Whenever a company designs and releases a new video game system, beating the competition is a high priority.
On the positive side, consumers benefit from innovative features that enhance the overall gaming experience.
Unfortunately, some of these ideas don’t pan out the way creators intended, largely because technology hasn’t had a chance to catch up.
This was evident during the 80s and 90s, where publishers like Sega and Nintendo attempted to out duel each other by dreaming up the latest and greatest portable systems and accessories, some of which came up a bit short in the tech department.
That said, here’s a short list of famous features that were ahead of their time.
Game Boy Camera
Not exactly ideal for family vacations.
To say Game Boy Camera was ahead of its time would be a huge understatement. The primitive device, released in 1998, transformed any Game Boy into a digital camera capable of taking black and white 128 X 112 photos. Nintendo even released a Game Boy Printer along with it. Sadly, pictures were too pixilated.
The cover of Neil Young’s album, Silver & Gold, is a pic taken with the Game Boy Camera.
Fast-forward to 2011, and it seems like every portable device has a camera, all of which are significantly better; some cell phone cameras are in excess of five megapixels. In fact, Nintendo’s new 3DS comes with front and forward facing cameras that let users merge two distinct objects into one photo and add effects; Sony’s PlayStation Vita also has multiple cameras.
Game Gear and Turbo Express TV Tuners
These guys accidentally butt heads trying to see the Game Gear’s tiny screen.
Both the Game Gear and Turbo Express allowed users to watch some of their favourite shows through optional TV tuners, both of which were a bit pricey when they first debuted. While cool at the time, the limited number of channels and poor screens made them more of a novelty than must have accessory.
The coolest thing about the Game Gear peripheral, though, is the AV input that lets players display games from other consoles (Wii, Dreamcast) on the handheld’s tiny display. Prepare to have your mind blown.
Nowadays, you can download the Hulu and Netflix Apps to view shows and movies in much higher resolutions on iPad, iPhone and other devices.
For such an old system, the screen wasn’t too shabby.
The Game Gear (1991), Lynx (1989) and Turbo Express (1990) all had backlit screens, by far the biggest advantage against Nintendo’s unlit black and white Game Boy (1989). Too bad these systems destroyed six AA batteries in six hours or less.
After more than 10 years (and a backlit Game Boy that never left Japan), Nintendo finally added a backlight to its Game Boy Advance SP in 2003, which came with a rechargeable (and internal) lithium ion battery that did 10 hours with the light on, 18 with it off.
Goofy? Why do you think you’ll look goofy using this?
Konami was among the first publishers to introduce 3D special effects to handhelds, thanks to Metal Gear Acid 2 for PSP. By looking into the Solid Eye peripheral (which came with every copy of the game), those card battles appeared to leap off the screen.
Enter Nintendo’s 3DS (2011), which displays glasses free 3D without a flimsy cardboard box.
Atari Lynx: left and right handed controls
Almost as cool as Ned Flander’s left handed store.
Atari’s ill-fated Lynx was innovative for several reasons, one of which proved beneficial to left-handed players. Pressing the “Flip” button on the device let them switch controls, giving lefties the chance to manipulate the d-pad and face buttons with their right and left hands, respectively, instead of the other way around.
Nifty idea, but the system was too big and bulky to enjoy comfortably.
Today, some iPhone and iPad games support left handed control schemes, or the option of customising the HUD by dragging icons around the screen.
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