Nintendo just wrapped up its latest Direct presentation, and if you’re a fan of Mario and/or Pokemon, you were eating pretty well by the time the show was over. If you were anyone else? You probably were disappointed. As for the rest of the showcase, Pikmin 4 had one of the longer segments. Yeah, it sure looked like more Pikmin. But the main thing that stuck out to me? That Game Boy Advance SP the little gremlins were carrying to their ship.
The Game Boy Advance SP appears to be one of Pikmin 4’s collectible treasures, which are large scores you can make in the series that sometimes reference real-world brands and items. This includes some non-Nintendo items, like Pikmin 2’s “Quenching Emblem” which is actually the cap from a bottle of 7up. The Game Boy Advance SP, meanwhile, threw me back in time to when I first got the handheld. The SP might be forgotten by some Nintendo fans because it was an iteration of an already-established device. More often than not, when I think of the Game Boy Advance, I still think of the wider purple handheld Nintendo originally released in 2001, but the more I think about it, the more I’m sure I probably spent more time playing Game Boy Advance games on the sleek, foldable version that came out in 2003.
Significantly, the Game Boy Advance SP made backlit handhelds a new standard for Nintendo. Plenty of kids who grew up with the original Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance have stories about needing to use the light in the back of their parents’ car to play their Game Boy on the way home at night. That probably seems unfathomable to kids who have grown up with smartphones or any Nintendo handheld after the SP, but we were fighting for our lives while also fighting gym leaders in the old Pokémon games.
When I got my first black Game Boy Advance SP, it felt like a complete revelation. No longer would I have to deal with my parents yelling at me to turn off the light while they were driving, and I could run Mario levels in peace. This was the sentiment for a lot of people, and eventually, the SP outsold the standard model by several million units. So while the original Game Boy Advance might be more visually associated with the era, the SP really was the star of that generation of Nintendo handhelds. RIP to the Game Boy Micro, but we love a foldable, backlit king.
Even though we’re now 20 years removed from the Game Boy Advance era, it did make me smile to see the SP get a little love in Pikmin 4, because it was a pivoting point for Nintendo’s handhelds. The next step is to find what kid left their priceless gem of a video game device out for the Pikmin to collect and put in their ship. They clearly don’t appreciate what they’ve got and perhaps deserve to have it carried away by tiny little plant people.