Author Topic: Game Boy modding/restoring (first GBA mod completed, check a look)  (Read 38562 times)

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Offline Adrock

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I’ve been working from home since March 18 due to quarantine. After several weeks of mostly putzing around, I wanted to make better use of all this additional free time. YouTube started recommending furniture restoration videos because why not? This was of particular interest to me except I have few tools and no woodworking skills/experience.

I decided to mod/restore old consoles instead. I figured I’d start with Game Boy because once you remove the back, you pretty much have access to the motherboard. I looked into modding the GameCube to, for example, add an HDMI port. Turns out, the kit is hella expensive ($165) and almost never in stock. The actual mod is pretty invasive since you have to remove the digital AV out and file down the shell to make room for the port. F that noise. The EON GCHD MK-II is $150 and does not require modding. GameCube also has a ton of screws and tightly integrated parts so I don't feel especially comfortable modding it. I plan on cleaning out my old consoles at some point so that's as far as I'd go. For modding, I'm probably sticking exclusively with handhelds.

I had none of the tools or supplies, but they’re still cheaper than what I'd need for furniture restoration. I did an egregious amount of research so I added links below if anyone is interested in getting into this as a hobby. Here's what I've purchased so far:
2021 Update: With the additional items I added, I've spent about $475. I'm still considering a third hand/PCB holder to help with soldering (~$30) and a rotary tool to help with cutting the plastic shell where needed (ranges from $40 to $90) which would bring the total to around $facepalm.

Here's my current tally of handhelds:
  • OG Game Boy: 0
  • Game Boy Pocket: 2
  • Game Boy Color: 5
  • Game Boy Advance: 7
  • Game Boy Advance SP: 1
I still plan on buying the Analogue Pocket and dock, but for now, I wanted to learn a new skill (soldering) and start a new hobby (game system restoration). I also wanted to replace the batteries in all of my old cartridges. This is the first time I actually added everything up and while I let out an audible "Yikes" when I saw the totals, I'm okay with it. The pricier tools are high upfront costs and once you have them, they'll last a while (for me, likely a decade or more). Has anyone here ever modded game consoles before? I'd love to hear stories and any advice.

I removed the collection/recommendation part and created a new thread: Game Boy: Finally time to Play It Loud!®
« Last Edit: May 04, 2021, 10:44:17 PM by Adrock »

Offline pokepal148

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Outside of the 3DS c-stick PSP madness I pulled, My console modding experience is very limited. Most of my disassembly experience comes from cell phones I've owned over the years.
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Offline Adrock

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1. What was wrong with your 3DS c-stick? Were you able to fix it? Was the PSP madness part of it? I have so many questions.

2. Why did you disassemble your phones?

Offline Stratos

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The 3DS c-stick nub sucks for some a lot of games, so you can pull out the eraser head and the exposed part will allow for you to pop a PSP3000 stick cap right on there. Works great for Monster Hunter and other games that heavily use it, but I find that it will occasionally drift and I need to restart the game to get it back to a proper neutral rest.


On console modding I just received a Japanese Gamecube w/ a Gameboy player because I found a great condition platinum system that was priced better including shipping from Japan than a complete US Gameboy player on their own. I plan to mod it with a switch for toggling between regions so I can use it to replace my black US Gamecube that cannot read discs at all (plan to fix that one since it is an OG system with the DVI port in the back, and I still have a dream of running a 16-player lan game of Double Dash someday).
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Offline nickmitch

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I think the only thing I've done is  replace the Wii U Gamepad's battery with a bigger one, and that's about it.  I tried to replace my joy-con control sticks (because of the drift), but that failed at the step where you open the damn things.  I thing I stripped the screws, but Nintendo didn't mind when I finally sent them in (after if became free).

Weirdly enough, YouTube recommended a video to me that talked about modding a GBA with the IPS screens and the new speaker with an amp.  It looked really cool!

