Quick Start: Game Boy Interface on Nintendo GameCube

Note: This resource is meant to be a brief guide to help you get the best fidelity out of your Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance games using a Game Boy Player.

Background

The Game Boy Player (DOL-017) is a Nintendo GameCube peripheral that attaches to the bottom of the system using the High Speed Port. It contains real Game Boy Advance hardware and is thus compatible with every Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance game.

A retail copy of Game Boy Player comes bundled with a Game Boy Player Start-Up Disc. It contains software to boot games using the peripheral, pipe the A/V to your GameCube output while interfacing the controller ports as input for the Game Boy Player.

The image produced using the bundled software leaves a lot to be desired so homebrew developer Extrems has created alternative software, Game Boy Interface, that solves the same problems a lot better.

Note: Second hand Game Boy Players tend to be a lot cheaper if they are missing the Start-Up Disc. You’re not gonna need the disc anyway so you might as well save some money by getting one with the disc missing.

With deprecated hardware (such as non-SDHC/SDXC microSD cards) getting scarcer by the year getting it to run can be a little tricky so I’ve had to do some digging before I got it to work properly.

SD Media Launcher

The easiest way to get Game Boy Interface running on your Nintendo GameCube is by getting a SD Media Launcher. As of writing they are still available from Codejunkies website.

Warning: Make sure you get an SD Media Launcher with a region that matches your console.

The tricky bit about using an SD Media Launcher is to set up the SD card so that’s where I imagine this resource might be most useful.

Formatting the SD Card

I recently purchased half a dozen microSD cards for use with the SD Media Launcher. Out of these only one was compatible. That card was Transcend TS2GUSD, the only non-SDHC/SDXC microSD card I could find that I did not have to import from another hemisphere.

See how lonely it is in this product chart of modern microSD cards?

This card is from the odd era between SD/miniSD cards and microSD SDHC/SDXC cards. The documentattion says it needs to be at most 4GB but I suspect you might be able to spoof this by leaving blocks after a 4GB partititon unallocated. However, I cannot confirm this as I do not own a non-SDHC/SDXC microSD card with a capacity larger than 4GB.

Assuming you have a compatible card, let’s look at the formatting criteria:

  • MBR boot sector
  • 32 kilobyte allocation unit size
  • FAT16 file system

Get any of these wrong and your compatible card still won’t work.

Windows

I did this in the Microsoft Windows operating system because I’m assuming that most people needing more instructions than the bullet list in the previous section are using Windows.

1) Right click Command Prompt and select Run as Administrator
2) Fire up diskpart:

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Microsoft Windows [Version 10.0.17134.885]
(c) 2018 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

C:\WINDOWS\system32>diskpart

Microsoft DiskPart version 10.0.17134.1

Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation.
On computer: DISAPPOINTMENT

DISKPART> list disk

Disk ### Status Size Free Dyn Gpt
-------- ------------- ------- ------- --- ---
Disk 0 Online 447 GB 0 B
Disk 1 Online 3813 MB 4032 KB

DISKPART> select disk 1

Disk 1 is now the selected disk.

DISKPART> clean

DiskPart succeeded in cleaning the disk.

DISKPART> convert mbr

DiskPart successfully converted the selected disk to MBR format.

DISKPART> create partition primary

DiskPart succeeded in creating the specified partition.

DISKPART> format fs=fat

100 percent completed

DiskPart successfully formatted the volume.

After closing down the prompt you are ready to add files to your blank SD card.

Files

Download the latest release of Swiss and put the .DOL file in the root of your SD card. It’s gonna be in the DOL/ directory and be named something like swiss_{version}-compressed.dol.

Then download Game Boy Interface and extract the entire archive as a directory named gbi/. Stick this directory in your root as well.

Boot

Now insert the SD card into the SD Media Adaptor and insert that into either memory card slot of your Nintendo GameCube. Put the Action Replay Disc into the optical drive and fire up your GameCube.

You should see a list of the files on your memory card. Select Swiss and through it boot into Game Boy Interface.

You might notice there are three versions of Game Boy Interface:

Version Ideal for
GBI Sample-and-hold displays (LCD, OLED)
GBIHF OSSC and XRGB-mini Framemeister
GBISR Impulse displays (CRT, 1ms MPRT LCD, Plasma)

Further reading

Game Boy Interface Documentation
Swiss Documentation
RetroRGB