Hardware Review: BitBoy (SD Card Ready Game Boy Printer Replacement)

Review-BitBoy-Game-Boy-Printer-SD-Card-ReplacementAs technology continues to press on, a wide range of devices once fulfilling our daily needs are sadly lost to time. While the retro gaming community may still be championing their classic consoles, there are still aspects of our hobby that remain somewhat abandoned. Although only focusing on a small sector of this issue, one New York based gamer has just given the Game Boy Camera’s output a much needed preservation.

Getting Snappy!

Upon its release in 1998, Nintendo’s cartridge-based digital camera wasn’t exactly at the cutting edge of technology. Limited to the resolution of the handheld’s dated screen, the Game Boy Camera was capable of taking photographs in black and white at a resolution of 256×224 pixels. With other cameras available at the time breaking past the 1 megapixel mark, the Game Boy Camera was more of a novelty for younger gamers who owned the portable system.

As of today though, the Game Boy Camera has seen a considerable rise in fame for it’s lo-fi output. Several artists have begun using the device to capture their daily lives, all of which depicted through the camera-cartridge’s grainy lens. Despite this, anyone hoping to follow in their footsteps would soon find that the Game Boy Camera never provided an official way to export its digital photos to a computer. Instead gamers needed to equip themselves with the accompanying Game Boy Printer - a small thermo-printer which produced stickers of your snaps.

Seeing a gap in the market MadCatz (of the 3rd party accessory fame) released a PC to Game Boy cable which would imitate the Game Boy Printer. This allowed gamers to save BMP files of their photography to an attached computer. Although proving a reliable solution at the time, finding a computer with a compatible parallel port today is near impossible. This in turn left gamers devising all kinds of alternative methods to archiving their photographs, including convoluted combinations of USB flash cartridges and unofficial memory back-up devices.

That, however, is all in the past thanks to the BitBoy.

Introducing the BitBoy

Originally announced last year by its creator Alexander Bahr, the BitBoy promised to be the ultimate replacement for the dated Game Boy Printer. Bahr himself had been growing frustrated with the lack of ways to extract images created on the Game Boy and decided to create a one-size-fits-all solution.

Arriving in a small 3D printed case and equipped with a SD card slot, the BitBoy would mimic the Game Boy Printer’s functionality and capture anything sent its way. This not only meant that gamers could finally back up their photographs with ease, but also archive their medals in Super Mario Bros Deluxe, the Pokedex entries in Pokemon Yellow, and just about anything the printer was compatible with.

Priced up at $65 and coming bundled with a charging cable and 4gb SD card, the BitBoy finally started making its way to gamers eager to archive their Game Boy history.

BitBoy-Printing-a-Photo

A Picture Prints a Thousand Pixels

Having gotten our hands on a BitBoy, we decided to put the device up to the test and see how true it was to its mission statement. Following the online instructions, we connected a Game Boy Pocket to the BitBoy via an official Game Boy Link Cable, and then inserted the SD card into the device.

Our tests started out with the Game Boy Camera, which only seemed natural given the BitBoy was created with that in mind. Once powered on the BitBoy’s on-board LEDs indicated a connection had been made and all we had to do from here was print images. Browsing through the camera’s album we stumbled upon a selection of snaps taken pre-2000, all of which in desperate need of backing up.

Selecting the first image on show, we navigated up to the print function and hit A. From here the Game Boy Camera displayed the standard transferring screen and the BitBoy’s LED began flashing. Within a few seconds the screen moved over to the printing notification, and not before long we were back viewing the image. With what appeared to be a successful print, we disconnected the device and removed the SD card. Upon putting the removable media into the nearest computer, there it was, a perfectly digitalised BMP file of an old family pet that had been left behind on the Game Boy Camera.

BitBoy-Photography-Saved-To-SD-Card

Having then printed a few more images with similar results, we turned to the instruction manual to work out how to print images in batch. This again was a simple method and something built in to the Game Boy Camera by default. On the title screen a secret menu can be brought up by pressing select. Within here selecting ‘Link’ and then ‘Print’ you’re able to select a number of images to print in a batch. This again worked perfectly fine and created a selection of individual images on the SD card with ease.

With the Game Boy Camera proving all too easy for the BitBoy, we began digging out other games from Nintendo’s back catalogue that were compatible with the Printer. Consulting Gameboyphoto’s official list there’s approximately 22 games which made use of the accessory through varying ways. Pokemon Pinball for example would allow gamers to print out the high score table, while the likes of Super Mario Bros Deluxe gifted gamers medals (printable achievements) throughout play. The most notable one, however, was the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX. During the game a photographer would visit Link in key locations and snap the plucky adventurer’s outings. Although unbeknownst to many, these pictures could then be viewed in the Photographer’s Hut and printed too.

Having found several of the compatible games, we began testing out the BitBoy with everything we could throw at it. This saw us printing Pokedex entries from Pokemon Gold, all of which landing on the SD card as BMP files - the same way things worked with the Game Boy Camera. Continuing on, the various medals and stickers from Super Mario Bros Deluxe also popped onto the SD card with ease. The BitBoy made it all too easy, and a real novelty too.

BitBoy-Game-Boy-Game-Print-Outs

Conclusion

Needless to say, our tests proved that the BitBoy lived up to all of its promises. Having made the Game Boy Printer completely redundant, the device now provides a future-proof solution for those wanting to get a little more out of the Game Boy Camera. The added functionality with various other Game Boy titles is a welcome addition too, especially given that Pokemon trainers can finally print out diplomas for catching all 151 of those little critters.

Technology aside though, it’s also worth noting that the BitBoy brought back the excitement of funtography for us. Equipped with the Game Boy Camera, it almost felt like 1998 again as we found ourselves snapping anything and everything. With this in mind don't be surprised if you see a sudden rise in Game Boy photographers from here on out - all of which inspired by the BitBoy!

Link: BitBoy Official Website


Last Updated ( 03 February 2016 )  

Cauterize

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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Comments 

(Link to this comment) fierybirdything 2016-02-04 08:53
Wow... Pricey, but it sounds pretty sweet. Been quite a while since I really 'played' with any sort of camera, let alone the GB one.

Judging from the stock details, it appears that this will be quite limited. Shame, but then I guess there isn't that big a market for this sort of thing.
(Link to this comment) BeardedWonder91 2016-02-10 09:37
Any idea if the cable can be purchased separately, or is it likely to need to be a certain quality?
$105 for a bundle seems pretty steep, shipped to the UK...
(Link to this comment) Sisee 2016-03-31 20:23
I have nothing but respect for the creator of this device.
I contacted his seller, as the website was out of stock for a long time.
I was after something to preserve some very special (albeit low resolution) memories before the battery in my camera went dry.
The seller forwarded my enquiry to the designer, and he sold me one of his hand made prototypes directly.
In my opinion, the is guy is a legend.

As for the product; it's fantastic.
Does exactly what it needs to.
It's also compatible with the handful of games that use the GameBoy printer function. Not just the GameBoy Camera.
A great little piece of tech. And perfect for anyone interested in the novelty of the GameBoy Camera and Printer functionality.
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