Thursday, June 23, 2011

Game Boy Advance


The Game Boy Advance was released by Nintendo in North America on June 11th 2001. The Game Boy Advance was extremely successful with few competitors to speak of. The closest competitor was the Neo Geo Pocket Color which managed to successfully carve out it's own niche market but did not really threaten Nintendo's spot as the top handheld manufacturer in the world.

When it was first released the biggest detractor that people cited was it's lack of a back-lit screen. The original GBA required a lot of light to be able to see the action on the screen, which made it difficult to play the games. Almost immediately there were walkthrough's online that showed how to create a home brew back-light on the system called the Afterburner. So in 2003 when Nintendo released the more compact Game Boy Advance SP with a back-light many of these problems were solved. There was a new problem with the SP model though, namely it's lack of any headphone jack. Many people felt that this was a small price to pay for a lit screen, while others claimed that the omission was absolutely unacceptable. The final model that Nintendo released was called the Game Boy Micro, which was an extremely compact GBA that solved all of these previous problems.

When the DS was released in November of 2004 it included a GBA slot as well as a DS card slot to allow for backwards compatibility, so Game Boy Advance games continued to be supported well after the next handheld iteration. The last North American GBA games were released in 2007.

Collecting

Just like the Game Boy and the Game Boy Color before, it's getting more and more difficult to find Game Boy Advance games with their cardboard boxes since they would commonly get recycled. The most difficult boxes to get are the bigger boxes that held bigger GBA cartridges or included accessories. The Pokemon games came packaged with Wireless link adapters, and Wario Ware Twisted came with a Gyro Sensor built into it's larger cartridge.

There are many variations of the GBA system as well which makes it extremely difficult to have every variation of GBA. Mostly this is because of the many different colors that the system was offered in. Both the original and the SP had many different regularly available color variations, and a bunch of special colors included with different packages offered. The Game Boy Micro came with detachable face-plates to enable changing the color of the system on the go.

Accessories

The e-Reader was a very strange device. It plugged into the back of the original GBA only, it didn't fit on the SP or Micro. It allowed cards to be scanned in for little games to be played on the GBA or extra content to be added to whatever GBA game or Gamecube game was linked up and compatible. The accessory didn't catch on because of it's bulkiness and awkwardness, plus it's relative uselessness besides providing small bonuses or minigames.

The Wireless Adapter plugged into the back of the GBA and allowed link up between two GBA's with wireless adapters attached. The accessory was a little glitchy and not quite as reliable as a regular Link Cable, which did the same thing only with a cable. Since the proximity needed was pretty much the same anyways the Wireless Adapter didn't add much convenience either. There was also a different kind of link cable that allowed the GBA to hook up to the Gamecube so that it could act as a controller with a private screen for compatible games.

Cartridges with videos on them were released for the GBA as well. There were a few complete movies for sale including Shrek and Shark Tale, and there were childrens T.V. shows provided, with two thirty minute episodes per cartridge. Supported shows included Sponge Bob Square Pants, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh! etc.

Launch Titles

The launch of the Game Boy Advance was accompanied by an already excellent and diverse library. First party titles included F-Zero: Maximum Velocity and the remake Super Mario Advance. A few of the games available were remakes of older games from different systems, like ChuChu Rocket, Super Mario Advance, Namco Museum, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. The two original titles that really stand out are Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and F-Zero: Maximum Velocity.

- Army Men Advance
- Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
- ChuChu Rocket!
- Earthworm Jim
- F-Zero: Maximum Velocity
- Fire Pro Wrestling
- GT Advance Championship Racing
- Iridion 3D
- Konami Krazy Racers
- Namco Museum
- Pinobee: Wings of Adventure
- Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure
- Rayman Advance
- Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2
- Super Dodge Ball Advance
- Super Mario Advance
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2

Popular Titles at the Time

There were some important series that made their debut on the Game Boy Advance, and other series that continued to raise the bar. The Advance Wars series provided for fantastic turn based strategy without the RPG aspects of experience points or leveling up. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance garnered an enormous cult following for it's excellent RPG/Strategy gameplay. And the Fire Emblem series finally made it's debut in America even though it's games had been hugely successful in Japan since the NES, and their characters made it to America in Super Smash Brothers Melee.

The re-releases of the Final Fantasy series brought the iconic RPG's to our pocket for the first time in North America with some bonus content. The Golden Sun Series provided an extensive amount of depth to the handheld. Finally the Pokemon series surprised no one as it claimed new victims for it's addictive gameplay.

Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga was released to huge critical acclaim as the first Mario RPG on a handheld. Mario vs. Donkey Kong provided some great puzzling fun, and Mario Kart: Super Circuit brought the great kart racing franchise to portable size as well. With those original Mario games alongside the Super Mario Advance series re-releasing the classic Mario platformers for the GBA Mario was set to dominate the handheld.

Metroid Fusion and Metroid Zero Mission masterfully delivered bounty hunter goodness with both games being highly critically acclaimed.

My personal favourite for the system is The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap. This title surprised with it's extreme depth and wonderfully diverse gameplay thus rising to the top as one of the best entries in the entire franchise.

There were many popular titles during the Game Boy Advance's lifetime and it's difficult to give each influential title the attention it deserves. Here are, however, some of the titles that were important to the systems influence and success. They are organized by year released. Note that I'm not including ports or re-releases in this list.

2001

- Advance Wars
- Mario Kart Super Circuit
- Golden Sun
- Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
- Wario Land 4
- F-Zero: Maximum Velocity

2002

- Metroid: Fusion
- Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
- Sonic Advance
- Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis

2003

- Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga
- AdvanceWars 2: Black Hole Rising
- WarioWare Inc. Mega Microgame$!
- Fire Emblem
- Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
- Golden Sun: The Lost Age
- Sonic Advance 2
- Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire Version

2004

- Mario Golf: Advance Tour
- Sonic Advance 3
- Mario vs. Donkey Kong

2005

- The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap
- WarioWare: Twisted
- Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
- Pokemon Emerald Version
- Gunstar Super Heroes

Games Worth Playing Today

Practically all of the games listed above are excellent and should definitely be given a play through if possible. Here is a few other games that weren't significantly popular or successful in their time but are still excellent games that deserve to be played.

Drill Dozer is a great platformer from Game Freak. The cartridge for the game was much bigger then a normal GBA cartridge to allow for a rumble feature. The game provided a lot of surprises for people expecting a bland platformer about drilling.

The Mega Man Battle Network series is another important bunch of games to mention. The games were moderately successful and provided for great action RPG gameplay.

Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hands is an interesting example of a great game with a weird gimmick. The cartridge had a sun sensor which could tell when you were playing in sunlight or not. This in turn affected things in the game.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is a great action RPG. it's one part sequel one part retread of the first game, and it provides great action with an emphasis on card collecting.