Got an original Game Boy Advance, the one with the unlit screen that was almost impossible to see, still kicking around in a drawer somewhere? This DIY kit lets you turn it into a standalone TV-connected console with HDMI and Bluetooth for wireless controllers, but without the need for any know-how when it comes to tinkering with electronics.
The Game Boy Advance remains one of the best video game platforms of all time, and not just among handhelds. It was essentially a more powerful version of the Super Nintendo and featured some of the best 16-bit games of the era, including countless ports from other systems. But the GBA stumbled out of the gate at launch with a handheld featuring an unlit screen that was very hard to see unless you were playing outside under the sun or commandeered a lamp for it. Nintendo wised up and released other iterations of the Game Boy Advance with much improved screens, including the excellent Game Boy Micro.
As a result, there are undoubtedly millions of abandoned Game Boy Advance consoles out there, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are lots of ways to fix the original GBA’s flaws and bring it back into your regular gaming rotation, including screen swapping kits and upgrades that add video-out connections, but none seem as easy for anyone to use as IntecGaming’s new GBA HDMI Kit.
The kit is essentially a compact console that includes a custom and cleverly-designed motherboard inside with both HDMI and analogue video-out connections, power courtesy of a USB-C port, and a classic SNES controller port on the front. The only thing missing are the electronic bits needed to actually play Game Boy Advance games, which can be a bit of a legal minefield as Nintendo isn’t keen on other companies trying to replicate its hardware. Emulation is the route most consoles like this take, but the results rarely provide as solid a gaming experience as the GBA itself did, so IntecGaming’s solution is to have users simply transplant the brain from an actual GBA handheld into its console housing.
It sounds like a daunting task, and while existing solutions like the GBA Consolizer require decent soldering skills for a successful GBA brain transplant, IntecGaming’s kit features clever spring-loaded raised pins on its motherboard that complete all the necessary connections to the GBA’s guts, save for a single ribbon cable that’s as easy to plug in as a USB cable. The kit comes with everything needed for the transplant, including screwdrivers compatible with the non-standard screws Nintendo loves to use, as well as an additional PCB that can be inserted into an empty GBA shell to turn it into a compatible gamepad, although the console will also work with several third-party wireless controllers, including 8Bitdo’s lineup. The only other thing users will need to provide is game cartridges.
The kit seems like a great way to revive a console you’ve potentially forgotten about, but it does have some caveats. Macho Nacho Productions had a chance to go hands on, and while they found it a very easy kit to assemble, the results on a TV screen were a little softer than what alternatives like the pricier $US140 ($194) GBA Consolizer offer. The $US110 ($153) GBA HDMI Kit is also only available through Kickstarter as a crowdfunded product, and at the time of writing is only just past the halfway mark of its funding goal (just shy of $US50,000 ($69,410)).
Delivery for the earliest backers is expected to be as soon as July this year, and while it’s reassuring to see the company already sending out fully functional units to YouTube influencers, crowdfunded projects always come with the risk of unexpected delays, particularly during an ongoing global pandemic still suffering from supply chain issues. If you’re going to back it and pre-order one of the kits, do so with a lot of extra patience and a smattering of understanding that you may have to wait a bit longer for delivery.