Retro gaming, collecting and preservation are becoming more and more popular these days. There is also a burgeoning community of indie developers creating and releasing brand new games for beloved systems from the gaming days of old. The GB operator is a small, very useful device that has appeal for players, collectors and developers alike.
GB Operator – Retro Revolution
It is the creation of a small team whose passion for retro games and for game preservation is evident from the helpful articles on their website. One such article covers how to spot counterfeit cartridges while another details how best to clean the contact pins on your beloved game cartridges.
It is available to purchase directly from the Epilogue website at a cost of $61.49 (£50/€57).
Compatible with GB, GBC and GBA cartridges, the GB Operator has a number of use cases. If your favourite retro GameBoy has bitten the dust and you are left with a nice collection of beloved games then this is an inexpensive way to play your collection.
The neat hardware connects to your Windows, Mac or Linux system via the included USB cable and operates using software which is downloaded directly from the Epilogue website. Heck it can even be set up to work with Steam Deck.
One of the major issues with some retro cartridges is that your save files are only intact as long as the battery in the cartridge hasn’t died. At the time of writing some GameBoy games are upwards of 30yrs old – a long time for a battery to hold its charge.
Thankfully this device comes with the very handy feature of being able to insert a game, read the save data and back it up. If you are replacing an old battery in a cartridge you can then rewrite the save file back to the cartridge. So your Pokemon collection and high scores are forever safe.
For collectors there is a feature in the software to identify bogus cartridges. Counterfeiting is rife in the Reto collecting market, with bootlegs becoming more and more sophisticated and harder to spot. Thankfully just pop a cart into the GB Operator and it can tell you if most are original or not.
Finally, for the many small indie developers who are creating great new games on GameBoy, GameBoy Colour and GameBoy Advance, this device offers a way to write their own games to blank cartridges in order to sell physical copies.
The hardware design is simple and stylish. Its internal components can be seen through its sleek clear perspex exterior shell. It has no buttons so once it’s plugged in it is powered on. The slightly angled shape combined with the rubber base underneath prevent the device from slipping or tipping over when pushing a game into the cartridge slot.
Once inserted the game feels secure and not much effort is required to remove. Not needing an external power supply, its usb connection serves as both a data and power interface. Handy for popping into the laptop bag and taking with you when hunting for new cartridges to add to your collection.
Games look, sound and run brilliantly with the software utilising the excellent mGBA emulator at its heart. Should you have a different emulator preference, you are free to use whichever one you like. The software supports gamepads and button mapping alongside keyboard controls allowing for a custom control method to suit player preference.
The Epilogue website features a roadmap for the development of the GB Operator, showing the team’s commitment to honing and enhancing its functionality.
The GB Operator is a must have for fans who are serious about collecting GameBoy, GameBoy Colour and GameBoy Advance cartridges. Not only is it a helpful tool in identifying fake cartridges but it can also be used to back up your save files from the likes of the Pokemon series allowing you to write these saves back to the cartridge once you have given your cherished cartridge some TLC by replacing its battery.
The team at Epilogue have delivered a premium, well built device that offers so much flexibility on the software side. I hope they branch out into some other retro systems in the future. Sega Mega Drive… nudge nudge.
This one comes highly recommended with the Thumb Culture Platinum Award.
Disclaimer: A sample was received in order to write this review.