Some people are blessed with all the talent, and one of those people is Andy Sexton, who's not only content with being the Creative Director at Hi-Rez Studios (Smite, Paladins) — he's also a very good Game Boy modder in his free time.
We can't be too mad, though, because he also takes wonderful photos of those mods and shares them on the internet. Also, he was nice to us on Twitter... so we'll give you a pass, Andy. For now.
I didn't realize the community that existed around these mods, and just wanted to be involved
"This morphed into one of my hobbies over the past couple of years," he told us when we asked how he found the time to be so dang good at things. "I really wanted (let's be real, needed) to do something creative and tactile during COVID, so I looked into how to best play GBA carts in 2021. I started seeing these amazing profiles on Instagram filled with Game Boy designs I'd never seen. I didn't realize the community that existed around these mods, and just wanted to be involved."
It was thanks to the delay of the slick Game Boy-esque handheld called the Analogue Pocket — the first of many delays, as it would turn out — that turned his attention towards making his own. Buying an old Game Boy is very well and good, but they're not particularly well-suited for modern gaming, with no backlight, and and not that many colours. Everyone knows that aesthetics and customisablility are very important these days, or we wouldn't have so many Joy-Con colour options.
His latest creation is a Blastoise Game Boy Color, which he made for a friend recently. As it turns out, making something for other people is a whole different ball game, because you can't really just wing it any more.
"I'm a bit Chaotic Good when it comes to my builds," he admitted. "I usually get a big idea of what I want to go for, and then go piece by piece trying to source components to try and pull it off. It can be hectic, but it's actually introduced me to a lot of creators in the mid scene - generally, if you're passionate and have an idea, you can find someone that can help create something custom. I'm also fortunate to have buddies nearby that are into modding (and know how to solder), so it's nice to have some folks to give construction criticism or tips."
But the Blastoise GBC changed the Chaotic part (although not the Good part). "I wanted to help him picture how it would come together - so I made a sheet to give an idea of what all would go into it. Even with this, I had to make some changes, mainly to the back shell, that I think worked out for the better!"
Here's that sheet, for reference:
The design process was still a little chaotic, though — he decided, based on a technique he'd seen on his friend's Instagram, to try out a process called "hydro dipping". "I knew I wanted to replicate a turtle shell for the back of the design," he told us, and hydro dipping was a great way to achieve a tortoiseshell-like effect.
Game Boy mods is not just a fun hobby, either. Sometimes, Andy can even tie it back into his job, with this glow-in-the-dark Ymir GBC to commemorate his work on the game Smite:
...Plus a Dima Game Boy to celebrate the Season 3 launch of Rogue Company:
Andy's own personal Game Boy, though, is not based on a game at all — it's based on Gashapon, the little capsule toys you can get in Japanese arcades. It's very cute.
It's been really nice picking up saves from 20 years ago (!!) and replaying stuff from growing up
"I've always loved Sega and their arcades in Japan," Andy told us, "and combining that idea with Gashapon toys into an actual Game Boy worked out super well. GBA is my favorite generation of handhelds too, so it's been really nice picking up saves from 20 years ago (!!) and replaying stuff from growing up." He's even planning to make the Gashapon SP into a whole series, each in different colours and themes — "the yellow SP will have a Pikachu toy, blue for Sega, pink for Kirby, etc."
But the fun doesn't stop there — Andy's already planning what comes next.
"My next Game Boy is going to be an EarthBound-themed build! The idea is to have the front of the GBC to be metal, with the back being a red-black swirl design to look like Giygas. It's my favorite game, and one of my favorite final bosses. I'm excited to pay tribute to it (if I can pull the idea off!)"
Make sure to follow Andy on Instagram to see all of his latest work, and some of the mods he's bought from other people, like this Switch Lite:
Which one of these Game Boy mods sets your heart aflutter? Are you tempted to get in on modding yourself? Let us know in the comments!
These are gorgeous! And the cape is adorable.
These are hideous.
These are sublimely beautiful.
Very likely to be outside my personal price range, but wow not only are the chassis standing out, but those screens are vibrant and clean. Both aesthetics together could make a game really pop out like a treat for the eyes.
Wait, is THAT what the little hole on the upper right of the back plate was intended for? Keychains? Like you carry your Game Boy around so much you put your keys on it?
My mind is blown by how ambitious that use case is.
@swoose I think the intended purpose was for a wrist strap. Those were common with small electronic devices back then. Old cell phones and minidisc players had those to prevent accidental drops. And I recall wrist straps were a way for people to accessorize and personalize their devices.
@swoose In Japan, a lot of capsule toys come on a little string or a chain. Before smartphones it used to be popular to hang them from your phone - some people would have dozens of little figures and things hanging from their phones. Like this: https://hips.hearstapps.com/cos.h-cdn.co/assets/14/01/480x376/gallery_nrm_1419968214-tumblr_l65iu6vknp1qb5yp9o1_500.jpeg
I'd guess that's why it was included on Gameboy and DS - just a little lanyard hole to hang a charm from. Probably not keys.
