Retrograding Advance 01.14.03

Before I start, let me say with all modesty, I appear to have had a good effect on the 411 staff. I mean, before me, there was NOTHING on the GBA. Now Ron, Chris, Bebito and that other guy are all commenting out. Good for them. And good for all of you supporting GBA news here at 411mania.

Now, if my copy of Lunar Legends had arrived from the US by now, I’d have a review of that. Instead, the Post office for the third time since I have been here has mis-sent my first class mail as surface. So that review won’t be for some time. Sorry gang. However, since I am supposed to be in charge of GBA news, it makes sense that I take my overly pedantic self and do a hard look into the SP, and surprise most of you by being the only one on the staff with a minor problem with the new system.

Yeah, that’s right. A problem. And it’s not just that Alex sunk money into his GBA from the Tokyo Pokemon Center for a green GBA so he could say “Yay! Now I’m special”, it’s just that overall, I have a few problems to address with the tech behind it.

You see, normally Nintendo is smart enough to wait years before releasing an advance on their port systems. And it worked wonders and allowed them to totally dominate. Remember when the GB pocket came out? Still black and white graphics, but it only needed two batteries and was TINY! It sold in droves.

Years later, we got the GB Color. And once again, it sold like a cure for cancer. Who doesn’t own some form of the Game boy. Between my fiancee and I, we have two bulky Game Boys, two GBC, and One GBA, which has always been mine, but with Elisa’s Xmas presents of Sonic Advance, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, and (YUCK) Tomb Raider Advance, there is suddenly less time for me to play Pokemon Ruby.

So you think I’d be happy that the new system is coming out. It would allow me to not only buy my Brit her very own GBA, but one with it’s own light source. Right?

Well, actually…no. See, Alex has a big problem with the fact the SP sucks the life from batteries faster than a vampiric Game Gear. Ten hours with Light Function? 18 without? That’s shorter than the span of the current GBA. And that gets me slightly angry.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love this puppy and I’ll be buying one. But it’s not good for long travels. As some of you obviously know, I go from the US to the UK and sometimes from the US to Japan. Those are long flights. Both my GBA and GBC can make that journey without batteries dying, but the SP won’t be able to do it.

Now like I said, this is a minor problem. Sure it has half the battery life but now one can see what is going on without strapping a floodlight to your skull in order to play certain games. But that battery life shortage is a major pet peeve to me. Let’s hope the proposed recharging battery pack actually does come with it. And better yet, let’s hope for some recharging batteries as well. But even with that, it’s still not good for international or cross-country travel

You also heard me mention earlier about the releasing this too soon. I really do think this is a problem. It’s been barely two years since the GBA came out, and although lighting enhancements are needed, from a business perspective, Nintendo could have milked the GBA a lot longer, especially as it is the best selling hardware EVER. Now the double-edged sword applies to the SP. You have gamers expecting Nintendo to put out enhancements to the GB systems faster than ever, meaning that more cynical gamers will wait longer to pick up a new enhancement, thinking that something better is just around the corner. It also means for Nintendo even announcing this so quickly means the big N is starting to feel uncomfortable in the Console race. We could see them go the route of SEGA, producing only hand-held consoles and becoming a third party software maker for the Next Box and PS3. That’s a slim chance of happening, but it does mean Nintendo is taking it seriously. Especially with the recent spur of cancellations. After all, no one can touch Nintendo in terms of the hand-held market. Sega and Neo*Geo died horribly against Nintendo, and although Wonderswan is surviving in Japan, notice it hasn’t come to Europe or America. And never will. Keep the possibility that the SP is being tested AGINST the Gamecube in mind.

Finally, the last concerned that needs to be talked about with the SP (and notice no one else anywhere is actually looking at the Negatives EXCEPT this almost fanatically pro handheld gamer) is one you might not expect: the folding Aspect. If it folds, it instantly becomes that much more fragile. Again, this is a MINOR gripe, but it’s something that needs to be addressed. However, Nintendo’s systems are hardcore and take a beating. You can do anything to a GBA and it still works. Hell, my fiancee plugged in my NTSC Gamecube into a PAL socket ) twice the voltage) and it worked for 5 minutes before catching on fire. Most systems would blow up immediately. BTW, I will say here that Nintendo’s repair email in both the US and Europe suck as they have not replied after numerous emails about if it’s cheaper to fix it or get a new one.

So remember these three points people. Everything new is not always the best. Remember the problems with the PS2 and Xbox launches and dramatic increase in software bugs appearing. Quality Control is out the window, so it might be worse waiting a week or two to see if there is any problem with the GBASP when it finally comes out.

Now for a geeky insight to the GBA tech.

