David's Game Boy Advance has arrived today, and there was rejoicing in the heavens!.
As I was about to leave my home today on an errand, I noticed a package left near my front door by the US Postal Service. I immediately recognized it as the GBA I ordered a few weeks ago. Naturally, my plans were put on hold. Upon opening the box I found that neither the GBA's box or Mario Advances's box was wrapped in cellophane. Do they use that stuff in Japan, or was the mailman putting in some quality time with my GBA?!
Anyway, I proceeded with opening the boxes and was immediately shocked. I know everyone says this, but this thing is tiny! Take a look at an N64 controller and imagine what it looks like without the three prongs. What's left is an excellent approximation of the GBA's size.
After recovering from mild shock, I quickly ripped open the box for Mario Advance and snapped the puny game into place. It fits very snugly and actually requires a little force to pull it out. With the game in, I put the included batteries where they belong and fired up the bad little boy.
Unfortunately, I didn't begin playing immediately. The GBA screen is absolutely crystal clear and beautiful, but it's very picky about the angle and amount of light you put on it. Eventually, I replaced a burnt out light bulb in my ceiling fan and found an excellent angle to play at. Once in position, the colors of the screen really stand out. If the light is hitting the screen wrong, it will be very dark. While I haven't pulled any extended sessions yet, I don't find any of the buttons to be cramped or anything. It's very well built for its size. I did find my self putting my greasy, right hand thumb all over the screen looking for the "start" button a few times, but I'm quickly getting used to the new left hand position. All in all, it looks and feels great.
After taking Mario Advance for a spin, I began to notice the power that the GBA has at its disposal. There are smoothly scaling and rotating sprites all over the place and the increase in color depth (2x that of the SNES) really kicks up the visuals from the old SNES days. Next, I dug up some old four-color games (I don't have a GBC) and checked out wide screen mode. The games look weird in wide mode, but some of them seem to fit well. It's a simple matter if tapping R to shrink them at any time, and L to blow them up again if you like (I didn't find myself hitting these by accident as Rick did). The change is instantaneous and it's a very nice feature when you consider that it could have easily been skipped.
The sound is fantabulous, but headphones are required if you want to get the full quality and effect.
All in all, I have to say I'm impressed. I'm even starting to like the Glacial White color I got stuck with; it looks much better in hand than it does in pictures. Some people knock the GBA because it could/should have been 3d, but I love 2d gaming. I’m absolutely thrilled that the GBA is primarily a 2d system rather than a shoddy 3d system of low quality. Did I hear that a new 2d Metroid is coming? Is that a new Castlevania game in the US launch line up? Bring it on Nintendo. Bring it on.