The GameBoy Colour (Front Light)

..................mylk[][][] mod



 "How to front light your Gameboy Colour in a way that doesn't make you want to tear your eyes out every time you play it".


Ok, so I don't really know how and why I ended up wasting days of my life doing this but I did, so I thought I might as well share it. Actually when I say I don't know how and why that's only partially true. The why, is because I bought a Gameboy colour from a car boot sale for £2 why wouldn't you buy a Gameboy from a car boot sale if it was only 2 quid, (there were some great gameboy games released over the years which now cost next to nothing from carboots and second hands shops, I got Tetris for 50p from a shop in Leeds on my way back from the carboot sale, that's cheaper than an App and a welcome retro distraction from playing angry birds on your iPhone). The how, as in how did I end up devoting so many hours of my life to this ultimately unnecessary and pointless distraction, well that's because I am an obsessive, perfectionist and not at all in a good way. w1

 Basically I bought the Gameboy colour and was bristling with excitement and retro joy[][][] at the prospect of reliving my yoof  playing Tetris and Mario land (although if I am honest the GBC was a little after my time, it was a good ol' fashioned green screen original Gameboy that I got for Christmas as a child)  but all that faded away later that evening  when I sat down in the dim warm glow of my cosy lamp lit  living room only to experience the same sinking disappointment experienced by many a child over the years as the realisation sets in that unless you are sat directly under a light bulb that has the power to shine brighter than 10 suns, you can't actually see the fucking screen. This was always a problem with the original Gameboy  but actually seems more pronounced on the Gameboy colour. 

        (Above are all the GBA SPs  ruined during the course of this project - 2 perfectly good silver and pink ones and 2 all ready broken ones from ebay - the black/grey one is actually a GBA SP AG-101 which is a rare back lit model which was released towards the end of the GBA SP's life cycle and is my own GBA)  


 Not being type of person to be deterred  by something as trivial as the design of a product being entirely unfit for purpose, I set about trawling the internet for a solution. Now there were many products available off the shelved to solve this problem most of which consist of clip on plastic monstrosities stuffed with LED's. The problem is they are all shit. All they do is create terrible glare on the plastic screen cover without actually making the screen any easier to see. 

I eventually stumbled across This Tutorial  by Micheal J Moffitt which shows you how to use the front light from a Gameboy Advance SP to Light a Gameboy colour. Now any sensible person would reach the conclusion that seeing as a Gameboy Advance will accept and play Gameboy and Gameboy colour games anyway, (as well as Gamboy advance games) there doesn't seem to be an awful lot of point dismantling a GBA SP to light up GBC.  

 Never being one to let common sense get in the way of a good hacking project I obviously immediately set about dismantling one of the perfectly good GBA SP's I had bought for the GBA Arcade [project]to remove the steal the front light panel.



 I wont waste time doing a proper "How to front light your Gameboy Colour" article (at least not for this 1st way of doing it) as I would just be repeating what  many other people have all ready done perfectly well . But I have included pictures of the process and I will offer a few extra words of advice for anyone tackling this project themselves. 


  • Do not under any circumstances touch the polarized front light screen/panel. Only hold it by the edges because it doesn't matter how clean your hands are, you will leave fingerprints which will not come off and It will show up really prominently when you turn the Gameboy on. Using solvents or de-greasers to try and remove the prints will ruin the delicate ridged polarized film. Wiping it with a dry cloth (even a lint free one) will leave fuzz which you wont be able to remove. I ruined 2 perfectly good GBA's learning this lesson so you don't have to. 
  • Keep your work are completely dust free, and keep bowing air (preferably from a spittle free source such as an air compressor) over the front light unit before and during installation. It won't make any difference, you will  still end up with a metric fuck ton (thats a scientific term) of dust trapped between the LCD, front Light unit and Perspex screen protector, which will twinkle like a million stars under the glow of the newly installed white LED strip but at least you will feel like you tried your best to stop it. 
  • Use the sticky foam from the GBA SP screen surround  to level out the front light unit and also to seal the edges (pictures 8 and 9 above) to stop yet more dust being sucked like space debris into a black hole the second you turn it on, thanks to the static charge created by the LCD screen. 
  • Use a bigger resistor than the one suggested, the light is far too bright and just makes all the colours look washed out as well as draining the battery quicker. 
  • Get used to holding your head or your Gameboy at a funny angle if you want to actually be able to see what's on screen. 

