The Ultimate Game Boy Player FAQ

by the NWR Staff - June 23, 2003, 8:00 pm PDT

Everything you need to know about playing Game Boy games on TV.

The concept behind Nintendo’s new Game Boy Player accessory is pretty simple: the device allows you to play Game Boy games on your TV. However, with over a decade of Game Boy games, unique cartridges, and Nintendo’s newfound interest in connectivity, we’ve gotten a lot of questions on what the machine can actually do. We’ve done a lot of experiments with the Player, and the following covers almost every conceivable thing you can do with the machine. We hope you enjoy it.

Appearance/Setup

What does the Game Boy Player look like?

The Game Boy Player (GBP for short) is a square device that adds about an inch of thickness to the bottom of the GameCube. The fit is perfect, so the Player looks like it was included with your GC all along. The Game Boy cartridge slot sits in the center of the unit, directly below the GameCube controller ports. The link port is just above the cartridge slot with the usual grips on both sides. There is an engraved Game Boy Player logo on the front, and an eject lever on the right side.

How much does it cost?

The Game Boy Player runs about $50 in most stores. For a limited time, you can also get one for free with the purchase of a GameCube.

Can I get one to match my Indigo or Platinum GameCube?

Unfortunately, for the general US audience, the answer is not at this time. NOA has decided to only ship the GBP in Jet, and if you want a Platinum, Indigo, or Spice Game Boy Player, you’ll need to import one from Japan. It is possible that other colors will eventually be released in the US, but there have been no announcements yet.

Is the Game Boy Player compatible with the Panasonic Q?

It's technologically compatible, but physically prohibited. Q owners have informed us that they've successfully installed Game Boy Players by sawing off pieces from both devices, but the thought of mutilating the shiny (and expensive) Q may be a turn off for others. Panasonic is planning to release a Q-compatible Game Boy Player, but since the Q holds such a small market, the add-on may never see the light of day.

Why does it need a boot disc?

Well, one way or another, the GameCube needs to know that you’re interested in playing a Game Boy game instead of a GC game so the disc serves that function. In addition to that, the boot disc is responsible for giving instructions to the GameCube regarding how to process the audio and video.

Does a US boot disc work with an imported Game Boy Player?

Yes it does. So if you're adamant about getting a GBP that matches your system, you can import one and buy the US replacement disc from Nintendo's online store.

How does it hook up to the GameCube?

Installing the Game Boy Player is simple. Turn over your GameCube and look for the Hi-Speed Port. Remove the cover, and plug the GBP straight in. Next there are two screws that you can tighten to secure the unit to the system, and now all you need to do is turn the system over and pop in a Game Boy game and the boot disc.

Can I still install a BBA/Modem on my GameCube if it also has a Game Boy Player attached?

This is absolutely not a problem. If you haven’t installed an online adapter yet, you’ll need to temporarily remove the GBP to install one, but both devices are designed to fit perfectly with the GameCube and with each other. With a BBA, GBP, and four WaveBirds, you’ll have one souped-up GameCube!

Do I need a memory card?

No, there is no requirement for a memory card. However, if you’re asking whether you can use one for extra save files, that’s a different ball game. Developers should be able to program games to take advantage of a memory card, but chances are slim that it will ever happen.

Compatibility

Do games from all Game Boy systems work with the unit?

Original Game Boy games, Game Boy Color games, GBA games, and the eReader all work fine. We tested about 20 games with no problems whatsoever.

Can I play imported GBA games on it?

Yes, yes, and yes. Game Boy systems have never had regional lockouts, and unless NOA spitefully adds one to the US version, the Game Boy Player is no different.

What about tilt sensor and rumble pak games?

Both types of games work fine, but the features are paralyzed by being separated from your hands.

I obtained a copy of Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble just to test it with the Game Boy Player by using the GameCube’s handle. Although there are no problems with the game, you run serious chances of damaging the GameCube and your wrists. As soon as you attempt to hold the GameCube horizontally flat by its handle, you realize that the handle was not designed to hold the weight of the system in that position. It’s not going to snap off right away, but with repeated use, it may just do that and send your system plummeting to the floor. You’ll likely damage your wrists first though. The GameCube is simply too heavy to tilt, flip, and hold flat with one hand, and you’ll always need to hold the controller in the other hand.

