It has been a year of mystery, as there are several games and systems due out this year that we know absolutely nothing about, and no one has been more mysterious than Nintendo. After a long time, they have broken their silence at least on one front, and clarified some things about the upcoming portable system currently referred to as the "Game Boy Advance."
As you may or may not have heard, there were rumors going around that the Game Boy Advance would be able to do basic 3D polygon graphics, and it's power would rival the Saturn. These things are not entirely true. Nintendo has stated that the closest thing they'll have to 3D will be the equivalent of Mode 7 graphics found in F-Zero, Star Fox, Mario Kart, and Final Fantasy 6. As for the power of the system, it will not be as powerful as a Saturn, but will be more powerful than the Super Nintendo. Some are saying approximately twice as powerful. We do know that it can do any of the sprite-manipulation that the Nintendo 64 can do, except for the filtering. This coincides with the rumors that Nintendo has been showcasing a one-level demonstration on the machine of the Nintendo 64 game Yoshi's Story, and looks incredibly good.
As for the shape of the system, the final exact design has not been released yet, but here's a general synopsis. First, if you have a Game Boy Color, turn it sideways. The width of the Game Boy Color's screen will be the exact same as the height of the Game Boy Advance's screen. Now, while still looking at the system sideways, just imagine the screen stretching about 66% more longways. The GBC screen is 144 pixels tall, and the length of the GBA screen will be 240 pixels. It will have a widescreen feel to it, since the system will use the 16:9 format that monitors and movie screens use, opposed to the 4:3 ratio that standard TVs have been using.
Also the Game Boy Advance will be held longways. The crossbar or analog stick or whatever they use will go on the left side, and most likely four game buttons plus Start and Select will go on the right side. There should also be 'L' and 'R' shoulder buttons as well, as Nintendo seems to be targeting the needs for Super Nintendo ports.
Another good thing is that the sound quality is said to exceed that on the Super Nintendo. This means that if say some company *cough Square cough* were to port a certain Super Nintendo game *cough Final Fantasy 6 cough* to the Game Boy Advance, then we could not only see the Opera scene in all of it's glory, but also hear the Aria de Mezzo Caraterre in it's full splendor. (That's the name of the Opera song, if you didn't know.)
One last thing about the system is the wireless network technology that will be built in to the system. All we know is that there will be some kind of connectivity to the internet for online gaming, but it is not really known how exactly that will work in North America mainly due to the vast difference in the cell phone market in Japan and in other places. When they work out the details, there are a LOT of possibilities on where they could take these features, especially when it comes to a certain billion dollar franchise.. (Pokémon, if you didn't know.)
The Game Boy Advance is scheduled to be released in Japan in August, and in North America in November. No games have been announced, but both a Mario and a Pokémon game are heavily hinted at, not to mention any Super Nintendo ports that are already ready at the time. Most likely the system will have a full showing at E3 this May. Until then, you'll just have to wait for each and every morsel Nintendo drops about this sweet machine coming out this Fall.