Wednesday, October 12, 2005

VG REVIEW: Game Boy Micro

Aaaaand here's the second of this week's reviews:

Nintendo, $99.99
RATING: Two and a half stars

Nintendo’s GameCube console might be in third place against Microsoft and Sony, but the company has dominated the handheld market, both with its established Game Boy Advance and the more recent Nintendo DS.

The company seeks to maintain that strong hold with the recent release of the Game Boy Micro, a much smaller and fashionable version of the current GBA SP. But is smaller necessarily better?

Certainly, at first glance, the package’s sleek and stylish design wins your attention. Weighing only 2.8 ounces, the Micro is 4 inches wide, 2 inches tall and 0.7 inches deep, making it much easier to fit in your pocket than the SP.

It’s Lithium-ion battery is good for about 10 hours or so, and the backlit screen is much brighter and sharper than any Game Boy that has come before. It’s amazing the makers were able to get such crisp detail and bright colors from so small a screen.

The Micro comes in basic black but includes two removable faceplates that can be easily snapped in with the help of a little flat piece of plastic. Also included in the package is an AC adapter and a pouch to carry the Micro in.

The most notable feature, however, apart from the exceptionally bright screen, is the little headphone jack at the bottom. With the current GBA not having any such plug-in device, its inclusion here is quite welcome.

But there is a downside. GBA games might look quite lovely on the Micro, but the screen is very, very small. And as pretty as the new resolution might be, I miss the benefits that a slightly larger screen provides.

I played a number of text-heavy games to test the readability of the screen size ("Book Worm," "Final Fantasy Tactics Advance"), and while I was for the most part able to see the words without any problem, there were times I had to strain my eyes. If you have to squint to read the menu options on your cell phone, this is not the handheld console for you.

With the recent arrival of a backlit GBA SP, which is $20 cheaper, it’s hard to find a compelling reason to purchase the Micro. Even better, for $50 more you could pick up the Nintendo DS, which plays older GBA games as well as more interactive titles such as "Nintendogs."

The Game Boy Micro is great for those who find the current GBA too cumbersome for their pockets or who have avoided Game Boy because it looked too childish. (Conversely, I wouldn’t recommend the Micro for children, as its small size makes it perfect to misplace.)

But for those who already have a GBA, or don’t have perfect eyesight, the Micro doesn’t offer enough to justify an upgrade. Smaller is nice, but it isn’t the final factor as far as gaming is concerned.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2005


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