Greetings, gaming aficionados! Today, let’s dive into the world of the WonderSwan, a handheld gem that doesn’t always grab the spotlight. Developed by the legendary Gunpei Yokoi (yes, the genius behind the Game Boy) and brought to us by Bandai, it’s a console with a story that’s begging to be told. Join me as we explore the journey of the WonderSwan, explore its evolution, and take a stroll down the gaming memory lane.
Unveiling the WonderSwan: A Blast from the Past
Picture the late ’90s, where the handheld gaming titans, such as the Game Boy and Neo Geo Pocket ruled the scene. In an attempt to shake things up, Bandai released the WonderSwan: a handheld device that offered a superior battery life, an affordable price, and with the option to play games vertically.
The original WonderSwan with a black and white screen
It was in 1999 when Bandai debuted this new handheld console, but what it promised to be a revolution within the gaming cosmos, it soon became apparent that it couldn’t compete against Nintendo and its popular Game Boy.
One of the reasons to this was none other than the decision of releasing the WonderSwan as a black and white console when Nintendo already released the Game Boy Color the previous year, in 1998. It wouldn’t be until one year and a few months later, in December 2000, when Bandai finally released the WonderSwan Color; a technological marvel that breathed life into the once monochromatic world. Thanks to this update, the game library expanded, offering everything from classic RPGs to mind-bending puzzles.
Bandai released in 2002 the WonderSwan Crystal, a redesign of the previous WonderSwan Color and with a much better screen. Sadly, Nintendo released in 2001 its Game Boy Advance, and once again, the WonderSwan was unable to compete against Nintendo’s handheld, leading to its discontinuation in 2003.
Hidden Features: The Quirks That Made WonderSwan Special
If the WonderSwan wasn’t released outside Japan, and it was discontinued only after being in the market for four years… does it mean the WonderSwan was a complete failure? Well, the answer is: not at all! In fact, it sold pretty well in Japan, but unfortunately not enough for Bandai to taste the waters and try to sell it outside the country.
The WonderSwan is, however, a console full of wonders that was a little bit ahead of its time; its accessories offered a unique and futuristic experience that couldn’t be found in any other handheld console at the time:
- The WonderBorg: A bug-shaped robot that you could configurate and control with the WonderSwan!!
The WonderBorg next to a Wonderswan. Source: WonderWeek第2弾 WonderSwan用ロボットシステム「WonderBorg」
- The MobileWonderGate: Partnered with the Japanese mobile phone provider Docomo, this device allowed you to connect to the internet by using a mobile phone and to receive downloadable content for some games!
- The WonderWave: A communication adapter that could be used with some games to exchange data with the PocketStation (does the name sound familiar? Yes, this was the first Sony handheld console!)
- The WonderWitch: For all the programmers out there: with this kit you were able to program your own WonderSwan games by using a PC!
- The WonderCoin: Too many buttons? This coin-shaped pad allowed the buttons of the WonderSwan to become a single pad!
An Extensive Game Library That’s Worth Exploring
The WonderSwan has 109 games! – Quite impressive if we think about its short life. The good thing about it? There is a game for everyone: Whether you’re into RPGs, fighting games, puzzles or strategy games, this console got you covered!
One of the most characteristic and unique games for the WonderSwan is Gunpey. named after Gunpei Yoki, this enigmatic puzzle game was meant to be played vertically! (let’s not forget that you can play vertically or horizontally with the WonderSwan)
Asuka from Evangelion with a WonderSwan and the game Gunpey
And what about exclusives? Well, pretty much the whole game library is full of exclusives, so you would be part of this special club where you can get to enjoy this one-of-a-kind experience that you can’t find anywhere else! – And if you like anime? You’re even luckier, since a fair amount of its games are from popular anime and manga, such as Inuyasha, One Piece, Sakura Card Captor, etc.!
As stated previously, the WonderSwan didn’t make it outside Japan, which means that all its game library is in complete Japanese, but don’t panic! – Take this opportunity to practice the language and to get a taste of the country while having fun and, who knows, maybe one day you could be playing them in Japan!
Image from the Inuyasha game, Inuyasha: Kagome no Sengoku Nikki
Where to Get Your WonderSwan: The Hunt Begins
You’ve come all the way here and you’re ready to go on a quest to find this gaming relic, but where to start? – If you’re outside Japan, your best chance might be exploring websites like eBay. If you’re in Japan, you could wander the specialised retro gaming shops, like Surugaya or Mandarake (as well as their websites). Mercari, Yahoo auctions and some listings might also reveal hidden treasures for the savvy seeker.
Rediscovering the Charms of the WonderSwan
While the WonderSwan might not be very known by the general public, it holds a special place in the hearts of those who get to experience its magic. Whether you’re an anime fan wanting to play your favourite anime game, or a gamer yearning for a trip down memory lane, the WonderSwan promises a unique experience that can transcend time – Are you ready to rediscover the wonders of this forgotten handheld gaming device?🎮