They hacked a Game Boy right under Nintendo’s nose and not only did they not get angry but they hired them – Star Fox Zero

The 90s in video games were characterized by the arrival of 3D technology, by very archaic polygonal graphics, but which brought developers upside down. A race ensued to integrate innovative visual techniques, sometimes with plug-ins and even peripherals. The super fx chip from Nintendo was a great example, leading to titles like starfoxwhich back then (the 16-bit era) stumped a number of Super Nintendo console users.

Game Boy Star Fox X Game

The path to get there was quite curious. In fact, the famous chip was created as a result of another much lesser-known video game, the work of the incredible talent of a young teenager who would end up becoming one of the first people from outside of Japan who worked in the offices of Nintendo in Kyoto.

Around the year 1992, in the British company Argonaut Games were excited about the portability of game boy… and they jumped into the pool with a crazy idea: designing the first 3D game in the entire catalog of the laptop. A then young Dylan Cuthbert managed to create a development kit of his own and get to work on the portable machine. The result was great. But there was a trick, of course, because Nintendo never provided them with a development kit to carry out this undertaking. How did they get it? hacking the console.

We hacked a Game Boy development kit with a camera pointed at the Game Boy. We took a cartridge, I think from Tetris, and we unscrewed everything. We connected the wires to the chips and connected them to a circuit board that one of the guys from Argonaut had made. They had gotten into the design of circuits that they printed on a bath full of acid. – Dylan Cuthbert

Thus, Cuthbert himself recounts, he learned to work with the Game Boy “in a very short time. So I began to develop a 3D engine on the Game Boy.” The console was obviously quite limited as he himself admits. “It had a horrible screen and the graphics chip was pretty basic.” But he was able to achieve his goal and impress Nintendo itself.

X, the 3D game without which Star Fox would have been possible

Watching the game today may not be spectacular, but think back then it was hard to get anything in 3D on a console… let alone a Game Boy! The hardware was very limited, with an 8 bit processor at a very modest 4.19 megahertz. The total memory was 64KB and the screen only allowed a few shades of gray to be displayed. Creating a polygonal video game considering these specifications was quite a challenge.

The creator of Game Boy, Gunpei Yokoi, and also one of the responsible engineers… when they first saw it, they were so impressed that they asked us to fly to Kyoto to see them – Dylan Cuthbert.

The technical feat was beyond doubt, and Nintendo showed great interest in the project.

x is a first person space combat simulator in which we control a ship fulfilling a series of objectives with a time limit. You can move at various speeds and turn in a radius of 360 degrees for a fairly spacious mapping. Of course, you can shoot and finish off the threats that you come across, although you are also entrusted with other tasks such as transporting goods or defending a base from enemy fire.

Game Boy Star Fox X Game

In all fairness, the game itself wasn’t that great, and critics at the time lamented how complicated and repetitive it was. However, the technical feat was beyond doubt, and Nintendo showed great interest in the project. The very creator of the Game Boy, Gunpei Yokoihe was amazed by the 3D graphics, to the point that Cuthbert and his team were asked to travel to the Kyoto offices.

Basically, Nintendo bought the license and made Argonaut one of their internal teams. X appeared only in Japan (with not very good results) and although a version was made for the American market, renamed Lunar Chase, the game was never released because marketing managers considered it difficult for children to understand, the majority Game Boy audience at the time. And the truth is that it was.

Game Boy Star Fox X Game

However, what is interesting is that without X there would never have been Star Fox and its then avant-garde 3D technology. Nintendo noticed the technology that Argonaut Games was developing and signed them to create a title that gave rise to one of the most emblematic sagas that exist. Of course, La Gran is an endless well of curiosities that I will continue to tell you about.