The GBA SP front light unit is designed so the LED strip is at the bottom and the light is polarized in such a way that the screen looks best when viewed in the most natural position, i.e. Viewed Directly form the front and tilted slightly away from you. When you remove it from a GBA, turn it 90 degrees and stick it in a Gameboy colour, the best viewing angle is now from the Right hand side or holding the Gameboy tilted away from you to the left.


  If you hold it directly in front of you as you would normally you can barely see the screen because of the glare from the LED strip running down the right hand side. Also when installed in the GBA, the front light unit is sandwiched directly between the LCD screen and the perspex screen cover with virtually no gap. When placed in a GBC using the method described here the polarized panel is actually hovering a millimeter or 2 above the plastic screen protector which also seems to contribute massively to the glare and pushes the LCD screen back a few millimeters. When it's all put back together and turned on, it looks like your pearing at the LCD through a square tunnel. The LCD is noticeably further away than it should be.  


(As you can see the screen looks at it's best tilted away to the left, but washed out and full of glare from the front).

Essentially my advice to you if you're planning giving this a go is just don't bother. It isn't the wonder solution you might think it is and it has a whole host of problems attached to it that you may or may not be able to live with. It's not worth breaking a perfectly good GBA SP (which you can already play Gameboy and Gameboy colour games on) just to front light a Gameboy Colour. Having said that if you're anything like me you won't pay the slightest bit of attention to a word I have said and have a go anyway, in which case good for you. 








Atecione!!! -                                                                                            


"How to frontlight your

Gameboy Colour .........properly"


Below is the old article I wrote years ago while trying to perfect a reliable method of adding a frontlight Horizontally to a gameboy colour. I have since done a proper step by step "How to" with complete photo sequences and a detailed explanation of what to do. Just click on any the thumbnails above or here go to the new page 

Atecione!!!                                                                           22/05/2014







Now the horizontal way..........................

  Right so you've tried the conventional GBC frontlight mod and even though you ruined 2 GBA SP's to get it perfect, you're really pleased with your efforts and really enjoyed yourself. But every time you sit down to play pokemon you just can't shake of the feeling that it isn't as good as you thought it would be. Try as you might you just can't ignore the fact that the colours look washed out and shit, the screen looks like it's down a tunnel and you are giving yourself neck strain trying to find and angle where you can actually see the screen through the glare without lighting up all the dust which has now mysteriously appeared. Enter.................the GBC mylk[][][] mod

If you struggled doing the standard mod or you just can't bare the thought of breaking another 3 perfectly good Gameboy Advance SP's on top of the 2 you have already ruined. Then this Mod is not for you. If you're faint hearted, cack handed or lacking patience, this mod is not for you. If you're not an insane, obsessive perfectionists with more money and time than sense. This mod is not for you. For everyone else......step this way.

  So the way I see it, if you want  your Gameboy Colour to be lit up perfectly Just like the screen in your GBA SP is, what needs to happen is the frontlight unit should be used in such a way that it is as close as humanly possible to the way it was originally intended. Someone at Nintendo spent a lot of time and energy designing and perfecting the front light in the GBA SP, it would be silly to ignore or waste that research (actually to be fair I think Nintendo actually stole the front light idea/design from some guy who designed it as aftermarket part for the original unlit GBA but the point remains the same). So that means - 



  • Light strip positioned at the bottom, not the side. So the light is polarised in the right direction for the most natural viewing angle 
  • Polarized perspex screen positioned right up against the screen protector (not a couple of millimeters away) to stop glare 
  • All 3 layers sandwiched together properly and sealed to stop dust getting sucked in from static charge



( The one on the left is my improved mylk[][][] mod version and the one on the right is the standard mod . Both these pictures where taken on the same camera setting and use the same resistor to control the power to the Front light panel. The reason the screen looks brighter and  background darker on the right  hand pic is simply down to all the excess light and glare caused by the standard mod

