Favorite Games List – Game Boy Advance

The Favorite Games List was a recurring feature originally published on Trevor Trove. This installment originally debuted on March 12-14, 2016

Part One

Well, it’s been a couple weeks since I wrapped up my Favorite Games of the sixth generation of consoles: PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube. And now that I’m all moved into my new place, I was able to pull out the next series of handheld games to discuss. Here is part one of my favorite games of the…

Game Boy Advance

Finally, after more than a decade with the Game Boy (and a few years of the Game Boy Color), Nintendo finally produced a completely new handheld in 2001 with the Game Boy Advance. With the GBA, Nintendo finally produced a series of new, more powerful cartridges allowing for a leap in the design of their games. Game Boy Color games had added a new spectrum of color to the latter part of the previous generation but was still basically technology from the late-80s. The GBA had processing power comparable to that of the Super Nintendo (and as such saw a number of SNES ports make their way to the system). It was also a part of Nintendo’s first attempts at a dual-screen experience in that the system was designed to be compatible with the Gamecube, unlocking exclusive content in games like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Pokemon Colloseum.

Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald – The first games in the series I didn’t play through with my sister, Ruby and Sapphire (and later Emerald) were some of my go-to games to play on the college campus in between classes. Playing through the Hoenn region, this generation’s Pokemon trainer wound up caught in the battle between Team Magma and Team Aqua on his or her quest to catch ’em all. With Team Magma wanting to dry up the oceans and Team Aqua hoping to flood the planet, it only makes sense for a ten-year-old child and their pets to fight through the world filled with all of that crazy. But who cares about plot? Now you could have two Pokemon in battle at once with the game’s new Double Battles!

Pokemon FireRed/LeafGreen – The first set of Pokemon games to get remastered, FireRed and LeafGreen returned players to the original Kanto region to save the work from Team Rocket. Upgraded to accommodate all of the Pokemon introduced in Gold, Silver, Crystal, Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald, I tried at one point to play through these two in concert, one on my original Game Boy Advance, the other on my Game Boy Advance SP in an effort to go back and filled the PC with every single Pokemon. I don’t remember how far down the rabbit hole I actually got but it involved pretty much every Prima Strategy Guide released for the series (of the games and the Pokedexes). If these versions had been re-released on the 3DS eShop recently instead of the original RedBlue, and Yellow, I might have considered picking them back up. But I don’t have the patience to sit through the incredibly slow pacing of the originals any more. 

Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town – As I touched on back in the Super Nintendo and PlayStation One lists, I have a deep love of the Harvest Moon franchise. And while the console versions of the franchise went a direction I wasn’t overly fond with in the PlayStation 2/Gamecube era, the handheld versions did a great job maintaining what I loved about the series. Borrowing heavily from my favorite iteration, PlayStation One’sBack to NatureFriends of Mineral Town provided an experience that felt like the greatest hits the original Super Nintendo version, the Game Boy Color version, the PlayStation One version, and the Nintendo 64 version.

The only reason it doesn’t overtake Back to Nature as my favorite is probably because I just didn’t ever put enough time into it. This was predominantly a console experience for me. So if I was ever really in the mood for it, I typically opted to play the PlayStation version on a 30-something inch television instead of the few inches of the Game Boy Advance screen. If I spent more time on my Wii U, I’m almost certain I’d enjoy experiencing it now on the Virtual Console but it’s unlikely.

Before Stardew Valley, there was Harvest Moon. And it was something special.

Part Two

Yesterday kicked off my Favorite Games of the Game Boy Advance, touching on Harvest Moon and a lot of Pokemon.  Here’s day two.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories – I neglected to mention the Kingdom Hearts series in my favorite games from the PlayStation 2 list. That was clearly an oversight because combining Final Fantasy and Disney characters was one of the weirdest and most amazing mash-ups of my youth that I never knew I wanted. Chain of Memories was the first spin-off title for the franchise and the only one I ever bothered attempting to play, back before Square Enix went off the deep end in how they name their games and using a random number and word generator.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories was basically a retread of the events of the original Kingdom Hearts, but now in pared down 2D form. This is justified in-game by having your characters lose their memories and needing to rebuild them by revisiting Sora’s initial adventure. While it was still a ton of fun playing through the Square Enix version of so many classic Disney films, the highlight was the combat: an interesting diversion from the hack-and-slash RPG elements of the console games that let the player choose attacks from a deck of cards.

