Can't live without your GameBoy? Well, hold your breath, because there are two new hand-held systems that are likely to make you want to upgrade.
Nintendo and Sony were showing off samples of their new systems at a big electronic gaming convention in Los Angeles this spring. While neither Nintendo's latest version of GameBoy nor Sony's portable PS2 systems is on the market yet, they are the stuff that gamers dream of.
Sony calls its new system PSP, short for PlayStation Portable. Unlike GameBoy Advance, the PSP is a disc-based system. That means it will be able to play digital video and audio as well as games. The discs, which can hold about three times as much data as a CD, fit inside a plastic cartridge that slips into the PSP.
The PSP will feel great in your hands. On the left are a digital directional pad and an analog stick. On the right are the four face buttons everyone knows (Triangle, Square, Circle and X). There are two trigger buttons as well. But what we liked most about the PSP is that it has a wide screen.
The PSP is just about as powerful as the PlayStation 2. Games including "Gran Turismo 4 Mobile," "NBA Street" and "Need for Speed Underground" ran amazingly well on the PSP. Other features include wireless play and a rechargeable lithium ion battery.
So, you want one now, right? The bad news: The PSP probably won't be in stores until March, and the price is still up in the air.
Nintendo's newest hand-held, really the next generation of GameBoy, will change the way you play games. Why? Because Nintendo DS, as it is code-named, has two screens. (DS stands for dual screen.) Imagine playing "Metroid" on the bottom screen while at the same time looking at a real-time map on the upper screen. Or playing a football game on the bottom screen and calling your plays on the upper screen? Pretty cool. Each screen is going to measure 3 inches and display high-quality 3-D graphics.
Another feature of the DS is the touch screen. Players will be able to move, shoot and interact with their games just by touching the screen -- with their fingers or with the included stylus.
And the Nintendo DS will be able to play all your old GameBoy games. It not only has two screens but two slots, one for the new game format and one for GameBoy games.
Like the PSP, the Nintendo DS is wireless-compatible. On a local wireless network, 16 players can play at once at a range of up to 30 feet. Web surfing and instant messaging also will be available.
Nintendo DS probably will be in stores before the end of the year, but it won't be cheap. The hand-held is expected to sell for at least $200.
-- Tom Ham