Let there be light...
I don't know about you, but my Game Boy Advance has been sitting in a drawer for almost as long as I've had it. Sure, there are some great games for it like Legend of Zelda and Metroid Fusion, but unless I'm wearing my miner's helmet with the light on the front, after 15 minutes of play I'm cross-eyed and headachy. So my GBA just gathers dust. Considering the proliferation of GBA modifications to add internal lighting to the screen, I'm not the only one with this problem. Nintendo, who seemed to be studiously ignoring this issue, was instead working in secret on fixing it.
And today, with straightforward information and little fanfare, Nintendo have finally released in the UK the Game Boy Advance SP - a total redesign of the GBA. And I, for one, was impressed. OK, so I could also be a callous, bitter consumer, and grumble that this is the GBA that should have been made in the first place, but that also means, as far as I can tell, that Nintendo has done just about everything right the second time around.
First of all, the SP is small, about the size of a pack of cigarettes, only square (actual dimensions: 3.33" x 3.23" x .96"). It has a flip top with the screen underneath which is exactly the same size as the regular GBA screen. The flip top really helps make it small, and protects the screen at the same time. The buttons and the D-pad are exposed when you open it up. The SP is also rechargeable, with a lithium ion battery that will last 10-18 hours on a single 3-hour charge. No more running to the store for AA batteries.
But the best part of the SP is that the screen is lit. Hit the little light button in the centre, and you can stop squinting at the screen trying to figure out which thing is Mario and which is the mushroom. With the light on, the graphics are clear, sharp and easy to see. And if you happen to be wearing your miner's helmet, you can turn the light off to get longer battery life. The system is also backwards compatible, playing all GBA games as well as classic Game Boy games.
With a price of £99, the SP seems to be a better purchase than the £70 original GBA, but Nintendo will continue to sell both models. Of course, current GBA owners might be a little upset that Nintendo didn't get it right the first time.
Nintendo says the SP stands for Special, but I think it should stand for Second Perfection. This time they really did everything right, and I'm looking forward to pulling out my new SP on those long plane flights and finally showing Browser who's boss.
But why take my word for it? Check out Nintendo's own blurb here.