Wednesday, March 21, 2007

WonderSwan Review


The WonderSwan is a portable gaming system released back in '98 in Japan and a few other Asian countries. The WonderSwan is inexpensive, costs around 4800 yen ($50), about the price of a new game, and the games aren't much more expensive, and are around $35-40. Also, battery life is the longest of the portables I've played, so this is a good portable for a person that doesn't have much money, and want a portable gaming system.
Size, Button Layout & Controls9/10


The WS is a small system, at around 74.3 X 121 X 17.5 milimeters, it is smaller than the GBA, and will easily fit into a back pocket. If you use an AA battery, the size increases to a 74.3 X 121 X 24.3 milimeters, but it isn't much of a problem. The only thing that might be problematic is that there is an area that is protruding in the shape of a battery and it gets in the way of the grip, but you'll probably live with it.


The button layout for the WS is odd, as there are two buttons and two D-pad like buttons. Most games will pay like the GBA, which is horizontally, and the lower D-Pad, the X-Buttons will serve as the directional buttons and the two buttons, A and B, will serve as action commands. But in other games, the upper D-Pad, the Y buttons, will serve as the directions and the X buttons will serve as the actions, just like the classical Game Boy.. so the WS has an interesting concept of being able to play games horizontally and vertically.


There are two other buttons, one being the start button and the other being a sound button, which controls sound. Also, the WS has an ON/OFF switch on the left side, and a contrast wheel on the bottom of the console. And finally, in the top right corner, there is a hole where you can put a wrist strap on.
Screen & Graphics9/10


The screen for the WS is bigger than the Game Boy, and just as big as the GBA, maybe a teeny bit smaller. You'll see that the graphics are way better than the Game Boy, and almost as good as the GBA in Black and White. You can also control the contrast by using the wheel on the bottom to make games darker or lighter. Most games look decent, but not many push the hardware to produce the best.
Sound & Game Format8/10


The Sound in the WS can get a little annoying, as there isn't a switch to control the sound, but a button to choose from three levels of sound. Loud, Medium, and None. So it's essential to buy an earphone adapter to play games without bothering others, but the music and voice samples are great on most games. But again, not many of the games push the hardware, so it's not easy to see the WS's full potential. Just expect average portable device sound here.
The WS has a rectangular shaped cartridge, and the data port is exposed, so you'll either need to keep the game in the WS or in a case. Ive heard the WS's cart has something like 3 or 4 times a Game Boy Color's Cartridge, so the game has more possibilities.
Battery Life & Protection10/10 (more like 12 but oh well...)
This is the WS's strength point: Battery Life. Ive really never went over 30 hours on a game boy pocket, which requires two AA batteries, and never over 25 with a Game Boy Color. The GBA SP's mileage is 10 hours with the backlight, and 18 without. The WS's surpasses all. I've went over 30 with this baby, I'm sure it can achieve far more in a different contrast. that's 30 hours on one AA, more than doubling the GB, GBC and GBA SP's mileage, and it also doesn't compromise any features that have been shown to this point, except for the backlight, but you can just put a flashlight in your mouth and lower the contrast and... ta-da! You'll be able to play in the dark!


The WS doesn't really need protection, because the games are in black and white, and a streak or two won't hurt you in the gameplay. And if you tie a wrist strap to prevent it from falling, you won't break it either. You can probably just put the WS in a leather case, or you can buy a glove, cut the fingers out and stitch it, because the WS is so compact and will fit in there. But if you must, you can go ahead and buy a WS protector at a game store that has WS appliances.
Game Library, Fun Factor & Additional Features9/10
The WS's horsepower quite doesn't match up to the GBA or the NGPC, so it can't really support frantic action games, although they have a few really good titles like pocket fighters. So what does this leave us? Strategy games and turn based games like Card Games and RPG's. I only have one WS card game, and that is Tekken Card Challenge, but there are plenty of RPG's like Digimon Ver. WonderSwan and more. The WS heavily relies on the japanese market, so there arent too many games with english in them. So if you understand Japanese, go for those RPG's, but if you don't, well... your library will be limited. Just get a driving game or an action game.
I've heard the WS supports connection between the PS2 and the PocketStation, I do have a Japanese WS and a Japanese PS2, so all i need to do is to bribe my friend to give me his Japanese PocketStation. I don't have a clue what this connection may do, but it sounds fun to me!


Overall Comment
If you're in the market for an inexpensive portable, the WS is a must, because the System and the Games aren't expensive, and the battery life is the best ive seen so far. But if you do not understand Japanese and are an avid fan of RPG's, you'll most likely be disappointed with this experience, unless you don't care about the storyline. I have to say the WS isn't really import friendly, but it is a great system after all.

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