Golden Sun/Golden Sun: The Lost Age– Of the new IPs introduced for the Game Boy Advance, the two I thought would continue long past that system and develop into franchises of their own were Advance Wars (which I actually never played but knew from reputation) and Golden Sun. And while there was Golden Sun: Dark Dawn for the Nintendo DS, it would appear this franchise is mostly abandoned, which is a shame as it could have served as a nice alternative to the Mario RPGs and Bravely Default games of the 3DS, filling out Nintendo’s library with a bit more from the traditional JRPG field.

Both games featured beautiful sprite-based graphics. And the Psynergy (this lore’s version of magic) served a dual purpose in both combat and through some light puzzle-solving in the overworld in order to find hidden treasures and progress through the story. And as a fan of the classic Final Fantasy games, the Golden Sun Djinn system was a welcome innovation in the vein of Espers and Materia.

Sword of Mana – Sword of Mana was a remake of the Game Boy classic Final Fantasy Adventure (so named to cash in on the Final Fantasy brand). While I never had any of the Final Fantasy Adventure games on my own Game Boy, I often enjoyed playing them on a friend’s or borrowing his cartridges.

I didn’t realize at the time that Sword of Mana was a modified version of those old games, mainly because they had removed the Final Fantasy branded elements and I didn’t quite remember all that much from some Game Boy games I had played only occasionally 10 years earlier. Still, it was a fun enough game in it’s own right and I very much appreciated the throwback feel of the game. Finding out years later how the two were related was just icing on the cake.

Part Three

Today brings the close to my Favorite Games of the Game Boy Advance. Day One featured Harvest Moon and Pokemon. Day Two focused on RPGs like Kingdom HeartsGolden Sun, and Sword of Mana. And today will close out the series with one of my go-to themes: Final Fantasy.

Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls/Final Fantasy IV Advance/Final Fantasy VI Advance – As I discussed in one of my PlayStation posts, Final Fantasy Origins was my first chance to play through the first two Final Fantasy games, but the Game Boy Advance cartridge is probably the best place to play them. The problem with the PlayStation versions is that the CDs have longer load times which becomes a bit annoying going into every single random battle.

Final Fantasy IV Advance benefitted as well from the cartridge format over the disc-based port from Final Fantasy Chronicles. Other additions to the Super Nintendo classic featured a new bonus end-game dungeon, some new gear, and a new localization restoring some of the story elements from the original game that were cut from the original North American release.

Final Fantasy VI Advance is probably the best iteration of my favorite game. Like the games above, the cartridge-based port cut down on the load times that the PlayStation port from Final Fantasy Anthology version suffered. The art was cleaned up slightly (but remains the original Super Nintendo sprites instead of the redesign that came in the mobile/Steam versions of the game). Four new Espers, a few new spells, and two new end-game dungeons fill out this already exceptional game.

Final Fantasy Tactics Advance – The only fully new game in this entry. While drawing heavily from the PlayStation classic Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Advance forged a new story and tied more into the lore of Final Fantasy XII, trading in the Zodiac-heavy elements of the original for Totema, Judges, and Law cards that changed the rules of a battle area. Tactics Advance also kept the job system its predecessor, while introducing new species beyond just the human characters of the PlayStation game. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance didn’t quite reach the heights (and depth) of the original game, but it was still a good strategy RPG in its own right, worthy of the brand.

Let me know your favorite Game Boy Advance games. I didn’t play the system all that much as I was predominantly a console gamer during the systems lifespan so I’m sure I missed some classics.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: