Not only can you coordinate you GBA with your hair color (it comes in arctic, glacier, indigo and fuchsia) but you can be king of game mountain. Portable gaming entered a new era when the Game Boy Advance was released. This is not your older brother’s Game Boy; the Advance has some powerful new enhancements. The screen is bigger, better to see 32-bit graphics. In fact, it delivers a sharper picture than some current TV-based consoles. You’ll also see 10 times more colors than the Game Boy Color can display. The Game Boy Advance runs 17 times faster than its predecessor, allowing a range of game features such as scaling, rotating and transparency effects. New left and right buttons give you-and game designers-more options.
The Game Boy platform (which includes the original unit, the Game Boy Pocket, and the Game Boy Color) came to market when most video game consoles had a life expectancy of just a few years. More than a decade later, the system is still going strong. How did the Game Boy successfully compete–and in some cases bury–an onslaught of faster, more powerful handheld and home console systems? Let us count the ways: affordability, a huge library of games that consistently made the most of the hardware’s limitations, smart power management that extended battery life, and uncluttered controls. But perhaps it was the system’s ultraportable design that allowed devotees to play video games around their schedule, making it the must-have system for kids and adults alike.
Now the Game Boy Advance (or GBA as people are already calling it) comes to us with power that would have been unthinkable back in the day. The portable’s 32-bit RISC CPU runs circles around the former’s 8-bit workhorse, allowing it to process program instructions much faster. What that means to everyday gamers is more intricate visuals, more simultaneous movement on the screen, and better sound. In fact, the often-annoying beeps and boops of old-school Game Boy titles are being replaced with digitized stereo sound. The extra processing muscle also means you can even network up to four Game Boy Advance units together, via the communication cable, for multiplayer fun off of one shared cartridge. Only two Game Boy Color units could link together, and each unit had to have its own copy of the game.
What’s not being replaced, however, is the wide selection of Game Boy games. Because the Game Boy Advance system is backward-compatible, it will play its own line of colorful games–including such launch titles as Super Mario Advance, F-Zero: Maximum Velocity, Army Men Advance, High Heat Major League Baseball 2002, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2–as well as all of the monochrome and color games that have already been released for the previous Game Boy systems (nearly 500 in total). Players can view the older games in their smaller, originally square dimensions, or, with the touch of the shoulder button, expand the game to fit the GBA’s larger screen. We tried enlarging the screen on a Game Boy Color edition of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and found that Mr. Hawk was much easier to see.
When you first pick up the system, you’ll be amazed at how lightweight it is. At fewer than 5 ounces and a little larger than a deck of playing cards, the system easily fits into a shirt pocket without any sag. The GBA’s wider shape fits better into a wider range of hands. The former design too often pushed the left and right thumb knuckles together during gameplay. The new layout should be comfortable for all ages, and the center screen orientation makes it easy to see.
Game Boy Color owners will find the GBA’s larger screen somewhat darker than they’re used to, but that’s because the screen is outfitted with antiglare technology. Like the old Game Boy Color, the color LCD is not backlit, so you need pretty good light to play by. Unlike that system, though, you won’t be craning your neck and tilting the unit to see around the hot-spot reflection of the light bulb in your screen.
But you’ll also notice the graphics. Sporting what’s basically a redesigned SNES technology, you’ll see things on the GBA that the big consoles do, such as scaling (making objects larger or smaller) and rotation effects–technological advances that will affect the look of everything from crossing a finish line to throwing a touchdown pass to crawling through a dungeon.
Some might argue that Nintendo could have tried to put even more power into this Game Boy Advance. After all, the 32-bit video game had its heyday more than five years ago. Perhaps, but after handling this new handheld, we’re inclined to think that Nintendo wisely struck a balance between size, price, and power consumption. And considering how well the old 8-bit system weathered the decade’s technological storms, we think the Game Boy Advance is here to stay, and we’re glad. –Porter B. Hall
- CPU: 32-bit RISC CPU with embedded memory
- Screen: 2.9-inch reflective TFT color LCD
- Display Size: 1.6 by 2.4 inches (40.8 by 61.2 mm)
- Resolution: 38,000 pixels in a wide-screen aspect ratio (10,000 per square inch)
- Colors: 512 simultaneous colors from a palette of 32,768
- Size: 3.2 by 5.6 by 1 inch (82 by 144.5 by 24.5 mm)
- Weight: Approximately 5 ounces (140 grams)
- Power Supply: 2 AA alkaline batteries
- Battery Life: Approximately 15 hours continuous play
It features a more powerful processor than any previous portable system, for faster, smoother gameplay
The high-resolution, full color screen makes the game jump out at you — 50% bigger than Game Boy Color
Two new buttons, L & R, bring you more control & game options
Extended battery life lets you play for up to 15 hours on a pair of AA batteries
Compact Game Paks let you store your game progress & are smaller then Game Boy Color Paks