It’s time to continue our trawl through the ages as our resident retro fanatic, Philip Greenhalgh gives us the low down on another handheld of yesteryear, the Bandai Wonderswan
The WonderSwan is a handheld game console that was only released in Japan by Bandai in 1999, meaning it isn’t as old as some may think. It was made to compete with the Neo Geo Pocket Colour, and of course, the strong and powerful Game Boy Colour.
It’s first release was in black and white to save on battery consumption. The original WonderSwan only required ONE AA battery and had a battery life of up to 40 hours. Bandai did soon after however release a colour version of the WonderSwan. The WonderSwan Colour also featured backwards compatibility with most of the original WonderSwan game library.
The console is light weight, easy to hold and compact enough to fit in a pocket. Of course it only runs on one AA battery, when compared to the Game Gear’s 6 this is a huge advantage. If there was one major issue with the Game Gear it was it’s thrist for power. Thankfully there is no such problem with the Wonderswan. Even when compared to other handhelds on the market at the time the Wonderswan quashes all opposition when it comes to power conservation.
With this being a Japanese only release, the games available contain a fair amount of Japanese text. There’s some English text in a few of the games but with a lot of the best and exclusive games being of the Strategy and RPG variety, a general understanding of Japanese comes in very helpful.
Puyo Puyo 2 (WonderSwan)
For my personal gaming tastes, the Wonderswan doesn’t offer much. Although if you’re someone who enjoys Anime especially, there’s a lot to like here, with plenty of games based off popular Japanese animations, a lot of these being RPGs. That is if you can of course understand what on earth’s going on. 7/10
The controls are actually pretty difficult to get to grips with. There are 8 unlabeled buttons used for game play and more buttons left to find your own purposes for. Also some games seem to be able to detect when you’re playing the console on its side or upright, adjusting the game screen appropriatly. It’s an odd feature that I’d like to say works but I just manages to confuse me more.
Poor controls overall, that prove difficult to get to grips with. 4/10
Overall Console Quality
The image quality of the screen is very sharp and clear with no blurring. The machine’s sound is clear, with simple jingles and tunes but there’s nothing too fancy here. The colour version is brisk and sharp, making game play more satisfying. As mentioned earlier the battery life provides plenty of play time. There’s also lots and lots of accessories available for the console, including something called WonderWitch, which lets you actually make your own games as long as you can find the appropriate software.
The Wonderswan isn’t a bad machine, it does have some nice features and excellent battery life, but when compared to the Game Boy it’s easy to see why Nintendo’s own wonder machine kept competition like this at bay. 7/10
Philip Greenhalgh 2011