Rumble paks aren’t as physically taxing, but since they weren’t designed to transmit to GameCube controllers, the only thing that will be rumbling is the system on the shelf. The good news? Future games will be able to utilize the GC controller’s rumble, which could lead to new trends in GBA development.

Interface

What kind of menu options are there?

(Note some menu titles may be labeled differently for the US version, but they should function the same.)

Frame: Allows you to choose from one of 20 stylized borders. In the Japanese version, there are some nice metallic colors, camouflage, wood grain, a space theme, etc. It’s possible that some of these frames may be different for the US version.

Size: There are two screen sizes to choose from: Normal and Full. Normal simply allows you to have a nice frame around the entire picture, and Full, stretches the screen to the width of your television with only slight borders above and below the picture. Both maintain the GBA’s dimensions. There are no special options for widescreen TVs.

Controller: There are two controller configurations available. The default one uses both X and Y for select and maintains all the other button assignments. The other configuration maps Select to the shoulder buttons, L to Y, and R to X.

Sharpness: Three options are available: Soft, Sharp, and Normal. More than anything these seem to effect how much blur is applied to an image. Soft is more blurry, and Sharp has less blur, but the frame-rate is more noticeable. You probably won’t see a difference in most games, but in Golden Sun, we did notice that switching to Soft resolves a flickering problem that occurs on the other two settings. It’s a good idea to try playing with this setting from time to time if anything seems to look uglier than it should.

Timer: Probably the oddest feature is the timer. You can set it for up to an hour, and when time’s up, a message will appear on the bottom of the screen to notify you. It’s been suggested that this is a parental timer, but since the game continues to play normally, and the timer can be turned off at any time, it seems that it would fail miserably in that function unless the parent monitors the child during play. It could simply be that this feature is just a reminder that you can set for yourself to keep from losing track of time.

Cartridge Switch: In case you don’t feel like powering down your GameCube, you can use the convenient Cartridge Switch function to safely switch games. The system will ask if you really want to change cartridges, and then it will give you a message when it’s safe to do so. The new game boots up automatically when you insert it.

Can I change color palettes for original Game Boy games like I could on Super Game Boy?

Unfortunately, since we’re in the age of the GBA, the ability to customize color palettes in classic Game Boy games was not included this time around. At least the standard GBA hardware does a decent job of adding some color to your old games. As with a GBC and GBA, you can manually select a color palette during boot-up with various controller codes. The codes can be found in any GBA instruction manual, and they may be included with the GBP manual as well.

Does it take advantage of special Super Game Boy features?

Sadly, special color palettes and frames that were designed for the Super Game Boy don’t make an appearance either. Even the custom borders that Pokemon games displayed on both Super Game Boy and Pokemon Stadium don’t show up on the Game Boy Player.

Does the GC controller work pretty well for GBA games?

The GameCube controller works great in most cases. It takes a little time to adjust to the placement of the control pad, but unless you need to make quick, precise taps, the control stick works surprisingly well too. Wario Ware fans should be glad to hear that for playing two-player, sharing a GameCube controller is much easier than squeezing together over a GBA SP.

Also of interest is the fact that you can use any controller port (even multiple controllers) to control the GBP. This means you can interfere with your friend's game, or with a game like Wario Ware, you can use separate controllers rather than having to share.

Can I use my GBA as a controller?

Absolutely. If for any reason you don’t like the GameCube controller, you can pull out your GameCube to Game Boy Advance Link Cable and hook in your GBA or GBA SP. The action will remain on the television with the GBA screen displaying the Game Boy Player logo.

What about progressive scan?

Yes, the Game Boy Player is Progressive Scan compatible, despite not having a widescreen feature.

What is the picture quality like?

Unlike the Wide Boy Advance (basically the GBA hardware crammed into an N64 cart) that developers have been using for years, the Game Boy Player’s picture is surprisingly silky and smooth. You would expect the games to look awful when enlarged from the low resolution of the GBA, but that just isn’t the case. Many games like Metroid Fusion look like they were designed to be displayed on a television. Not all games turn out great though. While some games shine with wonderful detail, others like Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow title are clearly designed for the small screen, and aren’t as impressive when using the GBP. Also, the text in Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire seems a bit blurry, and both games just seem to look better overall on a regular GBA.

What is the sound quality like?

