What’s the best backlight color for Game Boy DMG & Pocket?


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.

To recap:

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!



Where’s my STARFORCE PI?!

It’s that time again to share where we’re at with the STARFORCE PI and my other projects! Most of you have come to know this by now: I go through a spree of updates, shares of my latest builds, communications and then it’s radio silence for months. It really is purely a lack of time; I either build or I tweet, and I prefer building. But I respond to any email and comment almost immediately, so don’t be afraid to drop a line or ask a question. SO, update time, let’s review 2017:

The elusive 6-button SFP versionFor the past 12 months (since Jan.2016) I have actively pursued production possibilities, both on small (100< units) and large (1000+ units) quantities, with several entities (Chinese production companies, French designers, engineers, even a fablab at a Spanish university). Unfortunately, none have been able to deliver on their initially enthusiastic promise. This means a lot of time was lost investing in meetings, delivering and building prototypes, only to have people pull out or not respond at all.  I have therefore decided to pursue this completely solo – this is going to be a Marcel J. de Haan only endeavor until I have the first production unit finished. Bad news is: I have to do everything myself. Good news is: I’ve been doing that all along.

First step is to get an economical and simple solution for the internals. I have been working on this for a while now, and I am currently working on the final part I wanted to add: a hardware based 2-player connection (zero lag). I know which components I want to use, I know the general cost, and the latest prototype will have a much cleaner and more organized internal design (no stuffed wires as such).

The second step is to translate my initial sketches, prototypes and C3D models into a CAD design for 3D printing (I will have unlimited access to an Ultimaker by the end of this month, Jan.2018). My aim, regardless of my future success of the Starforce Pi, is to produce and package 10 working units. That’s it, I can’t give any concrete timelines, I can’t give any details on progress, I can’t promise people first dibs, just know that I am still working on it.

Besides the Starforce Pi, I am just having a little fun modding old consoles (MegaDrive, DreamCast, 6-button Genesis arcade stick, bunch of GameBoys) and I even have a very cool brand-new build in the making. Not going to tell you what it is yet, but it’ll be Nintendo based.

I have heard a lot of people wanting a Starforce Neo or a PC Engine SD, and it’s great everyone is so enthusiastic, but these systems are really not something I can realistically pursue, unless I quit my job and people pay thousands – unlikely. The Starforce Neo took 4 grueling months to finish, and, although it is my personal favorite, building the thing was no joke. Believe me when I tell you that the Starforce Pi is very close to it in terms of build quality, and the experience is going to be even better due to the portability and fresnel lens.

Apologies that I haven’t got any better news in terms of the release date, but at least now you know the project is not dead 🙂

Marcel J. de Haan

Gaming on the Sega Omega Drive & the PC Engine SD


Just a few shots of the Sega Omega Drive playing the very excellent Contra: Hard Corps! I played with an Everdrive as the game has reached a rediculous price-tag, but I gotta say – It’s almost worth a slapped wallet.

The video output is a 640×480 VGA signal from an SLG-in-a-Box by Arcade Forge converting SCART RGB signal from a Genesis 2 board and pushing it through a scanline generator.

Hooking up the PC Engine SD via SCART to the Sega Omega Drive to play one of the best versions of R-Type, the grimey Alien Crush and the excellent Bonk!

The video output does not go through the SLG-in-a-box, but rather a scanline generator to SCART/HD converter. This allows both the Genesis board and external console to play in parallel, with a secondary monitor.

Good Times.

The Sega Omega Drive


After building a few all-in-one systems like the STARFORCE PI and STARFORCE NEO I realized that I wanted to do something really special with the console that I grew up with and had the fondest childhood memories: The Sega Mega Drive. Additionally, I wanted to be able to connect other oldschool consoles to it, making a central game feature with a true arcade edge! After nearly a year of testing my girlfriend’s patience I finished it: The Sega Omega Drive Dedicated Oldschool Entertainment System (DOES).

