I’ve been modding systems for a while now, and so far the easiest and most fun one has been backlight modding classic Game Boys and Game Boy Pockets. If you want to try modding but never done it before, start with this – it’s easy, cheap, cool, effective and satisfying. There are plenty of tutorials online that show you how to do this, but here’s a few practical things I’ve learned along the way – gather round for storytime!
Where to buy the gear:
First, get yourself a run-down old-school Game Boy or Game Boy Pocket – should be easy enough, they’re everywhere. If the shell is shoddy, you can replace them with cases on eBay for less than 10 bucks, however – I prefer to take that money and buy a better quality original. The replacement cases are generally kinda cheaper and flimsy, so best to stick with oldschool. Replace the buttons if you want though, these are pretty good, and definitely get that awesome glass screen replacement – very nice.
Secondly, get the backlight stuff. I bought my gear at handheld legends, they’re quick to respond, have a lotta stuff, not too expensive, good (not endorsed by them btw). You’ll need their backlight v3 and possibly a bivert chip, but before you do, read the next paragraph.
What color should I buy:
So for the backlight I wavered between sharp image and nostalgic authenticity. Colors like teal, blue, red, orange, etc. all seem a bit crazy for me, and don’t seem like a very pleasing authentic experience. That just leaves Yellow, Washed Yellow and White. Pale yellow seems to be closest to the original screen of the Game Boy, so I bought a bunch of those. Take note, the washed yellow on the DMG screen seems a lot brighter than the Pocket screen, and gets a little unpleasant after a while. That’s why, for the DMG, I used a white backlight with bivert mod, which is much calmer and sharper. The pocket screen with washed yellow is also calmer and pretty great; I didn’t even bother with the bivert on that one! For the Game Boy Pocket, make sure to connect the backlight to the cartridge pins though and not the capacitor in the front, as this dims the screen enormously.
Is the bivert worth it?:
Depends: it made a huge difference on the Game Boy DMG screen with white backlight – the screen is far out the cleanest and sharpest. The pixels are blue funnily enough, but very clear. I added some black masking tape around the border of the screen just to clean it up. On the Game Boy Pocket, bivert generally didn’t really do much, and with the pale yellow background it wasn’t really needed.
Weirdness with EverDrive x3:
I got a Game Boy EverDrive x3 and it won’t work on the pocket with backlight. No idea what’s going on, but the additional drain on the batteries with the backlight on the Game Boy Pocket and the EverDrive x3 when it’s loading SD card content makes the system reset. This is not the case with the Game Boy DMG, but I seem some dimming appearing when the cartridge is being read. Keep this in mind.
White Backlight: cleanest and most crisp gaming experience, especially with the bivert on the DMG.
Pale Yellow: closer to the original Game Boy screen color, good and calm on the eyes with the Pocket (no bivert really needed as the screen is better than the DMG), but a little intense with the DMG. I have to say that it does look the closest to the original thing on the DMG though, but the brightness is off-putting after a while.
Get To Modding!