So the console generations have moved on, and the newest gadgets are out. Gamers are moving on from the Nintendo DS to the 3DS, leaving with it the Game Boy Advance library of games. (Far as I know, older Game Boy, and perhaps Game Boy Color, games are being released as downloadable titles for the 3DS’ Virtual Console library, but I’ve yet to hear of any GBA ports)
Realizing this, I’m looking through my collection of GBA and DS games, and will discuss my favorite games on each system, starting with the former. There are quite a few, so brace yourself.
As an afterthought, I’ll break this list up into two articles. This article will deal with my favorite GBA games, and the next with DS games. Sound good? Good.
Early on in the GBA’s life cycle (within the first few months, actually) an RPG was released, called “Golden Sun”. I’d been seeing screenshots of the game in Nintendo Power magazine (yes, here’s the obligatory, “back when the magazine was good” comment), and the visual style of the game looked great. Then I read about the game’s mechanics, and a bit about the story, and I was intrigued. Golden Sun was the first GBA game I owned, and it did not disappoint. The story is simple: you play as some youths from the mountain town of Vale, and you explore a sanctuary you’re not really allowed to. Some stuff happens, and some characters are taken hostage, while your characters have one of the four elemental stars. Apparently the villains want to ignite the four elemental lighthouses, an act that will unleash the ancient system of magic, Alchemy, upon the world, an act that will apparently result in the complete destruction of the entire world. So your party sets out in pursuit of the villains, and you end up chasing them across the world in an effort to stop them from powering on the various lighthouses. Along the way, you collect magical creatures called djinn, which you can assign to party members. Doing so will alter their classes and stats. During battle, you can use djinn for a variety of effects (some djinn boost stats, some unleash attacks, some heal, and so on). Djinn that have been used like that stockpile so that you can, once you’ve used enough djinn, use them to summon spirits to aid you in battle. This was an awesome thing to do in battles. Besides that, Golden Sun had a great story, and some really great puzzles. The dungeons were fun to explore, too. Great RPG, with some of the best music of any GBA title.
Going on from that, a sequel to Golden Sun, called Golden Sun: The Lost Age, was released some years later, also on the GBA. TLA carried on the story from right where GS left off, and continued it in a fantastic fashion, rolling out new plot twists that you would never have seen coming. I certainly didn’t. Plus you get a boat that ends up becoming an airship. How about that? Isn’t that neat? TLA introduced new characters, as well. I remember the initial draw of TLA being that you played as the villains from the first game. I was not sure how that would play out, but play out it did and I loved where the story went Another cool facet of TLA was that you could import your save data from the first game, and when the original party joined your new party, your old characters would be at the same levels when you beat the first game, bringing with them all their items, weapons, armor, money, and djinn. Isn’t that just neat? Bringing your old party over with all of their items and abilities (and djinn) was actually necessary in order to find all the secrets in TLA. For instance, there was a secret dungeon that you could only enter if you had every djinn from both games with you. (Incidentally, it seems GS and TLA were originally planned to be just one game, but proved to be too large a game to fit on a single GBA cartridge.) So yeah, if you love RPGs and haven’t played the Golden Sun games, I highly recommend it. Amazing games.
Elsewhere on the GBA are the Pokemon games. I can’t get through an article like this without bringing up this franchise, can I? No, can’t have that! Anyway, the GBA saw the third generation games (Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald). Of that trilogy (not really my favorite trilogy from the Pokemon series, but whatever), Emerald is what I recommend, as it is sort of a combination of Sapphire and Ruby. In R/S, you had two antagonist Teams to deal with (Team Magma and Team Aqua). Team Magma wanted to bring forth the legendary Pokemon Groudon to create endless sunny days, and Team Aqua wanted to bring forth the legendary Pokemon Kyogre to create endless rainy days. In Sapphire, you dealt with Team Aqua and could catch Kyogre, and in Ruby you dealt with Magma and could catch Groudon. Well, Emerald looked at that and said, why not catch both? And guess what? In Emerald, you deal with both Teams and can catch both of those legendary Pokemon, in addition to the dragon, Rayquaza. So, of that generation, Emerald is my favorite.
