With two new home consoles making
their debut at E3, it may have been easy to assume the Game Boy Advance would be a much
lesser presence. Nothing could be further from the truth. While GameCube titles were
difficult to find on the floor, GBA titles were everywhere. Lots of games are in
development, and the system will launch with well over a dozen titles. Over 60 titles are
expected to be available by the end of the year, and many of these will open up new
genres, such as the first-person shooter, that have never before been ported to a handheld
The GBA is a sleek little machine. It is about the size of a Game Boy Color, although
it lacks the bulbous battery case. It features four buttons, A and B on the face, and L
and R shoulder buttons, allowing for much more complex control schemes. The system runs on
a 32-bit RISC processor and sports a 2.9" screen, which is bigger than the GBC
screen. The LCD display on the GBA is also incredibly crisp, although light may still be a
problem, making the proliferation of GBA light accessories a good thing for the gamer. The
screen displays at a resolution of 240X160 pixels, and can show over 32 thousand colors at
a time. The two AA batteries it runs on should give about 15 hours of gameplay time,
although, again, the proliferation of third-party power accessories should accommodate the
most prolific gamer.
The system runs several dozen times faster than the GBC, and the display is more crisp
than many home consoles today, adding to the impressive quality of the graphics. In
addition, the headphones jack supports both stereo and Dolby Surround sound, enhancing the
audio quality of the system. The new "multi-player single boot" function allows
select games to support up to four player linked gaming with only one cartridge.
Apparently, the major drawback to the multi-player single boot system is that the GBA can
process much more information than it can send across the link network to other GBA units.
That means that some games, especially the more complex titles, will still require an
individual cartridge for each player.
The system is backwards compatible with all previous Game Boy software, so youll
still be able to enjoy your classic GB games. In addition to functioning as a stand-alone
handheld system, the GBA is also a discreet controller for the GameCube. Nintendo has been
quiet about exactly what the GBA might be used for, but speculation abounds. Needless to
say, it should be very interesting.
The real buzz about the GBA is the fact that handheld gaming is finally coming into its
own. While there has been no shortage of handheld game alternatives, Game Boy has
maintained a strangle hold on the industry. Even so, Game Boy games are generally thought
of as kid stuff. Sure, kids of all ages have become addicted to games like Pokemon, but
for the most part the titles are just to simple and short to entertain most adults. Even
Game Boy role-playing games have been hindered in their audience because of the simplicity
involved. Now, the GBA, which is somewhere on the technology spectrum between the Super
Nintendo and the PlayStation, can bring satisfyingly complex titles to gamers, and the
system will definitely expand the audience for handheld gaming.
The GBA will launch on June 11. The unit will be available in several colors, and the
launch colors are: indigo, arctic (white), glacier (translucent blue), and fuscia
(translucent pink). The system will be priced at $99.95, and games should go for between
$29.99 and $39.99.