SwanCrystal Review  

 
   In my opinion,  Gunpei Yokoi will go down in video game history as the most influential person in portable video gaming. He is responsible for the Nintendo "Game & Watch" series and he is the father of the Nintendo Gameboy. Somehow or another he ended up leaving Nintendo and ended up at Bandi before his tragic death.  While there, the result of his work produced the Wonderswan, and Wonderswan color. This little handheld made a surprising small little dent in the Japanese handheld market dominated by Nintendo. I think that this is only because of the exclusive merchandise of the Final Fantasy RPG series that Bandi had at the time on the Wonderswan color. They also had their own Gundam, One Piece, and Digimon series of games that has their fan base. The SwanCrystal later came out as an improved Wonderswan color. It had a better LCD screen.
     Holding it in your hands you will quickly notice that, next to the "original" GBA, this little portable is smaller, slim, trim, sleek, and light weight. It really fits snug and comfortable in my hands. There is only a bulge at the bottom backside where the battery resides. There is no headphone jack. You have to purchase a separate attachment that plugs into a place right below the speaker on the right side of the system to use headphones. There is only one small speaker of the same quality as a GBA system. The system is a very nice quality built unit. I have seen it in a lot of colors. This household has three colors consisting of pinkish red, blue clear, and black smoke clear housing. I really like the way the game cart almost seamlessly blends in with the system's housing. Nothing sticks out. I also like the nice plastic sleeve that comes with each game, which is used for storing the game cart.

Screen:

It has a 2.8 inch diagonal TFT reflective LCD. There is no backlight. This was before backlighting became a standard as it is today. The "original" GBA, which was the dominate competition, did not have backlighting at the time. In a good light or daylight the colors are rich and vibrant. The animation in the games is amazingly good. Most games have very detailed graphics. Even though the system is 16 bit, it could still stand toe to toe, and did, with the GBA which is a 32 bit system. There is an excellent refresh rate with no ghosting or blur. I will also point out that the screen is not recessed.

Controls:

Lots and lots of buttons! Instead of the normal directional cross button, we have the four button configuration as a Playstation game pad would have. As a matter of fact, we have two of these! Adding up to eight buttons for your left thumb! Why? Because the system is designed this way to enable it to be turned around long ways for games like Bust-A-Move, Puyo Puyo, Crazy Climber, etc. You will also find special move buttons in the upper bunch when playing fighting games. On your right you have only an "A" and "B' button. You have a power, start, and sound button. The sound is controlled by a button, giving you three levels of volume not including silence. The power button is recessed into the casing, I guess that is so you don't accidentally turn off the system. It works sort-of like one of my laptops, you hold it down until it comes on then you release.


Games:

The games are all in Japanese. I have only one that is in English. I have no idea why. It is a double cart containing two Digimon games. It was called Veedraman Verson. And the games on the cart are Anode Tamer and Cathode Tamer.   The system and games were never released outside of Japan. Even so there are a lot of the games that are very playable by someone like me who knows only two words in Japanese. All of the fighting games are playable like Guilty Gear Petite 1 & 2, Pocket Fighter, (Which has been the only handheld that has had this game.) and One Piece Swan Colosseum. Puzzle games like Puyo Puyo and Bust-A-Move need no Japanese knowledge. I have some side scrolling action games that can be played like Buffers Evolution, SD Gundam Operation UC, and Gundam Seed. The Gundam Seed game has some story element to it and it feels like you are missing something when you are playing. I feel that this does take away from the gaming experience in this game, which I feel is a great shooter action game. But if you have seen the movie you can guess what is going on. Most of the Digimon games are fighters, some are RPGs. I would rather play the Digimon games on this system than play the ported ones on the GBA. They are that much better, I guess because they were made for this system. I do have Final Fantasy 2, but again this game is not playable by someone like me. Japanese is a must know when playing a game like this. I did download  a translated version of the game one time and tried playing it on the computer as I played it on the Swancrystal while simultaneously playing it on the GBA. Yeah, I know what you are thinking, weird. But I did learn something by doing this, the English version is dumb down for our western culture. It is more kid friendly? There seem to be elements of the story that added to the whole story line experience in the original. Now for something really sad that makes one want to cry. This system was loaded down with RPG games. If only they had taken an interest to market it in English speaking countries. I wish I could get a hold of Klonoa: Moonlight Museum, an action platform game. It is very rare and expensive whenever I see it available. There is a platform game that I have that is a side scroller called Lime Rider Keroikan. It is one of those "press the button to the beat" sort-of games, kind of like Dance Dance Revolution for your finder tips. Only it controls your characters jumps as the game scrolls through the level. Really, purchasing the games is sort-of touch and go. You really don't know if you will be able to play them or not until you first turn on the unit. There seems to be no list anywhere that I have found on the net that gives you any knowledge of, "you must know Japanese to play this game." Some games are in black and white which were made for the first system. Like the GB, the games can be passed down to the newer and better system. On the down side, the games are getting harder and harder to find.

