The Game Boy platform (which includes the original unit, the Game Boy Pocket, and the Game Boy Color) came to market when most video game consoles had a life expectancy of just a few years. More than a decade later, the system is still going strong. … see full wiki
Pros: Reproduces many aspects of 16-bit consoles...
Cons: ... Including the Super NES controller. Lacking backlight doesn't help much, either
The Bottom Line: When the going gets tough, the tough get advanced!... Sorry.
Way back in the late 1980s, Nintendo had a firm stranglehold on the home console market. Sure, they had some competition from a few rather voracious termites, but when youre a redwood tree in prime condition, those termites are likely to die off from eating too much long before you do. Well, one day, the head honchos at Nintendo decided it wasnt enough for everyone to simply have an NES console at home. They decided Nintendo customers had to have Nintendo on their brains - as well as in their hands - while on long road trips and flights, too. And so they created the worlds first handheld video game console - the Game Boy. The Game Boy went on to become the biggest-selling console in the world.
When Sega finally hit it big in 1991, Nintendo realized it couldnt just chug on with its limited 8-bit technology forever. So with their upgrade to 16-bit, they had to think up a few good innovations for the Game Boy to keep up with Sega in the handheld market as well. The original Game Boy was great, granted, but Segas Game Gear had color and a backlight included, which made the Game Boy look primitive. So Nintendo eventually launched the Game Boy Light, a Game Boy with a backlight. They also began releasing different color Game Boys, so gamers could buy whatever color suited their personalities. After that, Nintendo kept in the handheld race by launching Game Boy Pocket, a smaller version of the original Game Boy with a bigger screen. Consoles once again went flying off the shelves. These were all nice, but the problem was it was still the regular (and quite old, by this time, in console years) Game Boy, with just a few cheap tricks, and the gamers were beginning to notice. So Nintendo finally bit and did something different: They released the Game Boy Color, which would have games all to itself. Although the color selection was limited and unimpressive, the good games continued to roll out, and so consoles still flew off the shelves. So, once again, the ploy worked.
By this time, though, Nintendo had lost the total markat dominance it once held. A combination of arrogance (they actually tried to tell gamers what they wanted), stubborness in moving with the times, and a loss of some big backers put the Sony PlayStation at the top of the hill. Meanwhile, Nintendos new cannon, the Nintendo 64, suffered through endless delays. It also used a cartridge format, while Sony and Sega had gone with less expensive and more memory-spaced cds. The last condition was a direct cause in the severing of Nintendos ties to Squaresoft, and so rpg fanboys turned to Sony, where Square not only took refuge, but used the PlayStations technological capabilities to finally thrust rpgs into the mainstream. While Sony was selling gobs of sports games and newly popularized rpgs, Nintendo released scavenger hunt after scavenger hunt, and people got fed up after awhile. Samus Arans failure to show up on the N64 (excluding her Super Smash Bros. appearance) didnt do anything to help Nintendos cause.
For all their home console errors, though, Nintendo managed to keep their death grip on the handheld market - probably because Sega just up and stopped supporting the Game Gear, which was Nintendos only real competition. But after many more years of getting by with the Game Boy Color, Nintendo learned from its home console mistakes and made good use of them in the handheld market. They finally decided that if they were going to retain the handheld world, they would have to pre-empt its potential competition. And with this realization came the first great leap in handheld gaming - the Game Boy Advance. Of course a couple of years later, Nintendo would again innovate with the Game Boy Advance SP, but this is just a variation of the Game Boy Advance.
The first thing youre likely to notice about the Game Boy Advance is its design. Nintendo left the original Game Boy vertical design to give us something which resembles a traditional controller - something horizontal. The GBA has a directional pad, a Select button, and a Start button on the left side of the screen, and buttons a and b on the right. Nintendo also used one of its own controller innovations: Shoulder buttons, which first showed up on the Super NES controller. Nintendo decided to skimp on button numbers five and six, leaving us with just four action buttons. No ones complaining. Nintendo said their reason for taking away the extra buttons was to discourage other software companies from just porting Super NES games. Sadly, most of those companies arent getting the message, as a large number of available and upcoming GBA titles are Super NES ports. Again, though, no ones complaining. After all, Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past are both fine games.