With a decent sound system, you can hear the sound just as it is (for better or for worse) without having to worry about speaker limitations. I was pleasantly surprised that some games rock the subwoofer just as well as a console game would. The quality varies from game to game of course, but at least now you can compare your games on fair ground.

Connectivity

Can I play multiplayer?

Yes, there’s a standard link port right on the front of the unit that allows you to connect to other GBAs or Game Boy Players as you please. If you are impatient for Nintendo’s upcoming LAN games, you can always get four GCs with GBPs together, and do it that way too. There is currently no way to play single-cart multiplayer games on one GC/GBP/TV setup via some sort of split-screen display, though developers might be able to program such a feature in future GBA games.

Can I use it to unlock Connectivity features instead of using a regular GBA?

That depends on how you expect to do it. As mentioned before, the boot disc software is necessary for the Game Boy Player to operate, and none of the current games have that software included. It might be possible for future games to access the GBP without a boot disc, but as we’ll explain a bit later, for the system to be playing both a GameCube game and a GBA game at the same time, both games would have to be designed for such a feature from the ground up.

However, the Game Boy Player is perfectly capable of connecting to GC games if you have two GameCubes and displays for both. Former PGC staff member Adam Kontras has a large TV that allows you to hook up multiple inputs and display the screens side-by-side. I hauled my GC over there one night to try out the Tingle Tuner in Zelda, and the result was brilliant. On the left, Adam was playing the main game, and on the right, I was fumbling around with the Tingle Tuner. Adam always had full view of the maps without having to go to the menu or shifting his attention to a GBA on his lap. If you have the means to do it, connectivity using the Game Boy Player can really be a beautiful thing.

As a side note, we were also able to use his TV to do side-by-side comparisons of SNES ports, which revealed quite a few differences and even improvements in the graphics of games like the GBA port of Super Mario World. It’s another fun thing that you can only do with a Game Boy Player.

Why can’t GC games just use a picture-in-picture function for connectivity?

Although such a feature is technically possible, one little-known fact about the Game Boy Player is that it actually takes about 30% of the GameCube’s power to run the device and process the picture and sound as well as it does. Because of this, a GameCube game would have to be designed from the ground up to implement any sort of picture-in-picture display. As a result, the main game would likely have sub-standard graphics and sound, since it has to work with limited resources. In addition, such a feature would likely take up a large portion of the screen, interfering with your view of the main game. It’s an intriguing possibility, but the benefit is questionable, and it doesn’t appear that this is something Nintendo is experimenting with at this time.

Can I play GBA games online?

Not yet, but interestingly enough, it is possible for the Game Boy Player to access the Modem or Broadband Adapter. Considering that Game Boy games have less data to transfer and are already set up to interact in a similar manner for multiplayer and GC Connectivity, online gaming with Game Boy games could be a seamless and exciting experience if anyone takes advantage of it.

Overall

Are there any games that just work way better on the Player than on GBA? (In terms of ergonomics, visual presentation, etc.)

Graphically, any of the games that are impossibly dark, like Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, obviously benefit from the brightness of the TV screen, but the GBA SP serves that purpose as well. Yoshi’s Island and a number of other games actually have far more detail than you would ever be able to distinguish on the small GBA screen.

As mentioned before, Wario Ware’s two-player games (which require each player to use a shoulder button on the same controller) are much more comfortable with a GC controller than when using a GBA or especially the tiny GBA SP. I also feel that some action games like Metroid Fusion do benefit from the smooth motion of the analog control stick.

A different kind of comfort comes from simply being able to relax and look at a full-size screen. Because of this, longer, text-intensive games, such as RPGs or strategy games, tend to be less tiring. Several members of our staff have found a new love for Golden Sun and Advance Wars, now that they don’t have to hunch over the small screen to play them.

Is the Game Boy Player worth buying?

Well, hopefully with the answers above, you should be able to answer this one yourself. If you ever spend a significant amount of time playing Game Boy games at home, the Game Boy Player is a great accessory to have. It’s a fun unit to experiment with, and if developers do use it to take Game Boy online, it will undoubtedly be a must-have.


If you have any questions that aren’t answered by this FAQ, please e-mail daniel@planetgamecube.com. We may even include them in updates to the FAQ.

There is also an official thread in our forums to discuss the Game Boy Player with other readers.

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