you’d swear it had just rolled off Nintendo’s production line. You can even opt for the ‘Pro’ model which replaces the D-Pad with an illuminated micro-switched joystick, a custom-made copy of the one seen on SNK’s Neo Geo Pocket.

As luck would have it, Whitehead’s base of operations (his garage) is situated around 15 minutes away from where Nintendo Life is based in the UK, so we naturally invited ourselves over for a little chat, which you can view below.

Whitehead – who admits that Jellybelly Customs is more of a hobby than a business – grew up with the classic ‘brick’ Game Boy and says that his love of the console’s form factor encouraged him to pick the DMG-101 as the foundation for his new wonder-machine. After buying a faulty system a few years ago he decided to learn how to fix it, and this started the ball rolling. Since then, he has invested in all manner of equipment to aid his work and now designs and produces his own PCBs, packaging and even custom buttons and other items. In short, he’s not only resurrecting broken systems (he also fits swanky new LCD screens to Game Gear consoles), he’s improving and enhancing them for a new generation of fans.

If you fancy investing in one of these unique systems, you could have a long wait – Whitehead admits that as a one-man operation, he’s struggling to keep up with demand. However, having inspected his work, we can attest to its quality – and we’ve got our fingers crossed that Santa will leave a shiny new DMG-102 under the tree for us this Christmas. It’s like 1989 all over again.

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