The designers certainly had good intentions in mind, but as Ned Flanders said in the episode where he went nuts, WELL MY FAMILY CANT LIVE IN GOOD INTENTIONS! The GBA is indeed the smallest and therefore most pocket-fitting Game Boy yet, but Nintendo had to make a couple of sacrifices. First of all, and this is a personal complaint now, the GBA seems to try to simulate a Super NES controller. I always hated the Super NES controller - the thing always felt like an oversized pill, and the angle at which my right hand is bent made it very uncomfortable. But my own petty problems dont excuse the very universal problem of the button sizes. The d-pad is barely larger than my thumbnail, and buttons a and b are even smaller. Select and Start are both barely the size of a pen clicker.
As for the rest of the outside details, the power switch is set in an unconventional location, the bottom left corner of the console. This isnt a complaint or a compliment, its just a fact. In all truth, it doesnt matter where the power switch is, as long as it still slides back and forth to turn the power on and off easily, which this one does. The volume switch is on the bottom right, next to a plug for headphones. and on the top is something completely new and totally innovative: A plug where you can connect your GBA to your Gamecube. I can say no more about this feature since I dont own a Gamecube (although, God Willing, I will sooner or later.) And, true to whats become a Game Boy tradition, a wide selection of colors is available. There are transparent forms of blue and pink, plain old black and white (called Arctic), a spicy orange, metallic blue, green and purple, indigo and, in a celebration of the first-year success of the GBA, Nintendo put out an anniversary edition of the console in platinum. And at a record low weight of 140 grams, even the wimpiest gaming geeks will be able to lift this overhead like a champion weightlifter.
The GBA screen is capable of displaying some of the finest, most detail graphics in handheld gaming - THE finest, in fact, so far. It has a rectangular 40.8 X 61.2 mm size, and displays a wicked 240 X 160 pixel resolution. The rectangular shape gives the games a kind of widescreen appearence. You may not notice this when you play GBA games because theyre made specifically to handle it, but youll notice when you plug in a Game Boy or Game Boy Color game (Ill get to backward compatability later). These games from the past show up fine on the GBA, but the screen gives you a perfect square to play the games in. Using the L button, you could stretch the games appearence out to cover the whole length of the screen, but it looks ridiculous that way. The screen is capable of showing a whopping 32768 color palette, with a good 511 of those colors being able to show up onscreen at the same time. It looks awesome, and has to be seen to be believed.
For all the incredible technology shrunken down into the screen, Nintendo again forgot a key feature - a BACKLIGHT!!! While its certainly not the first time Nintendo let a backlight go, the GBA is certainly the most excrutiating. Trying to find just the right angle between too dark and too light can be a real pain sometimes, especially with games like Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, where darkness is the norm.
Although youd be hard-pressed to believe it after seeing pretty much every available game for the console, the GBA IS actually a 32-bitter. It doesnt look like it can display anything on the calibur of the PlayStation or Saturn, but the boys at Big N claim that, yes, the GBA is perfectly capable of handling real 32-bit technology. At the same time, though, they said they often simply choose not to because true, detailed 3d worlds would just be too hard to see on the thing. 3d games would probably eat up a ton of memory space on this cart-based console, as well. So what we get are many games with pseudo 3d graphics - you know the kind, the overhead, isometric views where everything is displayed on a diagonal. This is prominent among translations of 3d games like Spyro the Dragon and Tomb Raider. In regular, 2d games, the GBA is likely to use mode 7 graphics, which give off a kind of 3d illusion. All is still pretty good though, it just seems that Nintendo is, once again, more concerned with great gameplay in that department. And that, dear readers, is a good thing.
