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Bandai's Wonder Swan
A Review & Comparison With The GameBoy Pocket
By Shoji

Nintendo's GameBoy Pocket was chosen as comparison for Bandai's Wonder Swan since both are portables that employ a monochrome screen.

Dimensions
The WS is as light and compact as the GBP, and at the first glance, it reminds me of the Atari Lynx because of the WS's horizontal format, although the WS can also be played vertically. From the picture, you will note that in the horizontal position, the WS is slightly smaller than the GBP. The body colors of the WS are not as vibrant as the GBP's since it comes in 4 skeleton (see through) and 3 metallic colors. One plus point of the WS is that it has a strap loop which makes it easier to carry around without the need of a protective case.

Power & Handling
The WS employs two modes of power, either a rechargeable pack or 2 regular AAA batteries. When using batteries, a swing-out bubble cover is used to house the batteries. This can be a problem, since it makes the WS awkward to hold during vertical play. When the using the rechargeable pack, however, the WS remains flat and handling in vertical and horizontal positions is very comfortable. It seems that Bandai favors the rechargeable pack in the design of the WS. In a way this is good, since it saves money and is environmentally friendly. But sadly, the pack only comes in black, and does not blend nicely with the various WS body colors.

Using Rechargeable Pack

Using AAA Batteries

Cartridges

The WS carts are long and rectangular, whereas the GameBoy carts are more square. Looking at the WS cartridge, it is hard to believe that it has a large capacity of 128 MB. One of the biggest game for the GameBoy (eg. TokiMemo Pocket) is only 32 Mb. The WS carts are contained in a clear-black sleeve-type plastic case. From the picture, you can see how the WS cartridges are simply slipped into its casing. This is different than the GB, which uses an open-close box casing.

Starting

As soon as the WS is turned on, you must enter your personal data. If you don't enter your personal data, the game will not begin. This might seem rather troublesome, but it is required for some games that adjust the degree of difficulty according to your age and sex. When your personal data is recorded, the Bandai logo will appear with your name underneath it. Your name will appear horizontally or vertically, which tells you in what mode the game is to be played. One problem with the start-up screen is that the introduction music is automatically played at the loudest volume. In the manual, you are warned about this when using the head-phones. To avoid this, you must quickly push a button twice. This I think is very strange and troubling.

Display
The resolution and clarity of the WS screen is much more beautiful in real life than shown in the magazines. Sadly, monochrome LCD is now considered inferior to color. I must say, however, that compared to the GBP screen, the WS's LCD is much finer because of its smaller dot pitch. It is also wider than the GBP, and can be viewed easily from different angles because of its high resolution.

Operation

Unlike the GBP, the WS uses special icons to inform and notify the player. The icons are:

  • Power On/Off icon
  • Insert game icon
  • DC power icon
  • Battery life icon
  • Sound Volume icon - 3 steps - soft, medium and loud
  • Headphone icon
  • Vertical play icon
  • Horizontal play icon
  • ETC icon - for future use

Button Control
As you can see from the picture, the buttons on the WS are all individual and independent. This is unlike the direction pad of the GBP which is connected by a cross. As such, it can be difficult sometimes to control diagonal direction in a game. However, this button layout is superior, when playing games like Konami's BeatMania. It will take a while to get use to this, but it will soon become easy because the WS buttons have a nice tactile feel when pushed.

Small Complaint
The designer should have made a cover for the terminal connector of the WS. Since the terminal is so close to the control buttons, it can easily get dirty and rusty from sweaty hands. This is a small complaint, but I think it is important.

EAGB's Opinion
Shoji seems well pleased with Bandai's Wonder Swan, and we will definitely be getting one as soon as it is released in Singapore. It is too soon to tell if the WS will prove popular, since it is behind Nintendo's GameBoy only in terms of a color screen. Ultimately, it will be the availability of quality games that will make or break a system. We don't think that color will be much of a hindrance, since the Classic GameBoy has proven that color isn't all that important.

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