This Game Boy Clone Is the Most Nostalgic Retro Gaming Handheld Ever Made

Palmer Luckey is diving into the retro gaming handheld market with the Modretro.

Palmer Luckey holding a chromatic Game Boy clone handheld made by Modretro.

There may be a million gaming handhelds to choose from, but only one of them comes from the famed creator of the Oculus Rift.

Palmer Luckey, the aforementioned progenitor of the Oculus Rift, just announced the Chromatic — the world’s only “pixel-accurate” Game Boy clone that actually plays (get this) old-school cartridges.

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Meet Modretro

First of all: What the hell does “pixel-accurate” mean? In short, it just means the pixel ratio on the Chromatic is the same as the original Game Boy. It’s hard to say without trying one, but the ratio — plus a precise color-mapping to the original Nintendo handheld — should make playing the Chromatic feel a lot like the good old days of whipping out your Game Boy Color and diving into some Pokémon Blue.

According to Modretro, the LCD display on the Chromatic is 2.56 inches with a 160 x 144 resolution, which is meant to evoke a “time machine-like experience.” The screen also has 1,000 nits of brightness, which should help your chances of enjoyably playing in direct sun, something you couldn’t do on any Game Boys before the Game Boy Advance SP. If screenshots of the handheld are any indication, it looks like Modretro and Luckey succeeded in their goal to recreate the Game Boy display.

The Chromatic handheld’s LCD screen 1-1 with the original Game Boy Color.

While the screen and vertical form factor scream classic Game Boy, the Chromatic offers a lot of modern-day upgrades. The case, for example, is made of a magnesium alloy, and while the whole thing can be powered with AA batteries (talk about nostalgia) there’s an optional rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack as well. As far as ports, there’s a USB-C that Modretro says is capable of “lagless” video out and a 3.5mm headphone output for when you don’t want to blast 8-bit music for the world to hear. For nostalgia’s sake, there’s also a Link Cable port.

There’s a lot of wild true-to-Game Boy stuff going on in the Chromatic, but probably the wildest to me is that the Chromatic plays actual cartridges. Not only that, but it does not come equipped to play ROMs at all unless you buy a flash cart — which is cheating!

Anyone buying a Chromatic at launch will get a Tetris cartridge included, which is a licensed version of the iconic puzzle game developed by Modretro and even features new variations of the game’s original songs.

Luckey also says that Modretro has lots of plans on this front and intends to re-release old Game Boy titles, and even some titles that were never released before the public found out they existed in the first place. Here’s a full list of the current Chromatic game lineup for anyone curious.

Modretro Chromatic Price and Release Date

Okay, so how much is your nostalgia worth? According to Luckey and Modretro, $199. That may seem like a lot of money when you consider the myriad Game Boy clones you can buy, but it is actually cheaper than the Analogue Pocket MSRP of $250.

Whether you actually want or need this thing will depend on your susceptibility to nostalgia. Technically speaking, the Chromatic is kind of a pain in the ass — the screen is lower-res, it plays carts, it uses batteries — but maybe all of those things add up to a truer, more enjoyable experience for you. At least that’s what Luckey hopes.

You can preorder the Chromatic right now, but it’s worth noting that Luckey has suggested this is more of a passion project than anything, so how long supplies will last is anyone’s guess.

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