Nintendo Redesigns: A Portable Evolution
What do Game Boy, Game Boy Advance and DS have in common? Extreme makeovers.
If you purchase a first generation video game system, you can bet the manufacturer will redesign it in some fashion. Parts become cheaper and companies need to maintain interest in the face of still competition.
This constant state of evolution benefits consumers, especially if it means experiencing games in new ways, courtesy of slimmer casings and backlit screens.
That said, Nintendo is the undisputed king of the redesign.
On that note, check out the publisher's most famous handhelds and the redesigns that helped cement their legacies.
Game Boy- Image Source
The original Game Boy was the coolest thing we had ever seen, circa 1989. After a few years, though, the monochromatic screen, pea soup graphics, no backlight and general bulkiness (smaller than a Game Gear, but still a pain the carry) had us itching for something fresh and exciting.
Nintendo teased us with the Play it Loud series (1995), releasing the system in different colors. Then, in 1996, the publisher unleashed the Game Boy Pocket (image source), a device that mostly fixed our complaints. Not only was the system lighter, but it also took two AAA batteries (as opposed to four AAs) and had a true black and white screen. Unfortunately, the backlight didn't make the cut, but this was still a satisfactory upgrade; the only backlit Game Boy was Game Boy Light, a Japanese exclusive.
Game Boy Advance
Nintendo's first GBA was cool and disappointing. On the positive side, it was significantly more powerful than the Game Boy and Game Boy Color, essentially a Super Nintendo on steroids. In addition, it featured a horizontal design, with the screen wedged between the d-pad and face buttons, which made us large handed folks quite happy.
On the downside, it still didn't have a backlight.
The solution (more like savior) was Game Boy Advance SP. First, it came with a backlight (you can turn it on and off). Second, although we had no issues with the original's "bar of soap" design, the SP's clamshell was superior, as it protected the screen and made the system easier to carry; this is one durable (dare we say near indestructible) handheld. It also came with an internal lithium ion battery.
Of course, we can't forget about the Game Boy Micro, Nintendo's "third pillar" (the other two being GBA SP and DS). This pint-sized portable sports a glorious backlit screen, interchangeable faceplates and clocks in at just 80 grams. Too bad it doesn't play Game Boy/Game Boy Color games or work with the ill-fated e-Reader.
Ah, the DS, the system Nintendo redesigned twice in 2004, largely because audiences hated the model shown at the 2004 Electronic Entertainment Expo, including us. There was nothing sexy about that thing.
The finished product (above) was better, but not necessarily ideal. Compared to most Nintendo handhelds, the DS was huge (hence the nickname, DS Fat...or Phat) and the screen resolution lagged behind the PSP's. It was tough going from the slimmer SP to that monster.
Thank the video game gods Nintendo created the DS Lite. This smaller and significantly more attractive system retained the standard features (including GBA support), but came with a brighter/sharper screen, a more rectangular shape, glossy finish and lighter weight. Finally, DS was cool.
Unbeknownst to us, Nintendo wasn't finished tinkering. Next came the DSi. The company dropped GBA support, added an SD card slot, two cameras and support for the DSi Shop for downloading games and applications. As for the DS Lite's glossy exterior...gone.
Of course, if you prefer your handhelds plus sized, there's always DSi XL. Overall, the system's much larger than its predecessors, but that's because it comes with two super huge screens that allow for multiple viewing angles (if, by chance, you draw a crowd). Not exactly the most portable DS, but perfect for gamers with terrible eyesight.
Don't get too attached to the 3DS' current form, because Nintendo's latest portable will most definitely change. How remains to be seen, but with Sony's Next Generation Portable on the way, it's bound to happen sometime.