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GBA - the far-too-late review.
Obviously, I got mine far later than the early-adopters on here, but here's a few thoughts on nintendo's latest baby...
ARTICLE INFODue to the untimely purchase of a new house, I was unable to buy myself a GBA on their release; consequently I didn't get my mitts on one until xmas 2001. Here's the review so far:
Game Boy Advance: why you all need one
added 2001 june 23 by emptyjames
Looks: Its small. Really small. Probably smaller than my old GBC, but the screen seems bigger. The old "screen at the top, buttons underneath" formula has been junked in preference for an old Sega Game Gear layout - buttons on either side of the screen in the middle. This layout does allow the positioning of shoulder buttons as well, giving four in total (in addition to the + controller).
Infact, the GBA is almost *too* small! Having fingers on all the buttons simultaneously isn't as comfortable as it perhaps should be - its not a massive problem, but for any adults with larger than average hands it might be an issue.
On the one hand, the screen is fantastic. Knowing that the GBA has a roughly equivalent power to the SNES made me wonder how on earth such a small screen could display the graphics with enough defintion - however, there's no complaints at all. Even at a reasonable lick (Mario Kart), it handles the output smoothly and crisply.
All that said, the screen is a long way from perfect. Nintendo apparently shied away from putting a backlight or even sidelight in the machine arguing that it would drain the batteries too quickly. This is a problem - getting the angle right to see the screen but not your own reflection gawking back at you is not easy. In fact, it can be nigh on impossible, which is a serious pain. It also calls into question whether its worth having excellent graphics if you can't see them half the time...
Enough of the look and feel of the thing - the big question. How does it play?
So far, I've picked up three games for it: Mario Kart Super Circuit, Kuru Kuru Kiririn and Gradius Advance.
Mario Kart Super Circuit: Top, top stuff. I'm going to risk the wrath of Brendan here and confess to never having played the original SNES game; heretically I loved the N64 game though. The game is well pitched - its not too hard to win the rounds, but there's much more you can do - collecting coins on the way around gives you a target to beat (other than lap times) - you can win the race and still only get a grade E quite easily. The multiplayer option is excellent - up to four players against each other, and only one cartridge needed (though more cartridges equals more tracks to race on). If you have a GBA, you need this game.
Kuru Kuru Kiririn: The obligatory puzzler; a simple concept, as it should be. In essence, you control a rotating stick which must be maneouvered round corridors - your timing is vital as the path will frequently narrow to a width smaller than the stick. Avoid hitting the side, basically. Its everything a puzzler should be - simple, addictive, and fun. It's no Tetris, but for a relaxing twenty minutes so it good fun. One to keep you coming back.
Gradius Advance: A decent shoot-em-up on a handheld? With the possible exception of R-Type on the ancient GB, its never been done convincingly. Until now. This is very much old-school gaming - multiple enemies, power ups that make the difference between survival and getting blown up instantly etc etc - but its very well done. It's bloody hard, and its really more a memory exercise - learning where the next wave of enemies are going to be coming from is the key to the game, but you can't fault the gameplay. I wouldn't recommend this unless you're really a fan of this type of gameplay, but if you are - get it in!
In conclusion: so far, I'm impressed by the GBA - its a tasty piece of kit...train journey delays will never seem like bad news again!