The story starts with me playing the Pokemon Gameboy games that I bought for my daughter. While writing this page, I considered claiming that I was just trying to help my daughter play the games, but that would pretty much be a lie - I've gotten addicted to Pokemon Crystal and have become determined to catch all the little buggers. Well, except for Celebi, which was apparently only available via some special Nintendo promotional event that has long since come and gone. But I'm getting away from the point of this page...
Besides Celebi, there are a handful of other Pokemon that just can't be caught in the Crystal version of the game. But the good news is that they can be caught in other versions and traded to Crystal via a link cable that connects two Gameboys together. The other good news is that our family owns two Gameboys, both of the Gameboy Advance SP model (the most advanced "Advance" model before the latest and greatest, dual-screen Gameboy DS recently came out). And the final bit of good news - we already had a connector cable that we bought as part of a package of Gameboy Advance accessories back when we first bought the SPs.
So I thought that all I had to do was buy one or two other Pokemon games from the Crystal "generation" or before, and I'd be all set to start catching and trading. I hit the used video game stores and soon had copies of Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Yellow. And about an hour later I had caught a Mankey in Yellow, one of the ones I was missing in Crystal. I quickly connected the two Gameboy Advance SPs together with the link cable, went to the correct trading location in both games and...
I got nothing but error messages. It would seem like the games were trying to connect to each other, but eventually one (or both) would give an error saying that the other game wasn't ready, or the connection had timed out, or some other error. I tried and tried, but got nothing but frustration for my efforts.
So, I went to the web and started doing some research. Amazingly, there's not much information to be found about this - you'd think that with all the video game players on the internet, the solution to this problem would have been easy to find. I saw the question asked on various help sites, but the few answers that people posted were either incomplete or completely incorrect.
It finally occurred to me to use Google's Groups feature to search through USENET newsgroups. And on a Nintendo group, from a few years ago, I found someone who had posted a question very similar to mine, had gotten a real answer, and had followed up to say that the solution worked for him.
Here's the deal:
If you're playing older, pre-Advance games on a Gameboy, you need to use a pre-Advance connector cable to communicate between them. It doesn't matter what you're playing the games on (unless it's the original, black-and-white Gameboy, but I'll get to that), the connector cable has to fit the games, not the handheld that you're playing them on.
What that meant for my Pokemon Yellow to Pokemon Crystal trade was that I had to find a Nintendo Universal Game Link cable, which was originally designed to connect two Gameboy Color units, or a Gameboy Color to an original Gameboy. The link cable outlet on Gameboy units changed between the original, black-and-white Gameboy unit and the Color, but it hadn't changed since then (until the DS, I assume - I don't own a DS yet). That means the link cable outlet on a Gameboy Color is the exact same size and shape as the outlet on a Gameboy Advance SP.
In case anyone is unfamiliar with the history of the Gameboy, the first model was simply called the Gameboy. It had a monochrome (black and white) screen, and used relatively large (about half the size of a playing card), rectangular cartridges. There were a lot of games released for it - in the Pokemon franchise, the Red, Blue and Yellow (and in Japan, Green) games are from the original Gameboy generation.
The second model to come along was the Gameboy Color. It used cartridges of the same size and shape as the original Gameboy, but it could display games in color instead of in black and white. I believe it could also play the original, first generation games, but they wouldn't be in full color. For Pokemon, the games that were released for the Gameboy Color were Gold, Silver and Crystal.
After the Color, the next Gameboy to come along was the Gameboy Advance. It was a larger unit, and while the first two Gameboy models were rectangular and laid out in a "vertical" manner, the Advance was more rounded and laid out in a horizontal way, to allow for a wider screen. The cartridges for the new model also changed shape from the older ones - they're only about half as tall and usually have a flared top. In the Pokemon franchise, the Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald games belong to the Advance generation, plus two remakes of earlier games called FireRed and LeafGreen.
Once again, the new model was made backwards compatible so that it could also play all existing older cartridges. This was a brilliant move by Nintendo because it allowed owners of previous models to continue playing their old games, and it instantly made for a huge available game library for new buyers. The downside is that it lead to a confusion of different connector cables, because a new cable was designed specifically for Advance games (from what I've read, it allows more data per second to be transferred between the games). This cable is NOT backwards compatible - it won't work with older games.
