A new Game Boy emulator has arrived for the Apple Watch that will allow you to play Pokémon Yellow on your wrist.
Gabriel O’Flaherty-Chan, an iOS software developer, began working on his Game Boy emulator for the Apple Watch 2 a few months ago after being disappointed with the lack of games available to play. After making his own game, he decided he wanted to try his hand at porting an existing game and creating an emulator was the best way to go about it.
Today, O’Flaherty-Chan has released his emulator, which he calls Giovanni in reference to the head of Team Rocket in the original game, on Github. The developer also included GIFs and photos of the port in action, and wrote at length about some of the issues he encountered while moving it over.
“One of the big challenges was to find the right balance between framerate and performance,” O’Flaherty-Chan wrote. “As you can see, it’s a bit sluggish and unresponsive, but as a prototype, I think it answers the question of ‘is this possible?’”
This isn’t the first time that a complex game like Pokémon Yellow has been ported to a mobile device like the Apple Watch. In 2015, a couple of Facebook developers managed to bring Doom over to the Apple Watch. O’Flaherty-Chan said he essentially took what the Facebook developers did and updated it for the new watch. When it came to working with the graphics, it took a little bit of experimentation and color correction on his end, but managed to figure out how to successfully mirror the original Game Boy versions players will remember.
One of the last issues O’Flaherty-Chan ran into was working with the controls. As the developer points out, Pokémon Yellow is a game that requires quite a bit of input and asking players to do that on a tiny, touch-based interface would get annoying fast.
“By allowing the user to pan on screen for directions, rotate the Digital Crown for up and down, and tap the screen for A, I was able to eliminate buttons until I was left with Select, Start, and B,” O’Flaherty-Chan wrote.
“Touching the screen for movement isn’t a great interaction, but being able to use the Crown worked out a lot better than originally anticipated. Scrolling through a list of options is basically what the Crown was made for, and if the framerate was even slightly higher, the interaction could almost be better than a hardware D-pad.”
Giovanni is an open-source project and O’Flaherty-Chan is open to working with other developers to make the emulator even simpler for Apple Watch users.
The only Pokémon game currently available to play on the Apple Watch is Pokémon Go.