This project demonstrates how far portable gaming has come over the past two decades, from dedicated hardware to an emulator running on a wristwatch.
In the 1990s, the Game Boy was the height of portable gaming, but today it’s easier than ever to cram hardware into a tiny form factor. To demonstrate that fact, a developer has set about creating a Game Boy emulator for the Apple Watch, allowing users to play the handheld’s library from their wrist.
Gabriel O’Flaherty-Chan named his emulator Giovanni, after the villainous leader of Team Rocket from Pokemon Red and Blue. The software gives the Apple Watch Series 2 the ability to play most Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, according to a report from Ars Technica.
Admittedly, the hardware isn’t a perfect fit for the extended Game Boy library. Some title aren’t compatible, and those that are rely on a slightly uncomfortable control scheme intended to make up for the Apple Watch’s lack of physical buttons.
Users manipulate a virtual control pad with the left hand side of the screen, while tapping the right hand side of the screen registers as a press of the A button. A row of on-screen buttons allow users to press Start, Select, and the B button, and the Digital Crown can also be used to enter up and down directional input for menus and the like.
Giovanni is based on an existing Game Boy emulator called Gambatte, but producing a version that worked with the Apple Watch wasn’t easy. As well as the revamped control scheme, O’Flaherty-Chan had to work around the fact that the hardware doesn’t support the graphics APIs utilized by iOS and MacOS.
Apple is not a fan of emulators, so don’t expect to see Giovanni hitting the App Store any time soon. However, if you want to try loading Game Boy games onto your Apple Watch the hard way, O’Flaherty-Chan has uploaded the source code to GitHub.