Ported by Will Dietz Jan 2010.
Thanks to #webos-internals for their feedback throughout testing!
Icon created by Austin (Used with Permission)
Lots of work has gone into making this a great game for you to enjoy! If you like it please consider donating. See official thread for the paypal link if you're interested.
Install Preware, and then launch it. Click on "Available Packages" then "Applications, or "Available Applications" then "All" depending on the Preware preferences you have chosen. Now type in "visualb" (no quotes). VisualBoyAdvance should show up. If not, make sure your feeds are up to date. Click on VBA and then click install.
Now you are ready to add ROMs(games)!
Many games are available for VBA. Sources of free open source and free homebrew roms are listed at the end of this article.
There exist sources of copyright game ROMS on the interent which webos-internals will not link to. There also exist explanations of how to copy roms you own into files which VBA can use. Those topics are outside the scope of this article.
ROM File definitions
VBA ROMs extensions indicate what device is being emulated. There are three valid extensions:
- .gba (Game Boy Advance)
- .gbc (Game Boy Color)
- .gb (Game Boy)
If you find a ROM image which has a ".bin" extension just rename it to the proper extension (for example, rename a gameboy advance game to end with .gba without quotes).
Installing ROMS to the device
Once you have installed VBA on your Pre, click on it from the launcher to see short instructions on how to install ROMs, which we'll explain in more detail here.
Now connect your Pre to your computer via USB mode. Once the Pre shows up on your computer, open it. You now should be at the "root" of your Pre's storage. If you look at the folders in the root, there should be a few including the "wallpapers", and "ringtones" folders. Create a folder called "vba" (no caps). Click on that and inside that create a folder called "roms" (again, no caps). Copy the ROMs from your computer and move them here. DO NOT put the ROMs (.gb, .gbc, .gba) in folders within the "roms" folder.
VBA cannot create these folders for you due to the 1.4.5 fstab bug.
VBA can also handle rom files stored inside a zip files.
To select a rom, just tap on it in the rom selector.
Note that if you have more roms than fit on the screen, simply scroll to them.
Hit a letter key to jump to that letter in the rom list (useful when you have lots of roms)
These are the current controls (while playing):
|Pre Button||Emulator Function||Notes|
|t||Start/Select/a/b All at Once||Useful for Resets (or saving in zelda)|
|orange+s (minus)||Toggle Displaying Emulation Speed|
|orange+l (apostrophe)||Change Scaling Filter|
|orange+@||Change Screen Orientation|
|orange+z (or y for qwertz pre)||Toggle Sound||Boosts (GBA) Performance|
|1,2,3||Save state number 1,2,3||orange + "corresponding letter"|
|4,5,6||Load state number 1,2,3||orange + "corresponding letter"|
|orange+ w('+')||Toggle overlay (touchscreen) controls||Only works in the landscape orientation with keyboard on RIGHT|
|orange+a (ampersand)||Toggle 'autosave'/'autoresume' functionality|
|orange+q (slash)||Cycle skins|
|back gesture/swipe||Return to rom selector|
VBA also allows you to customize the controls to fit what you find most useful!
To start customizing, while running a game, hit '=' (orange+p), or '?' (orange+n).
Then follow the on-screen instructions, hitting the keys you want the various buttons bound to.
To stop the binding and cancel, hit '=' or '?' again.
Note Due to the pre's keyboard limitations, some keys cannot be detected when pressed down at same time (j/k is an example of such a pair). Keep this in mind, it is not a bug in VBA.
If you have a binding you think is great, please share it here!
Alternate D-Pad position: Up-R, Down-F, Left-D, Right-G. Since there is a small bump on the F key, you may find it easier to know where your fingers are on the keyboard this way.
For playing Fire Emblem one-handed in Landscape mode: Up-G, Down-F, Left-R, Right-C, A-X, B-D. For Fire Emblem and other strategy games (and some RPGs) you can play with one hand since there's no need to use the D-pad and the action buttons at the same time.
VBA also supports skins! Shipped by default (as of this writing) are skins from VincentLaw, zsoc, nights0223 and crzisme.
Skins are stored with the app, but if you want to add more from the community, put them in /vba/skins.
Each skin has a folder containing two files:
For an idea of what controller.cfg should contain, look at the other controller.cfg files, it should be mostly self-explanatory. Hopefully :).
- The x/y for each control object are the centers of the button.
- The screen size variables are the maximum in each direction--the game will still scale them according to their aspect ratios.
- The screens will always be drawn at the x,y indicated--they won't be centered.
- There is support for turbo buttons, just no skin uses it yet.
