Here's a good trivia question to ask your friends: Besides the Game Boy and Game Boy Color, can you name one other handheld video game system on the market today? You will probably hear mentions of the Atari Lynx and the Sega Game Gear, portable video games that faded into video game obscurity in the early to mid-1990s. But the truth is that Nintendo has, for all intents and purposes, a very firm grip on the portable video game market. Nintendo estimates that it holds a 90 percent share of the portable game market, though some analysts believe that percentage to be even higher.


Photo courtesy Nintendo
The Game Boy Advance is Nintendo's first horizontally aligned handheld game.

Actually, the Game Boy does have at least two competitors, including Bandai's WonderSwan and SNK's NeoGeo Pocket, but both are only available in Japan. The NeoGeo was briefly released in the United States, but was pulled from shelves in 1999. Bandai, who is marketing the WonderSwan with Mattel's help, has not announced when or if it will launch its product in the United States or Europe.

Even in the face of such light competition, Nintendo is releasing a successor to its popular portable handheld. The Game Boy Advance is a major leap for the Game Boy line. It is the first to have a horizontal alignment, and it is 17 times faster than the Game Boy Color, which was released in 1998. Read this edition of stuff.dewsoftoverseas.com to find out what's under the hood of the Game Boy Advance system, and how Nintendo plans to make it interactive with its upcoming GameCube game console.

Inside Game Boy Advance
Since Nintendo launched the
Game Boy in 1989, the unit has always had a vertical alignment, meaning that the screen is on the top and the buttons are on the bottom of the unit. The Game Boy Advance is turning the handheld unit on its side -- for the first time, Nintendo is using a horizontal alignment for its handheld game. The screen is in the middle of the device, with the A and B buttons on the right side of its face and the start and select buttons on the left side. This design is similar to Nintendo's competitors and was first used on the now-obsolete Atari Lynx in 1989.


Game Boy Advance

Game Boy

The Game Boy Advance marks the first major design change for the Nintendo handheld game.

Also new on the Game Boy Advance are Left (L) and Right (R) shoulder buttons, placed on the top of the device. It has a six-button directional pad on the left side of the unit. The device is slightly bulkier than the Game Boy Color. The Game Boy Advance is 5.6 inches (14.2 centimeters) wide, 3.2 inches (8.1 cm) tall and 1.06 inches (2.7 cm) thick. Click here to see a comparison chart of the Game Boy Advance and the Game Boy Color. As is Nintendo's usual marketing style, the Game Boy Advance is available in several color patterns, including:

  • Clear black with blue buttons
  • Clear purple with orange buttons
  • Solid silver with blue buttons
  • Solid silver with orange buttons
The Game Boy Advance's screen is also slightly larger, at 2.9 inches (7.37 cm), compared to the Game Boy Color's 2.3-inch (5.84-cm) screen. The screen is a reflective, thin film transistor (TFT), color liquid crystal display (LCD). Nintendo has also boosted screen resolution from 160 X 140 pixels on the Game Boy Color to 240 X 160 on the Game Boy Advance.

The exterior of the Game Boy Advance is not the only thing that sets it apart from its predecessors. The internal components have been ramped up to support more complex games and allow for more interactivity with other Game Boy users. Let's take a look at the components of the Game Boy Advance:

  • All Game Boy devices made today have an 8-bit central processing unit (CPU). The Game Boy Advance generates computing speeds up to 17 times faster than its predecessors, with a 32-bit CPU developed by ARM Ltd. Game Boy Advance is capable of displaying 32,000 colors in bitmap mode or 511 simultaneous colors in character mode. It has a palette of 65,535 colors that it can potentially display.
  • The device offers 32 kilobytes of Window Random Access Memory (WRAM) and 96 kilobytes of Video RAM (VRAM). It also has 256 kilobytes of external WRAM.
  • Game Boy Advance is equipped with a PCM stereo sound generator.
  • The game's power comes from two AA disposable or rechargeable batteries, which allows up to 20 hours of playing time -- that's twice as long as the Game Boy Color's battery life.
Game Boy Advance will be released in the United States in June, just three months before Nintendo's new game console, the GameCube, is launched in the United States. The game sells for 9,800 Yen ($90) in Japan, and will cost $99.95 in the United States.

Games and Peripherals
Nintendo first unveiled the Game Boy Advance at SpaceWorld 2000, and 10 titles were demonstrated at that time. More than 60 developers have now created games for the new video game device, including Crawfish, Digital Eclipse, Camelot, Handheld Games and Classified Games. The games can be played on conventional Game Boy cartridges; and the Game Boy Advance is backward compatible with the Game Boy and Game Boy Color games. Here's a look at a few of the games that are available for the Game Boy Advance:


Photo courtesy Nintendo
Mario Kart Advance

Photo courtesy Nintendo
Kuru Kuru Kuru Rin


Photo courtesy Nintendo
Napoleon

Other game titles include Game Boy Wars Advance, F-Zero Advance, Castelvania: Circle of the Moon, Top Gear All Japan GT, Super Black Bass 4 Advance and Golf Master.

Several peripherals are being developed for the Game Boy Advance, allowing it to do more than the Game Boy or Game Boy Color. Here's a list of peripheral devices that Nintendo has announced for the Game Boy Advance:


    Photo courtesy Nintendo
    The Game Boy Advance will be able to plug into the GameCube console.
  • Game Boy Advance/GameCube Communication Cable - Using this cable, you can hook your Game Boy Advance to your GameCube. The cable will connect to the game controller port on the GameCube. The Game Boy Advance now becomes the game controller, but it has the added benefit of a second viewing screen. This can be valuable in games like football, where you don't want the other player to see your plays.

  • E-Card Reader - One of the most exciting accessories being developed for the Game Boy Advance, this device reads data stored on special Pokemon E-cards. It uses Scan Talk technology developed by Olympus Optical to scan barcodes containing data about Pokemon characters, including stats, evolutions, sounds and more. Users will be able to use this E-Card Reader for tutorial information about the characters' attacks and effective ways to battle with each Pokemon. The Pokemon E-cards are not scheduled for release until 2002, and no date has been set for the E-Card Reader's release.

  • Game Boy Advance Communication Cable - Allows up to four Game Boy Advance players to link up and play the same game with just one copy of the game. However, not all games will enable four-player action. Previously, players had to have two cartridges, and that still didn't allow four players to play together.

  • Game Boy Advance Battery Pak - The Pak comes with a charger and battery. Recharging time is 2 hours for every 10 hours of play.

  • Mobile Phone Adapter - Originally designed for the Game Boy and Game Boy Color, this adapter allows users to connect to mobile phones and thus to the Internet. Users can use this device to trade data and download games.

  • Game Boy Advance Infrared Communication Adapter - This adapter is already available for the Game Boy Color. It is designed to enable low data rate transfers, like trading items and sharing custom characters.

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