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Hardware Classics: Game Boy Micro Famicom Edition

Posted by Damien McFerran

Micro Marvel

For more than a decade, the name "Game Boy" was as synonymous with handheld gaming as "iPod" is with portable music playback today. Following the launch of the original monochrome Game Boy console in the late '80s, Nintendo ruled the market with total dominance thanks to an incredibly popular line of million-selling systems. When the Game Boy Micro was unveiled in 2005 - almost a year after the launch of the Nintendo DS - few could have predicted that it would be the final machine to bear the legendary name. Even Nintendo itself talked of a "three pillar strategy", with the Wii, DS and Game Boy Advance working in unison to cover all bases.

As history has shown, the DS ended up being even more successful than the Game Boy, possibly surprising Nintendo itself in the process. The Micro on the other hand struggled at retail, and by 2007 had only sold around 2.7 million units globally. Satoru Iwata lamented that the Nintendo DS "must have deprived the Game Boy Micro of its momentum", and added that Nintendo had "failed to explain to consumers its unique value".

The console's failure is a real shame, because in many respects it's one of the most perfect pieces of technology ever to emerge from Nintendo's Kyoto HQ. With dimensions of 50×101×17.2 mm, it's the smallest handheld system every produced by Nintendo, and gives fresh meaning to the term "pocket-sized". The 2-inch back-lit screen might seem a little pathetic by today's standards, but back in 2005 it offered a pin-sharp image and impressive brightness. Although the Micro isn't compatible with Game Boy and Game Boy Color software (the original Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Advance SP both offered this functionality), the rich catalogue of Game Boy Advance software is more than enough to keep most players happy.

Like most Nintendo consoles, the Game Boy Micro experienced several different limited edition variants, including the Famicom version seen here. The colour scheme is taken from the original Famicom controller in Japan, and - like all Micro systems - it comes with a removable faceplate. Shortly after release this edition of the system - along with other Game Boy Micro variants - could be obtained for very little cash, but that situation has now drastically changed. Even a vanilla edition will set you back around £40 to £50 (approximately $65 to $80) if it's in good condition, and the Famicom version shown here is worth anything from £100 to £180 ($160 to $290), again depending on overall condition and packaging. It's well worth seeking out, however; as we said before, this is one of the most perfect hardware releases in Nintendo's illustrious history, and the arguably one of the greatest portable gaming systems ever seen - even if it didn't manage to convince the general public of that fact.

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User Comments (57)

MegaWattsAdmin

#2

MegaWatts said:

Oooh! Gimme, gimme! I'm simply stuck with a GBA SP (NES design).

Great feature as always, Damo!

DamoAdmin

#3

Damo said:

@Chrysalis The battery lights are under the Start and Select buttons - when the battery is low the lights (which are usually blue) turn red.

GuardianKing

#4

GuardianKing said:

They are? Huh, mine must be defective then :(

Are the L/R buttons as weak as they are on every Nintendo handheld (I know from personal experience because my GBA SP, NDSL, and 3DS all have busted L/R), or will they be able to better withstand the test of time?

MetroidMasher17

#8

MetroidMasher17 said:

A friend of mine has this model and it is absolutely gorgeous.

I need to get my GB micro fixed, sadly. Great little system, and great feature.

Jarod

#13

Jarod said:

cool picked this up for $50 on play asia a few years ago never thought it could be worth anything I barely used it

Frapp

#14

Frapp said:

It is truly the nicest looking hardware ever released. So many hours I've played on mine since its release. I had many faves on the machine, in particular were Astro Boy Omega Factor, Gradius Generation, Nonono Puzzle Chai Rian, the Mega Man Zeros, and the Bits Generation games. And about hundred more! Lovely machine and brilliant software library.

One correction, Damien. The smallest handheld produced by Nintendo was the excellent little Pokemon Mini – a future feature perhaps?

tripunktoj

#16

tripunktoj said:

I have the North American version of this and is nice for a collectible, but I prefer the full silver GB micro (silver body, silver plates) and for gaming I prefer my Game Boy Player or my Game Boy Advance SP AGS-101 (redesign with brigther backlight)

zipmonStaff

#17

zipmon said:

Awesome writeup! I got a silver GB Micro from a friend in the UK last year and it's been my constant companion on trains and buses since then. One of the coolest handhelds ever!

