Game Boy Micro – An In-Depth Review Guide

The evolution of the Nintendo Game Boy has been quite remarkable over the years. Dating back to the original Game Boy launch in 1989 and spawning multiple versions since then, including the Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance and most recently the superb clamshell-designed Game Boy Advance SP, Nintendo’s groundbreaking Game Boy line of portable gaming machines has grown into what is quite possibly the most popular videogame platform currently on the market, consoles and PC included.

With such success, it seems an almost impossible feat for Nintendo to continue to improve upon the line, especially following on the coattails of the masterfully designed GBA SP and the rapidly rising popularity of their other innovative handheld, the Nintendo DS. As tough a challenge as it may be, Nintendo has carried on with the development and recent release of their latest Game Boy evolution in the new Game Boy Micro, and quite frankly the Micro, in my humble opinion, is the best Game Boy system to date.

Like most gamers and industry critics, I was more than skeptical about the Game Boy Micro when it was first unveiled at the E3 2005 extravaganza last year. Upon seeing the Micro for the first time, a device Nintendo makes no bones about being a portable designed for the fashionably consciousness, on-the-go gamer, I was left scratching my head at what appeared to be Nintendo’s effort to slant a bit “edgier” and mainstream in an attempt to reach the gaming crowd more inclined to pick up a PSP over the GBA SP or DS due to its sleek and sexy aesthetics.

The Micro’s literal micro size also seemed rather questionable seeing how the SP was tiny and perfectly comfortable already – further shrinkage would only seem to make for less comfort and added eyestrain. Negative assumptions can be a dangerous thing however, and as you’ll read over the next few pages, the Micro is definitive proof of that.

What You Get:

Before delving full-boar into the specific hardware functions and capabilities of the Micro, let’s briskly go over everything you get in the box for the $100 price tag:

  • Game Boy Micro System: Black and Silver units available.
  • Three interchangeable Game Boy Micro faceplates: Six unique faceplates in total spanning the two system models.
  • Faceplate swapping tool: Makes changing faceplates a synch.
  • AC Adapter: For recharging the Micro, obviously.
  • Soft tie-string carrying pouch: Keeps the Micro and faceplates safely stored away.

The Hardware:

Turning to the all-important hardware itself, it should be noted first and foremost (for those who didn’t know already) that the Game Boy Micro is of the same technical make of the Game Boy Advance and runs all existing GBA games with the same processing power. So overall there isn’t anything incredibly new, technically speaking, the Micro does over the GBA other than provide a sleeker design that beats out even the SP when it comes to quick and easy on-the-go gaming and hassle-free transport.

Speaking of the Micro’s miniature size, let’s rundown the specific dimensions so you have an idea of just how tiny and lightweight this bad boy is. At 4 inches wide, 2 inches long, not even an inch thick (0.7 inches to be exact) and a whopping 2.8 ounces in weight, the Micro can be stuffed into any backpack, pocket or pouch with ease, after which you’ll all but forget you’re even carrying the thing due to its virtually unnoticeable load.

Being so small lightweight you may think that the Micro isn’t the most durable piece of hardware around, but to the contrary it is actually among the toughest feeling portables there is with a quality heft that makes full use of its 2.8 ounces and the all-around rock solid design Nintendo has become known for with all of its hardware designs over the years.

Ergonomically, the Game Boy Micro is a dream (believe it or not), which is a far cry from what many gamers (including myself) thought would be the case at first glance. The system layout is typical of any Nintendo handheld: left and right shoulder buttons and AC Adapter port line the top of device, the D-pad, screen, speaker (which delivers great audio quality by the way) and A, B, Start and Select buttons are comfortably mapped out on the front, the on/off switch, headphone jack and game cartridge slot are all on the bottom, an opening for a wrist strap and volume and screen brightness controls are on the right and finally, on the left can be found apertures for using the included faceplate tool to swap faceplates. With the unit coming in such a bite-sized package, you wouldn’t expect it to fit in your hands and play so comfortably, however the Micro delivers in this area nicely. Larger handed folks out there may have an issue with the small size, especially anyone who happened to think the SP was already too small, however I found the unit to rest comfortably in my hands (which are probably medium size) with access to all the input buttons easily at hand without any cause of stress on the hand or finger joints, even after hours of play at a time.

Another plausible casualty of the system’s downsizing was the subsequent downsizing of the screen dimensions. However, like the rest of the expected shortcomings that never came to fruition, the smaller screen size is actually one of the best upgrades the Micro has to show for itself over the SP. Equaling a full 2 inches in size, the Micro’s backlit LCD screen is absolutely stunning in action, and never strains the eyes unless played for hours upon end. But the same can be said when playing on any videogame platform for overly long stretches of time without frequent breaks. Honestly, the screen is so crisp and crystal-clear I can’t go back to playing any GBA game on my SP now, it’s almost like playing a brand new game when run on the Micro even though the processing power is identical. Comparing the screen clarity and brightness side by side with the SP is like night and day – the Micro’s screen honestly looks that gorgeous.

