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Nanoloop, The Amazing Game Boy Music Creation Cartridge

by Matt Helgeson on Oct 26, 2014 at 06:02 AM

Recently, I was cleaning out my basement, and found an interesting bit of of video game history: one of the original Nanoloop Game Boy cartridges.

I remember receiving this in the mail -- or at least grabbing it out of a pile of unopened Game Informer mail when I was an intern. It came as pictured, a plain yellow cartridge taped to a photocopied set of hand-typed instructions. The cartridge was created by German hobbyist Oliver Wittchow, who started working on it back in 1998 and released multiple versions of Nanoloop over the years.

When I discovered what it was, I became pretty obsessed with creating primitive, 8-bit (actually 4-bit in this case) beats. That said, the grid-based sequencer and menu system was pretty obtuse; I never really felt like I totally knew what was going on. You can see a bit of Nanoloop in action below.

The cartridge became legendary in the then-forming "chiptune" scene. There was eventually a compilation album featuring tracks made exclusively with the cartridge released. Here's a track from the compilation, Nanoloop 1.0 on the Disco Brut label.

Nanoloop lives on today with iOS and Android simulator apps that are available for in the iTunes and Google Play stores. Obviously, Witchow has worked out a few bugs since the late '90s, and the touch screen controls make it easier than ever to work with. However, if you want the retro, gritty electro charm, there are also new cartridges for Game Boy available (which now can be receive periodic updates from Wittchow). While there are now many more sophisticated music creation tools available on mobile platforms, Nanoloop remains an obscure, but important part of electronic, chiptune, and video game music history. To say it was ahead of its time would be an understatement.

Related Links: Nanoloop Official Site