Despite giving up on the Tony Hawk franchise due to the unrealistic physics and stale gameplay, this game made a big impression when it was released. While not being true 3D, but rather featuring an isometric perspective, it clearly demonstrated the power of the GBA compared to the GBC edition of Tony Hawk. The game ran smoothly with no slowdown, featuring many frames of fluid animation faithful to the console versions. Many tracks, such as The Warehouse, were close renditions of the originals and having two additional buttons on the GBA gave it just enough to work well with the game. There were better games that were released at the GBA's launch, such as Castlevania CoTM, but this was by far the most impressive from a technical standpoint.
Not only was Mario Kart DS the best Mario Kart title to date, it introduced many DS owners to the Wifi gaming experience they were promised. Compared to earlier title, physics and control were tighter, graphics and framerate improved, driver and kart variety built upon and track creativity was stepped up yet again. The competitive Wifi experience increased the replay factor ten-fold and paved the way for more elaborate wifi experiences from future DS games.
Many gamers who followed Nintendo's Zelda series were surprised at the quality of his first portable adventure. Falling somewhere between the original and Link To The Past game-play wise, Link's Awakening featured memorable characters, a progressively developing story, creative dungeons and a large overworld. The game could of easily been given higher quality graphics and sound and released for the SNES as Zelda 4, which was stunning in an era where many Gameboy versions of console games were dumbed-down and shortened versions of the originals.
Before the first six Final Fantasy games, Tales Of Phantasia or Phantasy Star 1-3 were ported to the GBA, Enix (As it was called back then) had re-released the first three Dragon Warrior games for Gameboy Color. The third game in the series had been remade for the SNES in Japan, and that remake was ported over to the GBA and translated for Western audiences. The result was one of the largest and best looking games to be released on the GBC. Featuring overhauled graphics and sound with detailed battle animations, twice as many weapons and items, cut-scenes, a new class, new sidequests and a secret dungeon the remake added a wealth of content to an already 30+ hour quest. Compared to other GBC RPG's that could be completed in 5-10 hours DWIII offered so much to do. A dynamic class system, pachisi and gambling mini-games, monster medal collection and multiple worlds filled to the brim with dungeons kept many RPGers entertained far longer than other games at the time could hope for. Enix set a high bar for console RPG ports to handhelds and depending on who you ask they've yet to be dethroned.
Metal Gear Solid is one of the most popular franchises today.....on Sony consoles. Probably even more obscure than the NES Metal Gear games is the GBC rendition of MGS. The best way to picture the gameplay is playing the Playstation title from an overhead perspective like Zelda with audio and visuals around NES quality. It might not sound very enticing, but the package was one of the most robust put out for GBC. The main mission was long with multiple stealth-based levels, a variety of weapons and gadgets, text cut-scenes to drive the dynamic story and numerous boss battles. Multiple difficulties kept things accessible for less skilled players and challenging for veterans. MGS also included a complete set of 150 VR training missions and even an enjoyable multiplayer mode. The gameplay was just as strategical and enjoyable as the Playstation counterpart, merely adapted to a less powerful system. The result is one of Solid Snakes better games, though often overlooked due to the system it was released for.
#5: Golden Sun (GBA)
Golden Sun was another GBA game released early in its life that really showcased the power of the new handheld. The graphics and audio surpassed even the highest quality SNES RPGs while offering some unique gameplay aspects that helped in stand out from other games in the genre. The crisp, detailed graphics and audio would lure the player in, while the story and creative Djinn system would keep one hooked. Golden Sun was one of the first original handheld RPG's to offer a console RPG proportioned quest. The series still stands tall as one of the GBA's finest RPG offerings over a half decade since its release.
Magi Nation was a Gameboy Color RPG overlooked by many among more popular series like Pokemon, Dragon Warrior or Zelda, despite offering a rich and unique experience. In some ways the game is fairly typical of the RPG genre, featuring a story revolving around your character saving the world from evil for instance, but in many more ways it was fresh and unique. Townspeople had personalities that varied tremendously, along with a unique sprite and dialog portrait for each of them. Sarcasm and humor were abundant in the title and locations varied from deep forests and underground volcanoes to sky palaces and undersea cities. The quest was long, filled with twists in the story and driven by the many unique characters getting into all sorts of trouble. The gameplay was solid with puzzles, minigames and a variety of monsters to train. The graphics and audio pushed the system further than 99% of what was released for it. The GBC's best RPG, barring the Dragon Warrior ports.
Castlevania CoTM was easily the GBA's strongest launch title. It took the gameplay of SoTN and put it into portable form. When I bought the title along with my new GBA, I had never played SoTN so this was my first time experiencing a Castlevania in this way. As a long-time fan of Metroid games I was hooked early on. The gothic atmosphere was well developed with eerie music, dark graphics and brooding enemies filling the castle. The game offered challenging gameplay with superb control. Between the magic and subweapons you had a variety of weapons at your disposal, some of which were required to reach every secret in the game. One could easily spend over 20 hours on their first playthrough, levelling up their character, dying at each boss multiple times and backtracking through the castle to locate items. The quest was one of the most satisfying games released on the GBA and much tougher than the other two Castleroids for the system.
After the phenomenal Super Metroid, many fans (Including myself) were rather eager for another title from the series to be relased. Nearly ten years later we were treated to the first 3D Metroid game and a new 2D adventure for the GBA. Metroid Fusion simplified the controls of its predecessor, improved physics and offered a fresh presentation for the series. It's the most story-driven Metroid released to date, following the development of the X parasite as a threat to the galaxy. The graphics and audio were up to Super Metroid standards, even exceeding them in certain ways, while the overall atmosphere of the game remains amongs the most polished and developed out of any handheld title.
#1: Pokemon Red (GB)
The Pokemon games were one of the better RPG's released for the original Gameboy, but that's not the only reason they're memorable. The whole cultural experience attached to them made it such a different experience. Rather than just playing the game yourself, levelling your characters to defeat a final boss like any other RPG, you could find many real life friends to battle. Not only just friends, but other kids at restaurants, malls, karate practice.....it seemed everywhere you went people were playing Pokemon. It was huge. Catching the show once in a while, playing the card game with neighborhood friends and battling each other's enemies all become part of an engrossing social experience. No other Gameboy games, even the packed-in Tetris could compete with the Link Cable usage these games brought with them. To this day the experience the original Pokemon games brought with them was unique, addictive and capable of bringing complete strangers together like no other handheld game ever has.
While retired now, there were many memorable moments in the Gameboys life. The DS is young but has already shown that it's capable of taking the handheld market in new and interesting directions. I've been playing Nintendo handhelds for nearly 20 years and they've consistently offered an accessible, enjoyable and varied experience. Along with each update to the system, new games were produced that would take advantage of exciting new capabilities. As the DS continues to pick up incredible momentum and bring out creativity in developers, one can only wonder where Nintendo's team will take us with it's next handheld design.
List by Raumien (02/28/2007)
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