As much as I’m desperate for Nintendo to get its Game Boy Advance games onto 3DS, I’m stoked for tomorrow’s launch lineup of titles hitting Wii U’s Virtual Console service. People love to tout games like Super Metroid and A Link to the Past (as they should!), but I truly believe that GBA had a rich catalogue that easily equalled some of the best 16-bit titles of the SNES era. Games like Metroid Fusion, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, The Minish Cap, and Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance are just a handful of the excellent experiences that players got to enjoy on GBA. It’s essential that this initiative succeeds on Wii U to help insure that these wonderful titles don’t fade into obscurity.
As much flack as I’ve given Nintendo’s Virtual Console service over the years, there’s no denying what a wonderful thing it is for gamers to have access to. There are so many exceptional games to play on VC that most folks can only dream of ever getting hold of as physical copies. Unlike just about every other form of media and entertainment, video games, especially the old, classic ones, are landlocked to whichever piece of hardware they first appeared on. No old NES meant no old NES games for years, until VC launched on Wii. Thankfully, Nintendo is opening the vault to give a greater variety of its handheld games some time in the sun.
GBA remains one of my favorite consoles of all time. All three form factors were comfortable and attractive (yes, even the original, with it’s unlit screen and AA batteries). The SP is usually the default favorite for many when it comes to this generation of Nintendo handhelds, and for good reason, as it represented a true evolutionary leap in design for the company. I’ve always loved the Micro best though; sleek, light, perfect. GBA, like GameCube, was also the end of simple consoles. Plug in a game, flip the power on, and straight to playing a game. No user interfaces or home screens to be bothered with, just pure, unfettered gaming.
Oddly, there’s not much recognition for the fact that GBA helped keep 2D game design alive and thriving. The world was enthralled with polygons and 3D worlds at the time, so classic platformers and top-down RPGS were all but gone from home consoles. GBA let devs continue to produce the sorts of titles that were being shunned elsewhere, up until the industry finally realized there was room for both styles of play. Metroid Prime is an incredible game, but the world would be a less interesting place if Metroid Zero Mission never was released. GBA kept the old traditions alive for an entire generation of gamers that would have been robbed of them, otherwise.
When the eShop gets updated tomorrow, I’ll be ready to start downloading some very fun games. Good luck tomorrow, Nintendo! Here’s hoping folks show these games the appreciation they deserve.