The wait is over. Gameboy Advance is finally here!
Though I couldn’t find the golf game (it’s supposed to be out already!) I decided to buy one anyway. As I originally wrote at the end of last year, I was considering getting the Bandai Color Wonderswan because of the golf game that I saw. Unfortunately, the rest of the games were pretty weak so I gave up that idea pretty quickly. I decided to wait for the much anticipated Gameboy Advance. Actually, I had even forgotten that the Gameboy Advance was supposed to be coming out this month. I was walking around in the mall when I saw one on display in the Seibu department store. It was grossly overpriced so I immediately got in a cab and went over to the “game” mall.
For something that was released just a week ago, there were surprisingly a lot of units offered. Unlike the PS2, which was completely sold out within the first hour of it being released, the Gameboy Advance seemed readily available. I guess Nintendo learned from the Sony fiasco and made enough machines. Plus, there were at least 15 different games to choose from! Each unit cost about HK$850 (US$110), a 40% markup from the 9,800 yen (US$80) retail price in Japan. I’m sure the price will continue to fall in the coming weeks. The games ranged from HK$290 (US$37) for the original 4 games to HK$390 (US$50) for some of the newer ones.
I scanned all of the games and eventually, I settled on just buying one first. It’s a really amazing car racing game called Advance GTA. I’ll buy more games later, but I just wanted to try out the machine first. The only other notable games are a cool Mario Kart-like game, Super Mario Brothers, and this cool RPG game called Silent Hill. The Gameboy Advance is also supposed to be backward compatible with all previous Gameboy games. I haven’t had a chance to try this out but I would assume it would work.
When I bought the machine, there were at least 5 or six other people asking about the Gameboy Advance. By the time I had tried a few games, chosen the one I wanted, and paid, two other people had also bought a Gameboy Advance machine. I think the Gameboy Advance is going to do really well, especially if they can release more games ASAP.
The machine itself is available in 3 different colors (Blue, White, and translucent). It has a more horizontal shape, as opposed to the vertical Gameboy with the buttons and joypad at either side of the screen. The on/off button is at the bottom while there are right/left buttons at the top of the machine, just like on a joypad. The orientation of the buttons and screen is actually quite good – it’s just like holding a standard joystick on the PS, for example.
I chose the translucent because the blue machine looks more like a very dull purple that wasn’t very attractive. I don’t know if they are supposed to be more expensive, but I had to pay a premium (an extra US$5) to get it (versus the blue/white machines). The unit is very light and sits well in your hands. The buttons are standard size so it’s pretty much just like any old Gameboy. It’s interesting to note though that the Gameboy Advance Cartridges are nearly half the size of regular Gameboy games.
The Gameboy Advance rules! The games are a quantum leap from the old Gameboy games. The graphics on the small screen is pretty amazing. The game play is really good as well, especially considering that it’s a portable machine. The racing game I bought is more akin to something you’d play on a SNES/PS as opposed to the old Gameboy which had games you’d likely play on a NES/Atari. This is a significant improvement in portable gaming. I can’t wait to see what other games there will be out there. Probably the best improvement has to be the sound. It is loud and very good. No more of those lame Gameboy sounds, now you get true “game” sounds.
The only minor complaint I have is that the screen again is like the old Gameboy, just a bit dim. But hey, it makes sense. If you get an active screen like my PDA, you’ll be burning through batteries faster than you’ll be able to finish the first stage of any game. Still, I can dream.
I haven’t had a chance to test out the battery life completely. It runs on two AA batteries and so far its lasted through an hour of game playing. I suspect though that you’ll be burning through batteries reasonably quick. Rechargeables or the optional battery pack is probably an option worth considering.
Is there any other portable game device out there that compares? NO! Buy the Gameboy Advance, enough said. Even for someone like me, that hardly ever plays video games, and I usually stink at the ones I do play, this is a fantastic buy and an ESSENTIAL gadget you need to have. Don’t even think that the GB emulator on a Palm or the Games on an iPaq can compare. I could have used this on my last flight out to LA. It will get even better when I find that golf game and there are many other games on the way.