With modded consoles, I've always been intrigued by doing one, but never really went for it.  I have been interested in buying some parts for someone to mod for me, but I've never gone for that either.
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Offline Adrock

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Update: I snagged Golden Sun: The Lost Age. I got it for slightly below trending price. I've been pretty lucky with sellers accepting offers. I'm always looking for good deals, but I try to be fair compared to other listings and what I feel comfortable spending on a particular game.
The 3DS c-stick nub sucks for some a lot of games, so you can pull out the eraser head and the exposed part will allow for you to pop a PSP3000 stick cap right on there. Works great for Monster Hunter and other games that heavily use it, but I find that it will occasionally drift and I need to restart the game to get it back to a proper neutral rest.
I just looked this up on The YouTube. Yikes. No, thanks, bro. I would break everything immediately. I don't think I really used the analog nub. I can see why people would do so for Monster Hunter.
Quote
I plan to mod it with a switch for toggling between regions so I can use it to replace my black US Gamecube that cannot read discs at all (plan to fix that one since it is an OG system with the DVI port in the back, and I still have a dream of running a 16-player lan game of Double Dash someday).
Interesting. I didn't know that region toggling mod was a thing. The only Japanese only GameCube game I'm even mildly interested in is DreamMix TV World Fighters, and it's bad. My friend has it. I would only get it for a lark. And not that we'd ever be in the same area, but I have Mario Kart: Double Dash and a LAN adapter for GameCube. Keep the dream alive.
Weirdly enough, YouTube recommended a video to me that talked about modding a GBA with the IPS screens and the new speaker with an amp.  It looked really cool!
I subscribed to This Does Not Compute a few weeks ago. I saw a bunch of his videos while I was researching whether to get into Game Boy modding. The Retro Future, Macho Nacho Productions, and makho are also very good. There are a few others too.
Quote
With modded consoles, I've always been intrigued by doing one, but never really went for it.  I have been interested in buying some parts for someone to mod for me, but I've never gone for that either.
Once I get the nerve to actual attempt a mod, I'll post some pictures/impressions here. I plan on keeping two modded GBAs (in case anyone ever wants to play Four Swords Adventures) and the DMG styled GBP (due to its pure sexual energy). I'm only doing this for fun. It doesn't look that hard so I'd recommend just going for it if you can stomach the cost of all the supplies I listed above.

What console mods were you thinking about? I'm not at a point where I feel comfortable offering to mod for someone. I've only done the soldering training kit. Hopefully, I'll get there though.

Offline Stratos

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Yeah, there is one place you need to solder on the Gamecube to change regions. Seems really simple. They even offer a guide to ad an LED that told you which mode it was toggled to. The system only checks the region circuit upon boot up.

http://www.mmmonkey.co.uk/game-cube-region-switch/

Sadly the "perfect fit" switch they linked to is no longer in stock. I tried one on Amazon for a few dollars and it is twice as large as I thought it would be. I'm sure I could find a good sized one in a hardware store.
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Offline nickmitch

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Weirdly enough, YouTube recommended a video to me that talked about modding a GBA with the IPS screens and the new speaker with an amp.  It looked really cool!
I subscribed to This Does Not Compute a few weeks ago. I saw a bunch of his videos while I was researching whether to get into Game Boy modding. The Retro Future, Macho Nacho Productions, and makho are also very good. There are a few others too.
Quote
With modded consoles, I've always been intrigued by doing one, but never really went for it.  I have been interested in buying some parts for someone to mod for me, but I've never gone for that either.
Once I get the nerve to actual attempt a mod, I'll post some pictures/impressions here. I plan on keeping two modded GBAs (in case anyone ever wants to play Four Swords Adventures) and the DMG styled GBP (due to its pure sexual energy). I'm only doing this for fun. It doesn't look that hard so I'd recommend just going for it if you can stomach the cost of all the supplies I listed above.

What console mods were you thinking about? I'm not at a point where I feel comfortable offering to mod for someone. I've only done the soldering training kit. Hopefully, I'll get there though.

Nothing too exicting.

The first I ever wanted to try was the GBA Afterburner (I think that was it).  It was the one that added a backlight to your GBA.  But I was pretty young and not sure my parents would've been cool with me prying open an expensive electronic.  Later years I've thought about replacing joy-sticks for bigger ones and some casing replacements (especially for the DS phat I had with the broken hinge).

But honestly, anything requiring any amount of soldering anything immediately scares me off, lol.
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Offline ejamer

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I haven't gotten around to modding anything, but always thought the GBA with a backlit IPS screen would be incredible. The size and layout of the original GBA layout feels really good, but those original screens were horrible! I know many people don't like the idea of keeping AA batteries to power the system, but using something that is rechargeable and easily swappable works for me.

