TV de Advance

Look, I'm really sorry for all my blurry photos, OK? Ah, now this guy has a story... not about the technology, though. I'm sure most people who were into the Gameboy Advance from the beginning heard about various adaptors to play the "backlighting-challenged" handheld clearly on a big TV. This one was the first one to come out, and was released in October of 2001. But, I'm going to tell a different story...

This one took place in February, 2002. I was on an airplane to Japan for the first time in my life, embarking on a new adventure and a new job. I landed in Osaka airport and practiced my Japanese for real in buying a bottle of "Pocari Sweat" and a pack of gum. I then took my next flight to Sapporo airport, way up north. Along the way, I was able to play one of the fabled entertainment systems installed in the back of the airplane's seats: a PC-based map viewer and a Super Famicom with a selection of games. That was cool, but I crashed the software somehow (that's how I know it was a regular DOS (?) PC), and I was expecting the plane to crash anytime soon, or at least get chewed out for something... but no problem. The system came back on in a few minutes and I had one more go of Shanghai before we landed.

The first person to greet me at the airport was a gorgeous, gorgeous Japanese lady (who was actually one of my trainers, gulp!) and I also met a fellow newbie from England who arrived at the same time. We took the train to Sapporo city, met the president of our company's northern division (gulp! "er... Konban wa. Kurisu tomoshimasu.....") and then got treated out to dinner and karaoke. (Whereupon I was forced by my superiors to sing karaoke, even though I'd never done it before...) So I picked some Bon Jovi (shut up!) and some Doors. It was that night that I learned that karaoke gets more fun the more beers one drinks.

But, anyway. I went to my hotel, finishing a long day of travelling and I fell asleep dreaming about that lady... The next morning I woke up and did a bit of a walkabout around the city--making sure not to get lost. I went to a convenience store and didn't find anything nutritious (not that I could understand, at least), so I bought some "Acerola Juice" and a cup of strawberry yogurt with gelatin inside. Then, I met up with my training buddy (the Englishman), our gorgeous trainer, and a fellow Canadian trainer. We had to go to the train station to head to the airport, but first... a little shopping. And how about an electronics store to start?

This could very well be the most boring picture on my website. Oh, well.So, the store was, like, paradise. 3 floors of screaming electronic mayhem, with computers, cameras, and videogames on the bottom floor, where I stayed the whole time. And, lo and behold, in the games section (mostly boring PS2 and GameCube crap) was the pink box shown above, selling for 7000 Yen (for the DIY kit) and for 9000 Yen (FREE installation by a professional). It was the first time I knew I would love it here in Japan... playing GBA games on a TV, with this wonderful doohickey. Well, since I didn't have any money or a GBA yet, I had to say to myself "It will be mine. Oh yes..." and take the train to my destination without the adaptor.

However, the next month I got to attend a meeting in Sapporo, and after that meeting, I got to dance at a nightclub until the wee hours of the morning with dozens of other foreign teachers and Japanese people, AND I got a kiss on the cheek from that lady of my dreams... So, wow. But the trip wouldn't be complete if I didn't come back with a TV de Advance or two. So the next morning, I headed over to the same electronics store as before, took two of the boxes off the shelf, and bought them. (I was a little worried about doing the installation myself, but I took a chance.)

Installation of the TV de Advance was so easy, I started doing it on the airplane back to Sendai. (My girlfriend had lent me her GBA, so I performed the installation of the first unit on hers.) I then finished it while I was coming back to Kitakami on the Shinkansen, and at home I installed the second TV de Advance on my unit (no bawdy jokes, please!) It is a little finicky, as it involves opening up the GBA system, removing the back plate, and fiddling a bit with the LCD screen ribbon (oh, GOD I remember the horrors of the old Game Boy's LCD ribbon coming loose), but otherwise no problems if you are good with your hands.

STEP 1! We can have a little fun. STEP 2! There's so much we can do... STEP 3! Play GBA on your TV!

The benefits of this adaptor above all others is that after installation it is still as portable as the stock GBA. All the extra, hanging cables and connectors are part of the base connector (which contains the display circuitry). Connecting and disconnecting is a snap. So, it's actually a really well-made unlicensed product.

Probably now you're wondering, "What's the point of the TV de Advance when I could get a GB Player for the GameCube for cheaper, and it's higher quality?" Well, that's true, but I don't own a GameCube, and I don't plan to. So that's one factor. Also, one can play the GBA game as normal, using the controller built-in to the GBA... not the odd controls of the GC controller. Anyway, I tried out the GB Player at a store, and it looks nice and functional, but I didn't like the interpolated video. Everything looked blurry, whereas I prefer solid pixels in game screens.

So, how's the quality of the video through the TV de Advance? Well, it's really nice, but the first thing you notice is that it's flickery. This is because the image is interlaced, just as the GBA's video output and screen are interlaced (but on the GBA's screen you couldn't tell unless something was moving very fast, or if the screen was scrolling vertically). The designers could have made it so that it used noninterlaced video (by combining the two frames) for a less flickery display, but the image would then only be refreshed 30 times a second, possibly making some effects (flashing characters) invisible.

Fringing Fringing Fringing Fringing Fringing Fringing Fringing Fringing Fringing... It really isn't so bad.

The GBA screen takes up about 3/5 of the TV screen, and the image looks very good and solid. Bright colours, such as saturated blue or red, however, cause colour fringing (as you can see above -- sorry for the poor-quality photos), but I'm sure that can be eliminated by using the S-Video cables. And, of course, the image can be scaled to fit the whole screen. But it isn't integer scaling, so unfortunately you see quite a lot of bad aliasing when the game is moving. You can see this effect below in the area that I've enlarged. On the left is a shot of the standard size (having been cropped and scaled), and on the right is a shot of the "scaled mode" of the TV de Advance.

See?  There, the screen looks really nice. Nearest-neighbour scaling or interpolated?  Which one do you prefer? Of course, interpolating in this case would be much better... but if a program uses interpolation when doubling the screen, I hate it!

Of course, Gameboy games are also playable on the GBA. So, one special thing about the TV de Advance is that it heralded the first time that one could also play Gameboy Colour games on the big screen, which was really nice for those colour Zeldas... But, anyway... I'll show some pictures of Bionic Commando again, regular size and scaled, just because I love that game!

"Zis time, mon ami, we are on ze same side!" "So, why are you shooting at me?" Our intrepid hero, Radd Spencer, contemplates the wisdom of his decision to fight for the Mary Kay guerrillas.

And that's the end of my extended review! Er, I hope you didn't mind my story, too.

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