The $199 Chromatic might be the ultimate Nintendo Game Boy


Before he brought VR headsets out of the dark ages with Oculus, before he founded defense contractor Anduril, Palmer Luckey was a Nintendo Game Boy modder.

It’s true. There’s photo evidence — and today, he’s revealing his own take on the ultimate cartridge-playing Nintendo Game Boy, one that you can actually buy for $199.

Shipping this holiday, the ModRetro Chromatic sounds incredible: magnesium alloy case, sapphire crystal cover glass, PBT buttons, a pixel-perfect IPS screen at the same size, resolution, and pixel structure as the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color, color-matched to the Game Boy Color screen — and with “well over a thousand” nits of brightness so you can play out in the sunlight.

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Hardware gallery: Luckey says all of these are real pictures because “renders are for losers.”

Not only does it have an FPGA inside (like the lauded Analogue Pocket) to play genuine Game Boy and Game Boy Color carts as if you’re playing them on the Nintendo original, but Luckey also says it will come with a genuine copy of Tetris like the original Game Boy often famously did. It’s a new, fully licensed Tetris game internally developed by Luckey’s team, which features “reimagined versions of the iconic Tetris theme song” and genuine Link Cable multiplayer.

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Actual macrophotos of a Chromatic screen.
Images: ModRetro

Because yes, the Chromatic has a Link Cable port as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack and USB-C for “lagless” video out. It lasts 24 hours on three standard AA batteries, Luckey tells me. While it’ll probably ship with alkalines, there’ll be an optional lithium-ion pack, too — and he tells me you can even recharge your NiMH AA batteries over USB-C!

Audio is mono, like the original Game Boys, with a “custom ultra-loud speaker module.”

Palmer Luckey, age 16, with modded GB Pocket.

Speaking of custom, Luckey tells me the whole design is in-house, including the custom screen — which is so bright because it’s based on displays used in aviation. He says ModRetro isn’t doing anything quite so exotic as manufacturing its own chips but that, in general, the team went all out instead of making business savvy decisions. “None of it makes any business sense at all.”

Compared to the Analogue Pocket, says Luckey, “we are actually authentic”:

The color temps are actually right, the clock rate isn’t slightly off, the pixel structure isn’t totally wrong in a way that ruins subpixel aware sprites, etc.

He sent me this image to illustrate:

”Here is an example – notice how Lapras is garish yellow on Analogue instead of actually matching the GBC color temps, which we did with an all custom display,” writes Luckey.
Image: Palmer Luckey

The handheld isn’t the only thing the ModRetro team will be selling: you can buy original “Chromatic” cartridges with new games, too. Luckey’s promising a lot there: “all-physical re-releases and remasters of classic Game Boy titles, entirely new IP from incredible indie developers, first-time launches of Game Boy games that were canceled before release, and even some titles that were canceled before the public ever found out about them.”

The Chromatic handheld doesn’t use ROMs, by the way, not even in a roundabout fashion like the Analogue Pocket. It’s cartridge only, says Luckey, unless you supply your own flashcart.

Some of the games on offer.
Image: ModRetro

Luckey says he’s not sure how long he’ll fund hardware manufacturing, hinting that quantities will be limited — though GameStop will carry an unknown number of them as well. “I am going to make as many as I need to fulfill preorders,” he tells me. “But this thing is too crazy to make forever.”

“I don’t see this as a way to make money, I see it as the way to make the world’s best tribute to the Game Boy, something that I’ll be proud of for a very long time.”

You know me: I’m getting one.



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