smart_boy

Hyperkin’s Smart Boy Will Suck

On March 31st, in what was initially thought to be an April Fools’ prank, Hyperkin announced it’d begun work on the Smart Boy, a phone accessory for the iPhone 6 Plus that turns the phone into a Game Boy. You still use the classic, gray cartridges to play a game, but the phone becomes the screen with the D-pad and A/B buttons being included on the accessory. This story was trending on my Facebook for DAYS after the announcement. While this seemingly started as an April Fools’ joke, they’re very much serious about building it.

I’d be excited about it, too, if it weren’t for the fact that Hyperkin is a horrible, horrible gaming hardware company.

smart_boy copy

Slide an iPhone 6 Plus and a Game Boy game in and you’re playing the real thing, right?

If you’re not familiar, Hyperkin has made their business on knockoff versions of retro and modern gaming hardware.  They’re recently most known for the Retron 5 which got a surprising amount of chatter in the retro community — mainly due to its long delays and unicorn promises.  It not only plays games from more than a half-dozen systems, it stores their ROM contents while you play and can even allow you to save any game at any point.  That’s a good thing, because the process of inserting and removing them is so error prone and damaging to the console itself that Hyperkin had to publish a movie on how to take them out.  They’ve also been threatened with lawsuits and accusations of stealing software.

Aside from that, they make a lot of overpriced third-party accessories. Essentially, they prey on a market of parents and unsuspecting gamers who buy their products for the same, or more, than the OEM versions.  Recently, a friend was telling me that they spent more money at GameStop for a 3DS AC Adapter from Hyperkin than they would’ve a real one from Nintendo!  Often, stores stock these knockoffs because there is a higher markup and more profit to be made.  As expected, they often have problems and they’ll certainly void your console’s warranty if something goes wrong. (I once bought one at a flea market and ended up throwing it away because it sometimes had to be wiggled to get it to charge right.)

Then, there’s the SupaBoy.  This is the Super Nintendo knockoff hardware in portable form.  Well, portable in-so-much as a system can be considering those large SNES cartridges.  And this system is also loooooooooaded with problems!  The biggest one was the D-pad axis problem that affected ALL versions of the hardware: pressing left on the D-pad very often produced up-left and other similar issues.  This negatively impacted about 3/4’s of the SNES games because if you ever played Super Metroid you realize that holding up-left to run will have you aiming upward!

Clearly, this warranted a recall, but Hyperkin refused.  They instead hoped customers who bought the SupaBoy impulsively wouldn’t even notice the problem or complain about it.  For those that did, they charged them to ship it back so they could send a second version of the hardware that fixed the issue. (I know this because I am one of those people, too.)  It’s repulsive they didn’t handle this responsibly.  There are also tons of reports of melting batteries, video cutting out after only a few uses, and other issues that have gone unfixed.  Everywhere it’s sold, read the reviews…a lot of upset customers.

And now they want me to buy a knockoff Game Boy?

The problem with Hyperkin’s Smart Boy, should it ever be released, is that it will have the same faulty hardware that has ravaged all of their other products…while providing nothing of value.  An original Game Boy (and its offspring) sold 120,000,000 units.  They’re all over Craigslist and eBay and they’re easy to buy for cheap.  So, why would I spend more money (and it will be more) on a fake Game Boy that still requires the cartridges anyway?  That threatens to scratch up my iPhone 6 Plus?  That will likely have compatibility issues?  If it works at all?

It doesn’t even make sense anyway.  Since you need the accessory, why is it handier?  I know people play NES emulators on their phones and…have fun…because playing an NES game on the phone is not a serious endeavor without a real controller.  But, this requires hardware!  If you really want to play old Gameboy games, go buy yourself a Game Boy Advance!

Why would I do that?  Because Hyperkin is banking on making it the item to buy for nostalgia-smitten adults, people who don’t realize that Game Boys are everywhere, and those looking for gifts for retro friends!  Once again, for Hyperkin, it’s not the product that comes first…it’s the sale. What would you expect from a company that sells neon green selfie sticks?

Give it up, Hyperkin.  You suck at this.

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About John Blanco

John Blanco is an avid game collector and loves to write about his hobby as much as he participates in it. He run the Denver Retro Gamers Facebook group in Denver, Colorado, and coordinates swap-style meetups with dozens of other collectors every couple of months.

6 thoughts on “Hyperkin’s Smart Boy Will Suck

  1. There are multiple inaccuracies here.

    The SmartBoy was actually announced a few days before April 1st, and April 1st is the day they announced that it was originally planned as a joke but now wasn’t a joke. Minor inconsistency.

    The Major inconsistency here is the description of the Retron5, which is just incorrect. The Retron5 does not store the ROM locally on the console: games do not run on the system unless the cartridge is plugged in. It temporarily copies the cartridge to RAM but if the cartridge is removed the game stops being playable.

    While this piece suggests there is no advantage to using the Retron5 over original hardware, that’s actually not true. As an all digital solution, the Retron5 gives the TV a clean HDMI signal — I’ve actually noticed art elements in some games that were unclear on my old TV / original hardware or HDTV using analog video output. It looks better. A recent update also gives it more options: you can now use IPS patches with real cartridges, allowing folks who own a Japanese RPG, for instnace, to apply a translation patch and play that game in english legally. It’s reasonable to assume similar features will come to the SmatBoy — in addition to a backlight screen (your phone) and other features the original game boy systems were incapable of.

    THat’s not to argue that Hyperkin is good. They software stealing issue is absolutely real, and the controller that comes with the Retron5 is absolute shit. Like, ABSOLUTE shit, the worst game controller I’ve ever used — but those statements made it pretty clear that the author has no fucking idea what they’re talking about here. You don’t get to say “I’ve heard of the Retron5 and I know it’s a piece of shit because I’ve never used it and I think it is.” Come on dude.

    1. I take exception to this criticism. The corrections you make are minor but will be noted for accuracy…but the goal of the article is to point out that Hyperkin has a long history of shoddy hardware that they don’t get credit for because they’re name isn’t Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft. They should be held to account.

      And if you re-read it, I actually give credit to the Retron 5 as probably their best work.

      Please don’t say I have “no fucking idea” what I’m talking about. People can disagree, stop being so Internet.

  2. The Supaboy caused some saves to be wiped on at least two of my original SNES carts. I’ve heard retron owners reporting similar. It’s garbage hardware.

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