Game Boy Advance: Friend or Foe?

Rebirth of gaming or Monopoly of obsolete technologies?

Posted by Staff
Game Boy Advance: Friend or Foe?
We like the Game Boy Advance. We hate the Game Boy Advance. Both these statements are true and we get the sneaking suspicion that some of you may feel the same.

OK, letís get the bad stuff out of the way. The reason we hate the GBA is that it is already out of date. Essentially a miniature SNES with a few bells and whistles, portable gaming should be so much more by now. Nintendo has admitted that it could have rolled out the machine a long time ago.

But it didnít. And why? The company realised that the Pokemon-powered Game Boy Color was quite simply worth too much to replace. The Game Boy Color is like no other gaming machine in history. Under the plastic case, itís basically a shrunk down NES. This is technology first made available to gamers over fifteen years ago. Nintendo didnít release a next generation portable console when it should because it didnít have to.

And this is the threat to handheld gaming. We are being forced by Nintendoís complete monopoly on the market to accept out of date technologies. It is ten years since the SNES was released and it was a fantastic console. But that was ten years ago and all kinds of massive and fundamental changes have happened to videogames and the videogame industry and our expectations have changed. We only accept the Game Boy Advance so eagerly because we have been forced to: there is nothing else.

The more discerning gamer has fared a little better of late. The Neo Geo Pocket Color was fleetingly released outside of Japan and for the more adventurous thereís the WonderSwan Color from Bandai, a console that easily competes with the GBA, at least on a technical level. But it seems that only the Japanese were smart enough to buy these machines.

Our main concern is that the latency between what can be produced and what is released to consumers has been perpetuated and extended by the belated launch of the Game Boy Advance. Take the PSone for example. It would be possible to minimise its components, install a Discman style slide-in CD bay, add a screen on top and the relevant controls and hey presto! A truly portable PlayStation. Slightly bigger and more expensive than the GBA but impressive nonetheless and completely feasible.

Are we confusing the home market with the console market? No.

But, we love the Game Boy Advance! It heralds the beginning of a renaissance of true gaming. We can now play Mario Kart, F-Zero and a plethora of high quality platformers, RPGs and shooters and all on a machine that truly captures Nintendoís quintessential aesthetic brightness.

Developers love the machine. After two years of battling with the PlayStation 2, being given the chance to once again create ďproper gamesĒ is a real breath of fresh air. Gary Penn, the developer of Denki Blocks! was without doubt the most excited and enthusiastic developer at E3. And why? He has once again been given the opportunity to make addictive puzzle games that concern themselves with initiative and innovation in gameplay. ďHow many polygons should that be? Should we environmentally map it or not?Ē That canít be fun.

The Game Boy Advance is poised to rescue gaming from disappearing up its own arse. Real gameplay, created by developers that are given the time to concentrate on the important things. When a console is capable of so much but is so difficult to tame, like the PS2, the guys making the games have to spend a lot of time doing things that do not enhance the gameplay in any way. Too much time is spent wrestling with lighting and textures while the gameplay goes somewhat unnoticed. The PS2ís software line up would seem to support this theory.

So we love/hate the Game Boy Advance. Women are difficult to understand. Games are worse.


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