Join your Internet besties Jessie, Carl and Aron as they discuss:
-Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze
-South Park: The Stick of Truth
-Card protector sleeves as a possible means of contraception
-Yoshi’s New Island
June 11th marked the ten-year anniversary of Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance handheld console. Almost a thousand games were released during it’s life-span, but this is an attempt to bring you the details on ten of my personal favorites, in no particular order — except for Pokémon being number one!
When I started writing this article, it was hard for me to settle on which Pokémon title defined this generation. Heck, it was hard for me not to list five or six Pokémon GBA games in this list. However, the Battle Frontier sealed the deal, making Pokémon Emerald by favorite GBA game. I could go into further detail, but I don’t think you need me to tell you about how much I like Pokémon.
Yoshi Topsy Turvy
This unique title was kind of cumbersome due to the motion sensor built into the cartridge, but it was worth the awkwardness in order to play this great game. Players would tilt their GBA side to side in order to make the environment slant. This would cause Yoshi to move, or particular items in the level (such as boulders) could be moved to solve puzzles. Its clever design is what helped it get onto this list, plus it’s hard to go wrong with a Yoshi game.
Crazy Japanese Commercial for Yoshi Topsy Turvy!
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
In this adventure, Link befriends a magical talking hat. The hat has the ability to shrink Link down to the size of an itty bitty race of people known as the Picori. Having this shrinking ability opened a whole shed load of gameplay experiences that had previously been unseen on the GameBoy Advance, making this one of the most beloved GBA title by many players.
When Golden Sun was released in 2001, it was hailed far and wide as the one of the best 2D RPGs made for any system, and many people still find that to be true even a decade later. Players controlled a band of magically proficient people known as “Adepts” on the typical RPG quest of saving the world from certain destruction. The Adepts could be powered up by harnessing the powers of spirits called “Djinn”. Most of the game’s strategic element came from using the right combination of Djinn for the right situation, which gave it the upper hand against it’s RPG peers.
Super cute mice! Crazy mean cats! All drawn in an adorable Japanese style! It may look and sound a little juvenile, but ChuChu Rocket was anything but. The 2001 GBA version of ChuChu Rocket is a port of the game that was released for Dreamcast in 1999. It was a puzzle game that tasked players with guiding mice to the safety of a rocket ship while avoiding the cats on the board. The mice and cats moved in predictable patterns, and you It was unique because of the strong multiplayer component; a single game cartridge could be use to play with multiple GBAs which provided countless hours o frustration free, but challenging puzzle action.
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
If you could overlook the incredibly dark graphics and the clunky character animations, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon offered a level of depth never before seen on a handheld game. Like Castlevania games before it, players explored a castle filled with scores of undead enemies. However, there were several different paths through the castle which made it the first non-linear game I really played. To add to the depth, there were additional modes of play that could be unlocked by successfully completing each mode before it. Sadly I was never skilled enough to make it past the first alternate game mode, Magician Mode.
Kirby and the Amazing Mirror
It’s sometimes hard for me to play Kirby games. I often find myself just staring at the opening animation sequences, giggling with unbridled glee. I can’t help it — there are just times when Kirby is too cute to handle! Kirby and the Amazing Mirror stood out to me in the extensive GameBoy Advance library because of the unique branching paths you could take through each map, and the fact that this is just the outright longest “standard” Kirby game I could think of. Also, Kirby uses a cell phone to call up allies in this game, which is cute to the power of infinity.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong
This game, which is considered the “spiritual successor” to the original Donkey Kong game, can keep even the sharpest of minds puzzled for hours. In it you guide Mario and the miniature Mario toys Donkey Kong steals at the beginning of the game through obstacle laden levels. This game laid the foundation for one of my favorite DS games, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: March of the Minis, but is definitely great by its own right.
This game was action oriented, run-and-gun platforming at its finest. It was developed by the same team behind the now classic Super Metroid and shares much of the same visual aesthetic, though it introduced a lot of new mechanics to the series such as grabbing ledges or climbing up ladders. One really cool thing about Metroid Fusion is it was possible to connect to Metroid Prime for GameCube to unlock Samus’s Fusion suit for use in Prime. That kind of connectivity between handheld and home consoles is something that always seemed under realized.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
This entry into the much-loved Kingdom Hearts could be numbered “Kingdom Hearts 1.5”, because it served as a bridge between Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 on the Playstation 2. This was a notable GBA game because it was the first one to incorporate full-motion videos, which is a feature which is seen in many games since then, even current DS titles. The game also had a unique card-based combat system, and a mechanic that required players to create rooms of the dungeons they were in in order to advance.
