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<BLOCKQUOTE>Nintendo's Play-Yan is an SD Card based MPEG4/MP3 player for your Gameboy Advance or Nintendo DS. The unit is normally only available through Nintendo's online store in Japan, and comes with Japanese display, instructions and software. Unfortunately, Nintendo had to call back the first batch of units in Japan, due to a technical problem with the sound output.
Lik Sang now has the newly released units in stock and we took some extra time to compare it with the other available movie players, give it a try from the non-Japanese user perspective, and point out what's good and not good about it.
Play-Yan vs. The Rest
As you might know, Nintendo's latest addition to the accessories market is not the first movie player for handheld systems. The officially Nintendo licensed and Smart Media Card based AM3 Player was a big disappointment and failed to impress international and Japanese users when it was released. The unit started off with a couple of Detective Conan cartoons for $25 more than 18 months ago, and in the meantime they have a hand full more including Pokemon. Unfortunately it doesn't let you create or convert your own content, and if you are not a big fan of Detective Conan or Pokemon (and you are not near one of the Kiosks in Tokyo to download stuff), it is basically useless to you.
Majesco Inc in America went another way with their "movie players". They released 24 movies so far, in the shape of standard GBA cartridges for $19.99, which are available in US retail chains. Unfortunately, this was invented for parents who want to keep their kids quiet on the backseat of a car, not for multi media applications and people who want to watch their own content on the go.
Unlike one might believe, the Play-Yan was not released by Nintendo to compete with the MPEG4 capabilities of the Sony PSP. Ken Toyoda, PR head of Nintendo, also confirmed that the Play-Yan was designed for the Gameboy Advance and that it works with the Nintendo DS is a coincidence. The fact that Nintendo announced the Play-Yan just a week after the Sony PSP was released does not relate, according to Toyoda. Don't take this wrong, the Play-Yan and any other movie players for the GBA or NDS are great devices on their own, but comparing it with the huge and expensive display of the Sony PSP, with its Universal Media Disc, the Memory Stick which is accessible through USB2, and many other multi media capabilities, is simply impossible. It's two different things for two different applications and different uses.
The GBA/NDS Movie Player
The only item that you can really compare the Play-Yan with is the Compact Flash Card based GBA Movie Player. While the GBA Movie Players was originally not designed for the Nintendo DS, it is 100% compatible, and does exactly the same as the Play-Yan: it works in the GBA mode of the Nintendo DS. Both devices, Play-Yan and GBA Movie Player, don't make use of the Nintendo DS capabilities and are native Gameboy Advance units. We will compare these two from the technical standpoint and the usefulness standpoint.
Play-Yan GBA Movie Player
Release March 2005 September 2004
Compatible GBA SP, NDS GBA, GBA SP, NDS
Media Type SD Card Compact Flash
Video Format SD-VIDEO (ASF) GBM
Sound Format MP3 GBS
Software MediaStage Media Converter
Language Japanese English
Mini-Games Yes Yes
Firmware Upgradeable No Yes
Image Viewer No Yes
E-Books No Yes
Demo CD w/ Movies No Yes
Direct Headphone Yes No
Price $79.90 $24.90
Using the GBA Movie Player
As you can see above, the GBA Movie Player retails for US$ 24.90, which is way cheaper than the Play-Yan. For $24.90, you receive a player that comes with English instructions, English Windows Software, and a demo CD with some trailers and other demo movies. All you need to do to get up and running is hook up a Compact Flash Card Reader to your PC and store some of the demo movies on your Compact Flash Card. If you want to convert some of your own movies, you can simply install the slightly engrish Windows Software and use one of the easy options to convert your movies into the right format. Apart from just playing movies, you can also convert music, e-books and pictures to be displayed on your GBA Movie Player. Of course this is just a quick summary and the world of the GBA Movie Player is much bigger, there are many options to convert media one or another way. For detailed information, we suggest to check out one of the reviews of the player, or talk to others on the GBA Movie Player Forums.
Reviews of the GBA Movie Player
• Video Review: GameSpot On The Spot
• 199+ Reviews by Lik-Sang.com Customers
• Many other reviews by the best videogame web sites are here
Using the Play-Yan
Now using the Play-Yan is a little bit more complicated. The unit has been designed by Nintendo for Japanese people, to be sold in Japan, with Japanese Windows PCs. To use the Play-Yan, you have to be either Japanese, or be someone who has no problem using Japanese Software and to get it to work on your non-Japanese PC. Once you got it working, you will have to make a guess when you use the software to convert movies. But because the SD-VIDEO standard seems to be something that will eventually be possible to create with the right specifications using third party software, such as one of the many tools you can find through Videohelp.com, this should hopefully soon change.
Unfortunately, at the point of writing this article, MediaStage in its Japanese version is the only way to get movies to your Play-Yan. MP3's however, work without problem and can be saved on a SD card without converting them through MediaStage or any other software. There are also a few mini-games that Nintendo released on the official web site. These work without problem as well, but they are unfortunately really very small (thumbnail size), which means they will not really make you very happy. Some of the available e-Reader games are pure luxury compared against the Play-Yan mini-games.
Although we still hope that the users will soon figure out a way how to convert movies without MediaStage, the menu will always remain in Japanese. There are not many options, so for import gamers it's not a big problem to handle it.
Reviews of the Play-Yan
• IGN Review by Anoop Gantayat (IGN.com)
• Review by DSGaming
• Play-Yan Forums
Here is a quick summary of our first comparison:
• Real MP3 playback with ID3 tag support
• Shows thumbnails of movies
• First party product
• Software Japanese only (difficult to run on non-Japanese Windows)
• Not really as open as hoped for (SD-VIDEO MPEG4 only)
• No control over songs when lid closed
GBA Movie Player Pro
• English Software
• Huge user base and lots of free content on Internet
• Homebrew applications and games available
• Firmware updateable to add features
GBA Movie Player Con
• Video format not open (GBM/GBS)
• No real MP3 playback
• "Engrish" software and manual
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