Game Boy Micro

Game Boy Micro

Written by Sean Colleli on 12/1/2005 for GBA  
More On: Game Boy Micro
I must have deliberated for a week before purchasing Nintendo’s latest version of the Game Boy. It was an epic mental struggle, a psychological clash between desire and logic that ultimately...never mind. In light of all the self-debating, I am quite pleased with my new super-portable Game Boy, even though it left a Ben Franklin shaped hole in my savings account. Hopefully I can recount just what makes the Micro worth the hundo you’ll drop for it.

The obvious selling point is the size of the machine. Without a doubt, the Game Boy Micro is the smallest gaming console ever created, and you can’t really get an idea of how small it is until you hold it in the palm of your hand. It’s smaller than an NES controller. The GBA cartridges it plays are bigger than the Micro’s screen itself. In fact, when comparing the size of the game paks to the system, you’ll be amazed that with such a honking huge cartridge inside, there’s still enough room for the GBA’s processing guts.

And that’s where one of the Micro’s chief down points comes in: it plays only Game Boy Advance cartridges. No classic Game Boy Games. No Game Boy Color games. What the Micro gains in portability, it loses in versatility; there just isn’t enough room in the Micro’s diminutive frame for two processors. Nintendo is quick to stress that the GBA game library has over 700 titles, and I’m sure that’s enough to keep the average consumer busy, but I still won’t be able to play my copy of Metroid II on the Micro.

The average consumer, however, is the target demographic. Odds are they’ve never heard of Metroid II Return of Samus, so they’ll be perfectly happy with the massive GBA library. They’ll also be enamored with the Micro’s distinct sense of style as well. Everything about the past Game Boy models has been sleeked and sexified. The Micro comes in two colors, black and silver. Power and charge lights have been eliminated; the start and select buttons now glow an icy blue or molten red depending on the battery level. There’s a small slot for a wrist strap, but oddly enough the strap itself is sold separately, unlike the one packaged with the DS. Shoulder buttons are larger and easier to manage, and the horizontal design of the original GBA is back for a more natural feel.

Interchangeable faceplates (the Micro comes with three) allow the console to match the player’s mood, so if you’ve always wanted to deck your portable out in military camo, here’s your big chance. A pink ladybug-flower plate is perfect for the bubbly and flirtatious gamer, while I prefer the haunting nautilus X-ray image. It fits my smoldering, cynical outlook nicely.

The faceplates serve a practical purpose as well, by protecting the screen with a transparent layer of plastic. New styles and colors will be released soon at an affordable price, so picking up a new faceplate to replace your scratched old one won’t break the bank.

The Micro comes packed in a spiffy box that’s reminiscent of the iPod, and a first in package design for Nintendo. Accessories for the portable are more numerous than those for its GBA SP and DS older brothers; included with the Micro are a tool for popping the faceplates in and out, a specialized charger for the Micro’s smaller charging port, and a sleek velvet bag that keeps the console safe from dings and scratches. The Micro is most definitely image-conscious, with the most sex appeal of Nintendo’s consoles except maybe the forthcoming Revolution. Despite all of this focus on appearance, the Micro is also remarkably good at doing its job: playing video games. The snug control layout takes a bit of getting used to, but is quite comfortable after some practice. The screen, probably the focus of the most doubt and debate, is a surprise within itself. It has five levels of brightness, adjusted by holding the left trigger and manipulating the volume control on the right side of the Micro. Indeed, it is the brightest of all Nintendo’s portables, even outshining the DS.

This means it’s crystal clear in almost any conditions, be it sunlight or pitch black darkness. The screen size, a little under two inches long and a smidge over an inch high, isn’t hard on the eyes either; I’ve played Harvest Moon for an hour straight without getting any eyestrain. GBA games actually look sharper and crisper on the Micro LCD, probably because the pixels are packed so tightly.

One of the Micro’s subtlest and most appreciated features is its nondescript headphone jack. It’s on the bottom of the unit, on the lower right hand corner, and allows for easy listening without any detriment to control. In fact, the headphone experience is superior to the Micro’s single little speaker, which is just a tad on the tinny side.

I have but one question. If Nintendo can cram a headphone jack into a machine this small, then why isn’t there one on the GBA SP? Why do I have to buy an adaptor for a much larger console? Suffice it to say, I can finally play my GBA games in public and hear them too, I just wish I could do it on my clamshell-folding SP.

The flaws of the Micro are few, but significant. As I stated it only plays GBA games, so you’ll be getting a smaller machine that does less. The screen light can’t be turned off, so the battery life is technically shorter than the GBA SP’s by default, but who plays their SP with the light off anyway? Speaking of the SP, the Micro’s biggest competition is actually the latest upgrade of its larger cousin. Nintendo recently released the GBA SP Mark II (lots of acronyms!), which possesses a screen as bright as the Micro’s, but still lacks the headphone jack.

It all comes down to the consumer base. The iPod happy teens and casual gamer adults will appreciate the Micro for its discreet sense of taste, and its modifiable appearance. The Micro is basically about image, and it’s for people who don’t want to look like a geek while playing video games. Most of the hardcore will probably stick with their GBA SP’s, buy the new mark II, or use their DS’s to play their collection of GBA games. That said, the Micro is an impressive feat of miniaturized technology, a sexy little beast that will satisfy gadget connoisseurs, and finally a compact power house, capable of pushing the same graphics of the SP as well as fitting into the tightest jeans.

Pick one up if you’re a gamer with a refined sense of class and the extra spending cash.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I've been gaming off and on since I was about three, starting with Star Raiders on the Atari 800 computer. As a kid I played mostly on PC--Doom, Duke Nukem, Dark Forces--but enjoyed the 16-bit console wars vicariously during sleepovers and hangouts with my school friends. In 1997 GoldenEye 007 and the N64 brought me back into the console scene and I've played and owned a wide variety of platforms since, although I still have an affection for Nintendo and Sega.

I started writing for Gaming Nexus back in mid-2005, right before the 7th console generation hit. Since then I've focused mostly on the PC and Nintendo scenes but I also play regularly on Sony and Microsoft consoles. My favorite series include Metroid, Deus Ex, Zelda, Metal Gear and Far Cry. I'm also something of an amateur retro collector. I currently live in Westerville, Ohio with my wife and our cat, who sits so close to the TV I'd swear she loves Zelda more than we do. We are expecting our first child, who will receive a thorough education in the classics.

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