Nintendo Game Boy Advance Review

Hardware

Unlike the Game Boy Color, Game Boy Pocket, and original Game Boy, the Game Boy Advance has a 32-bit system architecture, breaking through several of the limitations of its older siblings.

The GBA was designed as a portable SNES, which meant that it was made to play 2D games very well. However back in 2001, 3D gaming was in full swing, and the idea of 2D games just felt a little old fashioned. The GBA was not designed for 3D gaming, and the system could push about 100 polygons before stuttering to a halt. This lead to most games selecting a single element to be 3D and have that navigate a 2D world. There were tricks to make things look 3D even though they were simply 2D sprites, but that only worked so well. This was a disappointment for gamers at the time, who expected more out of the system.

The original screen on the GBA looks absolutely terrible, and is nearly impossible to use in regular indoor conditions. There’s no point in attempting to use the GBA outside, since you won’t be able to see anything on the screen! this is definitely a let down from Nintendo. The GBA didn’t originally include a backlit screen, however this can be replaced later on with an aftermarket display, or you can use the backlit screen from the improved Game Boy Advance SP (AGS-101.)

I think the sound on GBA is decent, but it pales in comparison to what we’re used to nowadays. It gets the job done for the type of games that were coming out at the time. MIDI music was still the norm, but some games pushed the envelope a bit more and sounded fantastic.

Design

The Game Boy Advance is well designed, and is very comfortable to hold for extended gaming sessions. There is a D-pad, 2 face buttons, 2 triggers, and a Start and Select button. The buttons themselves are nice and clicky, even on this old model that’s been used for hundreds of hours over many years. There is also a speaker located below the A+B buttons.

There are 6 basic colours, 5 Limited Edition Colours, 10 Special Edition Variants and 5 Pokemon Centre Editions to choose from.

Ergonomics

The GBA is very comfortable to use for extended gaming sessions, and much better for people with larger hands. I also think it’s a lot more comfortable to use than the Game Boy Advance or the Game Boy Micro.

Battery Life

The GBA runs on a set of AA batteries, and has an advertised battery life of approximately 15 hours on average while playing Game Boy Advance games. Any external peripherals being used – e.g. a screen light will decrease the battery life quicker.

The battery life of 15 hours is still rather impressive, compared to modern systems, such as the New Nintendo 3DS (3.5 to 6 hours), New Nintendo 3DS XL (3.5 to 7 hours) and the Playstation Vita (3–5 hours of gameplay.)

Software

Compatible with all Game Boy and most Game Boy Color games. Game Boy games can be played using the same selectable color palettes as on the Game Boy Color.

History

The Game Boy Advance (GBA) is a 32-bit handheld video game console developed, manufactured and marketed by Nintendo as the successor to the Game Boy Color. It was released in Japan on March 21, 2001, in North America on June 11, 2001, in Australia and Europe on June 22, 2001, and in mainland China on June 8, 2004.

Contrary to the previous Game Boy models, which were all following the “portrait” form factor of the original Game Boy (designed by Gunpei Yokoi), the Game Boy Advance was designed in a “landscape” form factor, putting the buttons to the sides of the device instead of below the screen. The Game Boy Advance was designed by the French designer Gwénaël Nicolas and his Tokyo-based design studio Curiosity Inc.

Technical Specifications

  • Size: approximately 14.45 cm (5.69 in) x 2.45 cm (0.96 in) x 8.2 cm (3.2 in) (LxWxH), 140 g (4.9 oz).
  • Screen: 2.9 inches reflective thin-film transistor (TFT) color LCD.
  • Resolution: 240 × 160 pixels (3:2 aspect ratio).
  • CPU: 16.8 MHz 32-bit ARM7TDMI with embedded memory. 8 or 4 MHz 8-bit Z80 coprocessor for Game Boy backward compatibility.
  • Memory 32 kilobyte + 96 kilobyte VRAM (internal to the CPU), 256 kilobyte DRAM (outside the CPU).
  • Sound: Dual 8-bit DAC for stereo sound (called Direct Sound), plus all legacy channels from Game Boy. The DACs can be used to play back streams of wave data, or can be used to output multiple wave samples processed/mixed in software by the CPU.
  • Battery: approximately 15 hours on average while playing Game Boy Advance games (also dependent on the Game Pak being played, volume setting and any external peripherals being used – e.g. a screen light.)

Final Verdict

Pros:

  • Comfortable form factor
  • Impressive 15 hour battery life
  • Zero load times
  • Good size game selection
  • Backwards compatible with older games

Cons:

  • No backlit display
  • No rechargeable battery inside

The Game Boy Advance (AGB-001) is more comfortable to hold for extended gaming sessions, compared to original Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance SP and Game Boy Mini. I still prefer the button layout compared to the other Game Boys, and the inclusion of the L+R Triggers was a big improvement over the Game Boy Color.

Unfortunately, the lackluster screen does let the system down, and is rather difficult to use in regular indoor conditions. There’s no point in attempting to use the GBA outside, since you won’t be able to see anything on the screen. Luckily these days, you can replace the screen with a Backlit screen, which dramatically improves the overall screen quality.

The advertised battery life of 15 hours is still rather impressive, compared to modern systems e.g. Nintendo 3DS and Playstation. However, there’s no rechargeable battery inside -which means you will need to use AA batteries to be able to play anything.

Despite the terrible looking screen, and the lack of a rechargeable battery inside – the Game Boy Advance is still one of my all time favourite systems to play on. It’s more comfortable to use than all other Game Boys, and I really like the button layout on this. I intend to replace the screen on mine with a backlit display, which will improve the screen quality and make this more enjoyable to play GBA games on.