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SYFY WIRE Nintendo

Tech-savvy Nintendo fan crams a fully functioning Wii into tiny old-school Game Boy

By Benjamin Bullard

Keeping track of gaming tech can sometimes transform into a game of leapfrog, as tech-savvy fans hack away at old-school hardware long after its original corporate creators have moved on to manufacture newer gear. But few game companies enjoy the long tail of fan support that Nintendo does, which is why we occasionally get to see some pretty mind-blowing (and even minty fresh) DIY projects percolate up from the robust modding community.

A modder who goes by the online handle of StonedEdge has managed to cram a fully-functioning Nintendo Wii into the pint-sized clamshell of a retro Game Boy SP. The painstaking process of packing the made-for-TV tech into a tiny handheld essentially soups up Nintendo’s mid-2000s portable with late-2000s console horsepower — the kind of thing that was nearly unthinkable, back in the day, as a fit for devices hardly bigger than today’s average smartphone.

In practical terms, this particular SP bypasses already-great Game Boy Advance titles like The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and heads straight to the large-screen good stuff. Yep, StonedEdge’s modded handheld — affectionately dubbed the “WiiSPii” — can run full-sized Wii classics like Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and it does it all on the SP’s tiny, native 3.5-inch color LCD screen.

This definitely wasn’t a simple plug-and-play project, and StonedEdge gives credit all around to fellow modders from the open-source community at BitBuilt who helped in the debugging and problem-solving arena. “It was an absolute nightmare, to say the least,” he confesses in the clip — before firing up a completely authentic round of Mario Kart Wii and demonstrating that, however challenging the build was, everything works exactly as it would on Nintendo’s original Wii console.

Of course the Wii is famous for motion control, though the WiiSPii conversion means game controls here are mapped to the classic GameCube control scheme. Overall, there’s actually a ton of flexibility packed into the WiiSPii’s configurable control setup, which includes adaptive left and right shoulder buttons, a D-pad, a quartet of resin-printed A-B buttons, and a pair of analog control sticks.

Dedicated handheld portables appear to be a thing of the past, with the demise in recent years of the PS Vita and Nintendo’s own 3DS. And while the hybrid Switch, as well as a bewilderingly huge ecosystem of mobile Android and iOS games, don’t leave current players wanting for entertainment on the go, there’s something refreshingly (and perhaps nostalgically) simple and pure about a gaming-only system that does one job — and does it well. Sure, the WiiSPii is a one-off device that doesn’t have a mass-production future…but it’s still a blast to know there are fans out there with the know-how (and the passion) to keep the flame of old-school, go-anywhere gaming alive.