Japanese Exclusive Game Boy Barcode Battler Accessory ‘Barcode Boy’ Finally Emulated

Barcode-Boy-Emulated-on-GBE-PlusIn 1991 one of the hottest crazes was the newly released Barcode Battler LCD handheld. This standalone system featured a built in barcode scanner to which you swiped hero and enemy cards to do battle with. Additional items and power ups could be scanned too, all of which adding or subtracting to the simplistic number game made up of three values, attack, defense and energy.

Although rudimentary, the Barcode Battler’s charm was within its ability to scan just about any barcode you could find. The school playgrounds were soon flooded with kids exchanging cutouts from the back of baked bean tins to pickled onion crisps, all in the hunt for the perfect warrior - the true Barcode Battler. It was very much a product of its time and it’s unlikely another craze will ever have children ripping the packaging off just about anything they can find, and then running it through a small slot on a handheld game.

Just a year after this fad swept into action, Namcot combined this must-have technology with one of the hottest products around. Arriving as an add-on accessory for the Game Boy, the Barcode Boy provided Nintendo’s handheld with everything the original LCD game had to offer and more. Connecting to the Game Boy through the link port, different cartridges could be purchased for use with the accessory to provide new experiences to scanning barcodes, all of which complimented by previously unseen visuals that were not possible on basic LCD handhelds.

Despite how popular the craze was, this impressive accessory and accompanying games never made their way out of Japan. As a result the kit has since faded into obscurity and become one of those curios that often feature on the shelves of an import gamer’s collection (alongside the Dance Dance Revolution accessory made for the Game Boy Color).


Playing / Emulating the Barcode Boy Today

This quick introduction to the Barcode Boy brings us to the important topic of emulation. Prior to 2017, the two compatible games released (Monster Maker and Battle Space) were almost pointless to play without the original accessory to hand, as without a barcode scanner the gameplay was somewhat limited. Two emulators supposedly offered support for the Barcode Boy already (KiGB and GEST), however, their way of handling the fact a scanner was absent from play was to feed the games random data to simulate a barcode being scanned.

Unhappy with this lack of compatibility and accurate emulation, preservationist and programmer Shonumi recently took to his blog Edge of Emulation to make amends. Having already deciphered how a more recent barcode scanning accessory for the Game Boy Color worked, Shonumi began analysing how the scanner sent data back to the game cartridges through the original Game Boy link cable.

With the format cracked and a plan of action laid out, Shonumi began adding functionality into his GBE+ emulator to upload barcodes into play mid-game. This can be done by converting the barcodes into binary files which are simply uploaded to the emulator when needed. This means that gamers intrigued by this unique accessory can finally experience an authentic, although ‘barcode-less’ playthrough of Namcot’s short lived add-on for the Game Boy.

Barcode Boy Emulation in GBE+

Link: Emulating the Barcode Boy at Edge of Emulation

Last Updated ( 07 July 2017 )  


Better known as Adam offline, Cauterize is one of RetroCollect's final bosses with an unhealthy addiction to pixels. When he's not out searching the web for the latest retro gaming news or creating content for RetroCollect, he'll will most likely be found working on his Sensible Soccer skills.

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(Link to this comment) SurfKahuna 2017-07-12 09:16
Hey! You folks talked about the Zelda barcode game in your recent Zelda episode. Maybe now you can actually play the game. I'm sure it'll be a blast :).
(Link to this comment) ninjaalex 2017-07-21 22:59
That Barcode Battler advert is cool. Shame the device had a really boring game, nothing more than a novelty, but it was a big part of my childhood.

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