That's where I got stuck. I've got two Gameboy Advance SPs, which are just redesigned versions of the Gameboy Advance (Nintendo gave it a backlit screen, a completely rectangular shape and a hinge in the middle so that it folds into a nice, compact package that can easily fit into your pocket). The cable that I bought along with the SPs is an Advance-only cable - it works beautifully with the one or two Gameboy Advance cartridges we own that allow for connected play. But it wouldn't work at all for communicating between Pokemon Yellow and Pokemon Crystal, because those are pre-Advance games.
So, the solution I found on that Nintendo newsgroup? Simply buy one of the older connection cables designed for pre-Advance games. Specifically, I was supposed to look for a Gameboy Universal Link cable. The really, really, really bad news was that Nintendo doesn't make them any more.
I hit a couple local used video game stores, hoping maybe they could help me. No dice - none of them had carried the cord I needed, even as a used item, in ages. On clerk suggested I try eBay, which was my backup plan all along.
So I go to eBay and search for "Nintendo Universal Game Link". Right away, I find three people who are selling them with the "buy it now" option. I order one from the first guy on the list. Turns out he doesn't take PayPal (he obviously sells a lot of stuff on eBay, so how can he NOT take PayPal?!?!), so I had to mail him a check. And then I didn't hear from him for a couple weeks, so I emailed him. He sent back a very brief, very poorly written and misspelled response claiming the cord was on its way. From Ohio to Pennsylvania. So it should have arrived within a couple days. A little over a week later the cord finally arrived, postmarked three days after the day the seller claimed it was on its way. Anyway, I wasn't thrilled with the guy's service, but what the heck - I finally have the cord I need and I got it at a decent price. So I left him positive feedback...
I should have tested the thing first. It didn't work. Turns out his eBay page was a case of false advertising. The thing he was selling wasn't a Universal Link cable at all - it was the original Gameboy link cable, which only works with the original, black-and-white Gameboys. That's right, there's yet another cable out there that won't work for what I was trying to use it for. It looked like it would maybe plug into the outlet that is used to recharge the Gameboy Advance SP, but it wouldn't even fit there.
I contacted the seller and explained the error in his listing, giving him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he didn't know that the cord he was selling was NOT a "Universal" link cable. He didn't respond, and last time I checked he was selling ANOTHER of the same cord he sold me, STILL advertising it as a "Nintendo Universal Link cable". So if you go the eBay route, be very careful. The serial number of the cord he sent me (which, to be fair, he did list in the auction) is DMG-04. It's stamped on the connector at each end of the cord (the connectors look a lot like USB cables for computers). If you are in doubt, ask the seller for that serial number. The DMG 04 (DMG stands for "Dot Matrix Game", by the way) will ONLY work with two original, black-and-white Gameboy units, to communicate between two original, black-and-white Gameboy games. I don't know how many of those original games ever even had communication capabilties, so the DMG-04 cable is almost completely useless. Well, maybe not, because after I put this web page up, a guy from Belgium contaced me about buying the DMG-04 cord. I made sure he knew what he was buying, and he wanted it anyway. So I sold it to him.
So, how does this epic tale end? Fortunately, it has a happy ending. A little over two weeks ago, my daughter and I were at a flea market (she was searching for rare Pokemon trading cards - she's been bitten by the Pokemon bug, big-time), and we checked out a stand selling used video games. While I was rooting through a big pile of tangled, unlabeled cords hoping to get lucky, my seven year old daughter suddenly says "Here it is, dad! Here's the cord you need!" I thought to myself "How could she possibly know what cord I need?", so I kept digging. Finally, she got my attention and handed me the box she had found, which was clearly labeled "Nintendo Game Link" in big letters and "Universal Game Link Cable Set" in smaller print under that. To top it off, the front cover had a picture of two Gameboy Colors connected together with this cable, and happy cartoon Pokemon sliding along the cable from one machine to the other. Sometimes I need to be hit over the head with a sledgehammer.
Especially that time, because I DIDN'T BUY IT. I know, what a stupid, stupid move. But at the time the cable I had ordered off eBay hadn't arrived yet, and I still thought that one would work. Fortunately, after we discovered that it didn't, the same flea market stand still had the same box sitting there the next weekend that they were open, so this time I grabbed it and paid the $5 for it that I should have just spent the weekend before. The box looks like someone kicked it through the dirt every inch of the way from Japan to the flea market shelf where it undoubtedly sat for the last half decade or so, but the cord inside works perfectly.
