I dunno what brought this on but, I decided to give the GBA SP I had a makeover. Some purists may scoff at this but, it was a project that was challenging to do but worth it in the end I think. Giving my ol’ GBA some TLC and a new better look.

The GBA is a platform that was quite an interesting rollercoaster of hate, love, quality and questionable decision making. The original lacking a backlight brought both many a frustration and many a questionable…odd accessory that would be found laughable in today’s world. Followed by the GBA SP something that should have been the obvious base model, with a front lit screen (yes, front lit) to it’s folded design to protect the screen, it was something that I, and many wanted day 1. Infact I sold my GBA the day it was announced and sat, waiting with a preorder ..so I could finally enjoy the games I bought without relying on sun or crappy accessories.



I vividly remember buying Golden Sun day 1 with my friend and sitting in his living room (which had only lamps and no ceiling lights of ANY kind) and playing it. Loving a fully realized RPG on the go …But…as the day went on we found ourselves desperately leaning toward the huge window in the back, more and more trying to get every last bit of light we could! Till we had to give up and play something else as night fell but our excitement peaked.

Finally I got my GBA SP and got to play a boat load of games any time I wanted with a freakin’ backlit screen (something my Game Gear sported years before, but yes that’s apples and oranges in terms of tech, we’ll talk about that some other time maybe). It’s one fatal flaw being, predating the iPhone‘s decision to ditch the headphone jack. Yes, you needed a freakin’ adapter to listen to your tunes in stereo! …AHEM …

What does this have to do with the project I mentioned in the title? Hell if I know, but it’s a fun bit of backstory to the GBA history, me and this GBA SP I decided to refit for the modern times. This GBA SP I got a few years back through a friend who managed to track down a AGS-101 which, if you’re nerdy enough will know is the backlit version of the GBA! Fancy, ass, shit.

So, the project? Well the AGS-101 came in a variety of ….three colors (black, baby blue and metallic pink), and I got the second worst of the lot…baby blue. Turns out on ebay there’s sellers offering a ton of options of shells that are surprisingly accurate and authentic to the original…down to selling stickers that say which version of the GBA you got. I grabbed one for the princely sum of $15 bucks which included the shell, battery, a glass screen cover, screw drivers (including Nintendo’s favorite tri-wing screw driver), stickers to tie it together and some minor extras.

Lemmie tell you, if this sounds tempting and it’s got you excited to fix up your ol’ GBA SP? Yeah, it’s totally worth it but the difficulty of doing is possibly more than you want to do it. 90% of it went smoothly but just ONE bit of it took a while. We’ll get to that shortly!

Ahh…Glorious. On the bottom is my original SP, a bit scuffed from it’s previous owner but about to get a new lease on life! All the parts are included that you need, but you’ll have to take some like the screen, mother board and, most importantly the hinge mechanisms from the previous unit.

Disassembly was mostly easy. You unscrew things, just remember where the screws went and how it went together. The problem points were the ribbon cable connecting the screen to the mobo and …the hinges, oh, my GOODNESS the hinges! ….

Look at that, all the parts have penciled in signatures! Which I’m sure are for quality control and …alright alright FINE. Hinges. Yes, they’re the biggest fucking problem with this swap out. They are the ONLY THING that keep me from saying “this is TOTALLY worth it!” because they were the biggest pains in the ass ever because you need to remove them from the old case and slap them into the new one.

Let’s put it this way, on youtube, I found 3 tutorials  and ALL of them either broke the GBA SP shell trying to remove them or they broke the hinges. Mind you , they all were trying to incorrectly force the hinge mechanisms out but holy crap they are so small and the area to get them out is even smaller. Trying to get them into the new shell was also a problem as …I’m not sure I can even describe it. They had these really hard to see slots that you needed to fit your tools into to remove them. They have little, tiny clips that you gotta work in while pushing the hinges out. I screwed this up once, my brother (who was helping THANKFULLY) screwed it up as well. So, you guessed it we were spending a while trying to get them out of the new shell. You gotta remember the angle and which side they were on. Making sure they go in how you took them out (open or closed).

Or, the better idea, look on ebay for a new set of hinges and spare yourself the torment. Because it’s NOT worth that headache. It’s 5 bucks. Had any of these videos shown the full process I’d have bought them up.

…Oooo! Look it’s done!


Seriously, look at the detail these shell clones go into. You can literally pick the AGS-101 (backlit) or AGS-001(front lit) stickers for the back, it comes with the nintendo logo for the shell otp. They aren’t screwin’ around. It feels a bit different, lighter I guess but it doesn’t feel any less durable. From the outside? It’s nearly impossible to tell. I mean if you’re a REAL maniac you can use a heat gun to remove your original sticker to slap on the new one. But me? I’m satisfied with this. It was apparently a bit beyond my ability, my brother coming in offering up another set of hands to hold parts while we assembled it and of course ….the fucking hinges!! …Ahem, yes. So, in the end it worked out nicely, cleaned out any goop that build up over the years of it’s use and it’s like a brand new unit.

Years of service and still dishing out fun. This is a DAMN fine handheld that lasted years and would have been fine if I wasn’t so picky about the dumb baby blue shell. It looks great, has a new lease on life and I already beat a game on my ‘new’ GBA SP (AGS-101, I GOTTA BRAG SOMEWHERE DAMMIT), Metroid Zero Mission! My favorite 2D Metroid in the series.

Ahh…Well that was an interesting project and diversion! Pain in the ass for sure but worth it. Love the new look and I’ll be using this for many years to come. I’ve got another retro project I’m looking to talk about but this blog post has gone on WAY too long as it is. So, for now I’ll say…

See you next mission.