Thankfully, unlike the PSP and its stunning screen, the Micro’s isn’t nearly as fragile or prone to smudges and fingerprints. This is mainly due to the interchangeable faceplates, which act as protective shields over the LCD screen, in addition to providing stylish forms of personalization. When removing faceplates and popping in a new one, though, you do need to be careful not to trap any dirt or dust between it and the underlying LCD itself. As already stated, the faceplates other major function is that of customizing the device to fit your mood and personal style. The Micro currently comes in two model colors, Black and Silver, and with both of these models come three unique faceplate designs each. With the Black Micro you get Flame, Camouflage and sleek Silver faceplate patterns, while with the Silver Micro comes Ammonite (dark blue swirls), Ladybug and slick Black patterns. Those are the only patterns available as of now, but knowing Nintendo you can expect to see plenty of stylish new patterns in the future.

Important to any portable device, gaming or otherwise, is battery life, an area where the Micro again performs impressively. Though not quite as lasting as the GBA SP’s 10-18 hours of maximum play time, the Micro delivers a more than solid 6-10 hours on its rechargeable lithium ion battery pack. As usual, battery life depends on the type and frequency of gameplay activity, as well as other factors such as screen brightness. Unlike the SP, the GBM provides a selection of screen brightness settings to adjust to your personal preference. Of course, the darker you set the screen the more juice you’ll get out of each charge. To keep you abreast of the current battery status, when the Micro is first turned on the Start and Select buttons either flash blue to indicate the battery is in good status or red to indicate the battery is running low. Should the red light remain lit while playing a game, it’s trying to tell you to turn the system off right away and charge it back up again.

One of the key weaknesses the handheld actually does have directly out of the box is the lacking in compatibility with current GBA accessories and cables. This means if you want to play multiplayer games with other Micro or GBA owners you’ll need to first pick up additional Wireless Adapters, Link Cables and Converter Connectors specifically designed and authorized for use with the Game Boy Micro. This can certainly be a drawback for current GBA owners who’ve already decked it out with accessories, however none of the adapters or cables are going to dent the wallet that much. Speaking of accessories, there’s much to look forward to in the future as many major peripheral manufacturers, such as Intec, Mad Catz, Naki World and others, have already pledged their support for the device with a variety of kits, cases, cables and other accessories.

The Games:

Since the Game Boy Micro is just a GBA in a smaller form factor, the GBA’s library of over 700 titles (and counting) functions as the Micro’s library, so obviously it is of the same quality and quantity. With the new-and-improved screen however, current GBA classics, such as Gunstar Super Heroes, the Fire Emblem and Advance War titles, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Metroid: Zero Mission, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and any other favorites, all look and run better than ever before. The GBA is also only continuing to grow and grow as the years pass by, so the Micro makes for the perfect reason to finally jump onboard the GBA express if you haven’t done so yet for some reason. Only GBA games are supported, though, so any other games designed for earlier Game Boy models will not work here.

Final Verdict:

Needless to say, the Game Boy Micro surprised me quite extensively with just how stylish and comfortably functional it is compared to the beloved GBA SP. The screen is the best of any Nintendo handheld ever, the sound quality (which I didn’t really get into with any specifics) is top-notch, the ergonomics are as sublime as ever, the game library is already long in existence and constantly expanding, and the amazingly small and lightweight design is as sleek and sexy as it is durable and easy to transport. All of this, however, comes with one major caveat that is sure to be a key sticking point for many a gamer. At a regular MSRP of $99.99, the Micro is in a tough spot. When you can get a brand new GBA SP for roughly 20 bucks cheaper and a Nintendo DS (or the new DS Lite), which plays both GBA and DS titles, for around $130, it’s hard to say whether you should go out and buy a Micro over the other two. If you’re in the market for a device to only play GBA games on, I’d fully recommend paying the slightly higher price for the ergonomics and screen quality alone, they are totally worth it if you ask me. In the end, Nintendo specifically built the Game Boy Micro to, more than anything else, tap into the more mature audience that cares as much about how their portable devices look as they play, and in that regard the Micro succeeds with flying colors.

Pros:

– Incredibly small, lightweight and durable design makes for easy, worry-free transport.

– Absolutely gorgeous screen quality

– Comfortable ergonomics and button layout

– Already has an established library of titles that’s constantly growing

– Sleek design and interchangeable faceplates bring style to the Game Boy line

Cons:

– Isn’t compatible with any GBA accessories

– The $99.99 price tag may be hard for most gamers to swallow

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