The cord is labeled CGB-003 (I think the CGB stands for Color GameBoy). It has a smaller plug on each end than the DMG-04 had, and the plugs are angled at the bottom corner to prevent them from being inserted into the wrong outlet. It comes with a detachable adapter at one end which, when plugged into the smaller connector, converts it to the large DMG-04 format. That way the cord could be used to communicate between the Gameboy Color and the original Gameboy. (The adaptor has a label on it with the serial number DMG-14, in case anyone needs that bit of info). Theoretically, if I bought a used Gameboy Color somewhere, I could borrow my Mom's original Gameboy (now you see where the video game habits come from) and use those two and this cord to trade Pokemon between Yellow (with the original Gameboy) and Crystal (with the Gameboy Color). Buy why bother when both games will play fine on my Gameboy Advance SPs, and can finally communicate with each other using this cord. I've also tested it for communicating between the Crystal cartridge and the Gold cartridge, and the CGB-003 cable works great for that too.
Update, 7/8/2007 - I've since found another cord that can also be used with Gameboy Advance generation handhelds playing pre-Advance generation Pokemon games. See the "?" entry in the table below.
|DMG-04||Original Gameboy ONLY||This was the first connector cable that Nintendo offered, and due to the large "plugs" at each end (similar to a USB plug), it will only fit the outlets of the original, black-and-white Gameboy unit. It can NOT be used with a Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance (any model) or Gameboy DS. It is only useful if you are playing two original, black-and-white games on two original model Gameboys and need to communicate between the two. So, in other words, this cable is nearly useless nowadays.|
|GBC-003 (see photos below)||Original Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance (playing pre-Advance games)||This is the really useful cable, if you're playing pre-Advance cartridges on any Gameboy model other than the original black-and-white unit, or a Gameboy DS (which I don't think plays pre-Advance cartridges anyway). This cable is known as the "Nintendo Universal Game Link Cable", and as far as pre-Advance games are concerned, that's exactly what it is. You can supposedly connect any combination of the Gameboy models listed at left with this cable. I've only tested it out using two Gameboy Advance SP units, but have managed to successfully communcicate between an original Gameboy game (Pokemon Yellow) and Gameboy Color games (Pokemon Gold and Crystal). It works beautifully for trading Pokemon between those games. Anyone playing the older Pokemon games (Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, Gold, Silver or Crystal) on a Gameboy Color or Gameboy Advance (any model) needs one of these cables to trade Pokemon. The cable looks similar to the DMG-04 (mine is an all-black cable, but I've read that some are purple or other colors), but the plugs at the end are smaller and fit the same connection outlet on a Gameboy Advance that the advance connector cable plugs into. One end of the official Nintendo Universal Game Link cable has an adapter that plugs onto it to make it fit the link outlet on an Original Gameboy. In case you're thinking of emailing me to ask if I'll sell my Universal Link cable, the answer is no.||? (see photos below)||Original Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance (playing pre-Advance games)||On July 8th, 2007 I was browsing in a local Game Stop store, looking for a GameShark or similar "cheater" device for the Gameboy Advance. I didn't find one, but I stumbled on another type of connector cable that can be used to trade Pokemon from games of the Red/Blue/Yellow/Gold/Silver/Crystal generations on a Gameboy Advance. Even though I already have a cable that works, I snatched up the new one as a backup. It's a purple cord that differs from the GBC-003 in that it has two connectors (one of the smaller GBA size, and one of the larger Original Gameboy size) at each end of the cord. I tested it when I got home and was able to trade Pokemon between a Yellow cartridge and a Crystal cartridge using two Gameboy Advance SPs. Unfortunately, the cord didn't come with a box or any instructions or anything (it was just sold "as is"), and it isn't marked with any serial number or even a manufacturer. I'm assuing it's not something that was made by Nintendo, or it would have their name stamped on it.|
