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I’ve personally never been a huge fan of portable systems. It was never that I hated the games or felt many of the systems were bad per say I just always preferred to do all my gaming in the comfort of home on a big screen. I always realized the utility and need for gaming on the go it just simply wasn’t for me and if I was on the go that generally meant I was doing something that required my attention. Even in car rides I usually was quite content to look out the window and watch the world zip by rather then bury my face in a mobile game. I remember even on family trips I would take my entire NES to hook up in the hotel room rather then bring a trusty Game Boy. That’s not to say I disliked the Game Boy and ironically I played it very often and have fond memories of many games, the thing is I was usually doing that gaming at home. Then one day came the Super Game Boy. I remember seeing it first at Walmart and I was smitten. All my Game Boy games on the big screen TV? and in color?!?! I had to have it.

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What the Super Game Boy did basicly is use the Super Nintendo as a pass though A/V device. Inside the cart is basically a fully functioning Game Boy like you would find in the actual handheld stuffed into a SNES cart so as to interface with the console. Use is extremely simple. You put you Game Boy game in the top slot and then insert the SGB into the SNES, turn the power on your SNES just like it was any other game and voila you would get a splash screen and then your Game Boy game would start.

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Since the SNES only acted (in most cases) as a pass through to feed the video and audio to a TV as well as take care of the additional coloring and as an input device for the controller, compatibility was as far as I can find is 100%. The Super Game Boy allowed you to play your game boy games in black and white or with most games, choose from predefined color palettes. This was accessed by hitting L and R at the same time on the SNES controller which gave you access to a menu. In this menu you could also change the borders to your screen from a selection of nine as well as a tenth border that acted sort of like MS Paint where you could doodle your own border.

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The available borders were the Game Boy border, black, windows with clouds, one that looks like those bulletin boards you stick pins into, a meadow with tree, theater, sleeping cats, a table with pencils to the side and an M. C. Escher looking border. I played a lot of RPG’s on my SGB so I liked the Meadow cause it was sort of foresty and forests make me think of RPG adventures….

The Super Game Boy only works with original monochrome Game Boy games and black cart Game Boy Color games that have a monochrome compatibility mode for the Super Game Boy. Some games took advantage of the extra hardware in the Super Nintendo and had extra effects and sound. Wikipedia lists Contra: The Alien Wars, Donkey Kong, Kirby’s Dream Land 2, A Bug’s Life, Animaniacs and Toy Story as games that took advantage of the SNES. Some other games such as Killer Instinct also allowed the second  SNES controller to be used to allow for two player mode. Some Game Boy games also had special Super Game Boy features such as improved custom color palettes and custom borders such as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

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One major issue that’s seldom discussed with the Super Game Boy is the timing issue. Games played via the Super Game Boy play at 2.4% faster due to the clock in the Super Nintendo. This can be corrected with a mod. I never really noticed the timing issue growing up but it does result in higher pitched sound as shown in this video.

In 2003 the Game Boy Player came out for the Game Cube which played Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advanced games at 480P with the correct cable. Its an awesome little device but I’ll list a few reasons that you may want to hold onto your old Super Game Boy for original Game Boy games

  1. Super Game Boys are way cheaper/simpler if you already have a Super Nintendo. Even at retail game stores I see them for $13 – $15 while the Game boy Player goes easily for $50. The Super Game Boy also does not require a disc unlike the Game Boy Player which on most occasions is missing when found “in the wild”.
  2. Compatibility with SGB enhanced games. This includes games with custom borders and custom effects that relied on the Super Nintendo hardware. When played on the Game Boy Player these games fall back to regular Game Boy mode.
  3. Color Palettes, The Super Game Boy has a selection of 32 color palettes plus the option to make your own where as the Game Boy Player only offers 12 built in color palettes for original Game Boy games.
  4. Getting the best A/V signal is actually easier on the Super Game Boy when paired with a Super Nintendo. both the original Super Nintendo and Game Cube output S-video but if you want the best video quality the original Super Nintendo outputs RGB natively but only the PAL region Game Cubes output RGB. Early NTSC Game Cubes in the US do have a digital output port that allows for component at 480P but Game Cube component cables are crazy rare and expensive and easily go for over $150 where as an RGB capable PVM monitor can be had for $75 – $100 and you can use that with all your retro consoles.

