March 20th, 2003 | Feature | GB Advance
Game Boy Advance 2003 Buyer’s Guide
Is the GBA SP your maiden voyage to Game Boy Island? No worries, we'll help you decide which games to walk out with and which ones to save up for.

You’re one of them, aren’t you? One of those bitter, arm-crossing types who made far too big a deal out of the Game Boy Advance’s dark screen and vowed never to get one again because Nintendo never made it backlit. Then you found out about the Afterburner kit and immediately preordered one. You thought you were risin’ up because the guy was all YEAH DOWN WITH THE PORTABLE MONOPOLY (P.S. BUY MY KIT THAT DEPENDS ON IT) and you got to learn (fail at) soldering in the process. You’re living it up until what do you know, Nintendo goes ahead and reveals a new GBA that lights up! Upon hearing the news, your friends tell you about it. But you need to justify the almost $100 you spent on everything plus all the physical stress you went through, so you immediately spew out arguments like “psh, it’ll cramp up my hands” and “even though I’ve never used headphones on a Game Boy, that adapter is ridiculous!” Unfortunately, it takes about two days for you to give in to your dark urges. Your future Platinum color SP now rests on an Order Status list online.

Orrrr not! Maybe you’ve been eyeing a GBA for awhile but just haven’t found enough reasons to solidify a purchase. But now the SP is just about released, you want it, and now you have a two-year backlog of games to make up for. Whichever group you fall in, we advise you continue reading.

However, this is not something completely tailored to either group. This is not one of those “omigod we can’t wait to play this so we can see it clearly” types of features. This is a simple presentation of our favorite currently-available GBA games, domestic or otherwise, as well as upcoming titles we’re interested in (and why you should be too). Hit it!–Ray Barnholt and Alex Fraioli

Out Now

Advance Wars
Nintendo, Strategy

• Overview: The be-all end-all of portable turn-based cartoony military seige, uh, games. It’s simple to learn and will have its way with you before you master it: the perfect definition of a Game Boy game.

• Pro: The map creation mode is an awesome compliment to the humongous number of maps already in the game.
• Con: May cause varicose veins.

• Appeals to: Seriously, if you’re not interested yet, shame on you!

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
Konami, Action/Adventure

• Overview: The second great GBA Castlevania is something everyone should play. Juste Belmont heads to Drac’s castle to once again force-feed his demonic fleet of monsters some leathery goodness. WHUPAA

• Pro: Kick enough ass and you can eventually play as an 8-bit Simon Belmont! (OOPS SPOILERZ)
• Con: Um…it’s still a lousy Metroid ripoff! …Sure!

• Appeals to: Androgynous occult albinos

Game & Watch Gallery 4
Nintendo, Action/Retro

• Overview: Another welcome selection of LCD classics, again in original simulated form as well as remade versions with the cast of the Mario series. A rather addictive suite of simple yet devious little games.

• Pro: Mario’s Goddamn Cement Factory!!!
• Con: Most people will find better things to do than spend hours trying to break nigh-impossible scores to unlock games that were already in the past three Galleries.

• Appeals to: People who think the Game Boy’s still only good for Tetris; Sweaty classic game collectors

Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland
Nintendo, Action/Platform

• Overview: A gorgeous remake of the NES classic Kirby’s Adventure, with co-op multiplayer and a handful of minigames (yay Samurai Kirby!).

• Pro: They couldn’t have picked a better Kirby game to bring back, really.
• Con: They could have easily made a brand-new game with these graphics, really.

• Appeals to: That secret, dark place in your heart that forever loves Kirby

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Nintendo, Action RPG

• Overview: It’s Link’s 16-bit outing with an extra mode.

• Pro: A great port of a classic Action RPG, with a four-player bonus game: Four Swords.
• Con: Okay, so Four Swords is a little weak. The main course is still top-notch.

• Appeals to: Action RPG fans, people with like-minded GBA-owning friends.

Mario Kart Super Circuit
Nintendo, Racing

• Overview: An all new Mario Kart title featuring Nintendo’s standard rogues gallery.

• Pro: Good tracks, control, and a multiplayer option make this one nice for get-togethers or even by your lonesome.
• Con: It’s pretty fast action for such a small screen, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself stuck in a squint every now and then.

• Appeals to: Racing fans, Nintendo fans

Mega Man & Bass
Capcom, Action/Platform

Overview: Capcom’s honorable nod to “classic era” Megaman, even if it is still a port of a late Super Famicom game and looks like a bad expansion of Mega Man 8.

• Pro: At least it’s better than the WonderSwan version.
• Con: Definitely one of the most relentless MM games in history, and you’re even expected to collect things!! Definitely not for temperemental folks.

