Summary: "Hey, you know this Game Boy Advance thing we made?"
"Yeah, brilliant idea to add that light system in afterwards!"
"Well, I've got another great idea."
"Playing Game Boy games on the TV."
"We did that already. It's called the Super Game Boy."
"Oh. Well let's do it again."
"Ingenious! What shall we call it?"
"The Game Boy Player."
Pinky raising game count
Late last month, Nintendo announced that it had increased the GameCube library by 750 percent. There are only a few ways to make this possible. If the GameCube only had one game on it, Nintendo could achieve this enormous expansion by releasing another six and a half games – but that is not the case. Nintendo could also have dug up all those nasty E.T. cartridges (or Superman 64, if you will) and made them GameCube compatible – but that is not the case, thank heavens.
What’s the big idea?
The idea behind the Game Boy Player is to be able to play the very same games that you could on your Game Boy Advance on your television at home. Nintendo figures that the GBA SP is just perfect on the go, but gamers would rather go for big screen action at home. Of course, there are instances where you would like to take your GBA to places in your home where you wouldn’t have a TV… but we won’t go into that.
The Game Boy Player package includes the add-on hardware and a start-up disc. To paraphrase Henry Ford, you can have your Game Boy Player in any color, so long as it is black. Those of you with Indigo purple and Platinum silver GameCubes will have to live with the two-tone color that the Game Boy Player will add to your machine. On the other hand, it melds in so well with the Jet black GameCube that you may not even notice it on at first glance. If you really want your friends to notice that you shelled out the extra 50 (or 70) bones for a GBP, then there’s nothing wrong with having a non-matching color to accentuate the addition.
SIDEBAR: The bathroom is no place for games.
Besides, what would your mother think?
…so long as it is black
SIDEBAR: We’re reviewing the Canadian version of the Game Boy Player. Aside from the extra French instructions, it is identical to USA version.
Operation of the Game Boy Player requires the use of the included start-up disc, which comes in a nice translucent case with a memory card holder. To start things up, make sure that the start-up disc is in the console and that a Game Boy cartridge is in the Player. Then just hit the power button, and you should hear the familiar Game Boy Advance opening chimes.
The GameCube controller is the primary and intended means of input, but those who must have familiarity can plug in a Game Boy Advance and use that as a controller. Both the analog stick and the directional pad on the GC controller serve the same purpose, though many would probably find the pad better suited to the GBA style. This makes perfect sense as the directional crosses on the GameCube controller and the original GBA (but not the SP) are the exact same size.
Frame: similar to the original Super Game Boy, the Game Boy Player features a selection of 20 frames to border the gameplay display area. Doesn’t affect the game in any way, but can have adverse effects on your eyes if you stare at the hot-pink for extended periods. We prefer the darker shades.
Screen size: the normal view places your selected borders around the image, reducing the visible display area by about 25%. If that reduction annoys you, then full view mode expands the image to fill up your display while preserving the GBA’s native aspect ratio (so 4:3 TVs will see slight letterboxing).
The smaller, normal view is the default choice for a reason. Unless your TV is 20 inches or smaller, full mode will look pixilated and blurred.
Controller: lets you choose between two preset button schemes, one of them intuitive and the other confusing. But hey, when you feel that your games are getting too easy…
Screen filter: three settings: soft, normal, and sharp. Most of the time, you’ll want to leave this setting on normal. On the soft setting, all games exhibited a very noticeable afterglow effect on the onscreen images. Think of playing a fast paced game on an LCD flat-panel with a slow response time. From our testing, there wasn’t much of a difference between the sharp setting and the normal setting.
Then why bother having three settings when we clearly preferred using just normal? Some games use special tricks designed specifically for the LCD display on the GBA. Some of those tricks don’t translate over well to the TV and end up making certain parts of the picture scrambled, flicker, and jitter. In these instances, use of the different filter mode may fix all problems.
Timer: this is a neat little feature. You can just set the number of minutes you wish to play before a message and sound will pop up alerting you of the elapsed time. Perfect for all those times you wish to play only 42 minutes, as we all know that the answer is always 42.
