There is a longstanding tradition of makers cramming electronics projects into Altoids mint tins. At some point, someone realized that those tins make convenient and cheap project cases. This evolved over time into a sort of challenge and even a joke, because it is fun to see what you can fit into that limited space. But the Altoids brand and their trademark tins aren’t common in every country. In Japan, MINTIA is an alternative brand of mints that come packaged in nifty little cases. Chén liàng used one of those MINTIA packages to house an awesome little Game & Watch-inspired handheld video game console.
Game & Watch was a series of small handheld electronic games produced by Nintendo prior to the introduction of the legendary Game Boy. Unlike the Game Boy, Game & Watch handhelds did not accept cartridges and each only held a single game, so consumers had to purchase a new handheld for every game they wanted to play. Fortunately, this Game & MINTIA handheld has no such limitation. It actually runs a complete NES emulator, which means it can be used to play any of the many great games in the classic Nintendo catalog. Aesthetically, however, it very closely resembles the iconic styling of the Game & Watch handhelds — a style that has become quite cool as the nostalgia for that era of gaming has reached a fever pitch.
Space inside of a MINTIA package is very limited and there was no room for a single-board computer inside. Instead, the NES emulator is running on a TTGO miniature ESP32 board. That is paired with a tiny 1.54” IPS LCD that has an impressive resolution of 240x240, which is very close to the NES’s resolution of 256x250. Power comes from a 350mAh LiPo battery. It is likely only good for an hour of gaming, but that is the price you pay for this form factor. Audio is pumped out to a tiny speaker through an external DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) module that also contains an amplifier chip. That board has to be trimmed to fit inside of the MINTIA package.
MINTIA containers come in a variety of colors, so you can pick one that fits your style. A red one was chosen here to match the Game & Watch. The package is made of plastic, so it is pretty easy to trim with an X-Acto knife and snips. Modifying the case is a simple matter of carefully marking and cutting openings for the buttons, screen, and speaker. Small tactile buttons are soldered onto a stripboard that provides a sturdy base. Finally, a piece of fancy cardstock can be cut and then glued to the case to act as a faceplate that keeps everything tidy. The fact that a MINTIA case is quite a lot thinner than an Altoids tin just makes this project all the more noteworthy.