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Finally, let there be light! New Game Boy illuminating

Nintendo has seen the light.


The new and greatly improved Game Boy Advance SP goes on sale Mar. 23 for $99.95.

Is it worth it? Is the sky blue?

Nintendo has been stubbornly refusing to light the Game Boy screen since the first one crawled from the factory in 1989. Even when they did the excellent redesign to create the Game Boy Advance, the screen remained resolutely dark.

The decision spawned dozens of often bizarre aftermarket systems for illuminating the screen, but none really provided the uniform light needed to see the little image clearly.

The new 5-ounce Game Boy Advance SP will be issued initially in two colors, platinum and cobalt, an icy metallic blue. It's got a brand new shape — about 3 inches square and an inch thick — and folds closed to protect the liquid crystal display screen, which is the same size as the current GBA.

It also ends the need to replace batteries. A rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery is sealed into the case, providing 10 hours of continuous play with the light on or 18 hours with the light off. Recharging takes about three hours with the supplied charger.

Nintendo says the battery should last about three years with normal use. If you haven't lost the machine or broken it by then, the battery can be replaced at selected retailers.

Inside, it's the same mighty mite as before, with a 32-bit CPU capable of displaying more than 32,000 colors.

If you want to continue tying your eyeballs in knots, the current GBA will remain available for $20 to $30 less.

There currently are some 300 GBA titles which will work perfectly with the new machine. As with the GBA, it will also play games originally designed for the Game Boy Color and the original Game Boy.

Lift the screen and the lower section is revealed. In the center is the speaker; to the left is the directional pad and the A and B buttons are on the right. Above the speaker is the light switch, while the Select and Start buttons are at the bottom. Shoulder buttons are on the upper left and right corners.

Playing both old favorites — THQ's "Tetris Worlds" and Id's "Doom II" — and the newer "Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land" from HAL Laboratories showed the wisdom of illuminating the screen.

Where "Tetris" was barely playable and the dark "Doom II" was impossible on the GBA, both were easy to see on the new machine. "Kirby," with its bright, uncluttered graphics, was a delight.

Nintendo gets a round of applause for their latest creation, and a few tomatoes for waiting so long.