Updates from MiSTerland: Handheld gaming adventures in June 2021

Updates from MiSTerland: Handheld gaming adventures in June 2021

The MiSTer FPGA project has been getting quite a few updates for cores that replicate handheld gaming consoles. Let’s take a look at some new developments.


What’s up retro game lovers and all Shackers with an appreciation for classic gaming and preservation? I’m back with another report from MiSTerland and this time I’m detailing a few new updates for handheld gaming, but now on your display of choice! We’ll take a look at the previously reported Bandai WonderSwan core and a way to play multiplayer Game Boy Advance games in split-screen from Robert Peip, aka FPGAzumSpass. We’ll also touch on a new handheld core that I’ve personally been hoping to see, the Neo Geo Pocket (Color)!

Wonder no more, you can experience the WonderSwan now

I talked a little bit about the history of the Bandai WonderSwan in a previous MiSTerland post, check it out for more context if you’re unfamiliar with the system. As a quick recap, the WonderSwan was a Japanese-exclusive 16-bit handheld with a mix of black-and-white and color supported games, but a small overall library. Thanks to Robert Peip, now anyone with a MiSTer FPGA kit can use the handy update_all script to download and play this unique handheld system with a small but intriguing catalog.

There are familiar JRPG franchises, shmups, platformers, puzzlers, and more to be found for play on the Bandai WonderSwan but the more reliant on text, the more difficult they can be to enjoy. There are a handful of rom translations available at ROMHacking.net, but they have been long since abandoned if they are not complete. I’ve personally really enjoyed checking out Mr. Driller and Klonoa for the WonderSwan, but I’m also eager to try out a few of these translations for the more involved RPGs like Wizardry and Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Multiplayer GBA, no link cables needed

Also from Peip comes a feature update for his excellent Game Boy Advance core in the form of split-screen multiplayer. No longer do you need multiple handhelds and a spaghetti mess of link cables to play some classic GBA games with a friend. This update makes it a snap to run two simultaneous GBA cores with their own input on the same MiSTer FPGA kit. I don’t know about you, but link cable Game Boy Advance multiplayer was some of the best gaming-on-the-go before wireless multiplayer became the standard. Now it’s so much more convenient and preserved for future generations.

Games like Mario Kart: Super Circuit, any of the GBA-era Pokemon titles, and many more can now be enjoyed in a whole new yet familiar way with this split-screen update. With two controllers, a quick round of 2-player Advance Wars or Mario Tennis is a breeze and has never looked better thanks to the robust scaling and video output options afforded by the MiSTer. Again, to enjoy this new development for the GBA core, just run your update_all script and you’ll be trading pocket monsters in no time.

I love the Neo Geo Pocket Color

For a last quick update, I wanted to share the stealthy news that legendary FPGA developer, Jose Tejada, aka jotego, dropped in his latest Patreon post. I’ve talked about Jose’s amazing work in almost every MiSTerland update with good reason. He has done so much work for the community and published some truly excellent cores to replicate and preserve classic arcade hardware.

Now it looks like jotego will be starting work replicating the TLCS-900/H chip that powered the Neo Geo Pocket and Neo Geo Pocket Color. The NGPC was another unique handheld that offered more arcade-style experiences than the dominant Game Boy could muster. I remember purchasing one in the blister pack re-release that happened in the early ‘00s when I worked for EB Games.

The Neo Geo Pocket Color was one of my absolute most favorite little devices as an older teen, with lovely tactile feedback from its clicky stick with microswitches. It also suffered from a short lifespan and lower number of game releases, so this is another chance to revisit a system that didn’t get a ton of mainstream exposure.

That’s gonna do it for this update from MiSTerland. Thanks for reading and for caring about classic game replication and preservation.

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