Author Topic: Of Nerds and Men: Miniaturization  (Read 2508 times)

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Offline Halbred

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Of Nerds and Men: Miniaturization
« on: January 08, 2015, 06:11:49 PM »

Zach finds one of his Holy Grails in Topeka, Kansas.

http://www.nintendoworldreport.com/feature/39331/of-nerds-and-men-miniaturization

My wife and I traditionally vacation in Hawaii over Christmas. Hawaii is a place that is the opposite of my cold home in Alaska during December. They don’t have seasons in Hawaii, it’s really just either slightly warmer or slightly cooler depending on the tilt of the Earth during any given time of the year, but the island chain’s close proximity to the Equator ensures that even the coldest days are significantly warmer than Anchorage’s warmest (seriously, it didn't get above 80 last year). So you'll usually find us spending Christmas on a beach under a palm tree where snow is something that happens in "It’s a Wonderful Life." It’s a bit like when WALL-E powers up his solar battery in the morning, but with Vitamin D, a substance Alaskans are sorely lacking.

But we didn’t go this year. Anybody with grandparents knows the adage “this might be their last Christmas,” so the Midwestern instinct towards large, but unwelcome, family gatherings is triggered and guilt eventually forces your hand to click on “Topeka” instead of “Kauai” when booking your Christmas vacation. Kansas is where my wife is from, and with a few notable exceptions, that’s where her entire extended family remained. Christmas in Kansas is not a vacation, but instead a series of increasingly-exhausting familial obligations.

But there were some free days, and on one of them my father-in-law chauffeured me around to Topeka’s impressive used-game scene. The city is filled with an impressive number of quality local used game businesses. Indeed, the one GameStop I saw in our travels was a lonely-looking square brick building with an empty parking lot. And it was in one of these little shops that I made a wonderful discovery: I found an affordable Game Boy Micro.

For those of you who don’t remember it, the Game Boy Micro is the last iteration of the Game Boy Advance, and the last handheld to be emblazoned the Game Boy brand. It was released in September of 2005 in an attempt to keep the Game Boy alive in case Nintendo’s new DS system failed. It fits comfortably on the palm of your hand and includes a removable faceplate. You could buy alternate faceplates (in 2005) to customize your tiny handheld. Unfortunately, the wholesale renovation of the Micro’s architecture meant that it couldn’t play original Game Boy or Game Boy Color games, use the standard Game Boy Advance Wireless Adaptor, the e-Reader, GameCube link cables, or the Game Boy Printer or Camera. This was strictly a Game Boy Advance machine, which is fine. I have an SP for the rest of that crap.

The screen is ridiculously small, just two inches across, and backlit. The screen technology was a step up from the standard Game Boy Advance SP screen, and would be integrated into later runs of GBA SP systems. For reasons that remain unclear, Nintendo priced the Micro at $99, or roughly $20 more than the concurrent GBA SP. With less functionality and no real or imagined advantages, the Micro was doomed to fail and it absolutely did. Some stores didn’t even carry it; I don’t remember ever seeing it for sale here in Alaska. It quickly faded into obscurity, going the way of the Virtual Boy. I’ve always regretted missing out on the Micro because it’s such an oddity. Until now.

There were two Micros for sale, actually. The one I bought and the one I wish I’d bought (hindsight being 20/20). I bought the “Flame” version; however the store also had a limited edition Japanese Famicom version--it was $90, which I deemed too expensive for my wife to be okay with. She said later that she didn’t really have an issue with that, but when I went back to the store the next day I had found that they were closed until the new year. I may have my mother-in-law run back there and pick it up, and then I’ll have TWO Micros. I could use one of them for a contest or something. UPDATE: My mother-in-law IS running back there to snatch it up.

Anyway, let’s talk about the unit itself. Picture time!

Playing Metroid together, as Arceus intended.

Not much wider!

It's so tiny!

Here is the Micro with a GBA SP for scale. The Micro is violating Cope’s Rule in every conceivable way. The face buttons are not as flattened as they are on the SP, and the Start/Select buttons have been reduced to tiny bars that barely click.

Small but bold.

The L & R buttons are not very comfortable.

The top of the unit shows off the flattened L and R buttons and the HDMI-like power cord plug. It does not use the same plug as the GBA SP, which is unfortunate but probably necessary.

The power switch is kind of ugly.