@ShePenny your definition of hideous is VERY different than mine, lol.
I always wanted to get a modded original GBA but then companies like Anbernic came out with some amazing affordable handhelds. I still got an original GBA in a rare blue color that was exclusive to some store apparently, but it's kinda hard to play games on it these days admittedly after being so used to great backlit screens.
My favorite Game Boys are my gold Game Boy Light and my pearl blue GBA SP. They are still very usable and have that authenticity that you can't get anywhere else.
I love modded Gameboys especially if they are have a light to play with in the dark and nothing is illegal, no softmods or anything unless you sell it that is!
I modded Gameboys DMG, color, and advance but also painted N64, SNES, (NES has a window and red LED lights), (original Xbox X-Men theme) it was fun but some need some touch up wear and tear.
These look incredible, I love this, this is so we'll made.
@ShePenny who spit in your coffee?
@HotGoomba Dude I was thinking the same thing… Hope you’re doing well at least.
Gorgeous Why ruin perfection, though and raise the value of the few scant consoles that exist? Make something new.
Very nice. But not for me. I can’t be running around with just a single system in my pocket anymore. I might feel the need to switch from a game boy game to a 3DS game to a DS game..
@Splodge They even made accessories for smart phones with plugs that would fit in the headphone jack. You could find characters resting on the top or feet dangling from the bottom… People would get upset every time a new model came out and Apple moved where the headphone jack was so their accessories wouldn’t fit the same way anymore. Of course, now there is no jack to speak of…
Removed - trolling; user is banned
@ShePenny LMAO, opinions are opinions I guess. Have a nice day, I guess.
Removed - trolling; user is banned
@Splodge I know there was a hole on the original DS I assumed was used as place to string up this thumb slider piece (which I guess Nintendo wanted people to use rather than sliding their finger on the screen) which I think was abandoned by the time of the DS Lite.
@swoose Also random holes... Konami was doing that on their Famicom carts since they became a Nintendo license in 1985.
These are sick!
So pretty! This kind of mods really accentuate the nostalgia factor.
I bought a Gameboy Advance SP off of Etsy from someone like this guy. It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. It's got an entirely new custom shell that looks like a Japanese/PAL region SNES. Fold it closed and yeah it just looks like a really cute mini SNES. I absolutely adore it. He also put in a brand new modern screen. And the screen is the most sharp and gorgeous screen I've ever seen. I don't know how or why. Like I got the new Samsung galaxy phone a few months ago, the most advanced android phone there is. But somehow the screen on my gameboy advance SP looks sharper. It's stunning
He also made it so you can charge it via micro USB instead of the proprietary cable Nintendo originally had for it. And he put in a modern battery so it lasts much longer too
I've mainly been playing game boy and game boy color games in it cos I already had an everdrive with every gameboy game ever loaded on it. I'm waiting for the new gameboy advance everdrive that'll inevitably come out. Cos the current best everdrive for GBA is one that doesn't have save states. My GB/GBC everdrive does have save states. So yeah I'm waiting for a GBA everdrive with save states to come out. Until then I've just been buying individual GBA cartridges. And I had a ton of cartridges already from when I had the original model of GBA back in the day. I lost that old gameboy advance. Have no idea where it went
But yeah. You can install all this stuff yourself if you have the skill. Soldering is involved. I don't have the skill and I didn't want to accidentally kill a GBA by ***** it up. So yeah I paid a premium to have another guy on Etsy make it for me instead. But I couldn't he happier with it
I kinda want one of the original model GBAs he has too. Because I still think they're easier to play in your hands than the tiny GBA SP. He uses custom shells for them just like with mine, and puts a modern back lit screen in it.
Also he makes Game Gear versions too. I always wanted a game gear as a kid. I was so jealous of my friends who had one, with its back-lit colour screen. I was stuck with my lowly gameboy. In retrospect the game boy was much better than the game gear. But yeah. This guy can use the original game gear shells, or use custom shells in whatever colour you want, or with designs and artwork on them, whatever you want. And he adds a modern back-lit screen instead of the blurry original one. And he adds a modern lithium ion battery into it and let's you recharge it via micro USB. Which again is just amazing. Because of the screen and the rechargeable battery thing he's got going on, it completely eliminates all the downsides that the game gear had, namely it ate through batteries so quickly, and the screen was so blurry that you couldn't play fast paced stuff like shoot em ups.
So yeah I'll eventually fulfill my dream and finally get a game gear. And I'll get the game gear everdrive and load every single game gear game onto it. It's the dream
I absolutely love the Master system sonic games. They're as good as the mega drive ones, albeit for different reasons. They're basically a lot more like Mario games. And they're very very good at being that. I've never really played the game gear versions that much, because of the screen crunch. But if I have an actual game gear to play them on then I don't care. It'll literally be a dream come true.
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