Nintendo’s handheld legacy is second to none. From the very dawn of portable gaming the company has been there, delivering a constant stream of solid systems that are home to the best games you could possibly take on the go. From the simple but addicting Game & Watch titles all the way to the complex and advanced Nintendo 3DS games that we are enjoying today, Nintendo is the undisputed king of handheld gaming and each and every one of the 12 (12!) different portable systems they have released can easily be described as the best available handheld system of its era. But that doesn’t mean that each of these devices got an equal amount of time in the Sun and so for this article I wanted to give some time line the limelight to one of Nintendo’s shortest lived systems.
Released in the fall of 2005, the Game Boy Micro was the final redesign of the Game Boy Advance hardware (after the Advance SP and SP+) and was designed primarily to appeal to ‘style’ focused players who didn’t want to lug around a video game system that well… looked like a video game system. The system was tiny, measuring a total of 50×101×17.2 mm the system could easily fit into a pocket or purse without being noticed all too much when set aside. On top of that the standard editions of the system featured swappable faceplates (similar to the New Nintendo 3DS) that allowed each player to customize their system to their own style.
But the system wasn’t just a looker in the style department but also featured one of the best screens Nintendo had delivered in a handheld device up to that point. With a blazing bright backlit display that absolutely put the contemporary Nintendo DS to shame and showed off the crisp 2D visuals that the Game Boy Advance titles were famous for. The size of the screen (2 inches) also helped show off the games as the small size of the screen helped smooth out some of the rough edges, making the Micro arguably the best possible display if you’re looking for to play your GBA games in the possible light.
The Game Boy Micro wasn’t without its flaws however. The system lacked backwards compatibility with Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, excluding a large portion of the best titles to be released on the Game Boy line like Super Mario Land, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Kirby’s Dream Land and of course two whole generations of Pokémon games. Not only that but the system was also incompatible with Game Boy Advance accessories, requiring its own unique link-cables, wireless adapters as well as needing a special adapter to be connected to another model of GBA system. The system also could not connect directly to a Nintendo GameCube without an adapter and was totally incompatible for the e-Reader further hurting the system’s overall functionality.
The being said, the Game Boy Micro absolutely nails the ‘stylish’ gaming aspect that Nintendo was hoping to get out of the system. A few weeks ago, while on a nostalgia I took my old Game Boy Micro out of storage so I could keep playing Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 while on the way into town and my normally quiet bus ride was interrupted three times by people wondering what the heck I was playing on, to ask where they could get one and just to mention how cool (and tiny) my Game Boy was. Sure a lot of this might have to do with curiosity since I was playing on a 12-year-old device that didn’t sell very well (only 2.42 million of the 81.51 million GBAs sold were Game Boy Micros) but the reception it got as a stylish system was something that no concurrent handheld device can match.
At the end of the day the Game Boy Micro may not have lit the world on fire and started a gaming as a fashion trend revolution, heck it wasn’t even the best version of the GBA available (that honor goes to Game Boy Advance SP+) but I do have to say that after spending some time lately getting re-acquainted with the tiny little handheld, its deserving of a lot more love than it gets. Sure its missing some features but the portability, stylishness and quality of the device are second to none and the concept of a micro game system should absolutely be something Nintendo revisits some day, especially in today’s age of portable devices serving as statements of stature just as much as functional pieces of technology.