E3 2011: What Miyamoto didn't tell you about the Game Boy Color Zelda download

Shigeru Miyamoto dropped a surprise eShop announcement yesterday at E3 - The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening would be live on the freshly-launched download service before the end of the day. He wasn't lying. But he really should have gone on to show us this fan-pleasing secret that also works on Game Boy eShop purchases. Hold Select as you load up the game and you get a rather special surprise...

Emulated hardware displays!

Above: That's not a Game Boy Color playing Zelda - it's a 3DS showing a Game Boy Color playing Zelda

It seems like a gimmick, but there's actually a fittingly geeky reason for their inclusion.


Here comes the science bit - concentrate...

As with DS games being played on a 3DS, the new machine's screen is more detailed than the old games it's displaying. The default display mode fills the screen vertically on old software and leave borders at the edges so that you have a full touchscreen and almost-full top screen, but it also makes games appear a little blurrier than usual.

By activating the Select cheat, you can view 1-to-1 pixel ratio. That means one pixel on your 3DS draws one pixel of the game. Problem is, Game Boy and Game Boy Color's screen were a mere 160x144 pixels, which makes this mode positively tiny on a 3DS. So while these retro screen frames are undoubtedly fan-pleasing, they're a necessary solution for anyone who needs more than a postage stamp on a black screen.

This secret also extends to the original Game Boy games:

Above: Super Mario Land in regular mode (left) and then with the secret original pixel ratio mode (right)

As an added bonus, the original Game Boy games can also be switched from the default monochrome to the classic green and black (well, darker green at least) display of the old Game Boy unit by holding both shoulder buttons and pushing Y (pictured above).


Think that's cool? You haven't seen the best part yet

Activate the frame mode then turn on the 3D slider and you see the game plays out a little behind the front of the screen, just like a real Game Boy. But I can't show you the 3D effect here, so get downloading and see for yourself. If you used to play the real thing when you were a nipper, you'll probably well up a bit when you see it and hear the Super Mario Land music coming through in surprisingly effective stereo sound. I did.

Even though the Easter Egg frames are awesome, they do provide an uncomfortably small playing window. Some people like their pixels perfect, though... and when they're framed like this, it's hard to fault their perfection.

Thanks to Jostein Hakestad on our Facebook page for the tip.

08 Jun, 2011


  • Spybreak8 - June 9, 2011 1:27 a.m.

    That's a neat option and like my emulator on my computer (I own and have boxed up the original games/system) I usually play all stretched out. I can see someone wanting 1:1 pixel ratio, we all have our preferences.
  • 510BrotherPanda - June 8, 2011 8:28 p.m.

    Also, is there any word as to whether or not there's a handheld version of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars?
  • 510BrotherPanda - June 8, 2011 8:26 p.m.

    I'm still not into the 3DS gimmick (haven't invested in one)...can't I just play it on my ORIGINAL Game Boy? After all, to this day, it still is a "Dot Matrix With Stereo Sound". Having it back-lit isn't all that important to me.
  • BigWillis - June 8, 2011 8:18 p.m.

    MCN2011, that's because those cartridges are out of print and hard to find. This is completely different, it's a 20 year old game with no improvements.
  • SpaceCowboy - June 8, 2011 5:41 p.m.

    Hmm that price is a bit more than I was expecting. But what the hell it's a Zelda game that I've never played so I'm sure it's worth it.
  • db1331 - June 8, 2011 5:05 p.m.

    @GamesRadarJustinTowell Not to sound like a hipster, but I first played and fell in love with the original GB version. I like the DX one too though. I wish they bundled in both in the eShop download. If/when I do get around do getting a 3DS, this is a day 1 download. It would be the fourth time I bought the game (original cartridge got stolen). Totally worth it.
  • shawksta - June 8, 2011 4:40 p.m.

    Ah nintendo, the kings of nostalgia. One of the may reasons to love them. Like,hell, im doin that once I find a debit cad to buy them! @blitz Thats gonna take a long time, its made to be lite already but your loss if you wanna wait, not pushing you.
  • MCN2011 - June 8, 2011 4:37 p.m.

    @BigWillis - Go on eBay and look up the price for a Zelda DX cartridge. Not so outrageous now, is it?
  • Bladex206 - June 8, 2011 4:23 p.m.

    I honestly don't have many good memories of the Game Boy/Game Boy Color. But the GBA, oh baby now I would drop some money to have those games playable again.
  • BigWillis - June 8, 2011 4:19 p.m.

    They also failed to mention the absolutely outrageous pricing.
  • KrEid - June 8, 2011 4:17 p.m.

    Christ, the nostalgia comes running back! Shame I had the clear purple GBC, but myeh! RECAPTCHA Fatigued Bumals... well...
  • BlitzIzDaShitz - June 8, 2011 4:12 p.m.

    I'm just waiting for all those amazing 3DS games to come out, and also a new re-design of the 3DS...3DS lite? I just don't like the design of it right now so I'm def waiting.
  • Hydrohs - June 8, 2011 4:10 p.m.

    I'll definitely be playing them like this.
  • GR_JustinTowell - June 8, 2011 4:10 p.m.

    @gamebrain8505 - I'm in the UK mate, it's live now. Have fun! @db1331 - me too. I even had that colour Color. So to speak.
  • gamebrain8505 - June 8, 2011 4:04 p.m.

    Any news on when this will hapen in Europe? D: My Captcha is predicting a new apple product: anyTVi and
  • db1331 - June 8, 2011 4 p.m.

    Link's awakening is one of my all time favorites. That first screen with the GBC border REALLY took me back.

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