Is this a Game Boy Advance cartridge running on a computer? Oh yes it is. The GB Operator is a new device that reads Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance cartridges on PC, Mac and Linux computers. And playing cartridges is just the tip of the iceberg.
The folks at Epilogue, a new-to-the-scene retro games startup, are behind the 49 GB operator. Orders are currently open, with plans to ship in August of this year.
Smooth operator – The GB Operator works by extracting files from the game and emulating the game through the Operator software. The software uses mGBA as the main emulator, which adds controller and cheat support. Playing with your old cartridges is great, but what’s better is being able to save the saves to your computer and download them back to the cartridge. It’s an ingenious solution that protects users if – or, better yet, when – the battery of a cartridge dies. The GB operator can also download the game as a ROM for you to play on other emulation hardware such as a PS Classic or modified Raspberry Pi. It beats illegal ROM downloading from the website, the equivalent of a dark alley. It can also tell if a cartridge is real or fake which would have been helpful when I bought not one but of them fake pokemon games on eBay years ago.
For most people, those features alone would justify the GB carrier’s, frankly, insanely low price tag, but there’s more. The Game Boy Camera community, a small group of successful photographers, will be happy to know that the Game Boy Camera is GB carrier compatible, allowing direct transfer of 8-bit images. Programmers developing homebrew games for Game Boy or Game Boy Advance can use the device to flash their games onto empty cartridges. Unfortunately, it does not read SD memory cards such as the EZ Flash Omega. It’s still not bad!
According to YouTuber Retro sleep, which tested the GB operator before launch, an inbound update will add more emulator and device settings, as well as the ability to remap keys if you’re playing on the keyboard.
Game Boy Season – The GB Operator is just the latest Game Boy gaming solution, along with others such as Analogue Pocket, GBA Consolizer, and the Retron SQ recently released in recent years. The first two use FPGA chips, which essentially emulate games at a hardware level that is supposed to be more authentic than the real thing. Devices with FPGA chips aren’t cheap and hard to come by. The Analog Pocket is the most sought-after retro pocket computer, pre-orders disappear in minutes. The GBA Consolizer should open pre-orders this year, but the kit, which requires assembly, costs $ 170 and $ 350 for the assembled version (via Nintendo’s life).
The $ 75 Retron SQ is a more affordable alternative, albeit without an FPGA, than the two above, but still more expensive than the GB operator. Although it emulates games through software like the GB Operator, it lacks many features on the Epilogue device. It cannot save savegames, download games as ROMs, apply hints or anything else interesting from the GB operator. It also loads games at a much slower rate, which I have experienced firsthand. Several firmware updates were fixed serious problems, like limited GBA compatibility and janky GBA resolution, but, if the GB operator is the real deal, it doesn’t compare.
I don’t understand how the GB operator does what he does for $ 50. The price seems too good to be true. I mean, I just spent so much on Pokémon Red a few weeks ago. However, it will be interesting to see if the device lives up to the hype when it ships in August. If not, it’s a return to the thirst for the analog pocket.