• Appeals to: MM purists who continue to wait for a port of Megaman’s Soccer

Mega Man Battle Network 2
Capcom, RPG

• Overview: Capcom’s RPG in an exaggerated cyberspace continues. Follow Lan Hikari and his Net Navi Megaman.EXE as they once again make an effort to stop network-corrupting bad guys and bond in the only way a boy and his nonexistent AI companion possibly can.

• Pro: The premise is a little hard to swallow, but this is still a great reinvention of the MM universe.
• Con: You play and you play and then it’s over before you know it! But at least this is a Mega Man game so we can expect at least 20 more sequels. Whew!

• Appeals to: Internet ADDICTS DUN DUN DUNNNNN

• Note: We would suggest playing the first MMBN, but it seems it is getting harder to find. Although there’s always eBay, and frankly you owe it upon yourself to play the entire series.

Mega Man Zero
Capcom, Action/Adventure

• Overview: Whereas the Mega Man X series continued where the original left off, Zero takes the torch from X. Even farther in the future, a perilous group of freedom fighters find a stored-away Zero and ask him politely to save their metal butts from an evil incarnation of his old buddy X.

• Pro: Not a whole lot lost from the X series, save for the art style.
• Con: Like MM & Bass, Zero can also be a little, shall we say, rough at times.

• Appeals to: Old Zero-on-New Zero fanfic writers

• Note: Capcom will be releasing Mega Man Zero 2 in the fall, but we decided not to put it in the Out Soon list because we can only write about 4 MM games per week. Hope you understand.

Metroid Fusion
Nintendo, Action/Adventure

• Overview: It’s Metroid 4, B! The real deal! Samus returns to the planet SR388 (the setting of the last GB Metroid) and runs into all sorts of crazy crap on the way. A murderous Samus clone?! That’s just the beginning!

• Pro: There’s actually somewhat of a story, which really helps the Metroid mythos along.
• Con: The mandatory map stations that tell you exactly where to go next really water down the experience.

• Appeals to: Anyone who bought a GameCube for Metroid Prime

Phantasy Star Collection

• Overview: The first three Phantasy Star titles all wrapped in one game.

• Pro: Should be obvious: you get two incredible, classic sci-fi RPG’s, and Phantasy Star 3. All games are reproduced faithfully and should keep you busy for the next few dozen hours of travel.
• Con: Each game is short a few save slots to make room for the others, but this isn’t be a big deal if you’re not sharing with anyone.

• Appeals to: Classic RPG fans

Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire
Nintendo, RPG

• Overview: Pokémon is back and you thought it could be stopped! Feh! These new additions to the franchise have the usual improvements in graphics and gameplay, including 2-on-2 battles that open up a whole new realm of wasting away recess.

• Pro: Sharper graphics and better music make the past Pokémon games seem even cheaper-feeling than they used to be.
• Con: Now that there’s about an even gazillion monsters in the game, your drive to catch ’em all will surely wane.

• Appeals to: Manchildren

Street Fighter Alpha 3
Capcom, Fighting

• Overview: A shockingly well-done conversion of Street Fighter Zero 3 Upper, a late arcade release. The lack of the home versions’ World Tour mode is almost made up for with the inclusion of exclusive new characters from Capcom Vs. SNK 2. Without question, the best portable fighting game since the death of the NeoGeo Pocket.

• Pro: Truthfully, most everything. Even the control manages to be decent!
• Con: Half the modes need to be unlocked, and only past medium difficulty, so depending on how often you intend to play you may never see them at all.

• Appeals to: Folks looking for a quick fighting fix; Those scary dudes that hang out at Tilt all day

Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2
Nintendo, Action/Platform

• Overview: Nintendo’s grand entrance into the world of 16-bit platforming is reproduced faithfully on the GBA. Yoshi makes his first appearance as the brothers attempt to rescue his shell-bound brethren from Bowser’s bratty kids.

• Pro: The one or two people who have never played this game are required by law to purchase it and enjoy its big, colorful graphics and classic Mario gameplay, as well as learn that a 10-year old 2D platformer can be a hell of a lot better than a lot of what’s on the market today. Everyone else is in it for the above, as well as the nostalgia factor.
• Con: Okay, so the music took a little beating on the way through the port-o-matic, but it’s not terrible. The game might also be a little on the short side for some, even after all the hidden goals and stages.

• Appeals to: 2D platform fans

Sonic Advance 2
Nintendo, Action/Platform

• Overview: Sonic has speed! Sonic has attitude! Sonic has a shitload of sequels! This is one of them!

