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Gameboy Micro

Nintendo's Game Boy Advance system has endured far beyond its years, shipping more than 28 million units and many times more games. There's a reason for that: Not only is the GBA the best 2D gaming platform in existence, period, but Nintendo has also kept the system's hardware up-to-date through a series of revisions. The latest of these tweaks comes in the form of the Game Boy Micro, a minuscule GBA handheld due to hit stores on September 19 for $100.

Upside: The Nintendo Game Boy Micro is wicked small, measuring 4 inches wide, 2 inches tall, and 0.7 inch deep. (For those keeping score at home, that makes it a shade smaller than an iPod Mini.) Then there's the retro design, which will immediately remind nostalgic Nintendo fans of the first-generation NES controller; the rectangular Game Boy Micro has its directional pad to the left and its rounded A and B buttons to the right of its 2-inch display. The screen itself--billed by Nintendo as its "brightest to date"--features adjustable contrast for when you want to save on battery life (the GBM uses a rechargeable lithium-ion power source). Needless to say, the Game Boy Micro will be compatible with all existing Game Boy Advance games. It will also have the standard headphone jack that was an inexplicable omission from its predecessor, the Game Boy Advance SP. The Micro will ship in two separate bundles, each of which feature unique interchangeable front faceplates (� la the Xbox 360); three additional faceplates are included in each package.

Downside: Users will question the need for a new Game Boy Advance, particularly since many consider the previous model, headphone issue notwithstanding, to be the perfect portable gaming system. The smaller 2-inch LCD screen on the Game Boy Micro also won't silence any skeptics, as some gamers may have to squint to see what they're playing. Nintendo's decision to abandon the SP's clamshell design may lead to scratched surfaces, especially since the system is designed to be stored in your pocket. Finally, the Game Boy Micro really doesn't bring anything new to the table, technologically speaking; you're getting the same games at the same resolution on what is essentially a redesigned version of the same system.

Outlook: It's not a PSP killer by any stretch of the imagination, but the Game Boy Micro looks neat and fulfills every Nintendo nerd's secret fantasy of having an entire playable system inside a box no bigger than an NES controller. But Nintendo may be going back to the well one too many times with the Micro. The company's portable lineup seems a bit crowded: the original SP is still available for $20 less than the Micro, and the DS--which can play all the old GBA games plus a growing portfolio of new titles--retails for just $30 more (the price of the DS drops to $130 from $150 as of August 21). That said, kid-oriented titles still sell like hotcakes for the Game Boy platform, so the Micro could have a long and prosperous life as a dedicated Pokemon deck

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