There were many, many more fantastic Game Boy Advance games than these, I just chose my top ten favorites. What games would you add to this list? Are there any you would take off? Get a discussion rolling in the comment section below!
I should probably start this review by saying the first video game I ever owned was the first Donkey Kong Country game. The next two games I got a hold of? The sequels. The battle against the rose-tinted nostalgia glasses was long and arduous, but in the end, I like to think that I came out on top. For the most part. Donkey Kong Country Returns (DKCR), one of the biggest surprises of the year, was an interesting experience to go through as such a longtime fan of the franchise, and while there was quite a bit to get used to, I haven’t had such a smile on my face after finishing a game in far too long.
Nostalgia is a big part of DKCR’s initial presentation. It’s been a long time since Donkey Kong has been under a major spotlight, and Nintendo and Retro take full advantage of the fact. Right off the bat, gamers are greeted with an excellent remix of the first Donkey Kong Country’s title theme. One of the indisputable facts surrounding the franchise is the brilliance of David Wise’s soundtracks, and while DKCR sports a decent amount of (quite awesome) original tracks, it is very clear that one of the big hooks of the game is a soundtrack filled to the brim with snazzy remixes of some well-known tunes. Not even New Super Mario Bros. was this shameless in its nostalgia pandering, but you definitely won’t be hearing any complaints. Fans of Fear Factory will be especially pleased.
The game is also an enormous visual feast. The animations are fluid, the colors are vibrant, and the levels themselves are wildly active yet manage to avoid being too distracting with visual noise. Each level also looks and feels wholly unique, even within the themes of each area on Kong Island. The stages are also full of life and never cease to be in motion, from the vegetation and wildlife in the early jungle levels to the copious amounts of lava explosions in the later volcano area. Some levels have even more unique visuals, such as the silhouette stages made popular in many early trailers. Many other levels are also centered around a new set of mechanics instead of the usual platforming, such as the familiar minecart levels, as well as new rocket barrel levels, which sometimes even switch up perspectives on you. These novelties aren’t too few in number, nor do they overstay their welcome. Each area has distinct variety, and every stage feels well designed and planned.
Fantastic soundtrack and captivating visuals aside, the most important aspect of any game, especially a platformer, is of course the gameplay. For the very most part, Retro gets it right. The physics will feel very different to those familiar with the earlier entries in the Donkey Kong franchise, and definitely require some getting used to, but once enough time is spent everything fits like a new glove. Unfortunately, Nintendo has shoehorned some waggle gameplay in, for both methods of control, and they are sadly incorporated into the ever-important rolling mechanics. The waggle is responsive enough, but for some of the tricker jumps in the game (many of them VERY tricky), having to go the extra mile to waggle instead of just pressing a button makes the process cumbersome and much more prone to error. It isn’t bad by any means, and it’s easy enough to get used to, but it is a pretty big inconvenience. Other than that, the controls feel nearly perfect, and some of the new mechanics, like Diddy’s jetpack, are a lot of fun to play around with when you’re jumping all over the place looking for the myriad of secrets to be found in each level.
Donkey Kong Country has always been known as a fairly challenging franchise. DKCR delivers with the difficulty. In spades. However, it is hardly frustrating. The difficulty is real, in the sense that if you die, chances are it was your fault. Rather than traps based on twitchy player reaction time, the emphasis is instead based on player skill, and is curved in such a way that as one progresses, so should their skills. As a seasoned Donkey Kong veteran, I had little trouble until the last couple of areas, wherein I was severely punished for my cockiness. And I loved every minute of it.
If Nintendo and Retro are trying to make a new series out of this, then this is an amazing first effort. All the stops were pulled out, and everything about the game feels much more complete than, say, the aforementioned new Super Mario Bros. Even if the waggle was more intrusive than it should have been, DKCR is no doubt a worthy successor to the classic trilogy Rare gave us back in the Golden Age of the Super Nintendo. Hell, the only thing I can really ask for at this point is some Funky Kong action in the sequel, please!
[review title=”Donkey Kong Country Returns” pros=”Amazing visuals, Brilliant soundtrack with oodles of nostalgic value, High, rewarding challenge” cons=”Unnecessary waggle controls mess with what would be perfect otherwise. ” verdict=”Donkey Kong has returned. And it rules.” score=90]