Change game pak: exactly what it sounds like. You hit this whenever you want to pop in another cartridge. This feature can also be activated by pressing and holding the Z and Start buttons. The Game Boy Player even has a handy eject slider on the right side to shoot-out the game pak when you’re ready for a change.
SIDEBAR: If you enjoyed The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I encourage you to check out Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
The original Game Boy ran its games at a non-standard aspect ratio of 1.11:1; the Game Boy Advance continues this tradition of non-standard with an aspect ratio of 3:2 – neither of which fit the 4:3 of a normal television or the 16:9 of a widescreen. This just means that you’ll have to live with either some letterboxing or windowboxing. Just pick a nice looking border that even your interior decorator would be approve of.
The bright, the dark, and the ugly
The GBA SP breathed life into darker games; the Game Boy Player sheds even more light on the matter. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is literally unplayable on the original GBA unless you had help from the sun goddess herself. The situation was helped greatly when the GBA SP arrived on the scene, but only using the Game Boy Player with its bright TV output do things really come alive.
Metroid Fusion GBA
Metroid Fusion GBP
SIDEBAR: After clearing Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion, connect your GBA to your GC and you will unlock a new suit for Samus as well as the original NES Metroid game!
Tony Hawk 2 GBA
Tony Hawk 2 GBP
SIDEBAR: Activision has an exclusive contract to produce Tony Hawk games all the way until the year 2015 inclusive. Anyone smell a Tony Hawk X-2?
Mario Kart GBA
Mario Kart GBP
SIDEBAR: F-Zero was the second game I played on my Super Famicom. The first, of course, was Super Mario World. Ahh, the fond memories.
Megaman BN2 GBA
Megaman BN2 GBP
SIDEBAR: Megaman is known as Rockman in Japan.
Golden Sun GBA
Golden Sun GBP
SIDEBAR: Putting these gallery pages together has been a mind-numbing experience. It makes my mind drift to other things, such as what will happen to Cujo if Hasek returns… or if the magic is still there between Kariya and Selanne for next season with the Avs… or where Federov will end up.
The e-Reader is fully supported – just plug-n-play. Certain “special feature” games, however, are not supported. For example, the Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble cartridge sports a built-in tilt sensor which obviously wouldn’t work unless you have your personal intern tilt your GameCube for you on command (ahh, the benefits of working at FiringSquad).
Cartridges with rumble features will work fine in the Game Boy Player, but Nintendo recommends that the rumble be disabled. The infrared feature is not available, due to the lack of an infrared port. We also imagine that the upcoming Boktai from Konami will not be an ideal match for the Game Boy Player save for those times you decide to bring your GameCube and TV out under the sun.
Something we really wished that Nintendo would have done to the Game Boy Player was put in some additional GBA hardware in for split-screen multiplayer action. Understandably, this would have driven costs up, but just imagine how cool a split screen game of Mario Kart or F-Zero would be!
For some games, such as Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, it is the only way to play. For other games, such as Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, the experience is best left on the go (unless you’re unable to see color, in which case it would be alright).
Essentially, the Game Boy Player brings the 16-bit era back into your living room. There are just so many excellent 2D games that you wouldn’t be able to play anything like them in our current 3D-facination era. Forget the rehashes (we’re not a fan of those either), but new original titles such as Metroid Fusion, the recent Castlevania trio, both Golden Suns and Advance Wars are mandatory gaming.
Leave somethings to your elders
When it comes to the rehashes of old classics such as Super Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong Country, etc., we found it more comfortable to play those games on the original SNES platform. Many of those games run at a higher resolution on the SNES and have been knocked to 240x160 for the GBA. The SNES, on the other hand, has a maximum resolution of 512x448, though many games ran at half of that (which, according to my advanced calculations, is still greater than the GBA’s display). Granted, games on the GBA display at a wider aspect ratio, but that’s still not enough to make up for the lower resolution.
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