The GBA also saw remakes of the original Pokemon games, Red and Green, as FireRed and LeafGreen. For long-time fans of the series, such as myself, we wanted access to the first generation of Pokemon, but no longer had access to them, as you couldn’t import Pokemon from Gold/Silver/Crystal to the Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald games. With FR/LG, you could play through the original games and gain those original Pokemon again. Besides that, the first-gen games were brought up to the third-gen level of mechanics, which doesn’t mean much to people who aren’t that into the actual multiplayer side of things. I know that if I started spouting about how certain moves didn’t work as intended, or how certain mechanics were fixed, and the battle equations were fixed, you’d zone out, so I won’t. FR/LG were great remakes of the originals, I’ll leave it at that.
Most of the remainder of my GBA collection consists of remakes, such as Final Fantasy I&II: Dawn of Souls, Final Fantasy IV Advance, Final Fantasy V Advance, Final Fantasy VI Advance, Tales of Phantasia, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. All of those are great games, just not GBA-original games. So. Moving on.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was an interesting game. Most fans of the FF Tactics games go on endlessly about the first game on the PlayStation, which I’ve never played, so fair enough to them. It may be a great game, and have Cloud as an unlockable character, but that’s that game, that isn’t FFTA. FFTA did what every FF game does and sets its events in a new world. The main characters end up, via a magical book, in the land of Ivalice (yes, FF12 returned to this realm). The main character, Marché, doesn’t want to stay there, and is dead set on destroying Ivalice in order for him and his friends to return home to Earth. Guess what, his friends don’t like that; they want to stay in Ivalice, they don’t want to return to their sad lives back home. FFTA is a tactics game, so you’ll spend most of your time in battles, moving your characters around the board, using special abilities in addition to normal attacks. What’s new here is the law system, which I guess people didn’t like because it sort of restricted what you could do in these battles. Break a law too many times and that character will be sent to prison. So I guess FFTA is, in the end, a law-abiding simulator. Anyway, the story was great, there were tons of missions to go on. This game can easily provide a couple hundred hours of gameplay. If you like tactical games, this one is fun.
A lot of my GBA collection consists of RPGs. Big surprise there, huh? Next and last on the RPG list is Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. This game sees the plumber’s third outing in an RPG environment, and the first instance of such on a portable system. Prior to this we had Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars on the SNES, and Paper Mario on the N64. Anyway, this game sees the Mario Bros. venture out to the Beanbean Kingdom, which neighbors the Mushroom Kingdom. Shenanigans involving some magical and mystical bean ensue, and you meet up with a rather hilarious villain known as Fawful. In fact, this entire game is hilarious, really, which is a pleasant change from the usual RPG fare with “ZOMG the world is doomed, guys, let’s try not to be emo about it!” and things like that. Even the battles are more fun in this game, as you have timed button pressing attacks to defend, and Bro combo attacks that require precise button pressing. This game is just fun, which is what you’d expect from a Mario game, isn’t it?
Last on my list of GBA games are the three Castlevania gamse that appeared on the GBA. Of the three (Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, and Aria of Sorrow), Circle of the Moon is really my favorite. This one just feels different from the later GBA and DS Castlevania games (probably has to do with the fact that Iga didn’t work on this game, something I’ll discuss more about later), and is rather more challenging. The music herein is fantastic, the design of the game overall is great. This is just a great all-around game that you should definitely try, if you can find a copy. More about Iga and this game: Apparently Iga doesn’t like Circle of the Moon, to the extent that he’s effectively retconned this game entirely out of the Castlevania continuity. I think it’s something to do with the implications of family bloodlines, and that the Belmont lineage might contain some vampire blood, which OH NO GUYS THAT ISN’T GOOD LET’S PRETEND THIS GAME NEVER HAPPENED! KTHNXBYE.
Wait. One more game, okay? It’s Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, which was a game that actually had no involvement in other FE games (such as the previous GBA game, simply titled Fire Emblem, which was, of course, a prequel game to Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken (I can’t believe you didn’t know that, guys)). This was also the second Fire Emblem game to be released outside of Japan. Anyway, both of these GBA Fire Emblem games are great, but are quite difficult. I mean, lose a character in battle and they die permanently. But the games are great.
Well, that’s a look at my favorite games on the GBA. Next time I’ll have a look through my collection of DS games and see what stands out.