At one point I had a really nice little library of games and a GBA Micro, but eventually decided to downsize my game collection and it (sadly) ended up being sold off. Will be watching enviously to see what you end up doing.
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Offline Adrock

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Re: Game Boy modding/restoring (with pictures from now on)
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2021, 10:48:42 PM »
Full disclosure: I never actually did any of these mods last year. It was some combination of run-of-the-mill depression, pandemic-related blues/isolation, and general laziness. However, The Magic YouTube Algorithm started recommending Game Boy modding videos again in February which lit that fire in me again.

I've been doing a ton of research in the last month and a half. Some really cool mods have come out in the last six months or so.

On Game Boy Advance: one prolific modder, Helder Silva, has been teasing some cool new mods for months and just recently put them up for sale. The first is a power cleaner that helps reduce noise after installing a new IPS LCD display and/or lithium polymer (LiPo) rechargeable battery. You can hear this on a stock GBA by turning it on at full volume. Listen to the buzz during the logo chime. That gets worse the more things you add that GBA wasn't designed to handle. The second is a flex amp that combines a couple complicated sound amplifier mods into one that only requires three solder points. It also apparently further reduces noise and interference. Helder sells new 2w speakers to pair with the flex amp as well.

On Game Boy Advance SP: Helder also has a power cleaner and is working on a flex amp solution. Who knows when that will be out. I bought a power cleaner and will wait for the flex amp (he's apparently also working on a flex amp for GBP and GBC, but I didn't want to wait for them).

Additionally, there are two options to unhinge the GBA SP. I kind of feel like that's the opposite thing one should do to an SP model, but the mods themselves look pretty cool.

Boxy Pixel (Available Now for $90)



makho (I believe he's still tweaking the design)



I'd prefer a plastic shell model. I suspect someone at some point will make one. The problem with these unhinged SP shells is twofold. First, they defeat the purpose of the SP. The clamshell design is meant to protect the screen even though most (all?) screen mods include a glass lens now. Personally, OG GBA was always more comfortable than GBA SP so there's very little benefit to me other than these aluminum shells look cool. Second, removing the hinge means the GameCube-Game Boy Advance link cable no longer fits.

As a side-note: The left border of the GBA SP display (the shell, not the bezel) is slightly wider than the right side. Go ahead and check then never be able to unsee that. Boxy Pixel kept that as part of this design; makho removed it.

On Game Boy Color: some of the best mods have come out recently. The first is a new screen mod that uses Blackberry Q5 displays meaning they're more square and no longer require trimming the d-pad well in order to fit which was the reason I never liked the previous mods using the Blackberry Curve 9380 displays. More importantly, the Q5 display increases the size of the Game Boy Color display by 15% though this does require you to expand the window on the shell, and I haven't seen anyone do this well. They mostly cover how crooked it is with the screen lens. I never realized how much smaller the Game Boy Color screen was compared to the Game Boy Pocket screen until I started getting into modding and got to see the two side-by-side. Game Boy Color has a pretty ridiculous bezel so this mod makes the system look the way it always seemed like it was supposed to.

The second is from Alberto Gil Tesa. After graduating, he had about three months of free time and just decided to bless the world with one of the coolest GBC mods. The Game Boy Color USB-C charging kit replaces the current DC port. This requires removing the DC module from the motherboard and replacing it with Gil Tesa's kit as well as cutting the shell in order to plug a USB-C cable. He also included an optional LED board that lights red for charging, green for fully-charged and plugged, and white for powered on. This requires removing the current red LED from the motherboard and soldering wires to the charging kit. I managed to snag three of these, and they were pretty cheap for what they are. Gil Tesa is clearly not in this to make money. Unfortunately, since this is more of a hobby for him than anything, he has stated several times on his site that he doesn't know if he'll make any more kits. I think he made like 10 in January, 30 in February, and 90 in March. This mod surprisingly has not made a lot of noise on YouTube or Reddit. I came across one dude on Instagram who actually did the mod. There are other USB-C solutions on Game Boy Color, but none of them have been as clean and intricate as Gil Tesa's. It's a pretty invasive mod so we'll see if I can install it correctly. I hope Gil Tesa either keeps tweaking this mod or passes/sells the design to someone else.

