5 Essential Items for Your New Console, Part VI: Game Boy Advance

Buy This Item Game Boy Advance SPFor well over a decade, Nintendo's Game Boys have ruled the portable playground. In that many years, only a few iterations of the GB have appeared, as a complete market dominance allowed Nintendo to put a hold on Moore's Law for a while. While superior systems showed up periodically, all of which crashed out, Nintendo's old, monochrome, outdated 8-bit Game Boy never needed to change. Later on, such innovations as smaller Pocket and Color models surfaced, but nothing nearly as radical as the Game Boy Advance. It was the progressive leap forward that portable gamers had been waiting for. Several aspects of the classic Game Boys had been changed- a new horizontal layout, a bigger, full-color screen, beefier processing capabilites and improved graphics and sound. At its launch it was believed to be the world's first "32-bit" handheld (an honor which really belongs to the obscure GamePark 32)- this led people to believe that Game Boy would finally be capable of true 3D portable gaming at last. But its limitations carved out a niche for SNES ports instead- dozens of remakes, re-releases and sequels have flooded the GBA market- mainly from Nintendo. As for other developers... aside from a small few, no one has really put much effort towards GBA development, and as a result, the GBA's library is totally saturated with tons of garbageware titles. But there are still plenty of gems out there, more than enough to balance the trash-to-treasure ratio. With a new breed of "superior" handhelds on the horizon, many are concerned of the GBA's fate. Nintendo has only recently started to experiment with more frequent upgrades; starting with the GBA SP, whose upgrades include a backlit screen, foldability, and rechargable internal batteries (but no built-in headphone jack....meh). Will Nintendo need to release yet another enhancement, so it can brave the oncoming onslaught of pocket-sized juggernauts? Or will Nintendo's slow and steady ethics, and the many quality Nintendo franchises, be enough to keep GBA alive through the next portable clone wars? Only time will tell. But for now, enjoy what you have- GBA is still the reigning champion of the portable realm, and with good reason. You won't find Metroid, Link, or Pokemon on PSP or N-Gage. The only place to find some of the best that Nintendo has to offer, is right here.

1. A Carrying Case: Even though the GBA was designed as a portable system, it's still not exactly self-contained; its screen is always exposed to the elements, and to scratches, fingerprints, and the unspeakable horror that no GBA owner ever wants to face: the dreaded broken screen. Not to mention having to keep track of your games, link cables, lights, and whatnot. Luckily, there is an abundant supply of cases available, ranging from system-sized slip-pockets, to suitcase-sized all-in-one cases. They range in price; obviously, your gaming lifestyle is a big factor. If you like to take your GBA to school with you, along with whatever game you currently have in the slot, and maybe a link cable, then you'll want a smaller case that fits nicely inside a backpack. But if you enjoy (or are forced to endure) going on long car and camping trips, you're gonna want your entire library of games with you, so keep it all together in a larger-sized case. Cases can be found almost anywhere, in all varieties of shapes, sizes and designs. SP cases are somewhat less necessary (since SP folds in half, protecting its screen and saving tons of pocket space), but there are still plenty of SP cases available anyway.

2. 2 GBAs, 2 Games, and A Link Cable: That's the formula you'll need for 99% of all GBA games with multiplayer support. The other one-percent is the small range of "multi-boot" supporting games, which basically allow one cartridge to support a multiplayer mode game on up to four systems at once, using only a link cable, by transferring data to the other 3 GBAs. But, GBA's limited memory storage means that all this feature can offer are little minigames, usually watered-down versions of the "real" multiplayer mode. But if you can't get at least 2 hands on at least 2 GBAs and at least 2 copies of a game, AND a link cable, then multi-boot should be good enough.

3. GBA-GC Link Cable: Nintendo has put a lot of energy into its connectivity strategy for Gamecube, and has managed to find some real nifty ways to make hooking up your Game Boy with Gamecube, like downloadable content and in-game features, in both direxctions; you can use Metroid Fusion to unlock the original NES Metroid in Metroid Prime on GC, or download the NiGHTS Score Attack mini-game onto your GBA from the GC Phantasy Star Online Ep. I & II. Pick up a Gamecube-to-GBA link cable, track down anyone you know who owns a GC, and go crazy.

4. ANY Nintendo Game: There are hardly any other companies pumping out consistently high-quality GBA titles besides Nintendo (and possibly Sega) This is nothing new; the big N has always been the biggest provider of solid titles for the entire Game Boy lineage, from Metroid II to Pokemon. Nintendo may be the only company which I can safely call a safe-bet when it comes to games. If you can't decide on a new GBA game, take a gander at Metroid Fusion (one of the few GBA games considered to be BETTER than its GC counterpart), The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (which includes the awesome Four Swords multiplayer mode), or any game in the confusingly-titled Super Mario Advance series.

5. A Light: By far the biggest gripe from gamers about the original GBA (and rumored to be a driving force behind the creation of SP, with its built-in backlight) was the redicuously dark screen. Games like the Castlevania series were nearly unplayable, and many reviews for those games were actually tainted by that fact. Naturally, third-parties were quick to the punch, releasing dozens of peripherals that they hoped would solve the problem. There were worm lights, trap lights, fliplights, floodlights. Only a small few of these really solved the problem, the rest were just gimmicky ideas which either put too much glare on the screen, or weren't efficient enough to completely illuminate the screen. If you need a light for GBA (and you will), look for Gamester's new flourescent-powered Floodlight. If you're really obsessed with a permanent backlighting solution, you can send your GBA away to have an Afterburner backlight custom installed, or send away for the do-it-yourself kit. If you own an SP, you naturally know that it has built-in backlighting, so this slot is a waste for you...so go buy some e-cards or something.


  • GBA SP- Yes, technically it's a system, so it wouldn't count as something to get for one; but its actually thought of as more of an upgrade by many. Several game stores currently offer trade-in deals where if you bring in a used GBA, you'll get a discount on a new SP. The only thing you need in addition to the SP, is a headphone adapter- the SP doesn't come with one built in. They're cheap though, only 5 bucks on Nintendo's website
  • TV Tuner- Every somewhat-successful handheld has this: the obscure, hard-to-find TV tuner. GBA's got one, and I've seen it in action- it's not bad. If you see it, get it, because they're getting harder and harder to find
  • e-Reader- Nintendo really fell in love with this little gadget. It plugs into the cartridge slot, and reads dot-code data off of cards which you swipe in the Reader's slot. Each card cotains either special data, like Pokemon e-series cards, in-game goodies like Super Mario Advance 4's e-cards, or even full games split into 5-card sets, like Nintendo's NES e-card sets, which feature full-length versions of Excitebike, Pinball, and more. It's also a MUST if you have Animal Crossing for GC, because all 4 (5?) sets of AC's e-cards are extemely popular right now, probably due to the fact that each card you scan gives you a new item in the GC game

Remember, these aren't the ONLY things worth getting for your new console; just a short list of some of the cream of the crop, to help you get to know your new investment. I'm sure a lot of people would disagree with some of my inclusions, and argue that maybe I forgot something, or shouldn't have added it, or whatever..so remember, these lists are open for your own interpretation. If you need more info regarding these items, look them up in the database. Or even better, see if anyone else here wants to trade/sell it to you.

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