Right I won't do a proper step by step how to at the minute as there are still a couple of minor points I want to refine in terms of the process for it to be perfect but as I hope you can see from the pictures the end result is million times better than the standard mod. Once I have ironed out the last couple of wrinkles I will post a proper step by step idiots Guide on "how to perfectly front light your Gameboy colour" but in the meantime if you have the patience and skill to do it, you should be able to work it out from the pictures and the brief description I am about to give. far the most part the electronics are exactly the same as the standard mod, same resistor same solder points etc. (Check out Micheal Moffitt's excellent tutorial if you haven't all ready) The difference is just down to the modifications to the Gameboy case and to the front light unit. Instead  of cutting the Gameboy case to accommodate the Front light vertically. Where gonna cut the front light unit to fit the Gameboy and mount it the proper way i.e horizontally with the LED strip at the bottom. The Gameboy case also gonna have to be modified but in a different way.




The first thing to do is to cut out the plastic surround as shown in the pics to accommodate our modified Front light unit. This way when the Front light is cut down to size it will sit flush with the Perspex screen protector. It also means that when the LCD is put back in place it sits exactly where it  would sit in an unmodified Gameboy and not pushed back by couple of millimeters eliminating the "Viewing the LCD through a square tunnel" effect.




Be sure to leave a lip of a millimeter or 2  around the moulding on at least the left and right sides for the LCD screen to rest on when it's re inserted. 

Then it's time to modify the Front light unit. The front light unit is made up of 4 parts.

 It's a single tiny surface mounted LED attached to the orange ribbon cable, a U shaped reflective metal strip which the  ribbon cable and LED are attached to, a long thin perspex strip which along with the reflective metal strip evenly disperses the light from the single side mounted LED down the whole length of the strip, and the polarized perspex sheet which then disperses the light from the strip evenly across the  screen.

Now the trick is to cut the the Polarized sheet, the perspex strip and the metal reflector strip all down to size and then  file and polish up the ends without getting a speck of dust, a single finger print or any polishing compound on the polarized layer, and without snapping or scratching either the perspex sheet or the diffuser strip. (Brasso makes an excellent perspex polish and will remove all the fine scratches). 


Now anyone who has attempted to do the standard mod and ended up with fingerprints and muck all over screen will know this isn't as easy as it sounds. 

I recommend cutting the Polarzed sheet first. Cut it slightly wider than the LCD and grey/black  screen surround and put masking tape on the bit that will be cut off and discarded. Overlap the cut line with masking tape by a few millimeters (the tape will leave a residue but this will be hidden by the grey/black bezzle around the screen protector). Cover the rest of the Polarized perspex with thin cardboard to protect it from dust and muck. The polarized layer is so delicate its ridiculous and is covered in these tiny super fine ridges that even your fingernails will scratch with the lightest of touches, you might not even be able to see the scratches until you put it back together, but as soon as you turn the Light on, even the smallest scratch will glow white and stand out like a sore thumb. 



 The perspex light dispersing strip is a lot less delicate but still prone to snapping so be gentle when cutting. You will need to file and polish the cut ends of both the sheet and the strip until is like glass or you will get strobe lines across the screen as the light reflects badly off of the ragged edges. (Oh..and make sure you get the polarised sheet back in the right way or it wont work).



Cutting the metal strip is actually the least difficult and fiddly bit but when you put all the bits back together you will need to wrap tinfoil around the end to reflect light back down the strip (this is one of the bits I need to work on as the tinfoil is not quite as shiny and  reflective as the metal strip itself resulting in the light dispersal not being as even as it could be, although it is still a million times better than the standard mod)


And that's it. As I said before I'll probably do a step by step "how to" if and when I get time to re visit and refine this project.  


Refinements :-


  • Cover/wrap LED to stop light seepage and show through on screen bezel 
  • Find better reflector / tinfoil alternative or fold over reflector strip on the end
  • Seal edges properly to prevent dust
  • Seal edges to prevent light escaping or try opaque Gameboy case 
  • Use a pot or trimmer as a variable resistor to control L.E.D brightness and possibly an off switch depending on space 





Comparison Pictures [][][]