Built inside a 1987 Sega AfterBurner arcade bezel imported from the US, this system features an original Sega Genesis 2 motherboard which means the games aren’t emulated and play supremely well via one of the two dedicated systems inside, that collectively support all the popular high-quality analog and digital video inputs. The 4:3 aspect ratio 19″ LCD screen fits snugly into the bezel, and the black matte exterior houses a 5 Watt dual stereo speaker system by Logitech, delivering an impressive deep sound, with the option to connect external audio capture devices or headphones through the 3.5mm audio jack.

The Genesis cartridge slot blends neatly into the bezel, supporting the entire library of Mega Drive/Genesis and Master System (via adapter) games, and brings thrilling 2-player arcade action with two essential Genesis compatible controller input ports. The real power lies behind the control panel, which houses an array of video input options, all needed to play those classic video game systems. SCART, VGA, RGB, YPbPr and even HDMI inputs run through internal scanline generators to pump out an awesome arcade experience. Two faders allows for a greater control of the stereo sound from the Genesis, SCART or RCA audio input, while an additional HDMI-output allows this system to run the Genesis in parallel to a connected second console on a second screen! A power port at the side means any console can just be plugged into a video input port, and powered by the system itself – no extension cords needed.

Rubber grips are able to hold a Sega cartridge case firmly above the cartridge slot, between the fully functional blazing red AfterBurner lights, giving the gamer an interchangeable marquee and a satisfying arcade environment, every time. The transparant backpanel keeps the internals shielded, while allowing the lights to emit ambient background lighting.

The PC Engine SD

This was a little sideproject while I was waiting for parts to finish the Omega Drive, but I think it turned out pretty neat! You can read more on the PC Engine SD in my previous post, but as you can see I made it to fit nicely with the look of the Omega Drive.


The Sega Omega Drive Dedicated Oldschool Entertainment System cost roughly the same as the STARFORCE NEO to build, around €600, coming mostly from the upscaler/scanline generator setups and bezel. However, it was considerably more time consuming to construct due to the size and the rather complicated wiring. Nevertheless, the end result is very exciting and unique.

Marcel J. de Haan
SFP Development Team



  • Authentic Sega Genesis Model 2 hardware
  • JAP|US|EU Mega Drive/Genesis Cartride Compatible
  • 2x Genesis Controller Inputs (Player 1 & 2)
  • Integrated 19” 720p LCD Screen (4:3)
  • Video Input: HDMI, VGA, RGB, YPbPr & SCART. Output: HDMI
  • Vid1: ArcadeForge’s SLG-in-a-Box (scaler board, Sync Strike and SLG3000 in one)
  • Vid2: ArcadeForge’s Scanline Generator + HD video converter
  • Audio Input: Left/Right stereo RCA
  • Logitech Z130 Internal 5 Watt Stereo Speakers
  • 3.5mm Headphone Stereo Jack
  • Fully Functional Arcade Lighting through 12v cold cathode tubes
  • Extra power output port for additional console (230v)
  • Classic 1987 Sega AfterBurner Converted Bezel
  • Dimensions: 80 x 60 x 30 cm, Weight: damn heavy

The PC Engine SD


Building a gaming console to commercial standard production is tough work. It comes with lots of trial and error and a dependence on outside help, expertise and collaboration. With little money, this process is glacial, but with dedication and tenacity, at least some of you will enjoy portable arcade gaming with the STARFORCE PI in the future! Until that time, I continue my quest to reinvent old consoles and bring them into the future. My latest creation: the PC Engine SD


Built inside a converted 1990 Amstrad GX4000 case, the system features an original first-model PC Engine motherboard which means the games aren’t emulated, the best RGB analog audio/video signal through component, composite or SCART output, full compatibility with PC Engine peripherals such as controllers and multitaps, and an SD-to-HuCard reader using the Turbo Everdrive V2.5 supporting all PC Engine and TurboGrafx-16 games. The SD card simply slots in the front, together with the controller (or controllers via a multitap), and the system is ready to be used. No load times – Plug’n’Play!