(And Ron's right, it's amazing where you can get away with gaming on these! :D)

Omega

#18

Omega said:

tripunktoj wrote:

and for gaming I prefer my Game Boy Player or my Game Boy Advance SP AGS-101 (redesign with brigther backlight)

Yes, the Gameboy SP AGS-101 is IMO by far the best Gameboy ever made. It has a fantastic display, just the right size and is fully compatible to every Gameboy title that exists.

Okay. The Micro is nice, too. As a key fob.

Sobtanian

#19

Sobtanian said:

Lovely article and lovely machine. I got mine from Lik-Sang before they died shakes fist at Sony

Also, surely the brilliant packaging deserves some more love?! Spot the machine :P

Untitled

AVahne

#22

AVahne said:

Thank you for this feature. Bought mine a little over a year ago for about $95 off ebay. Someone was selling a bunch of these little beauties in New condition. I think I managed to get the last one (this same JP famicom edition). Definitely Ninty's most perfect portable ever. Seriously loved the design and aluminum shell. It just screams PREMIUM. Wish I could make a custom faceplate for it though.

Timuu-kun

#23

Timuu-kun said:

Are you sure that these were only released in Japan? I have one, and I seem to recall picking it up at a local EB Games (before the merger) for a relatively paltry sum at launch.

dustin_g

#24

dustin_g said:

you could order the famicom faceplate off nintendos web site for a while, i picked one up.

GreenDream

#26

GreenDream said:

I never did get the GBA SP or GBA micro- still have my GBA vanilla in working order, just in case for the odd Gamecube-GBA cable use or Oracle of Seasons playthrough. I just use my DS phat for GBA games. I got an old Nyko Wormlight, which is a little TOO bright, but it works well enough at night time.

GreenDream

#27

GreenDream said:

My personal favorite Nintendo handheld is the Game Boy Color. It was the first one to reveal to me the mysteries of handheld computer innards. It was the final Nintendo handheld console which was manufactured in Japan instead of China, so it was the last one with a higher quality manufacturing process and better worker's compensation and rights. It is easy to open with a tri-wing screwdriver to clean and diagnose problems for. It came with an IR port for early online connectivity using cell phones... which was sadly never put to good use outside of Japan.

And finally...it is the only handheld device I have ever used which actually has it's screen visuals significantly and vividly IMPROVED by being used in direct sunlight! Most handheld consoles (especially the 3DS) have terrible visual fidelity under direct sunlight. The Game Boy Color is the one which truly encourages the user to go outside and use it to their heart's content during the day time on a nice day, then turning it off for the night!

bboy2970

#28

bboy2970 said:

I've got my Famicom edition Micro factory sealed :D I saw it at Sears on clearance for like 40 bucks and snapped it up. Very glad I did :)

SCAR392

#29

SCAR392 said:

This was a pretty cool piece of gaming. I liked the brighter GBA SP better though. The brighter SP had WAY better color, and a bigger screen, regular console linking jacks, and full BC ability for 99% of all GB games and stuff. The size and appearance of this tech really was the selling point, but DS played GBA games, plus DS, so functionality against other gadgets wasn't on it's side...

supermariolinux

#30

supermariolinux said:

had this since 2005 i think, i have loved it ever since. It was awesome in middle school playing mario while no one else could see since the screen was so small :P

1upsuper

#31

1upsuper said:

Always liked the look of this one. But one of these days, I'm finally going to get my hands on the Limited Edition Mother 3 Micro. One of these days...

Tertis

#32

Tertis said:

I got mine for 30 dollars (the normal silver version) and it came with 3 face-plates, one was pink, one was black, and the last was black with blue flames (I think). I lost the charger though, and I ordered a new one from Amazon that seems to be taking it's sweet time getting here.

HandheldGuru97

#35

HandheldGuru97 said:

I have a Camo-green faceplate for my Gameboy Micro. Love that handheld, next to the Neo Geo Pocket Color and Atari Lynx I think it is the most under appreciated handhelds of all time.

