After the age of the original Game Boy and Game Gear came to a close,
handhelds began branching off into colors beyond grey and black. After
that, they started getting fancy logos, special editions, bizarre
colors, and in some cases, images of a Pikachu trying to give you a hug.
We still don't see as many special edition handhelds as Japan, but we
have a few interesting ones. And if recent models of 3DS are any
indication, it looks like we'll see more in the future. Here are some of
the ones we've seen in North America.
NES and Famicom GBA SP and GBA Micro
I saved the best for
first with the NES-themed Game Boy Advance SP and the Famincom themed
Game Boy Advance Micro you see above. The former was released alongside a
number of NES classics released for the Game Boy Advance a few years
into its life. The latter is the coolest version of what may be
Nintendo's most underrated redesign. I don't know who the Micro was for
from a marketing perspective, especially considering Nintendo released a
version modeled after a console design that never released in North
America, but it was awesome. It had a fantastic battery life, and the
smaller screen condensed the visuals for Game Boy Advance games so they
looked super sharp.
Pikachu Nintendo 3DS XL and Game Boy Color
recent 3DS model with the oddly placed cameras was not the first time
the yellow mouse was prominently featured on a Nintendo handheld. The
yellow Game Boy Color released around the same time as Pokémon Yellow,
which was arguably the height of Pikachu's popularity, and as a result I
remember seeing these everywhere. The battery indicator light appearing
in the middle of the Pokéball was a nice touch.
Kratos and Darth Vader PSPs
Sony never played around much
with special editions of its handhelds, and the Vita seems to be
continuing this lack of a trend. There was a time though, briefly,
during the the life of the PSP where Sony thought, "You know what would
be awesome? Putting faces on the back of the left sides of PSPs." The
result of that thought was Kratos' face and Drath Vader's helmeted head
showing up on the back of two special editions PSPs. The nice thing
about these special editions, is you could remove the panel with the
faces (it was the battery pack panel) and buy a cheap replacement
battery cover of the same color if you just wanted a white or red PSP.
The Zelda DS collection
Nintendo must have had good sales
with its Zelda DS Lite, because it has followed up with two other Zelda
specific models of DS and 3DS. I particularly like the latest model,
which appears on the lower vertex of the Zelda DS triangle above. It's
thematically appropriate for The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
(which was included in its box), and it also looks super sharp.
The New 3DS XL collection
Nintendo has recently, more than
ever, embraced the special edition handheld. Japan still gets some of
the coolest special edition handhelds, like this upcoming Persona Q 3DS,
but our North American collection is looking pretty formidable. I
particularly like the new Yoshi model, as opposed to the Pokémon X &
Y models, which just place an image on a pre-existing 3DS model/color. I am a sucker for brand new colors.
This is far from a comprehensive list, even when just looking at
North America. There are retailer specific models that disappear
immediately after the Christmas season, and some that are incredibly
limited – even if they are sold everywhere. What are some of your
favorite special edition handhelds?
For a similar feature on the many faces of the Xbox 360 controller, head here.