- orange+q (slash) cycles through the skins
YouTube Videos of VBA (v1.0.1):
Here's a list of feature requests I'm aware of and/or things I plan to do.
- ALSA instead of pulseaudio (hopefully to improve emulation speed with sound enabled)
- Additional keybinding options, such as:
- Diagonal keys (up+right, right+down, etc)
- System keys (redefine save state keys, sound off, etc)
- Pause emulation key?
- Create /save folder for .sav files (battery-backed RAM save info), instead of placing .sav in the /roms folder
- Better performance on GBA!!
- See iphone/GP2X ports and their ARM optimizations! (dynarec?)
- Include a homebrew rom to demo the app?
- options menu? (on the rom selector screen?)
- system messages, draw them somewhere else and make them legible.
- custom background for rom selector
- haptic feedback on touchscreen controls?
- options from rom selector (separate from menu; just have some way to change them, like sound, before launching).
- other orientations for touchscreen
- autoframeskip support! (toggle)
- turbo toggle
- Poor performance in GBA. Try disabling sound (press '*'/orange+z)
- Audio doesn't seem to be fully disabled (you won't hear anything, but Pulseaudio is still doing a little work)
- Notifications always appear as if in landscape
- @ Turbo key can have keys bound to it, causing turbo AND the bound key to go at the same time.
- screenshots are messed up (This is already fixed, will be released in next version)
- VBA renders so quickly it causes some visual issues while the device presents the card.
- Touchscreen Controls slow emulation down. Controlling with Pre Keyboard is faster.
- Skin support! Thanks to VincentLaw, zsoc, crzisme, and nights0223 for their work!
- Support for turbo/capture bindings in custom controls!
- New ARM assembly implementation of emulated instructions. (small speed boost, about 5% on average in GBA games)
- touchscreen controls!
- NOTE: just touching the screen (regardless of touch controls enabled) slows things down. I'm working on why, but it seems to be the same code that draws the ripple. This is a known issue.
- toggle is '+' (orange+w)
- 0 (orange+@) will rotate the window for those used to the old layout/keyboard controls.
- new 'autosave' feature (toggle enabled with '&' (orange+a))
- saves to a special state when you quit, when you load the rom resumes there immediately
- zip file support
- options are now saved across sessions (orientation, mute, displaying emulation speed, etc)
- rom selector strips file extensions, and cleans up rom names
- rom selector doesn't show hidden files
- Fixed crash when creating custom configs (permissions issue)
- Fixed saving issues
- Added ability to create custom keybindings (see wiki)
- Removed annoying battery messages
- Updated icon (thanks Spyral!) (might need to restart to see it)
- Fixed name for hopefully better word-wrap in launcher
- Remove dependence on upstart, should fix problem with VBA not launching.
- backported sound fixes for (slight) speed, also added code to hopefully fix freezing on pause
- save/load state support
- jump-to-letter functionality in rom selector for better management of large libraries
- sort roms case insensitively
- Remove dependence on upstart, should fix problem with VBA not launching.
- 1.0.3 Added toggle for displaying emulation speed to help compatability reports
- 1.0.2 Small metadata fix.
- 1.0.1 Small performance boost, public release!
- 1.0.0 Initial release (testing feed). Reimplemented rendering engine, rom selector.
This is a list of games and how well they run.
PLEASE include a version number (on rom selector) when adding entries!
To see the emulation speed percentage, hit orange+s while playing (as of 1.0.3).
All GB/GBC Games should be compatible (99.9%) at 100% Speed, please just report those NOT working.
