Nintendo Handhelds

Nintendo Game Boy Box

Nintendo Game Boy

Nintendo always managed to get handheld gaming right. I don't know why, they just did. The Gameboy had monochrome graphics that you struggled to see under poor light, but like the Spectrum, these games had oodles of playability, and the excellent longevity of the battery power in comparison to its rivals (Sega's Game Gear, Atari's Lynx) made sure it was a success. Also, the choice of Tetris as a "Killer App", despite it already having been around for years, seemed to bring it to a whole new audience.

The fact that it was such an addictive title (yes, everybody knows there's not much to the game really, but when every game is different, a simple idea goes a LOOOOOONG way) probably helped, but the console was anything but a one-trick pony, a vast number of games were released on the platform, which would receive several updates in its life (Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Colour, the rare Game Boy Light) before finally morphing into... the Gameboy Advance.

Game Boy Advance

If the Game Boy Colour was the "Handheld NES", the Gameboy Advance was the "Handheld SNES". However, the first release of the GBA was to see some major problems, problems which, quite frankly, put me off buying one. The one that did it for me was the lack of a backlit screen, which meant that games were still awfully difficult to see in low light conditions. None of the lighting solutions for the Game Boy really worked, with the exception of the magnifier screen with lights built in.

Game Boy Advance SP

Finally, we saw the release of the GBA SP. I understand the "SP" stood for "Special Projects", but at last all the problems were solved. The SP boasted nice buttons (even the tiny shoulder buttons felt responsive enough), the console folded up and felt almost undetectable in the pocket, the backlight was marvellous, and also toggleable at the touch of a button, and up to this point it was also backwards compatible with Game Boy games... Tetris took on a whole new lease of life! Again!

Nintendo's icing on the cake was the built in battery, which was a much better Lithium-Ion jobbie, much like a mobile phone battery. It's a logical step, the GBA SP with the backlight on is an energy-intensive device, and AA's just weren't going to cut it. To my mind, this was the best design of the GBA, but Nintendo still went ahead and released the Game Boy Micro, which lost the Game Boy compatibility.

Still, this line of console, now succeeded by the DS & DS Lite, were very successful, and with good reason.