Bandai’s WonderSwan was the little handheld that couldn’t. Running on just a single AA battery, Gunpei Yokoi’s swansong brought 16-bit graphics to portable gaming exclusively in Japan in 1999.
With a mere 3.5 million units sold across three revisions, the WonderSwan hardly set the world on fire, getting discontinued 4 short years after launch. However, it is a very unique console that has a lot of charm. And having been released at a mere ¥4800 with a very straightforward design, this system developed a shockingly large supply of games, some of which are excellent!
This slick piece of hardware rocked 8 shades of gray (double the Game Boy) with no backlight, had no headphone jack, and was only on the market for a year and a half before the Color followup released. Managed to come out just after the Game Boy Color with a grayscale screen; oops.
Released at the end of 2000 to compete with the Game Boy Color, this COLOR WonderSwan could play exclusive COLOR games. Except you kinda can’t cause you can barely see the games. This system used a basic LCD screen, and not the super reflective kind used on GBC and GBA. As such you can’t see well in most lighting conditions. Oh and did I mention no headphone jack?
Once again Nintendo was onto Bandai and managed to release the Game Boy Advance not long after this revision. Oops again!
This is what the WonderSwan Color should have been. Released in 2002, here we have an upgrade to the same kind of TFT LCD used in the GBA and the results are pretty good! Definitely recommend using sunlight or a good lamp, but it’s as good as it gets. Kinda getting expensive these days. Still no headphone jack.
How do I get a headphone jack?
You need to buy a stupid accessory that is stupid expensive (and rare) for what it is. For the record I refuse to buy it until someone makes a clone, which will probably never happen.
Why would anyone want to buy this thing?
There are some really cool games on this system, including but not limited to:
- 魔界村 (Makaimura) for WonderSwan, a unique entry in the Ghosts 'n Goblins series
- Klonoa: Moonlight Museum, a 2D take on the 2.5D PS1 game which works shockingly well
- Gunpey, a puzzle game that was later remade on PSP
- Remakes of Final Fantasy 1 & 2, which would later be used as the base for the PS1 & GBA remakes
- A port of Final Fantasy 4, featuring really neat 8-bit style music
(I may or may not have just listed every WonderSwan game I own)
Does anyone else own a WonderSwan???