What is the RetroFlag GPi?
The RetroFlag GPi is a gameshell for the Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi Zero W which morphs a Pi board into a fully-functional portable Raspberry Pi retro game console. It's not the only such device. The Odroid-Go arrives as a GameBoy Color-style DIY handheld retro gaming device, and the ClockWorkPi GameShell is a nifty portable console for retro video games, programming, and even listening to music. However, the RetroFlag GPi differs in its GameBoy lookalike casing. Unlike the ClockworkPi and Odroid-Go, the RetroFlag GameBoy case mimics the appearance of the original Nintendo GameBoy with its thick, grey and red color-scheme form factor.
Moreover, the GPi, as the name suggests, uses a Raspberry Pi for emulation. Compare that to the Odroid-Go which uses an ESP32, and the ClockworkPi GameShell with its ClockworkPi (CPI) development board. Finally, the GPi may run RetroPie, Recalbox, Batocera, or Lakka, whereas the Odroid-Go and ClockworkPi feature custom operating systems.
On its front, you'll find a D-pa, start and select buttons, and X, Y, A, and B buttons. The rear features a battery hatch which takes three double A batteries, as well as left and right shoulder buttons. The top hosts a power switch, with a DC power input and brightness wheel on the left side. A volume wheel may be found on the right-hand side of the device, with a speaker in the bottom right corner. There's a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom of the device, and inside the battery pocket you'll find a USB port for firmware upgrades, as well as a safe shutdown switch.
The GPi case touts compatibility with the Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi Zero W. There's a solderless installation, with pogo pins that connect effortlessly to the Pi's 40-pin GPIO header. The 2.8" 320x240 IPS screen gives off lush visuals.
RetroFlag GPi specs:
- 2.8-inch 320x240 IPS display
- Dimensions: 135x81x32mm
- Works with Raspberry Pi Zero or Raspberry Pi Zero W
- 3x AA batteries
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Includes safe shutdown button
- DC power input
How to Make a DIY GameBoy With the RetroFlag GPi CaseIn the box, you'll find the RetroFlag GPi case. It doesn't come with a Raspberry Pi Zero or Zero W or AA batteries, but you'll probably have batteries stuffed in a drawer somewhere around your house. Or you can raid that one remote you never use. A Raspberry Pi Zero or Zero W clocks in around $5-10. You'll need a microSD card as well.
What you'll need for a DIY Raspberry Pi GameBoy with the GPi case:
- RetroFlag GPi case
- Raspberry Pi Zero/Zero W
- microSD card
- Retro gaming OS (RetroPie, Recalbox, Batocera, or Lakka)
- Extraction software (i.e. 7Zip)
- Image mounting software (i.e. Etcher)
First, make sure your power button is switched off. Next, take the micro USB extension cable and insert it into the inner micro USB port on your Raspberry Pi Zero.
Go ahead and install RetroPie, Recalbox, Batocera, or Lakka on a microSD card.
Since the GPi GameBoy case uses GPIO for its video output rather than HDMI, you'll need to enable this using a GPi case patch. Head over to the RetroFlag downloads page and snag the patch. On Windows, unzip the GPi_Case_patch folder, and copy the entire folder to the root of your SD card. Then, open the GPi_Case_patch folder, and run the install_patch.bat file. If you're using macOS, backup the config.txt and overlays/dpi24.dtbo files to a loaction such as a backup folder. Drop the unzipped folder, copy configs.txt to the root SD card directory along with the overlays/dpi24.dtbo and overlays/pwm-audio-pi-zero.dtbo files into the overlays folder. Video vid GPIO should be enabled.
Once you've got your Raspberry Pi retro gaming operating system and the GPIO video output script installed, go ahead and insert your microSD card, add your three double A batteries, and power on the GPi by toggling the power switch to On.
RetroFlag GPi Review: A Raspberry Pi-powered GameBoy Clone to Make You do a Double Take
From its appearance, which closely mimics that of the original, chunky Nintendo GameBoy, the RetroFlag GPi completely nail it. Sure, there are a few differences such as the addition of X and Y buttons, but noticing these tweaks requires more than a cursory glance. The Raspberry Pi Zero/W holder with its GameBoy cartridge appearance merely proves the dedication RetroFlag has to delivering a completely retro-inspired gaming experience.
The directions are generally easy to follow, although words alongside pictures would have allowed for a slightly faster installation. The one major oversight is that nowhere in the instructions does it mention installing the GPIO video output script. You'll need to merely remember that the Pi by default outputs video via HDMI, something I did not, and which resulted in a bit of hair-pulling, NSFW grumblings, and a Reddit search which led to my "d'oh!" moment.