The resurgence of handheld gaming machines has taken the tech world by storm, with portable devices like the quirky PlayDate and the hefty Steam Deck gaining widespread popularity. But a newly designed concept handheld by industrial designer YJ Joon has taken the gaming experience to a whole new level.
Joon has named his masterpiece the Nintendo Flex, and it's an exquisite homage to the original Game Boy. With the same silhouette that old-school gamers will immediately recognize, Joon has revolutionized the technology with a modern twist. The plastic gray body of the Game Boy is replaced with a sleek metallic chassis, and the two-color screen is swapped for a curved high-definition display that offers a more immersive gaming experience.
Joon has also taken the initiative to correct some of the flaws of the Game Boy that gamers have been grappling with for years. The Flex's speaker has been shifted to a different corner from the original to prevent players' palms from inadvertently covering it — a problem gamers have been long aware of. The Game Boy's d-pad has been known to cause discomfort, making diagonal movement difficult; Joon's answer is an innovative concave circle that allows sweeping between the cardinal directions like an analog stick.
The design of the Nintendo Flex is remarkable, not just in appearance but in how it feels in one's hands. With an embossed-debossed grip that covers the bottom half of the backside, Joon has recreated the tactile quirks that the original Game Boy was known for, yet modernized for a more favorable aesthetic.
It's not perfect. That strict adherence to the Game Boy's structure makes the Nintendo Flex impractical for modern gaming. With only a d-pad, start and select buttons, and two face buttons, there aren't many input choices available. The absence of shoulder buttons and analog sticks would make playing anything other than Game Boy games nearly impossible.
But Nintendo Flex is an impeccable example of creative industrial design that pays the highest respects to the original Game Boy. Joon has crafted a modernized version of the classic handheld that goes beyond simply replacing obsolete tech with the latest; the Nintendo Flex stays true to the original's design language, preserving the gaming experience we all know and love.