I just finished restoring the perfect GameBoy, in my opinion, to the perfect state! But first a little history:
First was the original GameBoy which took the world by storm by being an awesome way to play video games on the go, with the important feature of actually being able to play different games on the same portable console, a new thing at the time. Technical wise, it was not anything spectacular to speak of, it featured a few grey (well, more like puke-green) colors on the screen, which was not even lit, so no playing in the dark for you (at least without any of the numerous silly light-and-magnifying glass after market add-ons). But it was more than good enough, there were some awesome games on it and the 4 AA batteries last for a long time.
Then we had the GameBoy Pocket, which was the same thing but smaller and only took 2 AA batteries. Other than that, it was the same machine.
Then we had the GameBoy Color. This could play all the original GameBoy games with the option to turn their grey palettes to a color palette with the same number of colors but at least there are colors. There were also games built specifically for it with better colors. But other than that, the screen remained non-lit and the quality of the games was more or less the same as the original.
Here I should mention that in Japan only there was a special version with a lit screen, called the GameBoy Light which was essentially the Pocket with a front lit screen. This never came out anywhere else.
But then we had the GameBoy Advance. Now this was the real deal. The GBA was more or less on-par with the Super Nintendo, power wise and it fit in your pocket. The future was there! It was also backward compatible with original and color GameBoy games, so at launch its software library was already huge.
The original GameBoy Advance featured the controls on the sides of the color (but STILL not lit) screen and took 2 AA batteries for power.
The next version was the GameBoy Advance SP. Hardware wise it was a GameBoy Advance, so all of the same games played fine (including original GB and GBC games), but it now featured a much more pocket-able clam shell design. And the screen was lit for the first time!
There were two versions of the SP though, the original SP model 001 featured a rather unimpressive front lit screen that looks, well, not so good, but you could play in the dark for the first time and that was important. But the second version was the real deal. Model 101 featured a very bright and beautiful backlit which is on-par with the ones found on the DS which came after that. These are quite rare and expensive to find nowadays, but in my opinion they are the best GameBoys ever made, since they are backward compatible with ALL GameBoy games ever made (GB, GBC, GBA), they have an awesome small foot print clam shell design and they feature the best screen.
The last GameBoy SP released was the SP Micro, which was a super tiny version of the SP and played only GBA games. These are very nice, feature a smaller backlit display but they are a feature less than the SP 101.
So, since I never had a GBA, I decided to go hunting for the perfect GameBoy. Finding a 101 was not too hard, the price was a bit high though and, since it’s now more than 15 years since it was released, there are always some problems with them.
The most common problem is of course, the state of the plastic chassis of the device. These games were meant to be carried around and played, so scratches and filth was everywhere. Repairing and cleaning was out of the question but thankfully, you can buy a replacement beautiful brand new plastic chassis for less than $10 online, which is exactly what I did.
The second most common problem is the shoulder buttons, which wear out and stop working after a while. On the device I received, both shoulder buttons were not working at all, or worked when they felt like it. Here, I had to open the device and desolder them, order new ones online and replace them and boy did this make a difference. The new shoulder micro switches work perfectly and they also have a very satisfying clicky feel to them, not present in the originals.
Lastly, the battery needed to be replaced, just so it can last for a good few hours more of gameplay. You can also get them brand new online very cheaply.
So there you have it, I am now a happy owner the of the perfect GameBoy!
Another one, this time a 001 model, is saved and added to the collection. New shell, new shoulder button microswitches, like new!
Another GameBoy Advance joins the collection. This time it’s not an SP but a regular GBA, but with a brand new plastic hell, screen crystal and backlit screen modded. This was a relatively easy mod, there are lots of tutorials on how to change the original non-lit screen to an after market backlit one (e.g. https://www.instructables.com/id/Gameboy-Advance-Backlight-LCD-Screen/).
The only things you need to be careful is the screen connector model you have on the GBA motherboard (40 pin or 32 pin – determined by the first number you see through the battery compartment – 0 for 40 pin or 1 for 32 pin. They are also called type A and type B) and to careful to solder the screen power wire correctly on the GBA motherboard to get power for the backlit screen. Other than that, it looks and plays awesome:)