The third isn't new, but it is my favorite. Bluish Squirrel in the United Kingdom is a graphic designer who decided to get into creating custom labels, shells, and tempered glass lenses for the entire Game Boy line. I was browsing his site and found this baller custom tempered glass lens:



I waited a literal month for that to be back in stock. I ordered one Game Girl Color Light lens and two Game Boy Color Light lenses in late March. They're pretty pricey due to the custom design as well as shipping from the UK.

Side-note: He also has one labeled "Game Enby Color" with or without Light. At first, I had no idea what that meant. Enby = NB = Non-binary. Hella +1 for inclusion.

Finally, something I read this time around that I completely missed during last summer was that electrolytic capacitors in these old Game Boy systems tend to last 20 to 30 years. Game Boy Pocket and Game Boy Color released over 20 years ago. Game Boy Advance released 20 years ago this year. The capacitors are all due to be replaced. I decided to re-cap ALL of these Game Boy systems I have, and if any of y’all reading this still use your old Game Boy dealies, I recommend you do the same (if you have the means). Helder has tantalum capacitors for GBA on his website so I snagged a bunch of those. Console 5 has Nichicon and Panasonic capacitors for GBP and GBC (I got my Console5 capacitor replacements via Handheld Legend).

I will probably not keep most of these Game Boy systems after modding them because I don't need seven of these (I'm modding five GBAs to start and keeping two for new mods in the future). I'm giving one GBA to a friend then I may put the rest up on r/GameboyMarketplace at cost. I'm not trying to make money on these things; I just wanted to start a new hobby while I was trapped indoors during this pandemic. If/when I sell, I merely want to make back what I spent on materials. I'll post pictures here of any mods I do. If anyone wants one after that, send me a message before I post it on Reddit.

I regularly see modded Game Boy Advance systems going for over $220 depending on what was installed (usually just the IPS LCD and maybe one of the various amp mods). Granted, you are typically paying for the time and effort as well as a bump up for profitability. To give you an idea of how much the materials cost, here's an itemized list for the various Game Boy Advance items I’m using:
  • Donor GBA console: $40 to $100 (if you can fix a "broken" one, that's the lower end, but prices are getting ridic)
  • IPS LCD with glass lens: $48 directly from FunnyPlaying; $60 from US resellers like HandHeld Legend
  • 3D printed LCD aligning bracket: $4 (I don't take chances on installing the LCD crooked)
  • Helder's Power Cleaner: $5
  • Helder's Flex GBA Amp: $15
  • 2w speaker: $4
  • Tantalum capacitors: $6
  • Rechargeable Battery with USB-C port: $25 to $45 depending on who you get it from (e.g. Helder's is $25; Retro Modding's is $45)
  • Momentary switch/clicky shoulder buttons: $1
  • Aftermarket shell: $9 to $25
  • Custom lens/stickers: $14
The most expensive one I'm making for my personal use will come out to $195 before tax which is everything except the aftermarket shell. I snagged a Japan-only midnight blue GBA exclusive to Toys 'R Us. I'm flabbergasted that this color never made it to North America.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2021, 06:48:26 PM by Adrock »

Offline Adrock

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Re: Game Boy modding/restoring (with pictures from now on)
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2021, 10:42:22 PM »
First modded Game Boy Advance:


I gave this to a friend as I previously mentioned I would. I left the lens film on so he could officially do the honors, but you can still see how nice these displays look. He chose the aftermarket shell which is pre-cut for the larger display and does not require an aligning bracket so good thing I bought a bunch of those. 😒 This does not include a custom lens (used the one included with the IPS display from Funnyplaying) or the momentary switches for the shoulder buttons.

I actually broke a Game Boy Advance on my first attempt by accidentally desoldering a tiny component (which I immediately lost) while trying to remove one of the shoulder button switches. It can be repaired, but it’s probably not worth it because the component is stupid small, I’m not sure where to get the replacement part, and I’m not skilled nor invested enough to do so. I guess I now have a test/practice board to work on. 🤷‍♀️

Offline pokepal148

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Re: Game Boy modding/restoring (first GBA mod completed, check a look)
« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2021, 06:03:35 PM »
I've toyed with a few different ideas but my current plan for GBA stuff is to homebrew my 3DS. It's able to run GBA games almost entirely natively because of how similar it's hardware is and this way I can consolidate my entire pre-switch Nintendo handheld collection onto one device. Plus it has better buttons than the DS lite and better screens than the DS phat, and games look super sharp in pixel perfect mode.
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