|Gameboy Advance||Gameboy Advance (all models)||I'm not sure if this cable has an official serial number or not. It probably does, but the one I got is a cheap, third-party version. It's just a plain gray color. It has three plugs to it - two of them fit the link cable outlet on a Gameboy Advance. I think the third one plugs into a joystick outlet on a GameCube, if you want to connect a Gameboy Advance to the GameCube. As far as I know, this cable can only be used to communicate between two Gameboy Advance games. I can tell you from personal experience that it definitely can NOT be used to trade Pokemon between two older generation games (Yellow and Crystal or Gold and Crystal). All I got was error messages when I tried, which is what lead to the cable quest that ended up with the creation of this web page. From what I've read, this cable uses a different bit rate than the older cables, which is what makes it incompatible.|
|AGB-015 Wireless (see photo below)||Gameboy Advance (all models?)||I found a used pair of these in a Game Stop for $3 each recently, so I bought them just to test them out and put a photo here on the web page. It turns out they weren't as useful as I had hoped. I first tried to use them to communicate between two Gameboy Advance SPs playing Pokemon Emerald and Ruby, respectively. It didn't work - I couldn't trade or battle because the games apparently use different programming. You could probably use the wireless connectors to communicate between Ruby and Saphire, but I don't have the latter. Next I tried to use them to communicate between Emerald and Leaf Green, and that finally worked. My daughter and I spent an hour or so battling each other (although you can only use 2 Pokemon and the have to be level 30 or lower), and playing around with the chat room feature.|
Unfortunately, I haven't moved into the DS age yet. It's probably only a
matter of time, since they're releasing Legend of Zelda and Pokemon games for
the DS. A guy named Edgar Venzor informed me via email that the DS comes
with built-in wireless communication capability.
I also got a very detailed email from someone named Chris that included the following information:
"Nintendo DS: The Nintendo DS uses wireless technology to play DS Game Cards in multiplayer mode. While the Nintendo DS can play Game Boy Advance games in single player mode, the DS does not have a port or other circuitry for a link cable, thus it is not possible to play Game Boy Advance games in simultaneous multiplayer mode on the DS." ( http://www.nintendo.com/consumer/systems/general/linkcableselect.jsp)
So there you have it. I own a DS, and can confirm 100% that there is no link cable port to be found on it. I have read elsewhere that the same is true for the newer DS Lite model as well. Like the other guy said, DS uses WiFi to link with other DS's. WiFi won't work for linking GBA/GBC/GB games, according to Nintendo in that link. I haven't ever tried it but I'd take Nintendo's word for it.
You're right about Nintendo's link cables being a hard thing to figure out. I've been trying to find information about it too, as I said, which is what led me to your site in the first place. I'm trying to get as much good information as possible so that I can add my findings to Wikipedia. Did you know there's another cable you don't even have on your site? The Game Boy Micro (the latest reincarnation of the Game Boy Advance) has a different style (smaller?) link cable port than a standard GBA or GBA SP. Therefore it needs its own Micro link cable which links Micro to Micro, or to connect it to a GBA or GBA SP, it also need an adapter. The Micro doesn't fit the link cable that connects GBA to Gamecube, either. ( http://www.nintendo.com/accessoriesgba#gbm-accessories)
If anyone spots any factual errors, or can provide more information about later model Gameboy connections, please email me. As I said above, I'm amazed that this information is so hard to come by, and I'm hoping that this web page can provide some help for people who are as confused as I was.
Addition, March 17th, 2007:
Someone emailed me to ask for pictures of the Universal Game Link (GBC-003) box and cord so he would know what to look for. So here they are:
Addition, July 8th, 2007:
Here are some photos of the new connectors I bought used today:
|Here's the purple, dual-headed cord with no serial number that can trade between early model Pokemon games on an Advance:|
|Here's a close-up of the split with the old and new style connectors:|
|Here's a picture of two Wireless connectors for the GBA, which can NOT be used to trade between early Pokemon games on the Advance:|
Addition, Sep 6th, 2008:
Someone emailed me and mentioned the eStarLand site as a place where you can find a Universal Game Link cable. I am not endorsing the site - I've never used it - I'm just passing on the info. Here's the original message:
I have found a legit website (estarland.com) that sells a gameboy universal link cable. I bought it and it works for pokemon crystal on gba. I was just informing you where to buy it. It is called "GBA universal link cable". You can buy new and used ones. It looks just like yours except transluscent. Please note it is not by nintendo, but still works.the serial number is YB-1344 GB. The company is YOBO gameware. The box says Yobo Gameware Universal Link Cable. Thank You for taking your time to read this. I hope you put this on your page to inform people.