Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Retronauts Live 6 - Jeremy and Gang talk the GBA.

Now that Retronauts is firmly back and comfortable with its new call-in format, I can rest easily that my need for retro gaming chatter is easily satiated every time a new episode goes up.

The most recent episode was about the Game Boy Advance, one of my favourite handhelds as you may know, and while it was a good episode on the whole, with mentions of the Gamecube attachment, Game Boy Player, (thanks to our friend noiseredux from Game Boy Player Land), the three Castlevania games, Riviera, Super Mario Advance, the tendency of the GBA to mostly get 16-bit console ports, Mother 3 and even Rhythm Tengoku, I was slightly disappointed that the Game Boy Micro got no love (despite the Famicom limited edition being the image for the episode) and neither did Advance Wars.

For shame. If only I had a skype headset, fast internet and a time machine, I could fix this. Still, it's not all doom and gloom! It's actually a good episode, despite my complaints. This is the internet, after all. What is the internet without someone complaining.

Monday, March 21, 2011

10th Anniversary of the Game Boy Advance.

Today is the tenth anniversary of the Game Boy Advance, my favourite little handheld that could, and boy did it do it oh so well.

I've mentioned before that I bought my indigo GBA near the Japanese launch and the only games I could get at the time were Japanese ones so I opted to get Super Mario Advance and F-Zero. Both totally awesome experiences, especially F-Zero, which made me feel like I finally had a Super NES... IN MY HAND.

And the GBA was that essentially. A GBA in your hand. It would later go on to inherit the legacy of the Super NES as an all round awesome 2D graphics handheld portable gaming device (phew! That was a mouthful) by being the place for awesome 2D RPGs.

The GBA would be home to a series of some of the greatest Castlevania games ever, two great Metroid games, great (but not perfect) remakes of Super NES RPGs as well as many other great games.

Unfortunately this awesome little thing had one big great flaw. While it did allow you to play awesome games, it unfortunately didn't allow you to actually see them thanks to the lack of a backlight. This particularly sucked if you were playing in a cramped bus with ridiculously dark tinted windows, such as the bus that ferried students to my university.

Though Nintendo eventually fixed that problem by releasing a new version of the GBA, it came with a new form factor -  a flip-top design, which was popular with phones of the time. While it made the new GBA more compact and therefore more portable, it was a digression of sorts. Players now held the GBA like they would the old Game Boy, which resulted in cramped hands. Well, at least it had a backlight now. (Technically it was a frontlight. A later revision would bring a proper backlight and that model is more sought after by collectors.)

Nintendo then decided to end the GBA's life prematurely after only three years (a stark contrast to the previous generation's lifespan of fifteen or so years) by announcing the next generation handheld, the Nintendo DS.

But before that happened Nintendo released two more variants of the GBA, which nobody bought but was in no way less awesome.

The Game Boy Micro, a mini GBA of sorts was actually released after the DS was launched. It had a bright and vibrant, but smaller screen and it returned to the original GBA's "wide" form factor. But because of its mini size, players' hands still cramped up.

The Game Boy Player was an add-on for the Nintendo Gamecube. It was basically a GBA without a screen which attached to the bottom of a Gamecube and allowed you to play GBA games on your TV with either your Gamecube controller or a GBA with a GC-GBA cable. What is notable about it is that despite its physical form, most GBA adaptors and accessories were compatible with it, something the Game Boy Micro can not claim.

The GBA was the last of the Game Boy line only in name, but its spirit lives on in the DS... and hopefully the 3DS as well, which will be releasing around the world this week. (I think. Too lazy to check.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Done with Mother 3. For now.

This morning on the commute to work, I spent the whole train ride trying to defeat the most difficult boss in Mother 3 I have encountered so far. My train ride lasts about 40 minutes, and the whole time I was just fighting him. Victory never felt so sweet as when the train pulled in to my stop, the boss finally succumbed. To say it felt marvelous is an understatement. I then saved the game, switched my DS off and promptly walked to my office.

However, during my lunch break, I found to my extreme horror that the save file had disappeared.

I checked my last save backup I made and it was early in the chapter I was at. The boss I defeated this morning was at the end of the chapter. This particular chapter happens to the longest chapter in Mother 3.

So yeah, I'm feeling a wee bit frustrated with the game now. I really wanted to finish it, but it looks like I won't be revisiting it anytime soon. I don't feel like replaying a whole chapter. As far as I'm concerned, I am DONE with Mother 3.

I'm going to play another game. Radiant Historia looks enticing.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

This is now!

So I registered a new URL for my little blog:

I can't believe I was able to snag this domain name. Did no one else thought to register it? Anyways, Blogger is smart enough to reroute the old URL to the new one, but update your bookmarks anyway!

In other news, I am still slowly making my way through Mother 3. I am in the penultimate chapter (I think) so not long now till the end.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Revisiting F-Zero: Maximum Velocity.

I've been a bit busy at work lately so I haven't had the time to update this blog as frequently as I wanted to. There's a bit of a lull right now so I'm taking this chance to throw together some random, maybe unrelated thoughts on this blog.

After finishing Aria of Sorrow last month, I've been at a lost as to what long-term game I was going to concentrate on next. I was adamant this time I would not play yet another Metroidvania, so I've gravitated towards several games, some new to me, some old yet haven't received much attention.

I had bought a GBA around the time of its launch in 2002 and I thought I wanted to revisit the games I had bought back then - Japanese versions of Super Mario Advance and F-Zero (known as F-Zero: Maximum Velocity in the West). I still have the boxes of both games but the carts have long disappeared, thanks to a brother who doesn't know how to keep things properly. (Yes, I'm bitter over it.)

Loaded the roms onto a flashcart and played them both on my DS Lite. I didn't warm up much to the Mario game, despite me loving it a lot. I think I'm just sick of platformers at the moment. F-Zero however sucked me back in and I was transported back to a time when I was back in college, living with a bunch of collegemates.

The apartment I lived in had trouble with their electricity supply and the fuse often blew. That meant lots of nights in the dark and if we needed light, we had to open the front door to get light from the corridor outside. I had managed to convince a housemate who also bought a GBA around the same time as I did to also buy F-Zero and so on one of these powerless nights, we hooked both our GBAs together with a link cable and attempted to race each other.

The GBA of course did not have a backlight, nor a frontlight. So there we were hanging out in the corridor, racing our high speed hovercars, holding our GBAs at ridiculous angles just to see properly what was going on in the game.

I didn't think the lack of a backlight was that bad at the time, but having recently had a short play of Aria of Sorrow on an original GBA, I wonder how my eyes even survived.

Anyways, back to F-Zero, I've only played the first Cup on Beginner so I haven't spent a long time with it yet. Due to the controls forcing you to tap the accelerator button over and over while holding either of the shoulder buttons if you wan to corner effectively at high speeds, I quickly developed sore thumbs. I love the game but I don't want to injure myself playing it.

So now I'm not sure if I'll continue to play it. We'll see. Maybe I should just get back to my unfinished playthrough of Mother 3. I think I'm very near the end already in that one.