What Is That?!

How arrogant of me. How utterly arrogant. All these years I had always assumed I knew mostly everything there was to ever know about the Nintendo Gameboy. I was wrong. About a month ago, I discovered a rare Gameboy peripheral that I’d never seen before or ever knew existed until now – the Konami Hyperboy. How could I have not known about this for all these years is beyond me. It’s a peripheral that was released by Konami in 1991 (never released in the US) that turns your Gameboy into a tabletop arcade. I had always viewed the Gameboy itself as a hybrid system; a cross between an NES and a Game & Watch. With this peripheral, it pushes the Gameboy more into the Game & Watch tabletop territory, which is what I love about it. This has got to be the coolest GameBoy peripheral ever made.

For people that know me, they know how much of a fan I am of tabletop LCD games. Its just the kid in me. I was a big fan of arcades growing up, and little miniature cabinets are just so cute and they’re great to collect for nostalgia. When I first saw the Hyperboy, I felt like it was something I had to have. I had a new obsession. See the pic below to see my modest tabletop game collection that I’ve collected over the years:

Starting from upper left and going clockwise: Hyperboy, Q-bert, Mario’s Cement Factory, Frogger, Missile Command, Breakout, Asteroids, Centipede, Pac-man, Donkey Kong Hockey, Bandai’s Double Play, and 2 Player Space Invaders

In reality, the Hyperboy is not much different than this popular retro peripheral:

Functionally, it does all the same things the Hyperboy does, but the approach is completely different. For one, it doesn’t quite compare to the aesthetics and design of the Hyperboy. The Hyperboy is better designed and more pleasing to the eye. Second, the Hyperboy appeals to the arcade gamer, which this one does not. For these 2 reasons, the Hyperboy could be regarded as the superior peripheral.

Procurement

As I mentioned before, after seeing the Hyperboy, I realized it was something I had to get somehow. Unfortunately for me, I was about to find out just how rare this item was. I looked for the Hyperboy on both Ebay and Amazon, and the searches came up empty. I can’t read Japanese, so that ruled out trying Japanese shopping sites. It was too difficult. Was it possible to acquire something so rare?

It wasn’t until I went on Ebay UK that I finally got matches for my search. Three matches came up. One was from Switzerland, but was used, and was only the unit, no box. He charged about 80 euros for the unit, and 40 euros for shipping, so total was about $160USD. The second one was from Belgium (they speak French), and was up for bid, and charged 50 euros for shipping. It was used, but came with the box, manual and 4 Gameboy games. The last one was from Spain and charged 30 euros for the unit, and 40 euros for shipping (totalling around $94USD). It was brand new. I had found my seller. Fortunately for me the seller spoke english (I had to use Google translator to talk to the Belgium guy). Unfortunately for me, he did not want to ship to USA. The reason he gave me was because since a bomb incident that occurred in late 2010, customs was now keeping bigger packages for months at a time to run out any bomb tickers. Because of this, in many instances, international packages were not arriving in the Ebay/Paypal promised delivery periods. Since the customers were protected, many complained and got refunds. In many cases, the customers would eventually still receive the items, and sellers would lose money. The way I got around this was buying direct from the seller’s site, and foregoing my protection through Ebay/Paypal. I went through with it. Fortunately for me, I received the item in a couple of weeks with no issues.

Setup

The Hyperboy takes 2 D-size batteries on the bottom of the unit. There is a guide in the backslot of the Hyperboy, and the Gameboy slides down smoothly into the Hyperboy. At the bottom of the slot, one can see an erect headphone plug. The headphone jack of the Gameboy connects to the plug as it slides down and snaps into the Hyperboy slot. Setup is complete.

One important thing I did want to point out was that the back slot of the Hyperboy was designed perfectly for the original Gameboy (DMG-01) . Now that I own one, and have had the hands-on with it, I am 100% sure that the Gameboy Pocket, or Gameboy Color would not work with the Hyperboy. That was one of the burning questions I had before I got one, and I’m sure many people had the same question.

