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4 Odd and Unusual Handhelds from the Game Industry's Past


gaiages

We took a look at some odd gaming controllers, but that isn't the only place where the gaming industry had some growing pains. When gaming was trying to figure out what to make of a handheld, we got some very... unique results. Portable systems may have found a niche in the Nintendo DS (who knew two screens would work so well?) and the PlayStation Portable/Vita, it took a lot of trial and error to get to this point.

 

So let's look at some of the oddities the gaming industry has given us in terms of portable hardware over the years!

 


 

WonderSwan

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This Japanese-only handheld is first on our list. The WonderSwan and its later models may look like a relatively normal system, but further inspection will bring notice to the second set of buttons on the left side. What is it, another d-pad?

 

Actually, the unusual thing about the WonderSwan is that you can play it both horizonically and vertically. Yes, you sometimes turn the handheld on its side and play with the two sets of buttons! Bandai thought of this way before the DS and Brain Age put that system on its side.

 


 

N-Gage

 

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Ah, the N-Gage... it can't be an odd handheld showcase without this weird device in it! The N-Gage is pretty infamous in the gaming industry for being such a big flop. In fact, the handheld couldn't decide if it was a gaming device, a phone, or an MP3 player, being a jack of all trades while excelling at nothing.

 

Basically, the N-Gage tried to be a smartphone before technology could handle it. So, what we got instead of an iPhone was a clunky handheld with no games and trying to use it as a phone made you look and feel silly. I guess it's a good thing this one was only released in the US!

 


 

TurboExpress

 

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Out of all the handhelds featured here, the TurboExpress looks the most... normal. At first glance, this portable looks like a Game Boy knock-off, but underneath its rather bland looks is a system that's rather bizarre and, quite frankly, ahead of its time. See, the point of the TurboExpress was to play TurboGrafx-16 games... which was released only the year before in the US. Such a handheld being able to handle such powerful games was an oddity in itself!

 

Also, for some reason or another, you could use this as a TV. With such a tiny screen it doesn't seem very feasible, but it'd be a nice back-up back in the 90's if your normal TV kicked the bucket. It's probably not so useful nowadays, but that's expected.

 


 

Atari Lynx

 

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Oh, the Atari Lynx. The poor, poor Atari Lynx. Made to rival the original Game Boy back in 1989, and releasing a mere month after Nintendo's brick, the Lynx seemed to have a lot going for it. It had a color screen, the first in the handheld industry, and it was even backlit, something Nintendo wouldn't touch until the Game Boy Advance SP.

 

However, with its superior technology, it just could not hold up against Nintendo's powerhouse handheld. There's a plethora of reasons for that, but... just look at the thing! It's bigger than the Game Gear... and that's the second remodeled version! The Lynx could barely be called a portable device in the first place. Also, oddly enough, there were controls for both left-handed and right-handed players; that's what the two sets of A and B buttons are for. Weird!

 


 

That wraps up this round up of weird portables throughout the ages! In all honestly, all of these systems fall into a simple trap... they were too far ahead of their time. All of these companies tried to do something innovative with their handhelds that was later accepted and used widely in the industry (such as the backlight, and internet connectivity), but the technology wasn't ready for the challenge. It's a shame, really, but there are always causalities of the industry.

 

Have you played any of these portables? Any handheld systems that you thought were just plain weird? Let me know in the comments below!

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