• Pro: Most of the quirks from Advance 1 have been fixed in this version, making for a much more enjoyable throwback to the Genesis days.
• Con: Cream. Silly character, silly name, silly Tails clone. Has nobody learned anything from Sonic Adventure 2?

• Appeals to: Those who have played out the Mario Advance games already; Bone-chilling Sonic fans that would rather hack the games than actually play them

Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3
Nintendo, Action/Platform

• Overview: Baby Mario and an army of Yoshis embark on a mission to rescue poor Baby Luigi from the chubby grasp of Baby Bowser. Six unique worlds and a dozen clever bosses will challenge the toddler plumber and his spectrum of Yoshis throughout.

• Pro: Beautiful graphics and ridiculously smooth gameplay will ensure hours of quality time spent with this baby. Plus, no diaper-changing.
• Con: The secret stages dole out frustration-induced medical maladies like nobody’s business; we had three strokes getting through the first one alone.

• Appeals to: Lovers of 2D platformers, crayons, sunshine, and/or puppies


Out Soon

Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising
Nintendo, Strategy
Release: June

• Overview: Not much is known about AW2, but early screenshots have shown a similar presentation with more units and a new cast of enemy opponents. Nintendo knows that when you’re messing with perfection, all you need to do is keep building.

• Pro: We trust you’re smart enough to figure this part out.
• Con: It’s still no excuse for not localizing the GBA Fire Emblems.

• Appeals to: Really man, you should preorder this already.

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Konami, Action/Adventure
Release: May

• Overview: Castlevania boldly goes into the future, but not to worry; you’ll still be beating up demons as a wispy non-man in a dingy castle!

• Pro: It oughtta do well in taking the edge off waiting for that new PS2 CV.
• Con: With the small gap between this and Harmony of Dissonance, there doesn’t seem to be anything here that will impress you on the same level.

• Appeals to: Those who will never, ever get enough Castlevania in this lifetime

Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Heartbreak
Nintendo, Adventure
Release: April

• Overview: An evil Ham-Ham named Spat spreads nasty rumors about the other Ham-Hams, and it’s up to Hamtaro and his coquetish love-thing Bijou to set things right. The pair will learn new Ham-Chat words (80+, we hear) and solve various puzzles to restore love and peace to the Hammunity (I made that one up).

• Pro: The ability to assemble a Ham-Jam with the Ham-Chat words and phrases you’ve collected, then have Hamtaro and Bijou dance to it. Pure gold.
• Con: The Love Meter and a RubRub Room are sure to inspire inappropriate fanfics written entirely in Ham-Chat.

• Appeals to: Hamtaro fans; Hamster fetishists

Mega Man Battle Network 3
Capcom, RPG
Release: Fall

• Overview: All aboard the gimmick train! Capcom’s new Battle Network comes in Blue and White versions, and get this–Blue will only be available at one store! But since you’re probably not 15 or under that won’t matter much to you.

• Pro: It’s a new Mega Man game! We’re Mega Man whores! Dammit!
• Con: We know BN has lots of commercial appeal and everything, but why did they have to make seperate versions?! Oh how we weep for the future…

• Appeals to: [some joke about fighting for everlasting peace]

Ninja Five-O
Release: Fall

• Overview: A Ninja Gaiden-style affair that pits ninja cop Joe Osugi (why does this occupation not exist in real life?!) against the thugs of the world.

• Pro: Seriously, Ninja Gaiden fans will feel right at home. You’ve your swords, shurikens, fancy ninjitsu magic, and the ability to climb walls. Plus! A grappling hook for swinging like a Metroid hunter.
• Con: Has the potential to fall squarely in either direction on the Scale of Good Gaming.

• Appeals to: 2D side-scroller fans, Ninja enthusiasts

Rock ‘N Roll Racing
Blizzard, Racing
Release: June

• Overview: Blizzard revives its 16-bit sleeper for the GBA. The game plays a lot like RC Pro-Am, just with a goofy sci-fi hard rock presentation and not quite as mind-numbingly hard.

• Pro: Popular rock n’ roll are songs used as the soundtrack, just understandably less authentic-sounding.
• Con: May ROCK a little too HARD for you PANSIES

• Appeals to: Those of us old enough to remember it

Sega Arcade Gallery
Sega, Retro
Release: Fall

• Overview: Four popular Sega Arcade titles in one collection — After Burner, Space Harrier, Out Run and Super Hang On.

• Pro: Space Harrier, Super Hang On.
• Con: After Burner, Out Run.

