Size does matter!

Nintendo's original 32-bit Gameboy Advance (GBA) was a fine upgrade to the popular 8-bit Gameboy Color but as good as the portable system was the GBA was far from perfect. Although it had tons of great games available with improved graphics and sounds, the wider GBA screen was so bad and so reflective that you needed the perfect view and right light just to see what was even going on. You want an example; just play games like the CastleVania Circle of the Moon on the old GBA and you'll know what I mean. To silence the critics Nintendo finally gives us a new flip top Gameboy with an optional light feature so you can finally see those games in dark situations plus it also comes with its battery charger so you don't need to buy loads of batteries any more. The system is called the Gameboy Advance SP.

The SP is no different, technically, then the GBA, lets get that right off the bat. It is still a 32-bit machine that will play all the older Gameboy titles as well as the more advanced GBA games. What has changed however is the design itself is totally different. You can now open and close the system up just like a mini laptop computer, one side has the screen one side has all the buttons. That was part of the reason why I bought yet another Gameboy (hey, believe it or not I'm not made of money so that's why I didn't get one right away), my brother's Gameboy Advance was all scratched up and the buttons don't work as well as they used to (sorry Jeremy). I needed a new Game boy and thanks to this fold away feature means I wouldn't scratch up as easily now.

The Gameboy SP has all the same buttons as before but now they are even flatter and smaller then ever so people with bigger hands may have trouble with the tiny controls. The SP has only one new button and that is the Light switch. If you are having problems seeing the screen at anytime then you easy turn it on to see if it helps. Using this Back lit option will eat away at your standard 18 hours of battery life but at least you have option to turn it off on the fly just in case. That moves me to another big change; this thing doesn't even need those annoying AA batteries anymore. Since the SP doesn't have to take the traditional batteries, Nintendo threw in an AC Adapter that automatically charges the new internal rechargeable lithium battery if it runs low on power. You can even play the SP while it's charging up, it will just charge slower while in play.

The GBA SP still has some problems that you should be aware of. First off, the SP doesn't have the standard Headphone jack like the original Gameboys did. I was one person who never used any headphones personally (mostly because I'm not a big fan of the Gameboy's mono sounds anyway) but that doesn't mean that they didn't serve a purpose. With headphones you could still listen to the action while others around you don't have to plus a lot of games these days require that you hear what's going on while playing (i.e. games like Splinter Cell and Activision Anthology's Skeleton Plus). You can still buy an special adapter or custom made headphones if you want but be prepared to shell out some more cash. The SP also doesn't need batteries to work anymore and sure that will save you a lot money but if you can't get at a power outlet (like during a Black out or if you're a price that doesn't have electricity) to charge the unit then you're pretty much screwed.

One of the main reasons why the Gameboy has been so successfully over the years is because it has a huge library of great games. Here is just a few examples:

Star Soldier's personal GBA Top Ten
1. Phantasy Star Collection
I would have been happy to get Phantasy Star alone on this cart but if Sega and THQ want to give me two other grand scale games then that's easily fine with me. "Phantasy Star Collection is the ultimate package for RPG freaks!"

2. Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3
With its already superior level design and list of add ons, Super Mario Brothers 3 for the Game boy Advance is a excellent edition to anyone's library.

3. Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising
What makes AW2 so appealing is that you can do so much here like fight the computer, unlock new missions, buy more maps, and you can even fight your friends in the Versus game. If only real war was this user friendly and cute then maybe you'll have a lot more people wanting to enlist?

4. CastleVania Circle of the Moon
COTN is a great game for fans of the series because its not only a challenging, non linear game that will take weeks to finish but it also includes a little of everything from all of the past games. There are even secret codes you can enter once you finish the game to add to the replay value.

5. Activision Anthology
The only issues I have is the games are a little slower now and the TV commercials are gone but these are very minor complaints. If you're a hardcore retro gamer, it doesn't get much better then this!

6. CastleVania Aria of Sorrow
The story was interesting, the sounds were impressive, and the list of items you can collect over this is simply outstanding.

7. Metroid Zero Mission
Although I was a little disappointed in the game's new more linear design and overall short length, Zero Mission still adds a lot to the plate thanks to all the secrets to discover. This title even gives you 8 slightly different endings and the original NES Metroid as well.

8. Mario Kart Super Circuit
The controls are right on, the graphics look amazing, the sound is there, and the multi player rules! You won't regret picking this kart racer up unlike all the other copy cats out there.

9. Wario Ware Micro Game$
Even though a lot of these second long mini games are very familiar in design after a while, Nintendo still did a great job of mixing things up. It's a weird concept true but it's still very crazy and intense fun that's great for players of all ages.

10. CastleVania Harmony of Dissonance
I also miss the mystery of the Card system from before and there are very little surprises in this magic system which is kind of disappointing as well. The game is still a must though!

Also be sure to look for other great Black and White or 8-bit Color games like Tetris DX, Super Mario Bros. DX, Pokemon, Mario's Picross, and many more. There is no shortage of titles for this system.

Bottomline: The Gameboy Advance SP isn't a huge improvement over the original GBA especially since it still plays all the standard 1,000 plus Gameboy games like the older Gameboy's do but the new features of this little beauty are just too impressive to ignore. The cool flip top feature now protects your LCD screen getting major scratches, the Back lit option lets you finally play in the dark, and the unit can even save a lot of your money because you don't have to buy those stupid AA batteries anymore. Although Nintendo has already named a successor to the SP (The Dual Screen) and Sony has a cool portable system themselves, still the Gameboy Advance SP is such an improvement over the previous unit it may be the best portable gaming unit I ever played.

Overall Gameboy SP rating: 89/100
Find Gameboy SP on eBay here!

Go to GAMEBOY Reviews > >

Go to GAMEBOY ADVANCE Reviews > >