GameBoy Micro: Super-Sensible-Serious-Hardware Review

Back in August, on a day that coincidentally had the same date, albeit not the same year, of the day I was born, my wife handed me an unassuming wrapped box. Eagerly I tore off the colourful paper wrapping, hoping for Oreos, but not wanting to get too excited, to reveal the worn words ‘GameBoy Micro’. To be clear, I’m not a retro collector… more an enthusiast of retro-games… but there are a handful of items that I would like to own from that particular world and, as I’ve mentioned in the past, the GameBoy Micro has been something I’ve eBay-drooled over for some time. And here, I now had one in my hands, one of my very own.

… of course, before I go any further with this technical breakdown of the unit, I need to thank my wonderful wife for such a thoughtful gift!

For the uninitiated, the Micro was the last incarnation of the wildly successful GameBoy Advance, really representing a completely superfluous addition to the series for a practical point of view. The SP was already on the market and the DS, Ninty’s newest portable gaming phenomenon, had it the shops the year before, but nevertheless 2005 saw the release of this truly pocket sized console. Seriously, measuring in at just 50 x 101 x 17.2 mm it actually fits in your jeans pocket. With integrated rechargeable battery, crisp 51 mm backlit screen, and beautifully compact design that was clearly riffing off the original NES controller, the Micro is just a pleasing object to behold. It is however worth noting that in such a small package, the Micro didn’t feature the backwards compatibility of its older siblings or compatibility with many of the Advance peripherals, so I guess the question is; what’s the attraction?

… so back to my birthday present, let’s take a look at it and I’ll talk you through my thoughts:

No, I don’t have huge hands, it really is that small..

OOOMAAAGGOOODDD IT’S SOO CUTE AHHHH.. LOOK-AT-IT LOOK-AT-IT IT’S SO CUTE OHMAGAWWD IT’S SO CUTE LOOOOKKKK SEE HOW CUTE IT IS AHHHH LOOOOK AT IT IT’S SOOO CUTTEEE OOOHHMAGAAARRWWWDD!

… that’s a pretty typical reaction. So much so, that the UK highstreet gaming store, GAME, ran a promotion giving out GameBoy Micro branded ear plugs as you entered the store for the first two weeks it was on sale until the UK’s health & safety executive banned the open display of Micros in store due to hearing damage caused to passing shoppers. Instead they had to display Micros in an individually soundproofed room with only two customers at a time allowed to see them*. Luckily, after the initial excitement wears off, it’s usually ok to take another look, so let’s check out the device:

Snoot for Scale…

OOOOOHHHHHHMMMARRGAWWWDDDDDDDDD!!!! LOOK IT LOOK IT LOOK IT LOOK IT!! IT’S SOOO CUTE!! IT’S THE CUTEST TINY CONSOLE ANYONE HAS EVER SEEN IT COULD’NT BE A CUTER CONSOLE! AAAHAHHHHHHHHHH

I think I’m going to just have to do the rest of this without looking at it. In case you hadn’t worked it out despite not having any real knowledge of, or sentimental attachment to, the GBA library, the ultra compact design of the micro makes it hugely desirable in my eyes. Not a millimetre of space is wasted, the cartridges sit perfectly flush in the slot making it a clean cuboidal unit, shoulder buttons barely proud of the surface and the illuminated start & select buttons positioned neatly under the screen. Forget the recent gimmicky GameGear Micro from Sega, Nintendo have had the perfect micro console all along and even 15 years later it still represents the pinnacle of what the era of the GameBoy was all about; high quality pocket sized gaming. Of course there will always be critics who harp on about the whole thing being far too small to play on practically for any length of time, forcing your hands in to an uncomfortably crunched up position to keep the tips of your fingers on every button… and I would of course normally write a cutting rebuttal to those accusations, but I need to push on with the article whilst I can still type because for some reason after spending the summer with this device I have completely unrelated crippling hand pain.

Sonic approves this handheld… also, yes, that is an original Sonic soft-toy…

The eBay present from my wife also came with a handful of cartridges; mostly fairly common and unremarkable (a few tie-ins iirc), but for two more recognisable titles: Mario Cart Advance and the port of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The former is a fun addition to that workshy plumber’s forays in to amateur motorsport and the latter is a game that I’ve wanted to play for some time…. although as of yet still haven’t. No, instead, I hit eBay myself almost instantly and picked up two further titles: Mario Golf Advance Tour and the port of Doom.

Mario Golf Advance Tour is a game that I kind of discovered whilst looking up the top rated GBA titles and it immediately called out to me. You see, last year I became a little be infatuated with Golf Story on Switch, one in a long line of golf games that I’ve secretly enjoyed. MGAT (as I’m going to call it) is basically what inspired Golf Story; a simple, yet solid, 16-bit styled golf game wrapped up in an RPG story with a number of side-challenges along the way. As a vehicle for ‘more’ of this type of gameplay it didn’t disappoint and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a GBA title to try out. I guess the biggest criticism is that the main campaign doesn’t really have that much of Mario (or you know his golfing buddies Bowser and Peach) in it despite it being a MARIO game. Clearly Nintendo don’t want to overuse their iconic mascot… *smirks*

Yeah Sega… sure, that’s a ‘pocket sized’ console…

Doom is also a game I picked up because of a recent interest; regular readers will know that I spent much of the early part of this year revisiting the Doom games of yesteryear, and this interest has lead me to finding out about a number of the weirder ports of the game (which let’s face it has been ported, either officially or not, to every device under the sun). Doom Advance is generally regarded as a pretty good part and although I havne’t gone through all of it, I can say that it certainly does a lot with the small screen limitations of the device. Using shoulder buttons to strafe feels a little alien given how most modern ports that use a controller have switched to a more conventional twin-stick control scheme, but I’m pretty sure the action has been scaled back a little to accommodate for that and the difficulty seeing enemies at distance.

In short it’s been fun and I’m hopefully going to continue to use this little device in my gaming to come. Weirdly for a console that’s pretty old now it still feels fresh and to summarise, looking back at it now….

OOHHMMMAAAGGAAWWWWRRDDD IT’S SSOO CUTTEEEE IT’S TOOO CUTE ARRHHHHHGGHHHHH LOOOKK AT IT LOOOK AT IT!!!! IT’S SOOOO CUUTEEEE AHHHHHHHHHHH

*Details outlined in this paragraph may or may not be true…

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