Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance series of handheld game consoles was first launched back in 2001, succeeding the Game Boy Color. It had a 2.9” TFT LCD screen with a resolution of 240 x 160 pixels, at a 15-bit RGB color depth and a framerate of almost 60 FPS (technically it is exactly 59.727500569606 Hz). Those specs were obviously meant to make gameplay graphics as nice as possible, but the Game Boy Advance was also capable of playing videos — the idea was likely that developers would use that ability in order to play short cut scene videos. But Wulff Den took advantage of the Game Boy Advance’s video capability to create a series of cartridges that contain the entirety of the movie Tenet.
Tenet was Christopher Nolan’s most recent masterpiece and was released to theaters on August 12th, 2020. The astute among you have probably noticed that that date just happened to be in the middle of a little worldwide pandemic. Nolan actually caught quite a lot of well-deserved flack for encouraging fans to go to their local theaters. He went as far as to say:
“I think of all the films that I’ve made, this is perhaps the one that is most designed for the audience experience, the big screen experience. This is a film whose image and sound really needs to be enjoyed in your theaters on the big screen and we’re very very excited for you to see what it is we’ve done.”
Nolan’s callousness obviously rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Wulff Den wanted to find the Tenet experience most antithetical to going to a movie theater and the Game Boy Advance’s low resolution was perfect for the job. A GBA cartridge doesn’t have a lot of space and Tenet is a fairly long movie, which is why five cartridges were required for the job. Even with five cartridges to work with, the video had to be compressed quite a lot in order to fit in the available space. The settings used by Wulff Den resulted in video that was a mere 6 FPS at a resolution of just 192 x 128.
Converting video for the GBA is a fairly well-known process that anyone can follow. The goal is to end up with a GBA-compatible AVI file with the proper parameters. Tools exist to place that video into a ROM that can boot on a GBA. If you’re playing the video in a GBA emulator, that is all you need to do. But Wulff Den wanted to create some real cartridges. They used a GBxCart RW for the job, which is an open source device designed specifically for flashing special Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance cartridges. After flashing, Wulff Den printed appropriate labels and placed them on the cartridges. Now he can watch Tenet in all the low-resolution glory that Christopher Nolan would cringe at.