Relative to my other builds, like the STARFORCE NEO or the upcoming Sega Omega Drive, this was a relatively fast and straightforward build. It took 2 months in total to finish, and cost about €225 to build, including controllers, SCART cable, adapter, and multitap. I would’ve liked to collect for this system, but I noticed prices for PC engine games were just becoming ridiculous, and because I don’t have a childhood connection to the system, I had no problem simply switching to SD cards.

It turned out rather nice! Very simple, still quite compact and attractive, and with a really 1990s edge to the look.


About PC Engine:
It it one of the lesser-known 4th generation video gaming consoles but it was in fact the first released in the era of 16-bit systems. Known as the TurboGrafx-16 in the US, it went after the video gaming juggernaut Nintendo and their 8-bit entertainment system, but ended up competing with the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) and the SNES in the Console Wars of the early 90s. Sadly, its tiny 8-bit CPU and limited success outside Japan was no match, and faded away by the mid-90s. But it’s a great system and deserves some retrogaming love!



  • Authentic NEC PC Engine Model 1 Hardware
  • PC Engine & TurboGrafx-16 Compatible
  • 1x PC Engine Controller Input (Compatible with 5 Player Multitap)
  • Composite/Component/SCART RGB Audio/Video Output
  • SD-to-HuCard Conversion via Turbo EverDrive 2.5
  • Standard SD Card Compatible (Up to 32GB)
  • Vintage 1990 Amstrad GX4000 Converted Case
  • Dimensions: 25 x 4.4 x 18.4 cm, Weight: 0.9kg (2lbs)

All roads lead to China


My Fellow Retronions

It has been a bit radio silent for a while over here at Chez SFP, so for those who want the quick-fire update and skip the entire story, check it:

  • The rough CAD designs were finished by our Serbian development team, and look good!
  • The engineer and I are working on extra features of the SFP Arcade Shield SFP
  • A new connection for case production has been established with a French-Chinese science team
  • This connection will:
    • Use a prototype, mockups and CAD design to give us a cost estimate
    • Develop soft-molding tools to produce 100 cases
    • Produce packaging with original artwork
    • Manage assembly and testing of the units (cost-permitting)

The pre-order announcement date is still not known, it will be announced when the complete per-unit cost has been estimated.


The Life Fantastic
So, what’s been going on? I haven’t been posting a lot because my personal life has gotten very busy indeed. We got a little boy this summer named Dax and parenthood is pretty heavy. Not difficult per se, but very time-intensive. Additionally, I’ve entered the last half year of my PhD and things are speeding up – deadlines are mounting and the pressure to publish is increasing. Many of my friends have abandoned a career in academia, going into technology startups and I gotta tell you… it’s tempting. Anyway, that’s not the point; you wanna know what’s happening with the STARFORCE PI, right?!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts & blogs, the difficulty lies in finding a good solution to produce 100 cases. For 1 case you can go the route of 3D-printing, for 1000+ cases you can go the route of injection molding tools intended for mass-production. Of course the first is good for prototyping, and the latter is our final goal, but in the meantime we were left finding a good solution, and this was tough.

But! We were able to find a producer in Shenzhen, China. We got in touch with a French-Chinese tech collective over there, and they were very interested!

We should be able to present some concept structure of the case design soon. In parallel, I’ve been discussing with our engineer to see if we can include some cool options discovered on arcade & engineering forums, and if these ideas can be implemented by our engineer in a cost-effective Arcade Shield PCB, we’ll have a very merry X-mas indeed. SO! We’ve been quiet, but we’ve not been sitting still – hang in there folks. Additionally, I’ve been working on a new console build after the STARFORCE NEO… it’s a good one.


The Sega Omega Drive
My latest console creation is gonna be a killer, built around my childhood console, the Sega Genesis. It’s not completely wired up yet and it still looks rough, but it should be impressive! I’ve been working on it for quite a few months, so as a teaser I’ll share the control panel. It’s made to accept pretty much every video feed, so all consoles can pretty much work on this monster system.


You’ve got questions? Totally understandable, drop us a line at info@starforcepi.com under the header ‘Q&A’ and I’ll be sure to get back soon. Alternatively, the blog, twitter and facebook are good options. Game On!