Game Boy Advance model leaves older relative for dead

, posted: 25-Apr-2003 21:29

Nintendo's hand-held Game Boy console has come a long way since the original was released in 1989. Back then, you got a plasticky device with a black and white screen, blocky graphics and beeping sounds.

In 2003, the Game Boy Advance SP sports a 32-bit RISC (reduced instruction set computing) processor with embedded memory (32KB dual-ported windows memory and 96KB video memory), supported by 256KB of external memory.

The screen is a 2.9in LCD, capable of displaying 511 colours simultaneously in character mode, or 32,000 in bitmap mode - and it is now front-lit, which makes a huge difference in legibility, especially compared with the earlier Advance model on which the screen could be hard to view at times.

Other improvements in the SP over the existing Advance model is a built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery, giving 18 hours of gaming time with the screen light off, or 10 hours with it on (you won't want to play with it off).

The battery recharging time is a quick three hours, but the Advance SP uses a proprietary jack for the recharger, also used for headphones, so replacements are available only from Nintendo. All this is packaged into a trendy folding clamshell case made of aluminium, in two colours: platinum and deep metallic blue.

The folding case makes the Game Boy Advance SP easier to carry around, since it is only 85mm deep, 82mm wide and 25mm thick, and also protects the screen from scratches when not in use. Although the Advance SP case looks square and unergonomic at first, it sits nicely in your hands (even in large adult ones). The controls are the same as before, it takes the larger Game Boy Colour cartridges and runs the games in either wide-screen Advance SP mode or small display like the original. The lit LCD makes the older games nicer to play, although you can't help noticing how primitive The Legend of Zelda from 1998, for example, is compared with Metroid Fusion or Minority Report.

Considering the limited resources available to the programmers, the new games have an amazing amount of detail and features such as multi-directional scrolling.

If you buy a special Game Link Cable, up to four people can play if the game is multi-player enabled. The Game Boy Advance SP also hooks up to the Nintendo Game Cube, with some games titles containing special features that become available only in that situation.

Long battery life, a vastly improved display and easy portability combined with addictive games makes the Game Boy Advance SP hard to put down (parents, take note) for young and old.

The only downside is that at $250 it isn't cheap. And at up to $100 apiece for the Advance ones, the games are costly, too.

But although the older Game Boy Advance can be had for about $50 less than the SP, not many will be tempted by the saving. The Advance SP simply blows its predecessor out of the water and is the handheld console to have.

Game Boy Advance SP

* Cost: $250.

* Pros: Front-lit LCD, excellent design, long-life rechargeable battery.

* Cons: A bit pricey.

* Rating: 8.5/10

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