When Nintendo announced the Game Boy Micro ($99.95) back in May, some people understood why it was a good idea, and some people didn’t. For years, game consoles have been defined by horsepower, and the release of one new system necessarily meant the obsolescence of the last one. However, portable games, particularly the Game Boy family, have been nearly exempt from this rule. The original black and white Game Boys outsold color handhelds from Sega, Atari, NEC and a dozen others, ruling the roost for a longer period of time than any other portable console out there – despite serious challenges. And Nintendo’s followup platform Game Boy Advance (GBA) continues to exist today, even though the company has focused most of its attention on the more recent Nintendo DS platform.
The reason to keep GBA around in some form is obvious: it continues to have an installed base greater than any competing (and still breathing) portable platform. More importantly, it has tons of software. There are over 700 Game Boy Advance titles on the market already, including some really good games. What a far cry from the olden days (see Mario’s Bombs Away from 1983 at left, below) when $50-100 would buy you a single Nintendo Game & Watch handheld that played a grand total of one game.
That’s part of why Game Boy Micro makes sense. As a miniaturized GBA with an illuminated screen (like GBA SP), it plays a huge library of existing, under-$30 games that are ideal for short periods of time. But as the name suggests, it’s small – smaller than a full-sized color iPod, but with a wider (if shorter) screen that’s equally bright. And it has a speaker. And it has a headphone port (unlike GBA SP). And it has removable face plates for your choice of custom looks.
No, it’s not smaller than the iPod nano (best of luck on that one, Nintendo). But as the photos you’ll see in Read More demonstrate, it’s as easy as an iPod mini to slip into your pocket. We’ll have more coverage of Game Boy Micro in the days to come.
Here’s the obvious comparison shot – Game Boy Micro versus mini and nano. Micro is thicker than mini and a little taller, but narrower. In a nice, 3G iPod-like touch, its bottom start and select buttons glow red when the power’s running low, and bright blue when the power’s recharging, or just turning on. We miss the 3G iPod’s glowing buttons – this is a nice and unexpected Nintendo design move.
Thickness comparison and rear comparison shots. The only area where Micro suffers a bit – and then, not in a way that Game Boy buyers typically mind – is in its reliance on black plastic casing. It feels a bit like a micro cassette recorder in build quality, which contrasts with the solid GBA SP and Nintendo DS machines. But then, they’re a lot bigger, too.
A shot without the face plate on. Nintendo has shown a huge number of replacement plates – the one we wish we had is a Japan exclusive that looks just like an original Nintendo Famicom (Japanese NES) controller, plus the alternate version that looks like the distinctive, microphone-equipped second Famicom controller. The release of both of these, particularly the latter, was genius. Wish we had a photo.
Finally, there’s the screen. It’s really bright and surprisingly easy to read given its size. Even though we liked the SP a lot, we think that GBM will be replacing it without any question in our “light travel” bags. You give up relatively little to get something that’s easier to carry and enjoy.
We’ll talk more about the internal rechargeable battery, control responsiveness, and other related issues in a follow-up piece in the near future. For now, we hope you enjoyed these shots.