Game Boy Player

The Game Boy Player allows you to play Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Color and original Game Boy games on your GameCube.  Also, when combined with the GameCube-Game Boy Advance cable, you can use the Gameboy Advance system to control the GBA games being played on the GameCube, as well as access extra content from some Gamecube games.

I've thoroughly tested the Game Boy Player (abbreviated on this page as "GBP") on both PAL & NTSC consoles, using each of the available outputs and resolutions (if you're not familiar with the term 240p, I strongly suggest reading the 240p page before continuing).  I've also tested it against a few alternatives to the GBP, all described in the GBA Cartridges on a Display page.  This page concentrates on the different ways to use the GBP and compares it to the Super Game Boy.  I'll start with what in my opinion is the best way to use the Game Boy Player and then go through the other methods available:

 

Game Boy Interface:
GC developer Extrems (from the Swiss team) has written his own version of the Game Boy Player boot disc that attempts to solve some of the video issues that plague the GBP.  At the moment, this is by far the best way to play GB/GBC/GBA games on a parge display!

You'll need a modded GC or SD loader to run it and as you'd expect, it still requires the original Game Boy Player hardware.  I created an entire page showing how to use it, as well as listing it's options.  Check it out!:   http://www.retrorgb.com/gameboyinterface.html

 

Game Boy Player - Standard Outputs
The GBP startup disc can only output 480i (via all cables) or 480p (digital-out / component cable only) in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Unfortunately, this is not a good way to use the GBP; 480i is blurry and "flickery" due to the interlaced output. The 480p output definitely an improvement over 480i, but it's my opinion that it changes the way the game is supposed to look. This is the only "official" way to play GBC and GBA carts on a display and it's not "bad", but I'm glad there are other options available.

It's hard to capture interlaced "flicker" on camera, but I used the component video cables to try and compare the two.  Trust me, it's much more noticeable in person and anyone who's seen it knows there's a big difference between the two:

One other option on the GBP is a "full" mode:  An option to stretch the image of the GBP.  There aren't enough pixels in a 4:3 480i/p resolution to double the resolution, so the GBP just kinda stretches it a bit.  This results is both a blurry image and video that stutters.  I would recommend against using this mode, regardless of the extra screen space.  Here is a screen capture showing the difference (click for full-sized):

Also, here's some videos showing the horizontal "screen stutter" that occurs when you stretch the image to "full mode".  Sorry for the direct links, but YouTube's compression makes the differences harder to notice.  I'll try other options soon, but for now:

Normal mode:  http://www.retrorgb.com/videos/Metroid_Fusion-480p-Normal.AVI

Full mode:  http://www.retrorgb.com/videos/Metroid_Fusion-480p-Full.AVI

 

Game Boy Player through an Down-converter:  480p --> 240p
You can get a nice-looking 240p output from your GBP, without any console modding...but it is expensive and a bit complicated.  As described in the VGA to RGB page, you can use an Extron Super Emotia (or similar device) to down-convert the signal from 480p to 240p. Here's how the output chain looks:

GC Component video cables --> component to VGA converter (or component cables modded for VGA-out) --> Extron Emotia --> RGB monitor.

The end result looked very good and (in my opinion) the 240p scanlines made the video output look much closer to what you'd expect. Unfortunately, this is a complicated and expensive solution, so unless you already have the equipment required, I wouldn't suggest this method. Click the picture for a full-size view and scroll down below for even more comparison shots:

 

 

Game Boy player in 240p via Swiss!
You can use the Swiss software to force the Game Boy Player into 240p mode. It requires either a modded Game Cube, or an SD loader, but it's a definite improvement over 480i/480p.  Also, this will allow 240p on all outputs, so PAL users can enjoy excellent quality output via RGB cables and NTSC users still get a great quality 240p image via S-Video (NTSC GC's won't output RGB and vice versa).  If you're using an SD loader, just follow the typical steps to launch homebrew software.  If you're using a Swiss boot disc, do the following each time you launch:

- Boot to swiss.

- Swap the Swiss disc with a GBP disc (or backup disc).

- Press B to highlight the eject icon and hit A.

- After it reads the GBP disc, hit A on the icon and also on the next screen.

- When the final screen appears, make sure to hit X to enter the options menu.

- Change the video setting from "Auto" to "240p".

- Save, then launch the game.

Here's a screen capture using a PEXHDCAP capture card.  I used GC component video cables modded for VGA for both comparisons, since that's the highest possible output quality.  Both are in "normal" mode, with no filters or stretching:

The difference is huge and it's even an improvement over the Extron Emotia method, both in picture quality and total cost of solution.  Click on each of these for full-sized pictures:

You can also use the "full" mode in 240p, but just like with 480p mode, it looks pretty bad.  Here's some screen captures (click on the 2nd one for full-sized):

Once again, here's some videos showing the horizontal "screen stutter" that happens when you stretch the image to "full" mode.  This is noticeable in 240p mode as well.  Sorry for the direct links, but YouTube's compression makes the differences harder to notice.  I'll try other options soon, but for now:

Normal mode:  http://www.retrorgb.com/videos/Metroid_Fusion-240p-Normal.AVI

Full mode:  http://www.retrorgb.com/videos/Metroid_Fusion-240p-Full.AVI

 

Game Boy Player vs. Super Game Boy
When using a standard GBP (480i / 480p only) on stock consoles, I'd almost always recommend using a Super Game Boy as the better choice.  The video output is much sharper, regardless of your GC's output cable. 

If your display won't accept a 240p signal (or if you have a TV that processes 240p as 480i), the GBP + component video cables would be a better solution, simply for the 480p support,  That being said, the 480p image is a bit blurry compared to the 240p from teh SGB.  Another advantage of the GBP is it seems to output an aspect ratio closer to the original GB system.  Click on the picture for a full-sized pic of the two on an RGB monitor:

If you use your GBP in 240p mode (via software or down-converting), it becomes a much more viable choice:  The 240p image is much sharper and the proper aspect ratio makes the games look closer to the original.  Here's a comparison taken on an RGB monitor (click for full-sized):

Also, here's a comparison taken with a capture card, showing the same sharpness and aspect ratio results:

Swiss can change the resolution, but unlike the Game Boy Interface mentioned on the top of this page, it can't change the framerate.  Much like SGB vs SGB2, the GBP runs at a slightly different clock speed causing occasional frame stutter.  For more information, check out the Super Game Boy page.

Here's a video demonstrating the issue:  If you watch closely, you can see the horizontal scrolling "stutter" when using the Game Boy Player, but not the SGB 2.  Sorry for the direct links, but YouTube's compression makes the differences harder to notice.  I'll try other options soon, but for now:

SGB2:  http://www.retrorgb.com/videos/SML-SGB2.AVI

GBP:  http://www.retrorgb.com/videos/SML-GBP-240p.AVI

 


Final Thoughts:

I'd recommend the Game Boy Interface for all Game Boy games: GB, GBC and GBA.  Specifically, I'd recommend the ULL version for RGB monitors, the LL version for upscalers and the regular version of the GBI for all other displays (or if you'd like to scale and "zoom" the video).  It's still a work-in-progress, but definitely my favorite solution for playing original GB cartridges on a display. 

 

If you'd like, check out the GBA Cartridges on a Display page for all other options to play Nintendo portable games on a big display.  If you're done, please click here to go back to the main GameCube Page.  If you'd like info on mods for other systems, head to the Getting RGB From Each System page or check out the main page for more retro-awesomeness.