Approximate Size (Closed): Height 3.33 inches, width 3.23 inches, depth 0.96 inches

Nice and small and portable. Now one of our other columnists who will remain nameless complained about the GBA size and button positions. For that I simply say if someone can’t use the shoulder buttons on a Game Boy, they shouldn’t be gaming in the slightest. Or playing with a PSX or Xbox joystick. The GBA isn’t perfection in terms of layout, and although something more akin to the Saturn joystick built into a handheld system, it’s still far better than any joystick for a next gen console. However, it is big enough for a dog to eat.

CPU: 32-bit RISC CPU with embedded memory

Two words: SEGA SATURN. Everyone’s talking about super NES ports, but the GBA is on par with the f’n PS1 in terms of CPU and almost as powerful as the Sega Saturn. (Note from Alex: More to it than the CPU obviously. But the GBA actually is able to play PS1 games with out much problem if someone tried. Not many Saturn game show ever, due to the complexity and mind boggling insanity that one has to experience in order to program for it). So we can see Radiant Silvergun, some Shining Force games, Chrono Trigger, Clock Tower and all sort of re-releases for this baby. And we better. The new games solely for the GBA haven’t been bad, but it’s the classics that have made the GBA better than anything else we have out right now. It makes the old new again and exposes casual gamers to something actually decent. Sorry, mini-rant over.

Screen: 2.9-inch reflective TFT color LCD

Not much different here. I do wish there was a scratch guard on the GBA when you put it in your pocket or anything for travel. The SP’s fold ability covers this though, and it’s a great aspect to keep in mind.

Light Source: Front lights have been integrated with the existing reflective LCD

Okay, aside from the ruining of the upcoming vampire game, “MY SUN’ and the huge and unexplainable drain on the batteries, this is the aspect to look at. The screen has been brought closer to the surface and we’ve got integrated lighting. No problems here as long as you have a power source that can last long times such as rechargeable batteries or an AC adaptor. The GBASP will be a giant money waster if you use just normal batteries at it will eat them like Ms Pac-Man during her binge phase. (Oh come on…we all know she’s bulimic. Look at how much she eats and then her figure.)

Display Size: 1.61 inches by 2.41 inches (identical to the Game Boy Advance)

Not much to say here, eh?

Resolution: 240×160 pixels (identical to the Game Boy Advance)


Color: Simultaneously displays more than 32,000 colors (identical to the Game Boy Advance)

Again, no change, so not much worth talking about.

Weight: Approximately 5 ounces

About as heavy as the Game Boy Color. Not so bad.

Power Supply: Rechargeable lithium-ion battery

Again, this should be interesting. I’m hoping this comes with the system, but that’s not 100% guaranteed. And it may piss some companies off as held held games give batteries companies a lot of $$$. Let’s see if business politics enters in to this equation with the GBASP.

Battery Life: 10 hours continuous play with three hour recharging period; 18 hours continuous play with light function disabled

Again, my real gripe with the system, but one that can be circumvented.

Hardware Color: Platinum and cobalt (metallic) ,br.
Ick. Metallic blue and silver. Why do the GBA non-exclusive colors suck? I want the neon orange ones they have in Japan, and England actually has a very cool black one that wasn’t in the states when I left there. Luckily, the other half likes the Platinum GBA, so I can get here this and still have my happy green one. I do like the Pink GBA though. Very original.

Release Date: March 23, 2003
Or for the Europeans that read me, sometime in 2k4. They aren’t getting the E-reader over here any time in the known future. Like they’ll get this before the year is up. VERY surprised at the release date however, as normally Nintendo makes a huge announcement at least 6 months ahead of time about GB hardware so even casual gamers get to know about it.

Suggested Retail Price: $99.95

Or 100£/150$ in the UK when it makes it there. :-P Good price though. Although it is 30-40$ more than the GBA. This might turn off the casual gamer or poorer people as they can get a GBA and a game (or two if used) for the same price.

Peripheral Devices (Sold Separately): e-Reader, Game Boy Advance Game Link Cable, Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Advance Cable, Game Boy Advance SP Headphone Jack Adapter

Note there is no compatibility with an AC adaptor! Accidentally left out, or a bad omen? Time will tell.

And there we go, a long look at the upcoming GBASP. Hopefully this answered some of your questions.

Next week, well, if Lunar Legends FINALLY f’n arrives, you get that. Otherwise it’ll be something different. Who knows?

Next week in Retrograding however, you’re getting a special (and probably long boring treat to some of you), we’re going to be taking a look at the influence of the greatest TERROR (BIG difference between terror and horror people. Remember it). Writer in literary history and his influence on video games. No it’s not Edger Allen Poe. He’s a hack compared to HP LOVECRAFT! So until I see you again, IA! IA! CTHULHU FHTAGN!