games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Console Redesigns

June 6, 2017 | Posted by Marc Morrison

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about console redesigns. Now, I’m usually a fan of redesigns as they (generally) make the core system better, or more compact, or fix certain design issues with the original system. My main criteria for this list is that the redesign has to be able to play all (or at least most) of the original system’s games, and can’t have anything redesign specific. So, for example, the Gameboy Color wouldn’t fit because it had GBC-specific games, but something like the Gameboy Pocket would. With that said, let’s begin:

#8: Gameboy Light

This is an odd pick since the Gameboy Light never came out in America. Still, I have tried one out and it is rad. It’s basically the same form as a Gameboy Pocket only it has an additional switch placement at the top. When you press it, it activates an indigo blue backlight so you can see the screen in dark conditions. It’s not the best backlight in the world, in fact it looks like those early 90’s era ones, but it was still useful. Plus, the mixing of the greens of the Gameboy screen and the blue light make certain games interesting. It’s not the most revolutionary redesign, but I still thought it was cool.

#7: NES Top Loader

The NES redesign is odd because the actual system is ugly as sin. The original NES has a very boxy but classic look that is pretty timeless. The redesigned NES has a lot of curves but looks really aged, even more so than the original NES. However, it’s on here because it actually fixes a critical NES design problem, removing the cartridge slot/spring unit. Because the Top Loader just involves you sliding a game in it, and not reliant on a spring that can fail over time or a cartridge slot that can have bent pins. So, while the console itself is ugly, it does fix some critical design flaws of the original NES.

#6: PS3 Slim

Again, this is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to console redesigns. On the plus side, it’s a whole lot smaller, more reliable and doesn’t weigh 10 pounds. The negative aspect is that it completely removed the backward compatibility functionality, which was/still is cool. Granted, even the “fat” PS3 models were getting rid of it, but it’s still a bummer. If there was a PS3 Slim model with full backwards computability, I’d buy it in a second. Also, the super slim model, while having a huge hard drive, is pretty poor. But whatever happened to the Spider-Man font?!

#5: PSP Go

The PSP Go was goofy but a high level of goofy I can dig. They shrunk the PSP down, removed the UMD drive, added in some flash storage and added in a screen that can slide up and down to cover the controls but also make it more portable. The device arguably failed due to the declining sales of the PSP, a lack of a way to transfer UMD games to it, and combining ports into one singular port, which was strange. The actual best PSP redesign was the 2000 model, which had the best screen of all of them, but I applaud the PSP Go for just being weird as hell.

#4: Nintendo DS Light

Without question the DSi is a much better overall system, with an integrated online store front, faster processor, two cameras, more system ram, internal storage, etc. However, the DS Light does have three things over it. The first is battery power, without question the DS Light had a killer battery life that could wipe the floor with the DSi. The second is the Gameboy slot, it’s the last system with it, and having that was a nice nod to how long and dominate the Gameboy was. Lastly, the design. Granted, the DSi pretty much used the same design as the DS Light but that’s because it’s a good design and light years ahead of the ugly design of the original DS.

#3: Sega CDX

I’ve never had a CDX but I’ve always wanted one. It’s a combo unit which has a Sega Genesis and Sega CD into one unit. It’s also small enough to kind of be used as a portable CD player, although it is still a pretty hefty unit. The Sega Nomad was a further evolution of this idea, at least partially, by having a (large) portable Genesis. The CDX is still a cooler unit though, just because of the design and functionality.

#2: Xbox One S

What the PS3 Slim was to the original PS3, the Xbox One S is to the original Xbox One. It can now fit on shelves without causing them to break, has an internal power supply, actual buttons on the front, and has the 4K blu-ray crap that still 95% of people can’t even use. Still, the Xbox One S is such a mammoth step forward in the evolution of the Xbox One that it has to be here. Now if only people would care about the system.

#1: Gameboy Advance SP

The GBA SP was the best console redesign, hands down. Aside from adding the completely needed and important backlight, the new redesign of the GBA was superb. They shrunk the unit and made the thing a flip-top console with the screen protecting the controls when it’s not in use. The SP was the second most portable system there was, aside from the Gameboy Micro which had a screen too small to be any practical use. You can whine about the GBA SP not having a microphone jack, but it was still the best designed handheld of all time.

For comments, list which console redesigns you’ve liked the most and why.

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The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison