Review by ShadowGuardian9

"A legendary system made even greater with a redesign. (SP Review)"

Nintendo has practically revolutionized gaming on multiple accounts, but one of its best known feats of innovation was the handheld video game. When Gunpei Yokoi introduced the Game Boy to the world, gaming took off into a new direction, where gamers could play their favorite titles on the go. After years of changes, the Game Boy Advance hit stores in 2001. Less than two years later, Nintendo announced a redesign of the hit handheld, and people bought it. Why? Because the Game Boy Advance SP is easily one of the best gaming systems ever.

Let's begin with the things that both the SP and original have in common. Nintendo promised an all-new world of portable gaming when the GBA was shown, and they did not lie. A simple comparison of the graphics of the Game Boy Advance, and its predecessor the Game Boy Color, shows that the Game Boy Advance is miles ahead. Brilliant colors and amazing use of level designs are amazing. The graphics show off gaming as good-looking as the Super NES. Which is expected, because the GBA is a 32-bit system, more powerful than the now-legendary Super NES. A power piece of hardware combined with amazing graphics make the entire system a technological leap from one handheld generation to the next. Games on screen will remind gamers of their favorite Super NES games, some even more graphically impressive than the Super NES games themselves.

As far as games go, the GBA has every base covered. Whether it's the classic remakes of Mario in the Super Mario Advance series to the smooth graphics of Final Fantasy, the variety of games for the system is downright phenomenal. Nearly every one of Nintendo's franchises has a solid game on the system whether it's Zelda, F-Zero, or Pokemon. Along with a slew of third-party support, the GBA has many different games from many different developers. Surprising still is that the variety of games for the system is amazing. Whether you're an RPG fan or just want to play a remake of an old favorite, the GBA has the job covered. It's a system that nearly everyone can enjoy playing. Even better is that the games look and play great. Nintendo didn't overload the system with controls and buttons, but they weren't afraid to make some changes. The addition of left and right shoulder buttons increases the gameplay factors in many a game. This makes it feel a bit more like the SNES than the NES, offering better looking games with slightly different, but familiar controls.

And speaking of familiarity, Nintendo didn't just invest all of the GBA's power into the new games. Don't get rid of your original Game Boy cartridges; the GBA can play them. Whether it's Super Mario Land or Pokemon Crystal, the GBA is backwards-compatible with the entire Game Boy library. This makes the GBA's library a tremendous deal larger than that of any other portable system. With hundreds of games to play on a single system, it's downright amazing how Nintendo was able to accomplish this gaming feat. But they did.

Now, why should you buy the SP instead of the classic GBA? With the same hardware and games, there really shouldn't be a reason. The SP, however, is a major change from the original GBA. The SP has a backlight. That right there is practically a milestone from the original GBA. Playing the GBA with no light was a hassle. Since the SP has backlighting, you can't just see the game you're playing, it looks really good. The light itself is powerful and can be seen extremely well.

The second step forward that Nintendo has achieved for the SP is the inclusion of a rechargeable battery. Any gamer who wishes to play a long RPG or many levels of a side-scroller will find that the rechargeable battery in the system not only won't force the constant use of batteries, but in fact, lasts a very long time. Clocking out at 10 hours with the light on, and 18 hours with it off, the system's longevity is extremely impressive.

The final and most noticeable change to the system is its design. The GBA SP's design is a clamshell design, similar to a small laptop. This not only makes the game system smaller and much more portable, but also protects the system from scratches or damage. Wrapping up all of these improvements in such a short time is downright amazing on Nintendo's part. Solving many of the problems with the first design, Nintendo has made a phenomenal piece of gaming hardware while still retaining everything that made the original GBA great. Despite getting lost in today's more modern and advanced handhelds, the GBA SP stands strong, providing fun and inventive games while also keeping the old traditions alive and well. It's an amazing system and the redesigns make it all worthwhile.

Pros
+ Slick, efficient design
+ Backlight!
+ Plays a ridiculously large library of games
+ Beautiful graphics still beautiful
+ Solid sound

Cons
- Requires separate headphones
- Eclipsed by more modern handhelds

Since the original Game Boy was brought into the gaming world, portable gaming has been a staple in the industry. The Game Boy Advance SP shows the world how far portable gaming has come, while at the same time demonstrating a brilliant combination of hardware and software. It's a system with so much diversity in its software, that practically anyone can find something to like, whether you're a side-scrolling gamer or an RPG fan. Combining a strong processor and amazing graphics round out a package where gameplay and software is key. The SP's backlight and clamshell design is the icing on this excellent gaming cake. The Game Boy Advance SP may not be the most powerful handheld, but Nintendo has put everything that gamers love into a small system, and has successfully improved on the amazing quality that the original GBA achieved. The GBA SP is a milestone in portable gaming, and will be remembered as a pinnacle of gaming itself.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/15/06


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