 

Unknown to many outside of Japan a second version of the Super Game Boy was actually produced that corrected a few issues with the original. This was the Super Game Boy 2 and it was released only in Japan.

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I picked my SGB2 off Ebay for about $25 but the price fluctuates. As you can see it’s more in the style of a Japanese Super Famicom cart and is in a translucent teal case which personally I don’t care for. It will function just fine in a US Super Nintendo and with US Game Boy carts but you’ll have to remove the tabs to allow the cart to insert just like you would to allow for any Super Famicom cart. The compatibility is just like the original Super Game Boy though there is a common misconception that the Super Game Boy 2 allows for the use of Game Boy Color games. Let me stress to save some of you money and effort. The Super Game Boy 2  DOES NOT work with Game Boy Color games!

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So now I’ll point out some of the added features and fixes introduced with the SGB2.

  • Timing bug with slightly increased speed has been corrected in the SGB2. This alone makes it the superior player despite its rather unappealing shell.
  • LED power light added. Its not a big deal but I guess it is nice to know its receiving power.
  • Link cable port added to side of cart to allow two player and Pokemon trading

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There are also games such as Tetris DX that have a special border only when played on the SGB2.

The Super Game Boy 2 has a different set of nine choose-able borders. Supposedly there is a code to unlock the original nine but I could not find it (Edit: thankfully someone in the comment section left a comment with the code to unlock the original boarders ” L L L L R while you have the black background set”).

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The Super Game Boy 2 borders are a Game Boy border, black, circuit board, tropical island, Aztecish looking art, gears, a swamp, under water dolphins, a coliseum. I prefer the original border selection but that’s probably nostalgia talking.

So that’s the two Super Game Boys and although I prefer the look of the original I would definitely recommend the Super Game Boy 2 since it offers some extra features as well as the timing bug fix.

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Before wrapping things up though I wanted to talk about a nice custom controller that is really highly recommended if you use either Super Game Boys a lot and that’s the Hori Super Game boy commander controller.

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The Super Game Boy Commander was exclusive to Japan but of course works just fine on an American Super Nintendo. Its styling is very similar to the original Game Boy which is pretty neat. The SGB commander has some very interesting features. In the center is a switch that you use to go between SFC (Super Famicom / Super Nintendo) mode where the buttons operate as they would on a regular Super Nintendo controller as labeled. In SGB (Super Game Boy) mode though the L, R , X,and Y buttons take on new functions. On a regular Super Nintendo controller you would need to press the L and R shoulder buttons at the same time to access the menu but in SGB mode you only need to hit the R button also labeled Menu. The color button shifts through the different palettes while the Speed button acts as a de-turbo button slowing the game down. There are three speeds with the first button press slowing the game down and the second adding a little speed while a third press returns the game to normal speed. Some games may have issues with the speed button. Finally the last button is a mute button to well, mute and unmute the audio. Overall its a really nice controller that mimics the look and feel of an original Game Boy while adding some features.

If you have a Super Nintendo by all means pick up a Super Game Boy since they are so cheap and available. I think it may be the very best way to play and enjoy original Game Boy games. If your very serious about the Game Boy shoot for a Super Game Boy 2 and of course the very handy Hori Super Game Commander.

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3 Comments

  1. Is component video digital?

    • nope, Component is analog. I know, its strange cause the “digital out” port is for the analog component. I think that’s because it also can support digital VGA for something like a PC monitor though Ive never seen a GameCube VGA cable. There is a D-terminal cable but it functions like component just a different jack. for analog it uses a built in digital to analog converter to change the signal to analog component. this converter chip (Macronix CMPV-DOL video chip *Wikipedia*) apparently cannot be sourced and that’s why there are no third party Game Cube component cables and why the official component cables from Nintendo are so astronomically expensive.

  2. The code to unlock SGB1 borders on SGB2 is L L L L R while you have the black background set


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