Watch One Player Explore The Theoretical Limits Of The Game Boy
Nintendo's Game Boy is coming up on its 28th birthday this April, and despite the unit's old age, it still has secrets to uncover. One player was determined to explore the realm of possibility using the now-antiquated system — or, more specifically, an emulated version of the hardware — and the mind-bending video above is testament to the untold possibilities still lying dormant within the handheld.
The video is a bit hard to follow, but the essential information is as such: through use of arbitrary code execution, or ACE, YouTube user MrWint loads up Pokémon Yellow and looks to start throwing loads of items away. He then speaks to an NPC, which seems to trigger the intro cinematic for Pokémon Gold. After a quick encounter with a Celebi and a trek into Goldenrod City, another NPC encounter brings up a rapid-fire match of Tetris, because why not. The round is beaten, and after a shuttle launches skyward, the player walks away from the NPC and straight into The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.
The rest is sheer madness, with the player wandering between various games in the Pokémon franchise as well as Super Mario Bros., and ends with the final discussion with Professor Oak at the end of Pokémon Yellow. It's all very hard to understand both on an empirical as well as fundamental level, and likely in advance of viewer's confusion, MrWint (via TASVideos) provided an explanation:
I don’t need to run all of the actual code, I just need to run equivalent code that produces the same audio-visual effect as the original. At first I thought about streamlining the original code by cutting not needed code paths and priming it so that it produced the predetermined results I wanted (basically pre-computing the emulation and only running the resulting instructions), but I came up with an even more radical idea: I realized that all the instructions that really mattered are those that put tiles on the screen or played some sounds. So all I need to do is emulate the actual audio-visual output of the game with the right timing, without any internal game state.
This realization was the key to this run, as it opened many more possibilities: The source of the A/V doesn’t need to be another game. It could be a hack of a game. Or the mash-up of different games. Or from a different system. Or literally arbitrary A/V. This made this run become not about running a game in another game, but more about pushing the limits of the Gameboy hardware and see what is possible.
In a nutshell, MrWint's recorded exploits aren't necessarily meant to break any sort of records or prove him most envious of elite modders, but rather to push the limits of the Game Boy, both in terms of the hardware's audio abilities as well as visual, as can be seen in the video's SpongeBob finale, which makes use of an infrequently-used ability of the original Game Boy's design called HiColor. It might seem like too much happening too fast, but that's kind of the point -- it proves that there's still much to learn and love about Nintendo's classic handheld console.