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August 06 , 2001 | gear

Raffi Krikorian - Its the media that makes the platform -- not the platform alone. This lesson has been played through over and over: quadrafonic sound, 8-tracks, and the Betamax. Nintendo treaded this water with its previous entry in the handheld gaming market, the Game Boy Color. In an attempt to learn its lesson Nintendo has recently released its newest Game Boy family member: the Game Boy Advance.

Previous to the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo has attempted to reinvent its popular Game Boy line twice. After the original, the Game Boy Pocket was released years later in hopes of re-capturing the market with a smaller "on-the-go" unit. Post the Game Boy Pocket, came the addition of the color LCD screen -- what Nintendo thought was lacking from its successful Game Boy line. But it saw with the Game Boy Color that color alone does not bring in customers. People did not flock to buy another version of Tetris that was in color, or a version of Super Mario Brothers that was in color. Nor did they care that some of their older games got "pseudo-color". Color wows them for a second, and then they get just as bored as they got with the older Game Boys.

The bet is that Advance will change all of this. Starting with the hardware, the Advance is armed with a 32-bit ARM processor (an upgrade from the Z80 processor that the predecessors ran on) which drives a 2.9" 240x160 pixel color screen (over 50% larger than the original Game Boy screen). The Advance also has to have the ability to be used as a controller for the upcoming Nintendo Game Cube; this follows the concept pioneered by the Sega Dreamcast's Visual Memory Unit by allowing multi-screen play. In a football game, for instance, gamers can call the plays without each other seeing them. All this is impressive, but will people still flock to it? Has Nintendo learned its lesson? The pivotal question: how are the games?

That, I am not so sure about. I purchased the Glacier Game Boy Advance Mario Xtreme Game Pack from -- a tidy little package that contained an Glacier Game Boy Advance, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, Super Mario Advance, a Game Boy holster, and a Worm Light Accessory. To round it off, I also decided to grab myself a copy of F-Zero. And I was totally wowed. I relived my dream of being a boarder in the X-Games. But after that, it was a trip down memory lane. Super Mario Advance is a remake of Super Mario Brothers 2 (arguably the worst Super Mario Brothers game for the NES) while F-Zero is a new version of the futuristic racer that has appeared on the SNES and N64. Both were decent games on their original platforms and they both make a good transition to the handheld market. Neither have very complicated graphics and both have easy to manipulate characters, which makes them appropriate for a small hand-held device.

But this cannot last forevert. While I get a kick out of playing games I used to play while in Junior High School, and while I anxiously await the Game Cube neither of these add to the standalone features of the Advance. The platform is great, but I am going to need some new games next.

Discuss the Game Boy Advance in Daily Relay

Raffi Krikorian is an independant writer and software consultant. Originally of San Francisco, he is currently residing in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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