• Appeals to: The hardcore Genesis crowd

Super Puzzle Fighter II
Capcom, Puzzle
Release: April

• Overview: Hailed as one of the best puzzle games humanity has to offer, SPF2 will make a return on the GBA pretty soon. No word on if it will offer the different play styles of the Dreamcast version (standard, Puyo Puyo-style, Tetris Attack-style), but we’ll pray every day that it does.

• Pro: An innovative 2-player mode where one player uses the right side of the GBA to control and the other uses the left side of the same GBA!
• Con: The same mode might be better suited for couples, if you know what we mean.

• Appeals to: Yo momma

Wario Ware, Inc.: Mega Microgame$
Nintendo, Action
Release: May

• Overview: Wario forms a videogame company with a host of ne’er-do-wells to produce a series of reflex-taxing minigames. The format of the game is such that the player has a scant 5 seconds to complete each minigame before the next presents itself, resulting in frenetic, brain-contorting action.

• Pro: A few of the minigames included in Microgame$ make use of classic Nintendo characters. One game challenges the player, as Samus, to take down the Mother Brain, while another replicates the Mute City track from the original F-Zero. Link is also featured in a minigame, but we’re not sure which classic series the “launch-the-finger-rocket-into-the-nose” game pays homage to.
• Con: Sure to give some gamers spaz attacks.

• Appeals to: WAH-HAH-HAH!



Densetsu no Stafi
Nintendo, Action/Platform

• Overview: An enoyable action game once planned for the GB Color, Stafi (Starfi, starfish…yeah you get it) is a little starfish making his way through a variety of underwater worlds to reunite with his quint-limbed bretheren.

• Pro: It’s not a port, it’s not a remake, it’s not a sequel, it’s just good old original platforming fun from Nintendo. (Mario Land 4 would still be nice though.)
• Con: Stafi just isn’t as cool as Ristar.

• Appeals to: Those wondering what adorable beady-eyed mascot Nintendo will come up with next

Family Tennis Advance
Namco, Sports

• Overview: A solid tennis offering from Namco, overshadowed only by Mario Tennis, but that’s on GB Color so who’s counting?

• Pro: A healthy selection of hidden characters, including Namco sports girl Hitomi Yoshino and heroes from past Namco games, like Rick from Splatterhouse!!
• Con: The control is a bit unintuitive; you may find yourself screwing up a lot in the beginning.

• Appeals to: Unlucky souls who can’t find Virtua Tennis GBA near them

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Squaresoft, Strategy RPG

• Overview: Although not exactly the system everyone was expecting it to be released on, this sequel to the PlayStation masterpiece more than holds its own in 2D.

• Pro: An absolutely marvelous soundtrack that nearly equals the original FFT and could very well set the standard for GBA sound in the future.
• Con: The storyline is neither orthodox nor entirely original: In short, a group of kids find themselves in the world of their favorite book. Well, we hope you’re buying it for the gameplay anyway.

• Appeals to: No doubt everyone who visits this site

• Note: Of course, chances are high that FFTA will make it to this side of the world as well, but we sympathize with you zealous importers out there, hence its inclusion on this list.

Gyakuten Saiban 2
Capcom, Adventure

• Overview: The second in Capcom’s lawyer adventure series. You play a young attorney who battles his way inside and outside the courtroom. Finding clues and making good on the presentation of your clients is imperative, and just as fun as sitting down for an episode of Law & Order.

• Pro: Just look at that logo! It’s dramatic! It’s action packed! It’s COURTROOM DRAMA FOR GOD’S SAKE
• Con: Only in an alternate universe traveled to by Jerry O’Connell is this game in English.

• Appeals to: Freaks like us

Kururin Paradise
Nintendo, Action/Puzzle

• Overview: The explosive sequel to the Japanese GBA launch title Kuru Kuru Kururin. The same basic “don’t touch the walls with your helicopter thingy” is here, with some new minigames and multiplayer activity as well.

• Pro: Ad. Dict. Ive.
• Con: We’re stumped.

• Appeals to: Lovers of cute bird-like things that are too lazy to fly on their own ability

• Note: Paradise was among Nintendo’s GBA selection at the last E3, so there might be a chance for it to be released here.

Mr. Driller Ace
Namco, Action/Puzzle

• Overview: No one can stop Mr. Dom–er–Mr. Driller! This expansive new volume of the Driller legacy has a buttload of gameplay. Driller diehards already have it and virgins won’t find a better portable Driller for a little while longer.

• Pro: A chewy, chocolately multiplayer mode.
• Con: The Pacteria-raising features of the game aren’t exactly appealing, much less original.

• Appeals to: The same ones mentioned in the Kirby entry

Crunk Games – Game Boy Advance 2003 Buyer’s Guide

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