Impossibly small. Errrr- wrong gadget, but my point remains valid. Depending on where you are in the world, Nintendo's latest in the mobile gaming arena was released to the public sometime last week. Up here in the Great White North, I picked mine up on its release on the 21st and boy, was I in for a treat.
The first thing that came to my mind when I gazed at its iPod-like packaging was its size. This thing is small! 4" wide, 2" tall, 0.7" deep, and barely registering on the scales at just 2.8 ounces. To put those measurements into some perspective, the Game Boy Micro is slightly larger than a cell phone and roughly the same size of an iPod Mini. Nintendo took the Game Boy Advance and made it smaller - but I'm getting ahead of myself already, let's start from the beginning, shall we?
Nintendo broke into the mobile gaming market in 1989 with the release of Game Boy, the handheld that I'm sure everyone and their cousin Fred owned at one point in time. Almost a decade later, it released a non-monochrome challenged version, the Game Boy Color. Several years later, the bulky Game Boy Advance was released, followed by its clamshell compadre, Game Boy Advance SP, a couple of years later. And now, in a time of anorexic actresses and everything else shedding pounds for a sleeker image, Nintendo stepped up and offered its latest handheld... enter, Game Boy Micro.
In a nutshell, the GB Micro was GB Advance's overweight brother who spent all summer at fat camp - and unlike reality - came out in the Fall looking like a million bucks. As I alluded to earlier, it's easy to see who Nintendo is marketing their new handheld to: the same reason why someone will pay that extra little bit for an iPod, so too does Nintendo hope to market the GB Micro to hipsters, teens, and gadget/tech enthusiasts. I think George Harrison, Nintendo of America Sr. VP of marketing, said it best: "We're making the gorgeous Game Boy Micro for image-conscious folks who love video games, the ones who want the look of their system to be as cool as the games they play on it."
And the GB Micro is definitely not something you're going to be ashamed to be caught in public playing; available in either silver or black models, the GB Micro also ships with three interchangeable faceplates (with more available from Nintendo.com
). The idea being that you can customize your new toy to match your mood (although actually getting the faceplate off is a little trickier than Nintendo lets on... more on that later).
The GB Micro's biggest selling point would have to be its screen. Unlike the backlit and washed out issues that arose with its predecessors, the GB Micro features one of the brightest and sharpest screens on the market. While it does just
fall short of Sony's PSP's widescreen panel, the 2" display is shockingly vibrant. What's more, Nintendo finally included the ability to adjust the brightness on the screen - a welcome addition to those latenight gaming sessions.
Now, I know what you're thinking... how can you get some serious gaming in on a 2" screen - a screen that is smaller than the games that fit in the PSP. Well, for this test, I logged in more than 20 hours on Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga, a role playing game (RPG) with a myriad of text, miniature sprites, and typical angled overhead camera angles. Contrary to what one might think, all of this fits and looks surprisingly well on such a small screen; in fact, I think it actually looks better because of the smaller size. When the game environment is compressed, it allows you to see detail in the characters and the world that you might not normally be able to see at higher resolutions. And thanks to the ultra-sharp screen, these things come through in astounding detail. The smaller screen size also hasn't caused any headaches or eye strains.
As far as buttons and layout go, the GB Micro is pretty similar to that of the GB Advance. The D-pad, the oversized A and B buttons, and the shoulder-mounted L and R buttons all make an appearance in their usual spots. The only change is the position of the Start and Select buttons: they have been moved underneath the screen, given a facelift and added functionality. When you turn the system on, the buttons will either glow blue, indicating adequate battery charge, or red, indicating that the system will die shortly.
Despite its size, the GB Micro is actually a pleasure to hold. The D-pad and A and B buttons are just where they should be, though the L and R buttons require a little bit of finger training to hit their inner edges. Nintendo chose to set the L and R buttons on the inner edges rather than outer so that you can rest your fingers along the top of the system (something that I have not found myself doing, however). Regardless, this is hardly a show stopping qualm. Oh, and there's [finally!] a genuine honest-to-goodness headphone jack on the bottom of the system - which you'll be making good use of, as the system's speaker is a little less-than-stellar. Finally, there is an EXT port on the top of the system, which allows you to connect your GB Micro with other GB Micro's or GB Advance's, provided you have the proper cables.
The rechargeable lithium-ion battery is rated for six to eight hours of average play, though if you crank the brightness down on the screen, I found mine lasting just over 11 hours. Not bad for a battery that takes just two and a half hours to recharge!
So what games are available? The GB Micro is backwards-compatible with GB Advance's over 700 titles, so unlike Sony's PSP, immediately at launch you already have a plethora of quality games to choose from. And I have yet to run into a game that causes the GB Micro to stutter or slow down, it handles the GB Advance hardware just splendidly. And just to reiterate: the GB Micro is only
compatible with GB Advance games. It will not
play your old Game Boy games.
The GB Micro is also easy on your
hard-earned cash. The system will run you just $129.99 CDN ($99.99 for you Yank's), with games anywhere from $24.99 CDN to $49.99 CDN, you can easily pick up a system and a game for under two bills.
And now that faceplate that I was talking about. The two different GB Micro models, silver and black, both ship with three different faceplates. The black ships with a camoflauge, fire, and silver faceplate while the silver ships with a blue ammonite, lady bug, and black faceplates. The only issue that I have with the faceplates chosen is that the black GB Micro ships with a silver faceplate, and the silver ships with a black. In my opinion, it should've been the other way around. But, I digress.
One of the nicest things about the faceplates is that, aside from allowing you to customize the look of your system, the faceplates also protect the screen. So if you're scratch-prone like me, when the inevitble happens, all you have to do is pop the faceplate off and throw a new one on. Nintendo includes a neat dual-pronged plastic clip that you can use to pry the faceplate off with - and while I haven't broken one of the four faceplate clips off yet, it takes a little due diligence to ensure that things are pryed off the way they should be.
It's small, cute, and comes with one helluva beautiful screen. It's surprisingly comfortable to hold and with over 700 games to choose from and numerous faceplates, chances are there's a system and a game out there for everyone.