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Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Let's face it, the first

Let's face it, the first recognizable gaming handhelds were the Nintendo GameBoy and the Atari Lynx, two diametrically opposed concepts. On one side you had the relatively low tech monochrome 8-bit GameBoy with excellent battery life and smallish size, while on the other side you had the technologically advanced 16-bit color handheld with poor battery life and a bit too much size. The GameBoy featured games from Nintendo - always a plus when it comes to things like Mario - and strong third party support, which was a carry over from the NES. The Lynx had to make do with games mostly from Atari themselves and Epyx, the original benefactors behind the system. More support followed, but it was slow in coming. Of course the GameBoy would eventually get Tetris, which sealed their respective fates forever.

Technologically speaking there really was no contest. The Lynx was better in all ways, with a much better quality (and of course color, in fact 16 colors from a palette of 4,096!) screen and far less smearing, with superior sound. The GameBoy was simply hard to see, hence all the magnifying and lighting accessories sold. The Lynx could also do nifty things, like "rotate" its screen to play games vertically or horizontally for those games that made use of it (the excellent "Gauntlet: The Third Encounter" made excellent use of this), had duplicated buttons on the top and bottom for left or right handed play (you could flip the screen), and it could network together with over a dozen other systems for true competitive play (though of course this was rarely taken advantage of). There were other nifty tricks built into the Lynx, like sprite scaling and rotation.

There actually are many excellent games available for the Lynx, but the larger size, poorer battery life, and lack of a killer app like Tetris (not to mention Atari's weakened financial position) never allowed it to gain critical mass. Eventually the Sega Game Gear and NEC Turbo Express were released and put into the competitive mix, but only the Game Gear made something of an impact. Nevertheless, there has never been a credible threat against Nintendo's handheld dominance until the PSP, and even that fell far short. We'll see how things play out now with the 3DS...

All things considered, with well over 120 games - many of which are unique and/or excellent - the Lynx is definitely worthy of interest, both historical and otherwise. As a long-time Lynx owner, I can say it's a fantastic handheld that really only started to pale with the release of the GameBoy Advance in 2001. Not bad for a system released in 1989, the same year as the original GameBoy.

As for specific games, man it had some great ones, including conversions of arcade games like APB, Klax, Rampage, Rampart, Roadblasters, etc., that match up well with their 16-bit console counterparts (if there even were any in some cases). Overall, its library was really only weak in sports (only a few quality titles) and platformers (featuring only a few mediocre to average ones). Of course it also could have used a few more quality RPGs as well (part of this was due to almost no Japanese support--it was pretty much American and lots of European developers). Of the ones released, again, mostly mediocre, and the really quality ones weren't released (games like Eye of the Beholder, were never released, but it's an excellent version, for instance).

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