Tag Archives: nintendo

Blast from the past: Gameboy Advance

Back in 2001 Nintendo unleashed on the world the incredible Gameboy Advance – or GBA for short. The GBA was the successor to the enormously successful Gameboy Colour and went on to consolidate Nintendo’s position as being the top dog in the gaming market. Gameboy Advance

The console featured a 32-Bit processor and a 2.9 inch full colour TFT display with a 240×160 resolution. One flaw in the design was Nintendo’s decision not to include a back light for the display. This meant no playing in the dark which was a bit of a downer. This wasn’t the end of the world however with a simple clip on light rectifying the issue.

The GBA was one of Nintendo’s best selling handhelds ever. It was a little unnecessary, in that the Gameboy Colour was still selling like hotcakes, but Nintendo were determined to stay ahead of the curve.

There was little competition for the GBA other than the Nokia N’Gage and the Neo Geo Pocket Colour. Whilst the N-Gage failed to really convince anyone it was a force to be reckoned with, the Pocket Colour had the potential to wipe the smile of Nintendo’s face. Ultimately though, and for a number of reasons, it failed to really take a chunk out of Nintendo’s sales.

Personally I never owned the GBA – but my brother did. I remember the first time I ever experienced F-Zero. It was utterly awesome. I was totally won over by the stunning graphics and amazing gameplay and played for hours and hours (to the annoyance and frustration of my brother).

Other popular games included Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap, Metroid Fusion, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Advance Wars and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. There was such a wide range of awesome GBA titles available, and even Sega endorsed the system with the release of Sonic Advance. 31590658-2-440-overview-1

No one can deny the success of the GBA but it was eventually replaced by the SP in 2013. The SP wasn’t a brand new console but rather an improved version of the GBA with a new clamshell design and rather crucially it sported a front-lit display. The SP was also massively successful and in 2005 it was again refreshed by means of a new and much improved rear-lit display.

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Remembering Nintendo’s Virtual Boy

Back in the mid 90’s the Virtual Reality craze was taking the world by storm. A new generation of games consoles promised processing power like never seen before and we were led to believe that virtual reality (VR) was finally on the verge of becoming mainstream. Of course our expectations were way too high and consumer VR never really materialised. The technology of the day was bulky, uncomfortable, underpowered and grossly expensive. There is however one piece of hardware that stands out from the crowd. This comes in the form of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy.  Virtual Boy

In 1995 at the height of the VR craze, Nintendo released its first standalone consumer VR system – The Virtual Boy. Although the Virtual Boy was initially only available in Japan, it later became available in the US for a tidy $180. Although not massively expensive, the Virtual Boy was more costly than some games consoles of the time. It was also riddled with problems.

Ultimately the Virtual Boy was doomed from the beginning.

The virtual Boy was slated as being the worlds first 32bit gaming console. Although Nintendo was heavily engaged in developing the N64 at the time, the Virtual Boy was still more powerful than the current 16bit systems. The system incorporates two LED displays (one for each eye) and creates a 3D effect via two rapidly oscillating mirrors. Although graphics were rather limited by the red monochrome display, it was praised for its high resolution – 384 x 224. The whole system was powered by 6 x AA batteries.

Although described as a portable device, the Virtual Boy was far from such. It had a bulky cumbersome design which required being set up on a flat surface to use. It was not truly portable in that you could not sit it on your knee and play it on the bus, for example. As such, it was far from a comfortable gaming experience with users ofter having to hunch over to play.

Another issue derived from Nintendos decision to use monochromatic screen technology which incorporated only red LED’s. Nintendo claimed that this helped to keep costs down but in reality it just made for a very miserable gaming experience. Literally everything was red, black or something in between. This slightly undermined the 3D effect and made the experience less immersive.

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Unfortunately, users of the Virtual boy complained of eye strain, sickness and general unease during gameplay. This was largely attributed to the monochrome display and poor design ergonomics. Although Nintendo had incorporated pauses into gameplay it did little to improve the overall experience.

Another nail in the coffin resulted from a serious lack of games – only 14 were ever available in the US!

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Whilst the Virtual Boy did not deliver the virtual experience that we expect today, it did go some way in creating a unique and immersive gaming experience with had not been seen before. Unfortunately because of the various issues with the system Nintendo just couldn’t shift enough units. Even subsequent price reductions did little to increase sales and Nintendo struggled to get developers on board.

Ultimately the Virtual Boy was a commercial disaster and was discontinued in the US in early 1996. The Virtual Boy did however show Nintendo’s commitment to innovation and certainly paved the way for the immensely popular 3DS – a truly portable 3D games console.

Nintendo playstation – an unlikely alliance

The sony playstation 1 was launched in 1994 to international acclaim. It simply blew away the competition with the likes of Nintendo and Sega failing to gain support for their N64 and Saturn consoles respectively. What may not be known is that playstation 1 was very much based on joint efforts between Sony and Nintendo. This is the story of the SNES-CD.

In 1991 Nintendo had been trying to extend the popularity of the SNES by adding a CD ROM capability. Originally striking up a licensing deal with philips the two companies developed a CD ROM add-on for the SNES. This turned out to be massively unsuccessful and Nintendo eventually broke with philips. Nintendo subsequently approached Sony to continue this project and both worked together to create the SNES CD attachment. At the same time Sony also planned on creating its own branded home entertainment system incorporating Sony’s own CD technology and nintendo’s cartridge based Console. This project was dubbed the Play Station. The play Station console was able to play both SNES cartridges and Sony’s newly developed CD format. This new CD format would also be used in the SNES-CD attachment. The Play Station was officially announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 1991 but only about 200 prototypes were ever created. Unfortunately an earlier licensing deal between sony and Nintendo meant that Sony would have full control over all games that would be programmed in the new CD format. As Nintendo saw this as their domain they thought this completely unacceptable and secretly went back to philips to revive their previous Project, but with full license over the games. Following Sony’s announcement of the Play Station at CES Nintendo and philips announced their new joint project the very next day.

Funnily enough Nintendo claimed that this newly revived deal with Philips wouldn’t effect the relationship and joint project between themselves and Sony, and attempted to sue Sony when they decided to go solo. Eventually in 1993 sony ended any agreement with Nintendo and launched the ‘Playstation’ – the most popular console ever released.

It is interesting to think how different the games market could have been today if Nintendo and Sony had released the Playstation together. Sony clearly gained so much more from the joint project than Nintendo. Sony who had previously no experience in the games market had gained a lot of knowledge and experience from working with Nintendo and this was paramount to the successful release of the Playstation. If Nintendo had not been so greedy and had not subsequently snubbed the CD format then they may not have been in the decline which they find themselves in today. Furthermore had this relationship not broken apart Sony may not have dominated the games market and may not be such a significant entity today!

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