Even though the machine has been hyped as a reborn SNES with greater graphic abilities, the Game Boy Advance's biggest single problem is its screen, which is too dark for most situations. While there are a variety of external light sources available, none of these has yielded satisfying results. Fortunately, there are some real solutions for gamers coming from third-parties. One really cool device is Innovation's GBA TV Converter which is being sold around the web under various names, but these are essentially the same device. It works by interfacing with the GBA's video capture card and allows you to view games on your television or monitor screen, thanks to the included wires which support standard RCA video and S-Video connections. We purchased our adaptor from Buyritevideogames.com and while no printed instructions included in the box, a handy web page with clear instructions and photos made the process simple.
Installing the device is the hardest part of the operation, and requires some technical skill, though no soldering is required. This requires you to replace the entire back plate of the machine, which isn't as hard as it sounds. You use the included screwdrivers to open the back of the GBA and then disassemble the machine slowly making sure not to lose the shift buttons and the side arms of the machine. You remove the entire back of the machine, and you need to do so carefully so as not to scratch the screen in the process. After this step is complete, you have to release the clamp that holds the video cable that goes to the LCD screen and gently slip the adaptor's cable. This is a tricky process, and you need to be sure that the pins line up properly, and you have to do this without bending the cable on the adaptor. Then you need to make sure you've positioned the replacement GBA back panel over the wires properly, then refasten the clamp, screw the new back in place and you're ready to go. It sounds simple, but it took us 3 attempts to get the device working properly, since lining up the card properly isn't easy. A simple piece of advice is to only screw in half the back screws and test the unit beforehand to avoid this tedious task while testing. Overall, installing the converter was a little bit harder than we expected, but our patience paid off.
After the GBA is set up and working, you're ready to go. You simply plug in the removable TV adaptor into the battery panel, line up the interface, plug in the AC adaptor and connect the device into the headphone jack for sound. Then you simply plug the included wires to your television. The Converter uses standard AV or S-Video connections, the screen is sharp and clear, with only a little fuzziness. You can switch between the two video modes by pressing a button on the bottom of the converter. There are two identical switches here, and the other is the power, which can be quite annoying. The two video modes are a letterboxed mode supplies a smaller screen to play on but seems to emulate the LCD look better, while the larger full-screen mode suffers from really pixellated graphics. There isn't any lag between what you see onscreen and your input which is great. The device seems to be compatible with most GBA titles, and seems to work just as well with older GB Color and original GB titles. It works much better with the newer wide-screen GBA titles, as their detail and proportions translate far more impressively to the television. Some of the older games, especially the black and white ones look terrible by today's standards, though it's nice to finally be able to see them anyway. One problem is that some of the effects that looked amazing on the tiny LCD screen, such as scrolling and scaling look positively awful on a standard screen. For example, Tekken Advance looked awesome until you see it on the screen. Other titles, such as F-Zero: Maximum Velocity seemed to hold up better, but the real highlight for this gamer was seeing how much better the 'darker' hued games such as Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and Gradius Galaxies looked. Capcom's fighting titles looked fantastic in either mode, as you would expect, with Street Fighter II Turbo Revival providing an awesome gameplay, despite having only two buttons to work with.
The single biggest problem is that when connected, it
nearly doubles the GBA's thickness, making it feel much less comfortable. You
can get used to it, however. Another minor problem is that it requires you to
plug in the AC adaptor because you can't use the device with batteries. Finally,
at $70.00, the GBA Converter is a bit pricey, and in fact costs more than a GBA.
It might not be needed for kids with small game collections, but the device well
worth it if you have a large library of older games, don't have a decent
lighting system or hate having to squint at a small LCD screen to play. However,
you can remove the Converter from the back of the machine and use the battery
pack and make your converted GBA portable once again. This means you won't have
to sacrifice to see the games on TV which is a plus. Overall, while the
installation was a bit of a chore, the included screwdrivers made all the
difference. Once connected the Converter feels quite solid, though you might
want to be a screen protector for use during your TV sessions to avoid unwanted
scratches. The device works well, and is easy to use, as advertised and should
breathe new life into all those GBA games you've been squinting at.
Stitch: Experiment 626(PS2)
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