Something has to be said of the outstanding stereo sounds the GBA is capable of producing. While I cant go on about how wonderful the GBA sounds through headphones because Ive never tried it with headphones, the overall sound capabilities are pretty impressive. The Castlevania games (except for Harmony of Dissonance) give you dramatic, sweeping musical scores which you probably never thought were capable on a handheld. The sounds can also outclass any regular 16-bit console. Super Mario Advance 2, a remake of the Super NESs Super Mario World, actually produces voices, along with all the original games standard sounds. My gut instinct is currently telling me to write about how the GBA is incapable of liscensed soundtracks with lyrics, but I dont know whether it is or not. All I can say is I wouldnt be surprised about it either way.
One of the best features of the GBA is the fact that even when it was launched almost two years ago now, it already had the largest game library of any console on the planet. This is because the Game Boy Advance features backward compatability: The ability to play Game Boy and Game Boy Color games. You dont need any sort of device to do it. Just plug in the portable Nintendo game you want to play, and play it! Which is pretty good considering that Game Boy Advance carts are half the size of Game Boy and Game Boy Color carts. So when you use the backward compatability feature, your GBA will look funny until you yank it out, with the other half of the GB or GBC cart sticking up from behind the GBA.
How much money do you think you would have to spend on batteries to keep 16-bit nostalgia (which, lets face it, is the primary reason for owning one) alive? Well, not as much as youre probably thinking. The original Game Boy required four AA batteries for a good ten hours of playing time. Segas Game Gear required an outrageous six AA batteries for a mere six hours of playing time. The Game Boy Advance asks for just two AA batteries, and for that you get a solid 15 hours to play. Not bad, eh? Now the new Game Boy Advance SP one-ups the original Game Boy Advance by providing a power pack which can be recharged. As is my own understanding, you dont even have to buy batteries for that one. But oh well, we cant have everything. 15 hours on just two AAs is still pretty good, and it comes, oh, I think its $30 cheaper these days. I got my GBA when the price was $59.99, and I dont know if the price has gone down since then.
Im getting tired of boring you, so fortunately, its time to get to the best part: GAMES! Im sure youre probably impressed with all those tech specs I mentioned above, but without great games, a console is only something to throw out of a window when youre angry. And with the vast, vast GB and GBC game libraries at your disposal, Nintendo made sure you were always able to find something good. Lets see what we have: I have not played all these GBA games, but the reviews are in and the gaming community is raving: Super Mario Advance, 2, and 3 Golden Sun Wario Land 4 Advance Wars, 2 Wario Ware, Inc. Mega Microgames The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past/The Four Swords Baseball Advance Sonic Advance, 2 Pinball of the Dead Castlevania: Circle of the Moon Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow Final Fight One Tekken Advance Phantasy Star Collection Metroid Fusion GT Advance Championship
Dont forget to catch up on old GB and GBC games: The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons Donkey Kong Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins Super Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 Metroid 2: The Return of Samus Tetris Kirbys Dream Land
Theres more than that, I promise. Its just funny how you can never think of game titles when you really need to! Most of the GB and GBC games come incredibly cheap, too. All you have to do when you look is keep your eyes and mind open.
Upcoming: Shining Soul Onimusha Tactics Super Mario Advance 4
Baron Samedis personal wish list (games which we will probably never see on the GBA): Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars Flashback NBA Jam Toejam and Earl Blazing Lazers Bonks Adventure Streets of Rage Legendary Axe A GOOD Shinobi game
That does it now. If youre a sucker for 16-bit nostalgia, get a GBA. If you travel a lot, get a GBA. If you still have your GB or GBC, sell it and get a GBA. If not for a couple of problems, the GBA would be portable console perfection.
This review is part of the Nintendo Write-Off, hosted by Rock On and TheGeniusX. Most of the participants are bigshots in the gaming section. Be sure to check 'em out!Sorry I didn't take the list. It's at Rocky's profile, and I'm sure he'll appreciate the extra hits.
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