If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. That's the phrase that most of us have heard a hundred times or more in our lives. Sometimes just hearing it or reading it can make you rage but sometimes, something comes along that perfectly captures the sentiment of the saying.
Nintendo, a company who never seem to be happy with stuff are always tinkering with things, especially the handheld consoles in their product line. If it's not the shape then it's the colour, if it's not that then you know damn well it's something else, fiddle, fiddle, fiddle...
With all that being said though, sometimes (a lot of the time recently), Nintendo get it wrong on the first try and need a second swing at the plate to fix it. Today let's take a look at the time when they fixed something broken!
32-Bit's of handheld heaven... Pt 2.
I love the GBA, there I said it and make no mistake I made sure the teachers were busy at the other end of the school so if any of you have a problem then it's fight time at lunch break... Ya dig? I'm no fighter, I’m far too good looking to damage the money maker plus I’m far too busy playing awesome retro games especially when I am able to whip out something to play with in public... (hold on that sounded really wrong...) Let me start this again...
The Gameboy Advance is (for me) pound for pound the greatest Nintendo console ever made, now right now 70+ million Americans are sharpening their pitchforks and searching for me to place said pitchforks into holes where things are supposed to exit not enter (seriously what's wrong with me today???) Bear with me though cause at the very least I’m allowed to state my case right? Right...? Cool then let us begin... Grab some popcorn and a drink this could be a long one.
So the original GameBoy had turned the videogame world completely upside down, not only was it the first successful handheld games product with interchangeable cartridges but it also produced many of the greatest videogames of all time (Pokemon, Mario Land, Link's Awakening, Tetris anyone?) It was the first console that Europeans took seriously from Nintendo, sales figures wise, but it also managed to blow out of the water any and all competition from folk like Sega (Game Gear), Atari (Lynx), Bandai (Wonderswan) and even outsold home consoles of the era such as the Megadrive, Snes, N64, Saturn and Dreamcast all of which were vastly superior tech specs wise and in full colour.
From the late 1980's to the late 1990's everyone and their second cousin had one and just as it looked like it was on the way out they only went and launched a bloody colour version! MIND BLOWN! In true Nintendo tradition though that model was sabotaged by themselves as within 2 years they went and released the true next gen puppy, the Gameboy Advance. At which point Russia and America made up, we had peace in the middle east and everyone went on to live in a world full of love and harmony... Ok so that last part didn't happen but it should have because for there to be something so powerful and so cool in your hand is essentially magic, thus proving dragons exist...FACT!
Feeling as if you were holding a Super Nintendo controller in your hand and with 4 buttons instead of the old Gameboy’s two this was the dawn of a new time. Instead of black & white (GB) or small amounts of colours on screen (GBC) this was a fully fledged 32-bit console with all the power of the classic Super Nintendo and more. At the time of this arriving several mobile phone companies were looking at games on the move and the biggest of them all for the era, Nokia, had just launched the N-Gage, compared to the GBA though it tanked and died very quickly.
There was of course one small teeny tiny problem...
If you were not standing directly under the actual sun when outside you couldn't see a damn thing, it was nearly unplayable outside perfect lighting conditions. For a while the GBA project looked doomed. Then something wonderful happened... Nintendo did a new version.
The GBA SP released very soon after the original GBA and immediately fixed every single thing about the original and then much like the original Gameboy console changed handheld gaming forever. It now had a backlight so you could play it anywhere in any lighting condition, it sounds like an obvious thing but sometimes Nintendo are truly stupid and don't see the obvious. What they did do however was also fix two other things that people hadn't even cared about and this also in turn changed everything. It now had a cover for the screen, the SP version folded over to protect it from scratches (awesome) and best of all it now had an internal battery that like a mobile phone was able to be charged over and over again saving consumers a fortune. Pow! Knockout punch.
It went on to sell over 45 million units worldwide (just the SP version) That's how great it was.
So now the hardware was fixed to make it light as a feather, small as a mobile phone and a joy to actually use all they needed was software, this is where my proud boast of best Nintendo console ever truly comes into play. Get ready for some truth bombs people!
