When I was a young kid, the Gameboy ruled all. I took it everywhere with me: Family Functions, Car Rides, Birthday Parties, you name it. I only had a couple games. A copy of the Sims: Bustin Out, Warioland 4, and a Yu-Gi-Oh game I cannot recall the title of. While the quality of some of these games is up for debate, they helped form what I like to call “The Golden Years”. The Golden Years was a stretch of time in my youth that I spent playing a lot of handheld consoles. I look back at this time with great fondness. From the Gameboy Color to the Nintendo DS. Nintendo is the king of Handhelds. No one else does it quite like Nintendo.
The Gameboy Advance had a rocky launch. The most common complaint being that the screen had no back-light. Making it difficult to play the console in sunlight and darkness. This led Nintendo to unveil a new model. The Gameboy Advance SP. The SP is unquestionably the best version of the Gameboy Advance. It runs great and the back-light works pretty well. It’s a neat little device. One of the only complaints I have is that there is no headphone jack so playing in a crowded room can be a little difficult. Also, the shoulder buttons are serviceable at best. That being said, the backlight is more than enough to make up for this slight.
Now, I like to refer to the GBA as a portable Super Nintendo and it had the software to back it up. Game Boy Advance games are numerous and full of hidden gems. Games like Advance Wars and The Minish Cap were huge but there was something really special about getting a random GBA game and finding out it was awesome. That’s the beauty of this era of Handhelds: there were so many games coming out that no one you knew had the same 2 games. This was a heavily supported system to an insane degree and I love the system for it. Talking to people about GBA games is always fun too. Everyone has their own favorite obscure Game Boy Advance games. Mine is The Sims: Bustin’ Out. I am a closet Sims fan and this was actually my first Sims game that I was able to play. These games are precious memories to people and these memories are essential to our gaming careers. They help form our tastes and mold our opinions whether it be subconsciously or not. I sincerely hope that our children and our grandchildren experience what I experienced with The Gameboy Advance.
Back-Light and Extensive back catalog aside, I don’t think those things are what made the Game Boy Advance so incredible. Yes, it’s a pretty good handheld on those merits but I think what makes the Gameboy Advance so amazing is the strong memories that are attached to it. I remember long car rides with my dearly departed grandmother. I remember parties where I probably should have spent more time socializing than I did playing my Game Boy. I remember talking to other kids my age at summer camp about Game Boy games we were playing. This thing was such a huge part of my childhood and from what I can gather from talking with others: it made a huge impact on their lives as well. It’s a much-beloved system for people my age. No amount of technical breakdowns or game reviews can amount to how influential Nintendo was to my childhood.
Earlier in this article, I referred to Nintendo as the kings of the Handheld and for a large part, this remains true. As I type this, we are at the dawn of the release of the Nintendo Switch. I have seen all sort of viewpoints on it and I have yet to even touch the Joy-cons. My one hope for Nintendo is that they capture the essence of the Game Boy Advance’s success and create so many wonderful memories for the next generation regardless of frame rate or resolution. If they can create those special moments for some kid out there then I believe I can call this console a success.