My Game Boy Color Shenanigans (work in progress)

Show off your completed Game Boy Zero, or post your build logs here!
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My Game Boy Color Shenanigans (work in progress)

Post by NimbleJoshua » Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:26 pm

UPDATE: August 12th, 2018: To see my current progress and challenges, scroll down to the "Random notes" section towards the bottom of the post. Most of the updates are there. :)
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This is basically a messy blog/work log/journal thingy for a project I have been tinkering with over the past few months. It is going to be edited A LOT as I work along. The final edit (whenever that may be) will have several internal and external pictures.

TLDR: The original goal was to put a Pi Zero W system in a Game Boy Color shell similar to Wermy's original DMG build. The goal was reached (picture below), but I believe I learned enough along the way to make it significantly better in almost every way. I am in the process of doing that now.

Long version: The Kiwi green Game Boy Color holds a special and symbolic place in my heart. It quickly became the focal point of my early childhood upon receiving it from "Santa" on Christmas day of 1998. Over the period of a couple years I kicked butt as the Red Power Ranger, confronted Mr. Dark as Rayman, and battled my way through Johto and Kanto on Pokemon Crystal...Nobody could beat my Pokemon team. I was the undisputed Pokemon champion in elementary school.
But as expected, time moved forward. My attention slowly turned to different consoles like the GBA and GameCube while the GBC collected dust somewhere in a box downstairs. Over the period of a couple years, it eased out of my life.

After numerous attempts to find it on several different occasions, I had eventually come to the conclusion that it likely isn't here anymore. Perhaps somebody else moved it or threw it away a very long time ago - I simply don't know. All I knew was, I was desperate for that nostalgia trip. I wanted that Kiwi GBC back in some form - even if it wasn't the original.

...Browsing Youtube one day, I happened to stumble upon a video of Wermy's GBZ tutorial. I was genuinely impressed by the creativity and end result...but I was also a little discouraged if I'm going to be honest. As somebody with a minor learning disability and absolutely zero experience soldering electronics, I knew that if I were to try tackling this task it could be a very long and frustrating endeavor. There was no guarantee to cross the finish line. The funny thing was, my insane mind wanted not only to make a Game Boy Zero system, but also find a way to stuff it into Game Boy Color housing...which is much smaller than the DMG-001. It's probably possible, but is it even reasonable for someone like me to attempt?

I then metaphorically wake-up slapped myself into reality and realized: There is absolutely no time limit, I am the only one critiquing myself...and most importantly: the people on Sudomod could help me (thank you everyone, by the way). I pulled myself up by my boot straps and dived in with extremely humble expectations.

After some slow and careful research, all of the parts needed were ordered. Within about two weeks everything had arrived.

Fast forward one month-ish. After insane trial and error, it was finally working! My very own custom ABXY LR Game Boy Color Zero.
IMG_20180408_193406856.jpg (4.1 MiB) Viewed 2089 times
Parts used in the picture:

Pi Zero W + 13mm heatsink

Adafruit 2.5" composite screen

Camble's Safe Shutdown v1.2

Adafruit Powerboost 1000c

Adafruit 1200mah LiPo battery

Black Kitsch-Bent D-pad/ABXY buttons/power switch

Bottom half of GBC motherboard for button input + copper tape for X and Y

Two 6x6x7mm clicky switches for LR

Helder's 5v power strip

Helder's surface mount PWM buffer

1" Adafruit speaker

PAM8302 mono 2.5w class D amp

10k potentiometer

30 AWG for data and 24 AWG for power. Silicone casing made everything so much easier.

So yeah. As the day went on I felt this growing desire to upgrade. The Pi Zero's performance was generally "good enough" considering it's only $5/$10, but the completed system had so much more potential; there was actually a decent amount of space that hadn't been utilized by the massive wire nest I was expecting.

"You know, I bet a modded Pi 3 could be sandwiched in there..."

I ended up unscrewing the housing and looked into how specific improvements could be made. After a while spent measuring and browsing AliExpress, a few parts were ordered such as 2x PSP1000 joysticks, a 2.8" SPI display, and an oval-shaped mini laptop speaker.

So now the REAL endeavor begins...

Random notes:

-I'm like this close | | to buying an entry-level 3d printer. It's been a great struggle trying to make custom mounting brackets.

-The 2.8" screen fits perfectly. It's so thin that I can keep the volume wheel and data/USB port in their original positions. The top screw posts had to be removed, but thanks to Bennvenn's custom screw posts from his GBC-101 mod, this is not an issue. Oh and, I got the ili9341 screen running at a true 60 fps

-Both PSP1000 joysticks fit. I found a small 1w notebook speaker that fits perfectly below the right joystick in the original location.

-I need your suggestions for the rear LR L2R2 buttons. My goal is to have soft-press buttons about 1/2 inch or so above the battery cover. It's difficult because it can be no taller than 3mm on the inside. Each millimeter of interior height = one less millimeter of thickness for the polymer battery.

-Going to try writing the Teensy LC sketch soon. I have ZERO experience with coding and learn very slowly so this could take a while... I think I have it figured out now. Maybe. Possibly. :?


Anyways, thanks to everybody who has gotten me to this point. You know who you are.

If you have any questions/comments/recommendations I'd be glad to hear them.

Last edited by NimbleJoshua on Sun Aug 12, 2018 9:20 pm, edited 16 times in total.

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Re: Kiwi GBC Zero, ABXY+LR (work in progress)

Post by slicknick654 » Mon Apr 16, 2018 12:39 pm

hey! I've been looking to make this exact build for some time. Can you share how you used the old GBC motherboard wired up to everything else or a guide you used for this part? I've been looking for a GBC compatible/custom button panel forever but cant find one, so this may be the only option.

Thanks and beautiful build!


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Re: Kiwi GBC Zero, ABXY+LR (work in progress)

Post by Cooper270987 » Mon Apr 16, 2018 8:08 pm

Nice build very impressive you don’t see to many GBC’s on here. If your thinking of a bigger screen you could get a custom protector from Bluishsquirrel he does ones for GBC too.

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Post by NimbleJoshua » Sat Jun 23, 2018 9:25 pm

So I decided to put aside the Powerboost 1000c and use a popular alternative. I guess the Powerboost can struggle to provide adequate power to the Pi 3...which is a shame. :(

But yeah. Since I'm stupidly inexperienced when it comes to anything power/voltage etc, I have a couple questions:

Why does this generic board seem to work better than the Powerboost 1000c when both are rated @5v 1a output?

Where can I get a small SPDT/DPDT slide switch that is able to handle this wiring? I'm having a little trouble understanding switch ratings.

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Re: My Game Boy Color Shenanigans (work in progress)

Post by Helder » Sun Jun 24, 2018 7:50 am

If you use a HDMI screen it has a good amount of draw and also with the composite lcd as well now throw in the draw of the Pi 3 it's well over 1A especially if you ovecrlock it.

If you plan to use an SPI lcd which has much much less draw then the PowerBoost or generic PSU should work as long as you don't overclock or speed up the emulation.

I have my own custom PSU and I can drive an HDMI LCD and Pi3 no issues as long as I don't speed up emulation or overclock (waiting on a beefier inductor to handle the overclock).

As for the switch any of these regular switches you see people use should be able to handle the power.
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