Like many people who dropped hundreds of dollars on an Apple Watch, Gabriel O’Flaherty-Chan was disappointed at how little his pricey wearable could actually do. Instead of complaining about it online like most of us, he decided to solve the problem himself by writing a Game Boy emulator capable of playing Pokemon Yellow. Unfortunately, it kind of sucks.
The Game Boy, and the Pokemon games, were already designed with portability in mind, but Gabriel’s hack means you can secretly battle Pikachus and Charizards in the middle of a meeting, under the guise of checking a work email on your watch. At least that was the dream.
Starting with an existing emulator called Gambatte, Gabriel had to modify it to be watchOS friendly. This included adapting the controls to work with the device’s touchscreen and crown dial, and getting the graphics to work given the wearable didn’t support common formats like OpenGL. As a result, while the Apple watch’s processor is far more powerful than the original Game Boy’s was, Pokemon Yellow unfortunately chugs along with a sluggish frame rate through Giovanni, Gabriel’s modified emulator.
The game is still technically playable, if you have enough patience, or are sufficiently bored at work, but the experience is no where near as fast-paced as it was on the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color. However, in its current state, Giovanni is a proof-of-concept that the Apple Watch can do so much more than ping you about missed messages. Now if only Apple was cool with people posting emulators to its App Store.