Game Theory Admiral

I'm sure by now we've all read about the GameAxe, a handheld Famicom system made in the early 1990s, but "re-released" a couple of years back. Some people even managed to get ahold of some units, with mixed reports about its quality. For some, everything worked fine, but the screen was blurry and the backlighting uneven and poor. Well, this year a new, smaller, handheld has been released using more modern technology (but the same NES-on-a-chip as older units); and since it was cheap and easy to get, I ordered one.

If you squint just so... Yep, I did hook up my WideBoy to this system. Looked like a really small and sharp GameBoy. Sorry, no pictures.

(Again, sorry for the terribly blurry pics, but it's really all I can do.) Most of you probably have read Martin's review of his GTA over at NES World. So, I don't need to provide any comparison shots between the GTA and the GameAxe (and I can't, really), but I'll add in some additional thoughts about this system.

Well, good points first: The screen quality is very good, compared to previous attempts (I'm thinking about the Game Gear here). It uses a TFT display like the Gameboy Advance. The image looks a bit like an NES' video captured on a PC, then displayed on a GBA screen. So, there is a little bit of blurriness and composite video noise in black areas of the screen, but fortunately there is a knob to change the brightness and contrast of the picture to suit each game. Ah, yes! And it has a backlight which is bright and even, working very well. A final good point (among many) is that this unit conserves batteries. With rechargeables in there (and even using bulk disposables), it hasn't worn down the batteries excessively fast. (I had to put my batteries into my camera long before they were used up by the GTA.)

Nemo... what a great game.  This one is perfect for handhelds! Probably because this game doesn't have any samples to ruin the experience...

Now the bad points, and there are a couple disappointments. My main gripe with the GTA is its poor sound quality. Yes, many games sound good and loud when played through the GTA. But try any game that uses PCM samples (such as most Konami games, Sunsoft, etc...) and you'll notice the problem. When the GTA's sound hardware plays a sample in this way, it sounds a bit overloaded, but it also usually silences the other sound channels after the sample has played! So, imagine playing your favourite game, when a drum hit plays and the sound almost all disappears! This does NOT happen normally on a real Famicom/NES. The company that made the GTA should have done better.

Another problem, as you can see from the pictures of the unit, is that a GTA with a Famicom cartridge connected is very unwieldy. The Fami cart hangs perpendicularly above the GTA, and even wobbles with every button press. So, be careful of resetting a game this way. I'm wondering why they couldn't have designed the adaptor differently, such as having the game point away from you, or hug the back of the unit... but I understand with something this small (and with Fami carts being rather large) that this problem is unavoidable. Did they intend it to be a sunshade when used outside? Ah, well...

Grievances about the sound aside, I'm very happy with my GTA. It's fun to play a Fami game while sitting in front of the computer, or on the can, or even travelling. And it's pretty cheap, so it's worth the money, all in all. (Er... I have nothing more to add.)

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