Review by Ze ro
Reviewed: 12/27/01 | Updated: 12/27/01
A great system that is only now being outdone.
At the time, the graphics of this little system were top of the line: 4096 colors (same as the Game Gear), and the biggest screen for any of the handhelds on the market. Not to mention that the Lynx has hardware scaling and rotation, which is really used to advantage in a lot of games to do effects that you don't see often on the competing systems.
Some of the best graphics for this system appear in games like Dirty Larry: Renegade Cop, and Batman Returns. And if all that wasn't enough, there's even some games for this system that manage 3D graphics! Among these are Stun Runner, Hard Drivin', and Steel Talons (all arcade ports). Granted, the polygon graphics aren't as smooth as a Playstation... but for a portable system running on an 8-bit processor, it's a pretty impressive feat!
The only problem I have with the system is the backlight, which seems to cause some strange brightness problems where the top and bottom of the screen end up being of different brightness. It's not a huge problem, but it can be annoying for games that play vertically like Klax.
Again, the system scores big. I've heard a lot of complaints about the music out of the Lynx, but I've never found them to be valid. Games like Malibu Bikini Volleyball prove that this system is indeed capable of some good music (The system can only do so much... the rest is programming), and many games have in-game speech that sounds surprisingly good for a portable system.
It should be pointed out that there are two versions of the Lynx out there... one of them (the older one) uses mono for the headphones, while the newer one (with the backlight button) uses stereo. I'm not sure how many games actually do stereo sound out of the Lynx though...
I was always a little disappointed by the lack of buttons on handhelds... even the GameBoy Advance only has 4 main buttons for some reason! The Lynx has a normal D-pad (which is fairly large, especially for a portable system (this is good)), two action buttons (B and A), two option buttons, and a pause button (sorta like having two select buttons and a start button). Overall, this works well except for one complaint: The second option button (and even the pause button) are a little awkwardly placed, and aren't the easiest buttons to hit in an emergency.
One of the cool features of the Lynx is that you can play it left or right handed. The way this works is by hitting Pause and Option II at the same time, the screen flips, and the controls are ''reversed'' so that you can play with your right thumb on the D-pad. There are an extra set of B and A buttons that are generally more comfortable to use in this configuration, but they are always active, so you can actually use them at any time. I would have preferred to have two extra buttons instead of two clone buttons... but oh well.
Another of the Lynx's nifty features is that some games play vertically. That is, you hold the Lynx sideways, so that the screen is taller than it is wide. This may not seem like a very useful idea, but it works well in games like Klax which were meant for such a screen orientation (remember the arcade version?). The screen-flip feature still works on these games so that you can play with either the D-pad under the screen, or above the screen... as for which is more comfortable, well, I guess it's up to you. Personally, I find it more comfortable to hold it with the D-pad under the screen, and my left hand on the D-pad... but your milage may vary (this is one of the good things in my opinion, since it lets you choose what you like).
All the buttons are nice and responsive, as is the D-pad. None of the controls are excessively small like in the GameBoy Advance, and you shouldn't have any trouble getting used to them.
Compared to the other systems on the market, the Lynx has a surprising amount of features! I've already mentioned the screen-flipping capabilities, and the vertical/horizontal gameplay... so this section will be short. Another feature is the backlight button, which (unfortunately) is only present on later model Lynx's. This button will turn off the screen without turning off the Lynx's power. This way, if you have to pause a game, you can turn off the screen and not have to worry about wasting battery life. Speaking of battery life, I should mention that you'll only get about 5 or 6 hours of battery life... which is about average for a system with a backlight (the GBA may be able to go for 15 hours or so... but the screen isn't of the same quality as the Lynx). There is an option for a ''battery pack'', which holds 6 C batteries. Personally, I don't think this is terribly useful, given the price and availability of C batteries... I'd recommend an AC adaptor, or a cigarette lighter adaptor if you're in the car.
I'm not sure what section of this review this falls into, but the Lynx also supports multiplayer. And not only can it network with other Lynx's... but you can link up to 8 Lynx's without any extra hardware (like the GameBoy 4-player adaptor). All you need is 7 ComLynx cables. Of course, the popularity of this system limits your chances for network play, but it's still a great aspect. You can't play off one cartridge like the GBA can, but this feature is overrated in my opinion.
Yes, the Lynx has always had fairly poor 3rd party support. This has limited the Lynx to only around 80 games... which can hardly compete with the GameBoy's thousands of games, and I'm sure the GBA already has more than 80 games for it. However, the amount of good games among that 80 is surprisingly high. There are a lot of quality arcade translations, such as Klax, Rygar, Stun Runner, and even Pit Fighter. There are also a lot of well done original games for the Lynx, such as Dirty Larry and Crystal Mines II.
One complaint I do have about the games though, is that they are generally not very large. That is, even for a game like Dirty Larry with great graphics, the game gets a little old since there are only a few different enemies, and the level graphics repeat themselves fairly often. This makes some games become fairly monotonous, but in general, this is not a problem. On the other end of things, games like Chip's Challenge and Crystal Mines II have a huge amount of levels that will take you a very long time to finish.
Another consequence of such a small library is that there are not a great deal of RPG's or fighting games, and other genre's are not well represented unfortunately. What the Lynx does have though are generally quality titles. There are also games still being produced for this system in limited quantities. For more information, check http://songbird.atari.net
This is a wonderful little system with a lot of interesting features. It's a shame that it was poorly supported by developers, and it's surprising that it took so long for a handheld to finally out-do the Lynx (I'm referring to the GBA). If you can manage to find one of these systems around, I recommend you buy it... it'll provide many hours of gaming enjoyment despite it's age.
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