Name: Gameboy Advance
Made By: Nintendo
A flip-open version with built in light is also available for $99.99. This is called the Gameboy Advance SP.
What It Is:
Available in four designer colors since June, 2001, this amazing little machine packs the best graphics ever seen on a hand-held game platform. It's small, light-weight and fits easily in a shirt or pants pocket. Because it is a hand-held machine it does carry with it a list of special considerations. It's not waterproof for one, which can be an issue in areas like my home-town (Portland, OR.) It also has a screen which could get scratched or broken so care needs to be taken with who plays games on it.
In terms of graphics it is on par with the old Super Nintendo from years and years ago. What makes it impressive is that they have been able to take what was 10 years ago a top of the line home console and shrunk it to the point where it's pocket sized.
Not only does it play the ever expanding library of Gameboy Advance games, it can also play all the old Gameboy Color and even older Gameboy games. In short you have one machine that does triple duty. For parents that have children who want to upgrade you don't have to worry about all their old games becoming unusable overnight.
It also features a headphone jack (pretty much standard equipment for anything that could be played in public) as well as a link port which can accomodate a light, a link cable for up to 4 player networked gaming or a connection cable for a Nintendo Game Cube.
Other accessories abound, from carrying cases to rechargable battery packs to FM radios. There has even been rumor of a device to watch television and another to play GBA games on your own television (although I have yet to confirm that one myself.) The most abundant device you will see is a variety of lights.
Buy a light. No, really. Seriously. Buy a light. Did I mention you should buy a light? The screen can be really dark at times. Buy a light.
Adding to the mix is that the box for Gameboy and Gameboy Advance games look very similar (the grey stripe on the left of the Advance boxes is curved ever so slightly.) Many retailers don't realize that while the old games play on the new system the new games WILL NOT play on the old system and they end up shelving them all together. Make sure you're buying what you think you're buying.
The most exciting news was just announced 11/18/2002: Nintendo will begin selling a new device which will allow Gameboy Advance Games to be played on a television set by plugging them into the Nintendo Gamecube. The extra piece of hardware is expected to go on sale in May, 2003 with a retail price of around $40.
|So what should I buy?
Did I mention buy a light? The Gameboy Advance is completely unplayable in many lighting conditions. In fact the only time it's sufficiently lit up for my tired old eyes is when I have a light source directly behind and above me. Any other situation and you run into the graphics being too dark or your own reflection staring back at you from the screen cover.
Most lights also double as screen protectors.
This little machine has racked up a fairly impressive run of games in a very short period of time. Games made by Nintendo themselves are only $29.99, but most others are $39.99. Anyone who enjoys strategy war-games will enjoy Advance Wars and heck, I stink at that kind of game and even I like it! Then there are staples such as Street Fighter II and Mega Man Battle Net. Never under-estimate the multi-player goodness of Bomberman either. Speaking of multi-player make sure you check out Super Dodgeball, it's not the longest or most involving 1 player game, but 2 players is great!
Role Playing fans stare in wonder at Golden Sun and in fact the preliminary screens from that game convinced me to buy a Gameboy Advance A.S.A.P.
Why to buy?
A lot of people get tired of burning through AA batteries, but with good rechargables everywhere now that's really no longer an issue. What is an issue with the Gameboy Advance is the lighting. When I bought mine I first sat down on a bench in the mall to make sure it worked. Popped in the batteries, popped in a game, turned it on and I couldn't see a darn thing. Well, that's an exadgeration. I could see it was on and I could see there were graphics on the screen and I could hear sound. The game (Super Dodgeball) though was completely unplayable.
Make sure you find a good light that works for you. I had been pretty frustrated light shopping, ended up with an Interact Glow-Guard that I modified with a stronger light from Radio Shack. Until then I had been considering one of those head-mounted lights popular with mountain bikers and climbers. Eventually I sprung for a light that actually requires cutting the case open and mounting it inside. It's called "The Afterburner", but installation should NOT be attempted by those timid of soldering irons.
Quality control can be an issue on all Gameboy games. Many game manufacturers realize that this machine is primarily intended for children and children aren't the most discriminating. There are a lot of garbage Gameboy games. There are also a lot of Gameboy Advance games that don't take full advantage of the new hardware. Check reviews before buying anything.