The Smart Boy, revealed by Hyperkin as an apparent April Fools’ joke, is now becoming a reality.
The Smart Boy works by sliding your phone into it, which converts the display into a makeshit Game Boy display. Rather than use emulation to run the games, instead the Smart Boy features a cartridge slot on the back where you can slot in original GameBoy and GameBoy Color cartridges. So if you have a dusty copy of Tetris lying around somewhere, you’ll soon be able to relive the glory days of Nintendo’s 8-bit handheld.
“A lot of you were speculating that the Smart Boy is an April Fools’ Joke,” Hyperkin wrote on its Facebook page. “Well, it sort of was. We ‘leaked’ it with the initial intent of testing the market, seeing whether or not it should be something we’d actually make, under the guise of an April Fools’ Joke. Looks like you awesome folks ACTUALLY WANT IT, so the Smart Boy is now in development! Thank you all for your enthusiastic responses!”
The Smart Boy has a built-in battery that can be charged via your phone, and Hyperkin says that gameplay on an iPhone 6 Plus will last around five hours. It also said that other smartphones will be supported in the future, although there were no specific mentions of which phones or what kind of timeline to expect.
Nintendo is known to be pretty ferocious about defending its intellectual properties, but Hyperkin’s previously released RetroN 5 (a system that runs an emulator using data from your physical cartridges) is still going strong, despite claims that its coding violates several licenses.
Still, the internet can be a fickle place. Wading into the comment section of Hyperkin’s Facebook post, their portrayal of the enthusiastic response seems a bit skewed: Comments on the announcement range from “What’s the point?” to “honestly not worth the development.” Users are mainly concerned about the usefulness of a product that falls just short of being a controller, and Apple’s tendency to rapidly change designs from one iPhone generation to the next.
The Smartboy is an interesting product, allowing you to dig out your old GameBoy cartridges without having to actually play them on a GameBoy; the lack of backlighting in the original handheld drew a very fine line between “enjoying a nice game of Pokémon” and “squinting at what might be a Pikachu.” But if you already own a 3DS, you might just prefer taking your chances with the Nintendo eShop selection instead.
With no release date or price-range set, it remains to be seen whether this will be a novel idea that you can pick up and try, or just an expensive controller that you can only use for your GameBoy games. And questions remain over how Hyperkin intends to ensure that its unit doesn’t simply become obsolete with new phone form factors. But Hyperkin has a good record among the retro gaming community, so hopefully those questions will be answered sooner rather than later.