Here’s the bottom, which is where game carts slide in. You’ve also got the headphone jack (standard this time) and the power switch.

I'll have to look up how to adjust the brightness.

The unit’s side has a volume/brightness toggle. Not sure how the brightness setting is changed, but Wikipedia says it controls both. There’s also a spot for a lanyard attachment because reasons.

Must be cold in here.

Dust gets in between the faceplate and the chassis.

Note how prominent the buttons are, as opposed to the SP's flattened buttons.

Here’s what it looks like without the faceplate. There are some spots of dirt that I’m in the process of cleaning very carefully.The screen is smaller than it is on the GBA or GBA SP, but is more evenly lit than either (until its screen tech started showing up in late-era SPs).

The faceplate snaps into some notches at either side of the Micro's chassis. It's held securely, but there are itty-bitty spaces.

So how does the thing play? Frankly, it’s not very comfortable. The shoulder buttons are the biggest concern. Without a resounding click you have to have faith that you’re actually pushing something. For games that use these buttons intensively (like Aria of Sorrow or Zero Mission), there’s no question that the SP is superior. The face buttons, too, are a little too raised and aren’t as responsive as the shallower, more secured face buttons of the SP. The tiny screen is downright TINY. While pixel clarity is, by some miracle, uncompromised, it’s just plain itty-bitty. While the screen is less than an inch smaller than the SP (2.0 inches vs. 2.9), the difference is immediately noticeable.

It's like a mini-HDMI cable.

And it's not much bigger than its own power supply!

There’s also the inescapable fact that this "fun-size" handheld is not made for adults with grown-ass hands. Everything is too close together. My fingers are too fat, but there’s no keypad I can mash to obtain a special dialing wand. In short, there is absolutely no reason this thing should exist in a world where the GBA SP also exists. I’m not even sure who the audience was. Parents who were worried their kids would snap the SP in half? Adults with baby hands? Xbox 360 owners drawn by the allure of faceplates? People whose pockets were too small to hold the GBA SP’s demanding 3.3 x 3.23 x 0.96 inch size?

Like the Virtual Boy, I consider the Game Boy Micro something of a historical curiosity that I will almost never play. But hey, if any of you have Micro faceplates just lying around, I can put them to good use!

RIDICULOUS SIZE COMPARISONS!

Micro next to a PSP-3000.

Micro next to an enormous 3DS XL.

I call this piece "Squares."

The Vita's screen is actually a little larger than the entire GBA Micro.

Power Girl approves.

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Offline ejamer

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Re: Of Nerds and Men: Miniaturization
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2015, 08:03:39 AM »

Congrats on the find - they really do seem be tough to find these days.

Maybe a curiosity for you, and I can understand that it's just too small for some people... but I love my Micro systems (own 2) and find them incredibly convenient for playing games on the go.  When it comes to being truly portable, nothing - not even the GBA SP - comes close the Micro, and for me having built-in headphone jacks is a meaningful improvement over the SP too.
 ;D
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Offline Shaymin

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Re: Of Nerds and Men: Miniaturization
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2015, 08:04:09 AM »
True story: I saw this article in my RSS and the image it gave me was the last one, so I thought Zach found a shiny Yoko from Gurren Lagann or something. Totally forgot about the Micro(s).
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Offline Halbred

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Re: Of Nerds and Men: Miniaturization
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2015, 07:39:46 PM »
Funny you should say that, Donald--I just bought two Yoko figurines from MFC today. :-)
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Offline Chariblaze

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Re: Of Nerds and Men: Miniaturization
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2015, 05:53:52 PM »
"The unit’s side has a volume/brightness toggle. Not sure how the brightness setting is changed, but Wikipedia says it controls both."
[/size][/color]
[/size]Maybe try holding Start or Select? That's how it works on the DSi.[/color]

Offline Traveller

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Re: Of Nerds and Men: Miniaturization
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2015, 10:34:44 PM »
Yeah you hold select to adjust the brightness.


I have two Micro's now. One I bought originally, and I managed to order one of the Japanese Famicom ones last year.
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Offline pokepal148

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Re: Of Nerds and Men: Miniaturization
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2015, 11:56:14 PM »
I have to say, as someone who grew up with an OG PS2 getting a slim and seeing how tiny it is absolutely baffles me to this day.
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Offline Ceric

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Re: Of Nerds and Men: Miniaturization
« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2015, 11:13:21 AM »
That was a pretty big difference.
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