Power:
This thing is powered by only one AA battery. It can get up to 15 hours or more playtime on that one battery. Which is amazing. I have a rechargeable battery that I got a hold of, but it does me no good because I have never been able to locate a charger. The rechargeable is flat and blends in with the outward housing of the system making it more compact. There is no AC adapter jack. The battery is in a little plastic shell that slides in and out of the unit. As you push it into place it clicks and locks with a little button that you have to lift with your thumb in order to pull it out. There is also a second lock located at the bottom righthand side of the unit adjacent to the battery compartment. It is a slide button when pushed toward the compartment, locks it in place even more. You are not going to lose your battery.

Special Things:

As I have mentioned above, there is a place on the right side of the unit for a separate headphone jack attachment. This input is also made for a host of other things. I have seen available an attachment that enables to get your email on the Wonderswan using cell phone technology with services only available in Japan. There is also an attachment to control this robot bug sort-of thing called "WonderBorg." There was a Digimon device that plugged into this thing. The input is also used, with a special cable, to hook two systems together for two player gameplay.
Another thing that was released for this system was a flash card with a kit that enabled you to program your own games. It is very rare to ever see this up on ebay for sell. If you do see it, it will be very expensive. I have only seen it once. It is called "WonderWitch." Judgement Silver Sword is a result of this kit that won a contest and was released for sell. And has become a rare collectors item.

Pros:

Low battery consumption
Digimon, Gundam, and One Piece games


Cons:

Must know Japanese to play a lot of the games
Games are very hard to find
No backlight
To use headphones requires purchasing an attachment module.
Screen not recessed

Final Thoughts:
     From the first, when I started hearing and reading about this little system, I had to have it. I started with the fighters and am moving outward from that. The games are fun and have that Japanese twist in them. My favorite is One Piece Swan Colosseum, a fun and funny fighter. The quality and fun of the games are everything that we have come to expect from a Japanese system, especially when Gunpei has had his hands on it. For Digimon fans this is a must have. The Swancrystal Digimon games have better graphics, animation, and gameplay than the ported GBA games. And, not all of the games have been ported to the GBA. This is a good little system for that collector or gamer who loves 2-D gaming experiences. I had mine in a Gamestop one time looking for a st
orage case and the workers went crazy over One Piece. A great big thumbs up for this one.
You do not have to know Japanese to play all of these games!

Digimon Battle Spirit
Digimon: Zero Two
(RPG Reading Japanese is needed to get into the story)
Digimon Battle Spirit 1.5
Battle Spirit: Digimon Tamers
Digimon: Veedraman Verson

Buffers Evolution
Guilty Gear Petite 1
Guilty Gear Petite 2
Puyo Puyo
Puyo Puyo 2
Bust-A-Move
Klonoa: Moonlight Museum
One Piece Swan Colosseum
Lime Rider Keroikan

SD Gundam Operation UC (repetitive shooter action, leveling up for character)
Pocket Fighter


Gundam Seed ( is playable, but knowing Japanese would really add to the gaming experience. Just shooting action apart from that. Great graphics in this one! I do know that it does follow the movie story line.)

Pitiful list I know. This is from the ones that I own. I feel that there are a lot more games than this that are playable without knowing the native language, like
Crazy Climber, Magical Drop, Mr. Driller, or Rockman/Megaman. I am slowly adding to my collection as I see something become available, from that, this list will grow. I was really surprised at how few games I had when I started this review. Must get more.
SwanCrystal
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The all purpose input located on the right side of the system.
GBA cart on the left as reference. The PC board on the Swan cart is exposed on one side. There is good plastic support on the backside. I like the thick plastic storage sleeve.
I just love that crazy Japanese box art!! They go so overboard.
It is very hard to get a good picture of a non-backlit screen. First you have to get it in the light just right and then there is the glare you have to deal with.
Smaller and less powerful than the competition and still packed a good punch!
All of the components are well integrated and compact. The cart fits with a tongue and grove design on the sides, so that it slides into place.
The battery in a removable drawer? How interesting. And powered by only one AA? How unique.
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