ALL of the snes games that appeared on the cult 16-Bit home system that were great came to this portable device, Mario, Yoshi, Zelda, F-Zero, Metroid, Contra, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat all had versions for the handheld and almost every single one of them were as good or in some cases better than the originals. yeah I said it, what!?
Super Mario World had extra levels, extra modes, same for Yoshi's Island, Donkey Kong Country had 3 games all as damn cool as the SNES versions, F-Zero had 2 entries and both were astounding! You like Super Metroid on the Snes right? Well the GBA had 2 adventures that were just insanely incredible, they looked better and played smoother than the one on the Snes. You should see what Konami did with Castlevania... It will make you need new pants!
Like Pokemon? How about adventures in vivid colour with massive game worlds and a whole new set of Pokemon to discover. Street Fighter on the bus make you look sexy, cause it does. What about Final Fight, Ghouls & Ghosts and Contra as you sit in bed or go to work on a train, all with extra modes, all with new stuff. Pure win!
The games library for the GBA get's even better with exclusive format and company releases as well, like RPG games? Cool cause Golden Sun 1&2 just called and wants to play, Secret of Mana got a new adventure, Sega released Shining Soul games and the Phantasy Star collection. it was RPG overload. Final Fantasy say's hello too!
Speaking of Sega some of the best Sonic games in 2D came out exclusively on this system, Sonic Advance 2&3 were shining examples of quality gaming on the go. Chu Chu Rocket, Jet Set Radio, Virtua Tennis, Monkeyball and so many more that your eyes bled from the incredible gaming on offer. Home consoles would kill to have a software library this good.
Hidden gems? Oh the GBA has got you covered people, what about a Tomb Raider game that's actually good? How about 'Lady Sia' which is even better than that. GO GO Beckham which was a platform game with a football that will blow your mind, makes Soccer kid look like a piece of crap (which it kinda is) Ninja Cop which is so good nobody even knows about it outside collectors, this is a game that in America can go for nearly $1,000 and there's more where that came from.
Now some folk are still probably angry that I maintain it's the best system ever from Nintendo. A lot of folk flat out refuse to compare it against a home console, well you can because the GBA links up to the Gamecube to allow ALL of these games to be played on a TV. It's so ahead of the industry that when Sony Vita / PS4 fans bore you remind them that Nintendo with the GBA & Gamecube did it 10 years before.
Whack a GBA Adapter into the Gamecube and all of this joy is now yours on the big screen. Forget forking out tons of cash on these snes games when you can get the exact same game usually with extras for a fraction of the price. In less than 10 years the GBA will become such a collectors format it's untrue, take it from someone who's been doing this since the 1980's.
The consoles in the pictures here are my even cooler NES/Famicom versions of the machine which simply added original 8-Bit console colours and design to the case and cover plate. It seems silly but playing a re-released NES game (oh yeah the GBA also has tons of them) in this way just feels like Nintendo are reaching out and giving you one big hug. Selling around 90 million units worldwide the GBA turned a design disaster into a re-design miracle. A console that not only moved the goalposts on everything portable but also nicely made sure all the best bits about it's history were looked after and carried on through it... GENIUS! This is one of the last sprite based consoles and for me is easily one of, if not "THE" best there ever was. It does everything! it invented more, it's reach still to this day is clear and even more obvious now it's portable / home play aspect is copied by others.
So I shall leave you today as I started, line drawn in the sand on my soap box with a megaphone in my hand. This is the greatest console Nintendo ever did. Not just because it did everything that came before better and influenced so much more that was to come but because on it's own, as it's own console with it's own software it's so damn good it feels like it's taking the piss. Not just a console that sold in one region or two but one that dominated everything in it's weight class and even higher sales wise in ALL regions.
The next time Nintendo were to do this was the combination of DS and Wii however as great as both of those were, playing Zelda: A Link To The Past on the way to work is a better feeling and a greater gaming experience than almost anything else I have ever known.
GBA SP - The SP stands for... Simply Perfect! XXX