Archive for Monday, October 28, 2002

Nintendo continues to update popular hand-held game system

October 28, 2002


"What? You found it? And it works?"

I turned the Game Boy Color around in my hands, checking it over.

My daughters, Julie and Bonnie, had jointly received it for Christmas in 1998.

But before the tree even came down, the translucent purple hand-held game console had disappeared into the household vortex.

"I remembered I'd hidden it from Bonnie. But I couldn't remember where," Julie said.

It finally turned up while Julie was hunting for a bracelet.

Wedged down inside an arm of the flowery sofa in our living room, the Game Boy Color had entirely missed the girls' junior high years. Surprisingly, the two AA batteries still worked.

Mario madness

"Yes!" Julie said, staring at the small color screen and punching buttons with her thumbs. Plinking musical sounds emerged from the game as Mario hopped over little turtles and other creatures.

Since finding it, she and Bonnie are making up for lost time.

"We play all the time in seminar after we get all our homework done. It makes the time go faster," Julie said. Super Mario Land and Zelda games are their favorites.

Despite being 4 years old, the games haven't gotten old. I checked into what Nintendo has been up to in the past four years.

Four Boys and counting

Nintendo's Game Boy, which is the most successful hand-held game on the market, made its debut in North America in 1989.

My son, Matt, and my older daughter, Katy, grew up with the original Game Boy. They became experts at various games in the back seat of my van on long drives.

Nintendo came up with a slimmer model, the Game Boy Pocket, in 1996.

But it wasn't until 1998 that the grayscale screen was replaced. Game Boy Color, which has an 8-bit processor, brought new life to Mario and his various adventures.

The big breakthrough came in June 2001, when Nintendo brought out Game Boy Advanced.

Unlike it's older brothers, it has a horizontal design and a left and right button. While the overall dimensions are about the same, the screen is 50 percent larger.

Game Boy Advanced also is powered by a 32-bit processor, making it the most powerful hand-held game on the market. It has digitized stereo sound.

One of the coolest things about it is that it's backwards compatible, so you can play all your old games on it.

You can also link up to four Game Boy Advances for multi-player action. And you can use your Game Boy Advance as a controller for the Nintendo GameCube, which hooks up to your TV.

New add-ons

Ethan Parker, a clerk at Game Guy in downtown Lawrence, told me that there's a new light system out this year you can install in the Game Boy Advance.

Installing it negates your warranty. But it allows game users to be able to see the device in a darkened room, Parker said.

Another after-market add-on is an audio/video converter that allows you to hook your Game Boy Advance up to a TV screen, he said.

He praised the Game Boy as being probably the most versatile system you can get and the only major hand-held system still available.

I told him I'd read some of the new portable phones have games. But he didn't think they would catch on.

"I don't know any 8-year-olds who have cell phones. I think Game Boy will always be there," he said. "Game Boy stuff sells like hotcakes at Christmas."

Thank you, Duracell

Julie reached over to grab a piece of chicken off my salad. We were eating downtown while they were restoring power in our neighborhood.

"Oh, Dad, I forgot to tell you, I got to the last level," she told me, going into great detail about getting Super Mario past all the obstacles.

Watching the rain through the restaurant window, we realized it was going to be cold and dreary at home without power. No Internet, no Instant Messaging and no TV.

We talked about lighting some candles or making a fire.

Julie perked up.

"There's always Game Boy."

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