MasterWario

#36

MasterWario said:

I think I would like one of those, but the ones I've seen seem a bit too expensive when I already have an SP.
btw: "it's the smallest handheld system every produced by Nintendo"
Is that a typo?

Emaan

#37

Emaan said:

It looks so sexy. I never had a Micro, I've always preferred my Game Boy Advance SP. Mine still works, though I would like to eventually upgrade to one of the newer models with a new battery as well. I enjoyed this Hardware Classics feature by the way, will we be seeing more of these then?

Rockman

#38

Rockman said:

@Damo I have a english version here next to the Japanese version.. :D (yups.. i own 2 of them) not japan only...

shredmeister

#40

shredmeister said:

The Game Boy Advance SP with the model #: AGS-101 are the best Game Boy Advance systems, IMO. The AGS-101 has the extra bright screen and can still play Game Boy and Game Boy Color games. The Micro's screen is smaller in comparison and only plays GBA games.

scrubbyscum999

#41

scrubbyscum999 said:

I specifically remember this coming out and basically thinking "Why the heck would anybody buy this tiny thing when we got the DS? Plus it has different multiplayer connectors? No one is going to buy this thing..." I was probably still in elementary school or just starting middle school.

AVahne

#43

AVahne said:

For those wondering, this edition WAS released in America. However, the Japanese version has a little Happy Mario 20th Anniversary marking on the back that the American version doesn't. So Japan did get this edition exclusively, sort of.

demonroach

#44

demonroach said:

Another story of Nintendo failing. Why do they want to eat up all their development just to release old useless hardware?

SCAR392

#48

SCAR392 said:

The Famicom Gameboy Micro was released in U.S., too. It just didn't have as fancy of packaging, Japan got the play-yan media thing, and they got the player 2 Famicon faceplate.

Tasuki

#49

Tasuki said:

I have wanted one of these since they came out. I have a GBA SP and had the original GBA but I have always liked the look of the micro one and like someone has said imagine the places I can sneak that into. :D

Sadly when it came out I never had the money to get one so I never got to own one. Now places like eBay want too much for one.

JuanitoShet

#50

JuanitoShet said:

I got to play the Micro. It is indeed a pretty awesome little console, but I find the 2-inch screen to just be way too small for certain games, like text-heavy based ones, for example.

Other than that, though, I wouldn't mind getting one eventually. I never owned one, but I got to play my cousin's, and my friend's.

SirSmugleaf

#51

SirSmugleaf said:

I picked up one of these from Japan off eBay a few months ago, and I gotta say I'm loving it!
Awesome design!

Itglows

#52

Itglows said:

Yeah I'm not sold on the greatness of this redesign. It has a tiny screen, and it doesn't play GB and GBC games. The 101 SP is small enough imo and offers many advantages including a clamshell

Amauriel

#53

Amauriel said:

I have one of these, and it's definitely American. Got it when it came out, and the box is still here in my game storage.

Also, to the person asking about taking off the faceplate: These DO NOT have the pop-off faceplates that the other micros have. If you have a really small phillips head screwdriver, you can take the screw off the left side of the console (looking at it as you were playing it) and then the faceplate can easily be removed to be cleaned under.

And although I love my DSes, this thing never leaves my purse. I've played Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town in so many places that gaming really wouldn't have been appropriate, just because the thing is smaller than a cell phone screen and really doesn't attract attention.

tanookisuit

#54

tanookisuit said:

Couldn't agree more about the GB Micro, in fact I have a beater with the camo plate to be tossed into a pocket for flea market and other rough places, and then I have a really nice one condition wise that's not beat I use just for at home. It really was the perfect handheld as far as Nintendo went if you take backwards compatibility out the formula. The screen and speaker may have been small, but both were powerful with a precision view area that even tiny text in RPGs could be clearly read and the sound output was quite audible given the size (And unlike that screw up with the SP, it can take a normal headphone without an add-on paid dongle.)

Yanni

#56

Yanni said:

GBA Micro is the only GameBoy I don't have. :-( I should get one though...

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