Orange: Not Playable/Very Slow
|Title||Speed @500 Mhz||Speed @800 Mhz||VBA Version||Notes|
|Sound||No Sound||Sound||No Sound|
|Advance Wars||%||%||85-100%||100%||1.2.4||Fullspeed ingame with Sound @800Mhz!|
|Astro Boy - Omega Factor||50%||75%||%||%||1.0.4|
|Backyard Football||35%||55%||%||%||1.0.3||Menus work near 100% but gameplay is slow.|
|Breath of Fire II||60-67%||80-100%||%||%||1.0.3||Runs at 100% walking around. Battles haven't been tested.|
|Castlevania - Aria of Sorrow||%||%||100%||100%||1.2.4||Very Playable without Sound!|
|Chu Chu Rocket!||100%||100%||100%||100%||1.2.4||Plays perfekt with or without sound :)|
|Double Dragon Advanced||90-100%||100%||%||%||1.01||Plays well even with sound on|
|Duke Nukem 3D Advanced||40%||50%||%||%||1.0.4|
|Final Fantasy Tactics Advance||40%||60%||%||%||1.0.3||Semi-Playable without Sound|
|Fire Emblem||60%||90-100%||%||%||1.0.3||Takes a bit to load. Extremely Playable without Sound!|
|Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones||60-70%||90-100%||%||%||1.0.3||Extremely Playable without Sound!|
|F-Zero - GP Legend||43%||55%||%||%||1.0.3|
|Golden Sun: The Lost Age||35%||50%||%||%||1.0.3||Semi-Playable without sound if you have a lot patience.|
|Gunstar Super Heroes||44%||65%||%||%||1.0.4||playable without sound|
|Harvest Moon - Friends of Mineral Town||60%||95%||%||%||1.0.3|
|Kirby and the Amazing Mirror||50-65%||80-100%||%||%||1.1.1||Usually is 86% without sound. It is very responsive and works flawlessly.|
|Kuru Kuru Kururin||40%||65%||%||%||1.0.3|
|Lord of the Rings, Return of the King||45%||63%||%||%||1.0.3||Playable, but a little slow.|
|Mario & Luigi - Superstar Saga||65-70%||80-100%||%||%||1.0.3||Menu 100% with Sound ;), ingame mostly fullspeed without.|
|Mario Kart - Super Circuit||44%||64%||%||%||1.0.3||Time Trial without Sound is almost Fullspeed (95%)!|
|Metal Slug Advance||48%||68%||%||%||1.0.3|
|Mortal Kombat Advance||50%||70%||%||%||1.0.3||Playable without sound|
|Ninja Five-0||%||%||97%||100%||1.2.4||Runs very good without Sound|
|PocketNES - NES Emulator||60%||80%||%||%||1.0.3|
|Pokemon - Ruby||90-100%||90-100%||%||%||1.1.2||100% without sound. The sound gives a slight noticeable lag.|
|Pokemon - Fire Red||50%||80-90%||%||%||1.1.2||Playable without sound.|
|Pokemon - Leaf Green||%||%||88-98%||100%||1.2.4|
|SMA2 - Super Mario World||45%||62%||%||%||1.0.3|
|SMA3 - Yoshi's Island||43%||58%||%||%||1.0.3|
|SMA4 - Mario Bros. 3||51%||72%||%||%||1.0.3||Takes a bit time to Load.|
|Sonic Advance 1||%||%||100%||100%||1.2.4|
|Sonic Advance 2||55%||80%||%||%||1.0.3|
|Sonic Advance 3||49%||72%||%||%||1.0.3||too slow for sonic|
|Super Ghouls'n Ghosts||%||%||80-100%||100%||1.2.4|
|Tactics Ogre||90%||95%||%||%||1.0.3||Does not save, runs pretty well without sound.|
|Wario Land 4||60%||85%||%||%||1.0.3|
|Wario Ware Inc.||60%||70-80%||%||%||1.0.3|
|Zelda - A Link to the Past||45%||62%||%||%||1.0.3||Slow but Playable!|
|Zelda - The Minish Cap||%||%||98%||100%||1.2.4|
Using 800MHz patch
Orange: Not Playable/Very Slow
|Advance Wars||85%||95-100%||1.1.2||Sound is choppy causing a bit of lag but playable both ways|
|Advance Wars 2||80%||95-100%||1.1.2||Sound is choppy, plays well enough with sound but annoying.|
|Aladdin||75%||95-100%||1.1.2||Works pretty good a slight delay while playing with sound|
|Astro Boy - Omega Factor||65-80%||75-100%||1.1.2||Depending how much is happening on the screen at once|
|Atari Anniversary Advance||100%||75-100%||1.1.2||No sound?|
|Backyard Football 2006||60%||68-85%||1.1.2|
|Mario & Luigi - Superstar Saga||75%||90-100%||1.1.2|
|Metroid Fusion||70%||90-100%||1.1.2||when shooting can cause slow down with sound.|
|Pokemon - Ruby||90-100%||90-100%||1.1.2||100% without sound. The sound gives a slight noticeable lag.|
|Pokemon - Fire Red||50%||80-90%||1.1.2||Playable without sound.|
|Pokemon - Leaf Green||30%||80-90%||1.1.2|
There are several places where you can get free homebrew games for the GB and GBA that are 100% legal to download and try on the emulator.
The best source for homebrew games for any console is http://www.pdroms.org but there are several other homebrew sites around that offer something similar such as this site specifically for gameboy advance: http://www.gameboy-advance-roms.info/
Here is a small list of free games that are worth trying, if you have more add them to the list!
If the downloaded game has a ".bin" extension just rename it to ".gba"
|The Last Seal||%||%||1.0.3||http://www.pdroms.de/files/895/|