Important Importables: Wonderswan

May 23, 2010 - 2:00 am No Comments

Hot Japanese Imports: Wonderswan

Section: Exclusives, Originals, Features, Columns, Japanese Imports, Lists, Handhelds, Handhelds-Other, Game-Companies, Developers, Publishers

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There have been many handheld consoles released, but Bandai’s WonderSwan has the distinction of being fairly unknown. It isn’t too surprising though. The line of handhelds, which spanned three different systems, was only released in Japan and only between 1999 and 2003.

Despite that, the WonderSwan, WonderSwan Color and Swan Crystal were nifty little systems. They had some interesting hallmarks and even some worthwhile games released for them. The more you learn about them, the more you almost wish that Bandai had taken a chance and released it worldwide.



The original WonderSwan could be best compared to the original GameBoy. It displayed games in black and white, used cartridges and ran on batteries. It had a large screen and casing available in a variety of colors. Depending on the game, you’d hold the system either horizontally or vertically. And, if your WonderSwan was having a good couple of days, you could play for almost 40 hours using one AA battery. It could even play some WonderSwan Color, it’s successor’s, games.

Notable games include:

  • Arc the Lad: Kishin Fukkatsu
  • Beatmania
  • Chocobo’s Dungeon
  • Clock Tower: The First Fear
  • Gunpey
  • Hataraku Chocobo
  • Klonoa: Moonlight Museum
  • Pocket Fighter
  • Rockman & Forte: Challenger From the Future
  • Space Invaders
  • Tekken Card Challenge

WonderSwan Color

WonderSwan Color

The WonderSwan Color came out in 2000, a little over a year after the original WonderSwan debuted. It was very similar in terms of appearance, as it could also be played vertically and horizontally, was almost exactly the same size and weight and could be found in multiple colors. It was also backwards compatible with all WonderSwan games and also only required one AA battery. The battery life was effected by the slightly larger screen and newer technology though, and was cut in half to about 20 hours per battery. You could best compare it to the GameBoy Advance.

Noteable games include:

  • Atelier Marie and Elie
  • Final Fantasy
  • Final Fantasy II
  • Final Fantasy IV
  • Guilty Gear Petit
  • Guilty Gear Petit 2
  • Naruto: Konoha Ninpouchou
  • Princess Maker: Yumemiru Yousei
  • Riviera: The Promised Land
  • Romancing SaGa
  • Tetris
  • Wizardry



The SwanCrystal was the last Bandai handheld, and was only a slight improvement on the WonderSwan Color. It was released two years after it though, in 2002. The only difference was the screen, as Bandai decided on a TFT LCD screen that made everything look much better. Other than that, it used essentially the same technology as the WonderSwan Color. It was also backwards compatible with the WonderSwan and WonderSwan Color and also used a single AA battery.

The SwanCrystal was known for two major drawbacks, which almost made the WonderSwan Color seem like the best option. It’s newer and better screen was a serious drain on the batteries, cutting the battery life to around 10 hours. It also had issues reading cartridges, a problem that neither of the previous devices ever encountered.

In 2003 both the SwanCrystal and WonderSwan Color were discontinued, ending Bandai’s attempt to enter the world of handheld gaming. Well, beyond the Tamagotchi that is. If you’re still interested in picking one up, I’d recommend checking with Play-Asia or a Japanese shopping service that would let you take part in one of the Japanese online auction sites.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Hot Japanese Imports looks at the defining characteristics of each Bleach Heat the Soul PSP game.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Hot Japanese Imports talked about three Korean music game series.

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Full Story » | Written by Jenni Lada for Gamertell. | Comment on this Article »

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