Max got a chance to play quite a bit of Game Boy Advance over the weekend. What did he think? Read his Initial Impressions!
Even though I'm currently not lucky enough to own a Game Boy Advance, I got to play the system over the weekend, while visiting my long time co-conspirator and current PGC contributor, Colin Taibi. Colin pre-ordered an import GBA a while ago, making certain he'd get one in time for the Japanese launch.
Almost without exception, Colin buys every video game system as soon as it launches. When he told me he'd buy an X-Box and I asked why, he reminded me of his habit-he's bought PSX, Saturn and even Jaguar & 3D0 upon release. He may not have them all those systems now but he retains the experience & is a virtual guru on games. So, true to form, he got the GBA immediately and invited me up so I could play one. I documented part of our GBA experience in a recent feature and am now ready to share my thoughts on this amazing little console.
After picking up a Game Boy Advance for the first time and then playing for several hours, I pried myself away to start taking notes for impressions. I found my initial impressions were mixed, though the more I played the more I found myself adapting to the GBA… or is AGB?
AGB or GBA? Man, who cares? What's important is that this is one amazing little puppy.
But I'm getting ahead of myself… My introduction to the GBA began shortly after arriving at Colin's. Within minutes of being there, I spied his "Milky Blue" GBA laying face down on his coffee table. The system is definitely small, though I wasn't incredibly surprised by is size at first. After all, I have naturally seen a lot of pictures of the GBA by now and read a few remarks from Billy & others about its minuscule size.
What did amaze me was the size of GBA game cartridges. These are incredibly tiny! I'd say they're less than ½ the size of GBC carts and just a bit bigger (flatter and wider) than a N64 memory card. You may have seen pictures of the cart as well but it is still kind of weird seeing how small it is in person!
Colin picked up his GBA and started playing Mario Advance, which I could hear from all the way across the room. After watching him play - he handed me the system at let me have a go at it.
The moment I took hold of the system was when I really took notice of its compact size. It's actually so small that you have to adjust your grip on it a bit before you can get comfortable. At first, I found myself holding the system at an angle. It's just a bit awkward at first & not really uncomfortable, just not what I expected.
I think the L&R buttons are what cause the grip to be odd at times. For Mario Advance (which really doesn't use L&R) I kept my fingers away from the shoulder buttons and held them behind the system. After playing awhile I found a few different, yet functional ways to hold the system. Depending how you hold it, your hands might cramp, though this didn't happen to me. Billy & Colin complained to me about hand cramps (though Billy also told me he played GBA 16 hours straight -go figure his hands hurt).
The D Pad seemed like it would be too small initially, but as I continued to play I became lost in the games -always a good sign! After putting several hours of gaming without thinking twice about what was going on around me, I decided that the GBA is a VERY well designed system, it just takes some getting used to.
After adjusting my hold on the system I settled in to play and almost instantly realized why so many people were disappointed that the GBA wouldn't be backlit. The color screens makes the lack of light a pertinent issue. However, under a good light (even sunlight) you're set and it's not a problem. Still, without a "worm light," I think the portability of the system is a bit diminished...but no big deal. Not tremendously important, and in the long run, I'd rather have the extra battery life. I'll still invest in a light though because without the right light, games can seem unplayable.
I liked the system's Milky Blue see-thru color; it looks pretty cool. Sure, there were superior colors shown off at SpaceWorld, but it's nice. Out of everything, I'd say the color is the least thing to worry about. Unlike the previous GB systems, the power switch, volume knob and headphone jacks are all on the bottom of the system instead of on the sides.
As for Audio, the GBA really sounds great. For full audio effect, definitely grab some headphones. This has always been true with GB systems but w/GBA, the difference with/without headphones is night and day.
The other thing I really must mention is the GBA's massive screen. Its size is clearly twice the size of the GBC's and almost has a "wide screen" quality to it. Mario Advance's intro even makes light of the big screen; the game starts with a GBC-screen-sized window, which is framed by a shadowed (but visible) background, where the Mario characters are seen "off screen." Mario then runs onto the screen and the shadows disappear revealing the remarkable difference in size. Leave it to Mario to show off the new goods, eh?
All I know is I can't wait to play GBA again. Not only to I plan to visit Colin again soon, I'm hoping I'll have my own Game Boy Advance, along a link cable, so we can go head-to-head. June will be here before you know it, so start saving up and prepare to pre-order! The GBA is going to be hot!