Visuals

The first game I fired up was Donkey Kong ’94. I installed the cartridge, flipped the power switch on the right hand side of the Hyperboy, and then turned on the Gameboy.  Donkey Kong was the game I imagined playing with on the Hyperboy when I first laid eyes on it.  So I thought it was fitting that DK, with its retro arcade roots, be the first game I played on the Hyperboy.  Who really needs Coleco’s Donkey Kong tabletop arcade (from 1982, see picture below) when you got the Hyperboy?  Well, I don’t have one, but to be honest, it’d be pretty sweet to own one too I must admit.

Below you can see some screenshots of the game. You can probably make out 2 front-lit bulbs at the top and bottom of the screen. The screen is magnified, and the bulbs are decently lit. The magnification and the light improve the Gameboy screen quite a bit. However, if you’ve ever played the original Gameboy, you know how difficult it is to see the screen clearly. It’s improved significantly, but its still challenging to see, especially when movement is occurring on the screen. The scrolling can be difficult to make out as it always has been. It is not as clear as the improved backlit screens of the Gameboy SP that we have now; not even close. I had to play around with the contrast quite a bit to get a good picture just like I did back in the old days.

One small gripe I do have about the Hyperboy’s lights is that I wish there were more. Two front-lit lightbulbs do an adequate job, but 2 more on each side would have been excellent. It’s difficult to see from the picture below, but the middle of the screen is somewhat dimmer than the top and bottom of the screen, and therefore less clear with the visuals.

The Hyperboy screen can actually be removed by lifting the gray screen assembly up. It makes it easy to clean the inside of the screen, or to change any lightbulb(s) that may go out. Behind the screen, one can see an extra lightbulb in a small compartment. It has been provided as a spare if needed.

One thing I noticed about the screen is that its best to play during the evening or night. Any bit of sunlight causes a glare on the magnification screen. The Hyperboy screen works best in a dimmer environment.

Sound

Out of all the features of the Hyperboy, the best feature of all is the quality of the speakers. The speakers are located to the right and left sides of the unit, near the base. These speakers are connected to the Gameboy headphone jack. At the highest volume setting on the Gameboy, the tunes are booming. It was actually too loud, and I had to dial it back a little. Volume is controlled strictly by the Gameboy dial, as there is no second dial on the Hyperboy. I really enjoyed listening to the retro game tunes coming from the Hyperboy. Surprisingly, there’s quite a bit of power and clarity here in the built-in speakers. This little unit really does provide arcade-like sound quality.

Controls

The controls of the Gameboy are extended mechanically to the Hyperboy front joystick and buttons. If you remove the Gameboy and look behind the Hyperboy joystick and buttons, you can see how tiny plastic fingers move and protrude out as you move the joystick and press the buttons on the front panel. These fingers touch the Gameboy’s dpad and buttons and corresponds to any control movement from the front panel. In general, the controls translate well, though the slight mechanical friction doesn’t make the Hyperboy controls ideal, but they work well enough.

Another feature of the Hyperboy controls, is the 4-way to 8-way joystick switch. It is located right above the joystick. At first, I could not tell which setting was which as there are no markings, and the manual is useless. However, I was able to figure it out by looking at the joystick itself. One can see that when flipping the switch, there is a plastic guide at the base of the joystick. A diamond configuration restricts the joystick movement to 4-way, by blocking diagonal movement. A square configuration provides no restrictions, and therefore is 8-way, and supposedly better for shooters like Konami’s Nemesis.

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5 Comments

Filed under Arcade, Box Art, Gameboy, Import, Nintendo

5 responses to “What Is That?!

  1. Adam Prenger

    We now have what I hope is the definitive English Hyper Boy articles on the internet.

  2. Alan Chung

    Yeah, that is true. I had trouble finding information about it before I went looking to buy it. The information out there is limited.

  3. not Japan-only. I had one of these, it was available in Europe (Netherlands)

    • Hey, I just psoetd an article about big joysticks, too. Whoa. Although I like how these ones have buttons on them. But it seems like it’d be kind of difficult to play something like Tetris.

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