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Recently Nintendo released its new 'Gameboy Advance' - the successor to the colour gameboy - and very nice it looks too. I haven't had the chance to play on one yet seeing as I am too poor to justify the outlay but I am seriously impressed by the system. Saying this though I remember when I was the same age as the kid next door to me now (who will probably get a GBA for christmas) and I get a sense of Deja-Vu. The thing is - all these flashy graphics and sound on a handheld have been done before. Come with me for a quick trip down memory lane. The year is 1989 and Atari have just released a new all-powerful handheld games system - The Atari Lynx - the worlds first ever colour handheld. It had a 4096 colour palette of which 16 could be displayed onscreen at once (though clever programmers managed to get more colours onscreen through technical trickery) and 4 channel stereo sound. Around the same time Nintendo released the original gameboy which was pathetic in comparison - only having black and white graphics and much less powerful hardware. It looked like the Lynx was set to rule the world as far as portable gaming went. Of course it was not without its problems - for a start it was big, very big. Noone in their right mind would ever describe it as pocket sized. Atari did remedy this to some degree with the release of the Lynx II which was exactly the same system but smaller. Another problem was battery life - only 4 or 5 hours with a decent set - definitely a problem for financially challenged 10 year olds. The mark of a great system is the games you can get for it and the Lynx had some great games. Rygar was one of the first that my brother had - a conversion of an excellent side scrolling arcade game - we loved it. How about Desert Strike - the classic that was also released for the Amiga, Megadrive and Super Nintendo. Then we have the revolutionary 3d racing game - Hard Drivin'. Other greats that some of you may o
r may not recognise include Double Dragon, Lemmings, Paperboy, Stun Runner, Road Blasters, Hydra and Guantlet. These were and still are excellent games that are still very playable today if you can find a Lynx somewhere (I am still looking for a decent one if anyone knows where I can get it). For those of you who don't want to go to the hassle of getting an original machine and finding the cartridges we have the wonder of emulation and this is where 'Handy' comes in. Handy is a piece of (FREE) software that makes your computer think it is an Atari Lynx. In essence it provides a software version of the original hardware. Then you download copies of the original cartridges (since plugging Lynx cartridges directly into a PC would be difficult to say the least) and you are away - playing the game exactly as would appear on the original. Why this this emulator called Handy you may ask - well originally the Lynx was created by a company called Epyx and called it The Handy. Atari bought the hardware off them before it was released and renamed it The Lynx. Emulation is as much art as it is a science and it can be difficult for the emulator programmer to create software that behaves exactly like the original hardware - there are all sorts of undocumented features that must be figured out and implemented. Due to this not all games will run on emulators as some may use esoteric features that the emulator coder has not figured out yet. Handy is very good in this respect and played most of the games that I tested with no problems (and I have tested quite a few). You can play in windowed or full screen mode and have sound emulation switched on or off depending on your requirements. There are various graphics options that allow you to do things like simulate the Lynx's LCD screen, or smooth the graphics out a little. Alternatively you can just put it into normal mode and see how the Lynx would have looked if it could have output
to a monitor. One problem that I had with Handy when I first came across it is speed. Considering that it is emulating an old system it needs some quite powerful kit to run at full speed. But I had this problem a couple of years back with my ageing 233Mhz Pentium. Any modern PC should have no problems at all in this department. One final thing that I would like to see is support for Zipfiles. If you go looking for Lynx games on the net you will download them all compressed in a zipfile but to use them in Handy you need to unzip them first. Most Emulators for other systems that you can get these days can read directly from the zipfile as standard. This is only a minor gripe however and after all - Handy is free. Many emulators are still updated as the author figures new things out or makes improvements to the user interface or whatever and Handy is no exception. Looking on the website though the last update was in January 2001 - so it has been some time since the last update. This is to be expected though since the author is doing this in his spare time. So all in all Handy is a great emulator for a great system. In an ideal world I would advise you to get looking in second hand shops for the original because allthough the Gameboy Advance is more powerful the Lynx is a LOT cheaper now - and it has taken Nintendo over 11 years to catch up with Atari. Not everyone is an ancient game nut like me though and the next best thing to the original is Handy.
The lynx was a complete flop failing to live up to the hype. With the competition being extremly high you can understand why. But what is the point of downloading a emulator that just emulator old bad games that wern't even a sucess when they were cutting edge and now just look awful. Although the emulator does work extremly well it is beyond me why the developers didn't chose to use there expertise in a different platform such as gameboy of playstation. If you understand any logic behind that decision please e-amil me!