The coolest DIY project around

As a kid from the 80s, one of my first contact with video games was playing with the gameboy. My little brother had the chance to have one and I have fond memories of playing Mario, Zelda and of course Tetris.

I lost interest in video games in the same time I got interested in programming. I found out that programming was way more fun than playing video games. And even if I have some nostalgia of this time, each time I turn on a video game I can hardly play more than five minutes without feeling I’m wasting my time.

I got interested again in video games running into the sudomod community during a random web roaming. The members of this community build awesome handheld devices out of Raspberries or others SOCs. These devices are so cool that I decided I needed one even if I’m not anymore into video games.

So I bought an electronic card called the circuit sword developed by kite. And with it I was able to build this little handheld:

It’s a kit which comes with a card, a Raspberry CM3 and a 320x240 color screen. All I needed was a gameboy shell, some buttons, a screen protector and a battery. These things can still easily be bought on aliexpress. I was shocked to find out that it is still possible to buy brand new gameboy shells and buttons on aliexpress.

The circuit sword can handle various button layouts. I decided to go with four buttons on the front and four buttons on the back. Additionally it embeds a WiFi module and has a USB socket, HDMI output, and a jack socket.

See how these ports fits perfectly well the existing gameboy socket placeholders: HDMI in place of the contrast wheel, SD card in place of the volume wheel, USB in place of the game link port. I only had to dremel a bit to make room for the USB C connector. This circuit sword is a very well thought piece of engineering.

The embedded RPI is the CM3 variant. It is quite powerful and can easily handle emulation up to the PS1. Here is a picture of the inside:

This was a very fun experience to build this device. A little bit of dremeling, a little bit of soldering, some 3D printing, a lot of patience and care and that’s it. Each time I ran into problem, I could reach the sudomod boards where the people are immensely friendly and helpful. At the end, it feels very good to play on a handheld I built myself.

At this time, I spent a lot of time commuting to work by train. And once my handheld was built I had a lot of fun playing some all time classic games, like Zelda, Super Metroid or Another World (but only in the train otherwise it feels like I’m wasting my time).

December 21, 2021