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Whenever I head off on my holidays, I pause momentarily in the Dixons Duty Free shop looking at the handheld game consoles that might help while away a few hours on the beach, or help that long flight pass a little more quickly. This has been going on for about six years and I have not been sufficiently inspired to part with my hard-earned.......Until Now. At this point I should warn you that this opinion comes from someone who is not a serious gamer, but enjoys the opportunity to enjoy a good game every now and again......that might change though.
In March, Nintendo in their ultimate wisdom, launched the Gameboy Advance Special Project (SP). With their existing Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance products, Nintendo had achieved market domination in the field of handheld gaming, but as with any successful company, they needed to find a way of enlarging the potential market. With the SP, I believe they will succeed.
Obviously, there are those out there who simply must have the latest gadget out there. Most of these will already own the Gameboy advance, but many will upgrade to the SP simply because 1) it is new. 2) It uses the same game cartridges as the previous model so they won’t incur massive expense buying all new games. 3) It is more playable due to the integrated screen light. 4) It just looks a darn sight better.
It is the last point that really makes the difference though. Previously, Gameboys have always held the appearance of a kids toy, and not surprisingly, the main purchasers have been in the 10-16 age group (or their parents!!). The SP, however, has the appearance of an executive gadget – a deliberate ploy by Nintendo to extend the usage of these ‘toys’ into the 20 and 30 something age groups (Being part of the latter group, I can testify to their success). If you opt for the black or silver colour, this could easily be mistaken for an electronic organiser when folded. Personally, I opted for the very striking Blue metallic finish.
Although portability is the main attraction, the previous gameboy advance was not ‘conveniently portable’ in my book. Its size meant you needed something to carry it in and that was just added hassle I didn’t need or want. The SP however has true portability - when folded, it is roughly an 8cm by 8cm square with a depth of just over 2cm. This means you can easily slip this into a shirt or trouser pocket, so you can whip it out and enjoy your gaming anytime and anywhere.
As the SP uses the same 32-bit technology as its predecessor there is no significant advance in gameplay. However, a big step forward has been made with the inclusion of a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery. This offers up to 10 hours of gameplay from a 3 hour charge. If you switch the screen light off, the battery will see you good for up to 16 hours. (However, you will almost certainly find that you need the light on 95% of the time). The mains adapter for recharging is also included and you can continue to play games while recharging is taking place – although this will obviously increase the time needed to reach full charge.
The SP uses the same cartridge format as existing Gameboy Advance games, plus the earlier Gameboy Color cartridges will also fit, so there is a wide range of games to choose from. Classics like Tetris, Frogger and Donkey Kong - adaptations of movie plots, and the all important (for me) driving, sports and role-playing games. Prices range from £5 in the bargain basement up to £35 for the latest and greatest. There is also a good second hand market for games, either on eBay or via some specialist games shops. There must surely be something for everyone.
Well, I guess it depends on the games you buy – what I can comment on is that the small size of the unit did raise some concerns that my large hands would find it a bit awkward. However, with over 40 hours gameplay under my belt in the last two weeks, I can confidently say that this is a very comfortable unit to play. The addition of the lit screen means that you no longer have to seek out perfect light conditions in order to enjoy your gaming - in fact I have found the darker your environs, the better your gaming will be. That said, the small screen does lead to eye strain if you play for too long, particularly if the light conditions are creating distracting reflections – you would be well advised to follow the manufacturers advice and rest your eyes for at least 10 mins in each hour of gameplay.
The one glaring omission from this product is a headphone socket. (I contemplated deducting a star for this, but the SP is so good that would have been harsh) You need to buy an headphone adapter for about £2.75 – useful if you don’t want to annoy everyone around you. There is the usual plethora of carrying cases available, but not really necessary as the screen is protected when the unit is closed. If you like gaming with friends, then there is a multi-link cable available as some games offer you the ability to play with other players. Other accessories include a comfort grip(love handles for the SP) and a screen magnifier.
£85 seems to be about the cheapest at the moment. The SP is still quite new so discounts are not readily available. The best deals seem to be packaged with games – i.e. buy the unit and get up to £10 off games purchased at the same time. A two-year warranty is included as standard.
So, Nintendo have finally persuaded me to part with my cash. As someone who has never owned any form of games console before, I am very happy with my purchase – although my wife will undoubtedly attempt to impose some restrictions on my gameplay before too long – I’ve started to get those looks already!!!
nice review, especially due to the fact that you said age groups correctly, I myself (at 15 going on 16) have one, so does my twin brother, my 11 year old sister, and my mum! brilliant review for a brilliant handheld console
Pittypomm 18.02.2004 20:14
*sigh* Now I REALLY want one of these. Great Review.
madmiddy 27.10.2003 15:54
Excellent information. Very useful as my hubby is buying me one for my birthday and we've been dithering about what to go for and what sort of package, so it's been good to read an opinion about it. Dawn xx