Sega Game Gear Refurb

As opposed to my Game Boy Pocket Refurb this one is going to be a bit more involved. My GB Pocket was fully functional, it just needed a quick membrane replacement job.

The Sega Game Gear is a different story. Game Gears of original vintage have a long-known problem. Sega used low quality capacitors in them, and as a result they tend to fail and leak out over the years, especially when stored in unfriendly environmental conditions (i.e. a hot attic). This means that you could have packed away your Game Gear in perfectly working form in a box, pulled it out years later, and found it dead. Much was a similar situation for my father-in-law’s Game Gear. I was a full-on Nintendo kid growing up, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that really wanted a Game Gear. I mean, how could you not? The color backlit screen blew away what the Game Boy was doing!

My FIL got this out and tried to play it, but found it dead. It would power on, the screen powered on, but there was no video output and no audio output happening. He showed me what it was doing and I knew it was a capacitor problem as I’d known about their failures from watching some retro gaming channels on youtube (big shout-out to The Retro Future!). I told him I could fix the system but that it would be a while as I needed to get a better soldering iron. The one I had was cheap to begin with and already on its last legs, barely having the oomph to get hot enough to melt solder.  Well, that was over a year and a half ago and I honestly kept putting off getting a new iron because this job intimidated me. My soldering skills are pretty amature-level as I only solder things a couple of times a year, and a Game Gear re-cap is a big job. When my wife got me a nice Weller iron for Christmas this year, I knew it was time to tackle this beast of a job.

A couple weeks ago I ordered a new cap kit from RetroModding. I selected that kit because it was cheap and came with enough caps to handle any revision of the Game Gear motherboard, as well as the sound board (different revisions have different caps). I did not order the power board recap kit as this unit still turned on, and from what I read these caps were far less likely to fail. I think because it had to do with higher voltage stuff and being UL listed, Sega actually used decent caps in those. Once I had my bag of shockingly tiny caps in hand, I grabbed a capacitor list and capacitor layout diagram from the Console5 Wiki. Their extremely helpful diagrams make it easy to identify which caps go where, as well as the polarity of each location. I printed them out and laid out each cap in each spot so that I could just hammer through them back-to-back. This took some times to set up, but I’m glad I did it before I fired up the iron, because after the first couple caps, I hit a pretty good stride with pulling the old one, trimming the new ones, and replacing.

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Game Boy Pocket Refurb

Back in November I picked up a Game Boy Pocket that matched the one I traded off a long time ago. It was in extremely good condition as it was, but there was one thing that felt a bit worn out on it; the buttons. More specifically, the button presses felt very loose and sloppy, not how I remember my Pocket. Fortunately it is a fairly easy job to swap out the button membranes, and there are companies out there making factory-spec replacements! I picked mine up from Retro Modding who has an incredible selection of OEM-Like parts, as well as many modding-centric after-market parts. I ordered the membranes and got them a couple weeks ago, but I made a small mistake. I had a tri-wing bit (the type of bit needed to open most Nintendo hardware), but the one I had was way too big for my GB Pocket. Doh! So I had to place another order with Retro Modding and grab one of their retro-system bit sets. The bits came in today and I couldn’t wait to get the new membranes in my GB Pocket and try them out, so that’s just what I did.

After removing the 6 tri-wings on the back (2 in the battery compartment) the back comes off the GB Pocket. I also took the metal cartridge shield off the back just to clean under it. This is totally not necessary but while my GB Pocket was apart I wanted to give all of the insides a good cleaning with some Ispropyl Alcohol:

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Original Hardware

I’ve owned every revision of Game Boy over the years. Original Game Boy, Pocket, Color, Advance, and Advance SP. I still own my original Game Boy (although it’s lost in storage some place) and Advance SP, but my Pocket, Color, and Advance were all traded in on their new models at some point. Out of the 3 models I traded in, the Pocket, Color, and Advance, I missed my Game Boy Pocket the most.  The Color was never a great device IMO due to the absence of a backlight, and the Advance was only improved upon by the Advance SP.  And while the Advance SP is probably the pinnacle of Game Boys, it also changed up the form factor significantly. It lacks that old-school feel with its foldable design and bright backlit display.

Something about the old-style rectangular top-loading format of the Game Boy speaks to my past childhood.  I have missed the Pocket since I got rid of it because of its compact form factor and its vastly improved LCD display over the original Game Boy.  It was basically the Game Boy revised and fixed the biggest issue with the original Game Boy by using a crystal-clear and much more responsive LCD panel.

I ended up coming across one on eBay that was in really really good condition that didn’t break the wallet (increasingly difficult these days), and decided to jump on it.  I gotta say, I am very pleased with this beauty.  Just look at it!

I think the membranes are a little worn out on it, so I am planning on replacing those soon, but the over all condition is incredible. A nearly scratch-free lens, and fully intact and functioning pocket is back in my collection, this time permanently.  The display is just as beautiful as I recall too. While I really do enjoy my emulation devices, there are just some things that don’t translate well to emulation, or can’t even be emulated at all. Now, if I could just find wherever the hell my Game Boy Printer went to, and hope I didn’t leave batteries in it, I would be really happy… Digging through boxes is a task for another day though.  Time for some old school gaming!

Retro Gaming on Odroid Handhelds

Having spent my childhood in the late 80’s through the 90’s, a large part of me and my friends past time was playing video games. My family was all-in on Nintendo, starting with getting the NES for Christmas. I have fond memories of staying up with my Dad, watching him play The Legend of Zelda. Watching him bomb walls and burn bushes looking for secret shops and rewards, figuring out the dungeon puzzles, and just enjoying the game in general. My Dad wouldn’t really go on to be a gamer, aside from a handful of NES games like Mario, Adventures of Lolo, and a few others. However, I would carry the torch through the Game Boy, SNES, GBC, N64, GBA, and so on to this day really. I’m still a big Nintendo fan and have a 3DS XL and a Switch, both with a decent library of games.  However, the games from my childhood, now deemed “retro” (as much as that makes me feel old), will always have a certain nostalgic aspect to them that I will always enjoy.

One of the best ways I have found in recent years to enjoy my retro gaming has been small open-source handhelds that can play large libraries of games.  I have gone through a few different models, but I always seem to come back to the Odroid line, produced by a South Korean company called Hard Kernel. They seem to strike a great balance of affordability, functionality, and quality hardware. They are also a bit DIY in that they don’t come assembled. You purchase the kit, then build it your self. I found this to be a rather enjoyable experience.

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