Talk to any fan of the original GBA and the only criticism you’ll likely hear will be about the screen. Nintendo made what seems now like an absolutely mind boggling decision to leave the LCD unlit, meaning unless you played the damn thing under perfect lighting conditions you could barely see anything at all. Even in perfect conditions it was dark and severely lacking colour. Nintendo remedied this when they released the GBA in its SP form factor, first with a front light (AGS-001) and then with a fully backlit version (AGS-101). But for many (me included) the original non-clamshell version is preferred, both for its ergonomics and aesthetics. If only there was a solution for that damn screen…
There was once a widely available remedy for the unlit screen, and it was called the Afterburner – it was a kit that simply lit the screen from the front, and it made a vast improvement. It wasn’t perfect though, the colours looked quite washed out and you’d get strange trapezoid shadows where the light reflected off the inside of the screen protector back onto the screen. But all that’s by the by because you can’t pick up an Afterburner kit for love nor money these days anyway.
But one clever dude in China has come up with an even better solution than the Afterburner, and it involves taking the far superior AGS-101 screen from an SP and fitting it into your GBA – all with the aid of one of his homemade ribbon cable adaptors.
The kit requires you to disassemble your GBA, take a sander to a bit of the case and do a spot of soldering too, but if you’ve ever played on an AGS-101 you’ll know the result is fantastic. Before you go hitting the buy button be aware that the type of cable you order depends on 2 things – 1) the revision of the board inside your GBA and 2) the revision of LCD you’ve plucked from your SP.
If you head on over to the Taobao page you’ll get the jist of the things you need to check before ordering, I’ve uploaded the instructional PDF to my Google Drive account too. You can check that out here. Don’t have a spare AGS-101 LCD knocking about? No problem, because it looks like he sells those too. And if you really want one of these but can’t be bothered with all the faff, he sells pre-modded units for about £40 ($60).
You might wonder why anyone would bother given the K1 and the Revo and the plethora of emulators available, but there’s still something to be said for having the real thing. And this is what the real thing should have been to begin with. If you’re interested you can contact Zeyer at email@example.com and finally remedy that bizarre mistake that Nintendo made all those years ago. There are a couple of vids on Youtube demonstrating modded units, one from Zeyer and one from someone who has modded his own. Enjoy.
Thanks to Ruffnutts over on the dingoonity boards for the marvellous find!