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Saturday, September 03, 2005
  blackhole- Game Boy Micro misses the mark
Nintendo Co’s new Game Boy Micro handheld could have been so much more than a tiny hunk of plastic that plays videogames. Less than a year after the innovative Nintendo DS arrived with dual screens, a microphone and wireless multiplayer capability, the company is set to release the diminutive Micro in the United States on Sept 19.

But I’m still searching for a compelling reason to spend US$99 on this machine, the smallest portable gaming system I’ve ever used, when Nintendo itself already offers better products for not much more money.

Is it for tech-savvy fashionistas who can’t afford Sony Corp’s sleek but pricey PlayStation Portable? Collectors who insist on owning every flavour of Game Boy ever made?

Perhaps grown-ups who think they’ll somehow look more professional playing Astro Boy on a Micro?

Well, that last one is at least plausible. But if you wanted to really grab the market, why not integrate cellphone functionality, wireless connectivity for multiplayer gaming or even digital audio player?

As it stands, the Micro is nothing more than a redesigned Game Boy Advance SP reduced to a palm-sized rectangle akin in dimensions to a candybar cellphone.

The Nintendo faithful already have a pretty small system in the Game Boy Advance SP – and it costs US$20 less. Likewise, for US$50 more than a Micro, you can buy a snazzy DS and play new Interactive games exclusively for that system, as well as Game Boy Advance games.

That said, the Micro includes several improvements over the aging Game Boy Advance SP (which itself retooled, enhanced version of the plain-old Game Boy Advance). Instead of a flip-open, side-lit 32,000-color liquid-crystal display, the Micro uses a backlit screen that’s much brighter and sharper. But at only 2in diagonally, the flatscreen strained my eyes.

At 2.8oz, the Micro has almost half the heft of the square-shaped Game Boy Advance SP. It measures just 4in long and under 1in thick.

One thing that has long bugged me about my SP is that you have to buy separate adaptor to use headphones. The Micro remedies that annoyance with a standard headphone jack included.

As with SP, battery life is excellent on the Micro, with about 10 hours between charges. And the Micro uses the same 32-bit processor and can play hundreds of games in the Game Boy Advance library.

But isn’t compatible with new DS tittles.

On the fashion front, the Micro comes with swappable faceplates available in camouflage and other patterns, and though it felt a bit cramped in my hands. I prefer it to my SP because its tiny size makes it incredibly easy to take with me.

Still I can’t get rid of the nagging feeling that puny Micro is a giant missed opportunity.

-micro fun-
 


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