GBA and the Top 5 Games
I've never been a big Game Boy fan, but recently I had the opportunity to extensively play a GBA. Did my opinion change? No. But that said, there are 5 games that defy this. Games that not only GBA owners should play, but gamers in general.
Most Game Boy games just feel scaled down, outdated, generic, boring... okay you get the point. I'm not a fan. On the road when it's all you have, I'd even have a hard time enjoying them. With systems like GameCube around, it's just hard to enjoy a small screened SNES (and no, this isn't a 2D vs. 3D issue). If that wasn't enough, many of the games are just SNES ports. When they bring back Rock 'N Roll Racing, you know something's wrong. Not to mention FPS and GBA do not mix. Full consoles have a hard enough time doing the genre right.
There are a few games that I didn't think were good enough to make my list, but are worthy enough to mention. Castlevania (I don't know which one) seemed decent enough, but after 20 minutes, I had enough. I don't see the hype for these games, but they arn't bad either. F-Zero seemed decent, but of course it's very much like the SNES version which I pesonally never liked. I loved ChuChu Rocket on DC, but having to rotate the pieces with 1 button just seems to slow down the fast paced game too much. Then there is Mario Kart: Super Circuit. After a number of plays, I did enjoy it, but it has a few problems. The biggest of which is I never played any multiplayer GBA games. And let's face it, Mario Kart is all about multiplayer. With out it and no one would care about even Mario Kart: Double Dash.
Now the games I'd play even with a GC, Xbox, AND PS2 sitting next to me.
5. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
No, I havn't played it (I think it first comes out next week), but I needed something to make this a round "Top 5" list. And so based on its PSX version, I figured why not add this here. Early reviews are all positive too. (Update: After actually playing it, this game easily deserves this #5 spot. One of the few FF games I'd actually recommend.)
4. Metroid Fusion
Again proving Metroid is one of the very best series out there. However much I loved Prime in all its 3D glory, it was good to play a classic 2D Metroid again. The story actually destroys Prime's weak story. Not many new items (all I can think of are the ice missles), but at least it has the classic Spin Attack. Though morph ball bomb jumping is basically non-existent. My biggest problem is too often you find yourself bombing everywhere hoping to get lucky and find the path that leads to the next area of the game. I also highly suggest you take your time and look for energy tanks. You don't want to be like me and get 'stuck' at the end (not allowed to go back) with too few reserve tanks... Not as great as Super Metroid, but damn good.
3. Wario Ware
3 second games? When I first heard of this game and its 200 microgames, I thought of one of those "101 in 1" cartriages. But that's not what this is. It's really just one big game with many different micro levels. The speed of the game is what hooks you. It's all VERY simple (very often just using one button), but also VERY addictive. You would never believe it until you start to play it, but you just can't put it down. There's plenty to keep you busy as you try and beat 15-25 of these micro games in a row only making at most 3 mistakes. A great way to hone your reflexes. That said, most games rely on perfect timing rather than absolute speed. This is the only game in my top 5 that is truly a Game Boy game, and not something that could ever work on a full fledge console. So the recent news of a GC version just makes me wonder, why?
2. Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age
You won't find anything that ground breaking here, but this is just a very well done traditional, turn based, random battle 2D RPG. The one caveat are these creatures, Djinni, you assign to your characters that change your abilities (don't worry, you don't have to feed them). They add a lot of strategy to your battles. As you travel around the world, numerous puzzels make this even more interesting. Plus the game is huge. It's great they allow you to save (and then restart) anywhere, but the only way to load one of your 3 saves is to "reset" your GBA. I guess they wanted to prevent too much saving and loading which would make it too easy to progress (too late). Easily the best 2D RPG I've played in ages. Plus it has a pretty good story for it's small scale.
The one knock I can think of is that much like the new Matrix movies, these two games are really one very large game split into 2 parts. Lost Age continues off right where the first game left you hanging. You definitely want to play the first before the second. This of course means there isn't all that much new in part 2. Sure there are new spells, Djinni, items, ect.; but the gameplay is the same. The only real addition is being able to combine Djinni of different elements to summon new creatures. Part 2 is also less linear and much bigger then the first (if you can believe that). Much of it is optional and since there is only one ending no matter what you do, a lot of the game is for diehards. Not to mention the overworld is just too big. Looking like a map from Zelda III, it was a way to get from town to cave. This time the distance from place to place is much greater, and just wait until you go sailing. Think it's boring in Wind Waker? All in all though, this is one heck of a RPG series. One that GameCube could use...
1. Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising
In a way this is really a retro game. And not just because this has been around since the Famicon, but in this day and age with the popularity of real-time strategy games like Warcraft and Starcraft, a turn based game is rare. It would be too hard (if not impossible) to do a RTS on GBA, and it probbaly would be hard to sell a turn based game on GameCube. So in a way, it's perfect for the GBA. That said, I hope for a GameCube Wars soon. Much like many of the other games here, it's nothing groundbreaking, but just very well done. The CO's who each have their own unique powers does add a lot. This is almost like a game of chess, but with tanks. It reminds me kind of, sort of like a turn based Total Annihilation (my second favorite RTS after Starcraft). Protip: After a few games, go into options and turn off all animations or your games will take forever to play.
While Black Hole Rising is really best described as just an expansion pack, the additions easily put this in my #1 slot (and the one to get). Only one new unit was added which is disapointing. But the ability to play as more then just Andy, Max, and Sami in the campain mode; a better designed capaign mode (with fewer strung out training levels and your able to play all the levels the first time through); new map 'terrain' (like cannons); and Super CO Powers are all a welcome change. I didn't think campaign mode was as hard this time, but that's partially due to more 'capture and destroy object X' levels, and partially due to my experience with the first game. Plus just like the original, there is MUCH more to do then just the main campaign mode. There is the War Room single maps to play, the shop to buy more maps and COs, you can design your own map, and of course playing against a friend (on the same GBA!). It's hard to believe this is a GB game some times.
So there you have it. My picks for the best games on GBA (as of now). This fall Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga will be released (which is the 'true' sequel to the excellent Super Mario RPG back on SNES, but not developed by Square this time) which could very well affect this listing. Not to mention maybe even Fire Emblem and Sword of Mana. If you have a GBA, I recommend all of these games, even if I don't suggest much else. These alone might make buying a GBA Player for GC worthwhile.
So have a good day! I'm heading back to play some more Soul Calibur 2.