I came across this a few months ago on DealExtreme. The Game Boy Advance was the first handheld I owned, my brother and I were driven up to Toys R Us by our Dad on the hot summer launch day back in 2001 and we parted with our hard saved cash to grab one each. I recall attempting to play F Zero Maximum Velocity in the car on the way home and having a very hard time keeping the bright sunlight off the non-lit LCD screen.
So almost 10 years later, and with a promise of a fully working clone with a back lit screen (wooohooo) and the ability to load any GBA game I felt like I could not resist.
Before I launch into the review let’s note a couple of things about this machine.
- 2GB of onboard storage for loading and deleting your own GBA roms, Mass Storage Device style.
There is no emulation going on here, the hardware inside this thing is expertly reverse engineered from the original GBA guts and recreated to play it’s games natively. As such it will not play any other games for other systems, aside from those that were emulatable on the original GBA hardware (ie NES).(This is incorrect, it is an Ingenic JZ47** chip inside – still used to this day (Jan 2019) in consoles like the Retrogame RS-97).
- Yep, it has a back lit screen which the original GBA was sorely missing. And it looks great.
The box is a reproduction of a U.S. GBA box. It’s quite obviously not a real box as the cardboard is cheap, colours are washed out and there is no glossy finish. It does look quite nice though, and theyve even added some of their own info to it.
1. a new generation high definition screen, colourful and clear image
2. improve control system, smooth and durable
3. built in direct save technology
4. built in clock supported for the seam convergence of clock games
5. built in real time save system
6. built in real time game guide
7. built in soft reset
8. built in multi languages
9. built in 2gb – 8gb FLASH
10. built in multimedia playback system
Aside from the gba, it comes with some instructions which are just a bad photocopy of the original GBA intructions. Also a U.S. mains adaptor that plugs into the ext port, and a usb to ext cable for both adding/deleting roms and charging the unit are in the box. It might be worth noting that the mains adaptor has the ‘Nintendo’ logo on it, and seems to be the same charger as the GBA SP uses (it says “for use with ags-101” on it). I couldnt get the battery cover completely off for whatever reason, but i managed to prise it open and can see that its the same as the battery from the GBA SP, complete with Nintendo branding.
Build quality –
Great… it looks and feels exactly like a real GBA. In fact, if it wasnt for what must be a modified battery compartment id be convinced it was a real GBA case. Maybe it is, who knows. The unit doesnt rattle or bend under pressure and it has logos and branding in all the same places as a real GBA. It’s not all good though. Firstly, the screen: GBA has a screen resolution of 240×160, but I believe this clone has a 320×240 screen in it, with slightly different shaped pixels. You can’t notice until you turn it on that the screen is actually fractionally too big for the window that it sits behind, thus 0.5mm of the picture is lost on some sides. Also, if youve ever played on a Dingoo or Wiz you’ll no doubt have noticed the slightly ugly scaling/filtering used to make the 240×160 image stretch to 320×240 – well its the same on this thing. The main menu is coded in 320×240 and the GBA bios splash is displayed at its original resolution (hence why it looks slightly smaller than usual) but the games are all stretched to fit. I dont think its possible to display in the original resolution (no notes in the instructins to say what buttons do what in game, and aside from the shoulder buttons (date and time / language) no buttons seem to do anything in the main menu). Secondly, the buttons are noticeably more stiff than the original GBA buttons. It’s not a problem, but its noticeable. the d-pad, for me at least, is really nice to use. Oh yes, the screen is back lit and looks wonderful 🙂
A speed comparison of Gradius Galaxies (the only cart i could find for the time being) shows that the real GBA and the fake GBA run at the same speed for compatible games. I say compatible games because I loaded Tony Hawks 3 onto the device with the usb/ext cable and it doesnt really run at all. It stutters and jolts and is basically unplayable (I found this in the Dingoo emulator too, as well as on some GBA flash carts). The graphics and sound seem perfect in all the pre-loaded gba games that i have tested so far. I tested a save in Lord of the Rings and in Gradius Galaxies and both worked fine after restarting the unit. You can access the .sav files when you plug it into a pc. Holding select and pressing R opens an in game menu from which you can Real Time Save, soft reset or open a game guide (game guide doesnt appear to do anything, I assume you have to load the file manually before hand).
You can find a list of the pre loaded games here.
098 is the last GBA game, the rest are NES. I have the following games myself and they all appear to work just fine and at full speed.
Racing Gears Advance
Mario Kart Super Circuit
Mother 3 (translated!)
I have noticed the occasional millisecond “glitch” in some games, where the game appears to freeze for a miniscule amount of time. The good news is that it only really happens in the game menus, and isn’t really noticeable anyway. It wasnt until today that it even registered that it was happening at all, and I’ve been playing everyday since it arrived.
Other bits –
There are ~490 preloaded games and 1 video. About 100 of the games are GBA, the rest are NES games (with a gba file extension) that run emulated under pocketnes. As such, quite a few of the NES games dont run properly. The unit functions as a mass storage device when plugged into a PC, and you can add/remove/change the roms and artwork as you please. I did notice though that the roms appear to be sorted by “date modified”, as the ones I added myself did not sit in line with the rest of them even when numbered in the same way (that could get tedious…). There is a file called games.bin, which i assumed was the o/s but actually i think it contains the database that links rom titles to imagess… The rest, I think, is explained in the video. The battery does seem to only last for around 3 hours, it is a downside, but it’s not the end of the world. Lastly, the machine also plays GBA carts (but not Gameboy or any other previous iterations of Nintendo handhelds).
And here is the video (the audio was copyright claimed by a bunch of dicks a few years ago, sorry.)
If you fancied indulging in one of these lovely machines, the only place I know of to grab one from is dealextreme.