A Non-Invasive Gameboy HDMI Adaptor

This one’s crazy. The Gameboy does not have external video output. In order to get its display to appear on a screen other than its built in LCD dox matrix, you absolutely have to at least crack open the case. Don’t you?

Well, actually, yes, if you always want a perfect image. Sebastian Staacks (an awesome name) figured out a way to do it that mostly works. It’s a cartridge that goes into the Gameboy, that itself has a slot into which you plug the cartridge that you wish to play. Simple, right?

No, no, wait. There’s a problem. The Gameboy doesn’t expose its video through the cartridge port. There is no pin leading out providing a video signal that can be converted for display. There’s no way this could work!

Well, there is a way, kind of. The device contains a Raspberry Pi that runs its own Gameboy emulator, that it tries to keep synced with the version running on physical hardware. It does this by watching bus activity exposed to it through the cartridge port!

But while there’s a lot that it can do with this information, there’s also a lot it can’t see. It can’t, for example, see directly what buttons are being pressed. However, by watching how the cartridge reads the cart ROM, it can deduce what inputs were pressed.

The process is not perfect. While it can spy some memory accesses, a few things escape its inspection. While it can recreate the layout of the starting blocks in Tetris Game B, it can’t catch their randomized appearances. Also, while a Raspberry Pi is much faster than a Gameboy, it’s not fast enough to carry out its display in the same frame as the main unit, so it lags behind a couple of frames. Still though, it’s a very clever idea, and it’s amazing that it works as well as it does!

Sebastian made a Youtube video explaining and showing off his work, here. (It’s the same one embedded above.)

There Oughta Be A Game Boy Capture Cartridge