Welcome to Collectors Corner! Each week I’ll be bringing you a special article on the special editions of consoles and other Nintendo merchandise that I love. Ever since I was a kid, Nintendo’s special editions have stood out to me, and I’m excited to share that passion with you all.
From one collector to another
For as long as I can remember, Nintendo has played an extremely central role in my life. I was first introduced to Nintendo, and video games in general, in the basement of my best friend’s house. I was no more than three or four, and Super Mario 64 was by far the coolest thing I had ever seen. When I went home that night, I remember telling my mom something about Mario, and she responded to that by bringing her old SNES out of the basement, along with a copy of Super Mario All Stars. We played together for hours. This day spent playing Mario with my mom cemented Nintendo into my heart, and I’ll always look back on it fondly.
I’ve owned every Nintendo handheld released since the Game Boy Color, with the exception of the DSi XL and the 2DS. When I was younger, I was inseparable from my handhelds. Not much has changed on that front over the years. There’s something about handheld games that has always caught my eye and kept my attention. The portability, to me, was always so appealing. I could go anywhere: a friend’s house, grandma’s, vacations, and still be able to play. Even now, if I’m going somewhere other than work, I’ll throw my New 3DS XL and some games in my bag, just in case. My Game Boy Color was almost exclusively a Pokémon playing machine, but as I got older other games joined the rotation. Lately, I’ve been working on finishing my back catalogue of 3DS games in preparation for Pokémon Sun and Moon. Right now, I’m working on the final dungeon of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and up next are Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon.
Nintendo has a fun habit of releasing special editions of almost every piece of hardware it’s released. The handhelds I love are no stranger to this habit, dating all the way back to a limited edition Game Boy with a silhouette of Wario right below the screen, an edition that was only given away in the U.K. from a Saturday morning TV Show called Ghost Train.
One of the first limited edition Game Boy consoles
These special editions were usually just a new color scheme, but now include special artwork, and are usually bundled with a game. I’ve owned my fair share of special edition consoles, and have lusted after many others. This is the first in a series of articles designed to showcase the special edition consoles that I love. The highlight this week will be Nintendo’s game-changing, back-lit, rechargeable mega hit, the GameBoy Advance SP.
The GBA SP is the handheld that I logged the most time on when I was a kid, logging 400+ hours on Pokémon Leaf Green alone, not to mention many other games. I still own my original, platinum GBA SP, now covered extensively in stickers. I’ll pop it open from time to time to play a quick game or two, these days it’s usually Namco Museum or Pokémon Fire Red. I never did own any of these special edition consoles, because I never really had any reason to buy another one when mine was still alive and kicking. At least, that’s what my mom told me.
The Classic NES GBA SP was launched as part of a Classic NES campaign on June 7th, 2004. Its release coincided with the release of a series of eight classic NES games on the Game Boy Advance system: Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Excitebike, Ice Climber, Xevious and Bomberman. I view the release of these titles and this nostalgia-charged GBA SP as the beginnings of Nintendo’s quest to bring an older generation of gamers back into the fold, while getting younger gamers in on the games their parents loved. This quest led us to Nintendo’s incredible Virtual Console platform, allowing us to enjoy countless classic games on our newer consoles.
My brother once almost won this Classic NES GBA SP from an arcade game inside of a movie theatre. He spent what seemed like enough money to just go buy the handheld in quarters trying to win it, claiming that he was “almost there” with each and every quarter he put into the machine.
Lime and Orange
This gorgeous GBA SP was released late in October of 2004. It’s been said that it was released to promote Shrek 2 and its video game counterparts, but the only evidence I can find of that is that Shrek 2 for GBA was only $10 at Toys”R”Us and Amazon if you bought it with this GBA SP. I have no idea why Shrek 2 is the game associated with this console, when Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen were released a mere month before it. It seems like it would have been an easy marketing strategy, which probably would have sold far more systems than Shrek 2 did. This poor GBA SP has a notorious history of being the absolute ugliest handheld Nintendo had ever released. Nonetheless, I thought it was cool when I was 11, and I still think it’s cool, 11 years later. In fact, I’m currently begging my wife to let me buy one on eBay.
Black “Who Are You?”
This all-black GBA SP was released sometime in September 2004 and was exclusive to Walmart stores. It featured the “Who Are You?” graffiti logo that Nintendo was using to promote its games and consoles at the time. I distinctly remember these wacky commercials picturing the GBA SP in various colors doing things that a Game Boy could not normally do: skydiving, operating a jukebox, and (I think) getting a tattoo. As far as I can remember, all of these commercials ended with this logo. The system also features white buttons and rubber, as opposed to the typical dark-gray. That graffiti font was definitely the coolest thing little 11-year-old me had ever seen on just about anything. Sadly, I never actually saw one in person and was only ever able to see this beauty online.
This yellow “Pikachu Edition” GBA SP was initially released only in Japanese Pokémon Center stores on March 5th, 2005, and later released exclusively in Toys”R”Us stores in the U.S. This electric rodent-themed handheld features an all-yellow body with brown buttons on the inside, along with black shoulder buttons. This console also has Pikachu’s face on the lid and a silhouette of the Pokémon mascot on the inside. Being an avid Pokémon fan since I was young, this GBA SP was a must-have for me. Sadly, I was never able to get my hands on one. They go for around $100-$150 used on Amazon right now, but if you want a new one, you’ll have to shell out $800.
This special “Rayquaza Edition” system is the only system on this list to never be released in the U.S. Released exclusively in Japan on September 16th, 2004, this system’s release tied in with the entry of Pokémon Emerald. This color is the best looking green I have ever seen on a console, and I would have loved to own one back in the day. These days, I don’t care much for Rayquaza, whose silhouette is pictured on the lid and inside of the console, but that deep green will win me over every time. If you’re interested in looking for one, you can find them on eBay for around $200.
There you have it! It’s only the first entry in and I’ve only touched the surface of special editions by looking into some of my favorite Game Boy Advance SP releases! There were many, many more special editions of this console released, and I know your favorites are sure to differ from mine. Let us know if you have a favorite that I didn’t mention– we’d love to hear from you!
Stay tuned for the rest of the entries in this series where we’ll be highlighting some of the best special edition Nintendo consoles.