Tag Archive: GBA


I have made a fair share of questionable purchases over the years. Back when I was still a Nintendo apologist, during the heydays of Gamecube puttering along way behind the PS2 and when the Game Boy Advance was king of all portable gaming, I had bought stuff that in hindsight wasn’t that useful. Such as the GBA-GC link cable that connected a GBA to a Gamecube to transfer data, or in the case of games like Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, have all the action take place on the GBA.

Nintendo-e-Reader

This looks neat at first glance, doesn’t it? Oh, if only.

But that isn’t nearly as much in terms of questionable purchasing decisions as me buying into Nintendo’s e-Reader. Not to be confused with an eBook reader, the e-Reader was a Game Boy Advance add-on where you could scan cards with codes printed on the side to get cool goodies. It sounds like a good idea on paper, but the execution was poor: Games sometimes needed 3-10 codes scanned to play something, you could only hold one thing on the e-Reader’s memory at a time, and you needed a GBA link cable if you wanted to transfer anything from an e-Reader to another system, or the Gamecube.

It was a mess. Needless to say, Nintendo of America wasn’t having more of this and discontinued the thing around 2004. Thus leaving me with a bunch of cards I had acquired that I didn’t really have much use for anymore.

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52 e-reader pickup (digital photography, 2018)

Over 15 years after the e-Reader came out, I still have the damn cards. And I’m gonna show some of them off here. Now, these aren’t the most rare, or the most valuable, these are just cards I find interesting, because they have a story to them. Note I’m only gonna list cards I personally own, as much as it would be interesting to write about Japanese exclusive e-Reader cards, I don’t have those.


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Props to Nintendo for using the original Famicom cover art, at least.

Donkey Kong Jr.-e

One of the two pack-in classic games – the other being Pinball – this was part of the “Classic NES Series” which featured almost nothing but early NES games, the ones you see crop up everywhere on Nintendo platforms: Donkey Kong, Balloon Fight, Ice Climber, even much-maligned brawler Urban Champion got the e-Reader treatment.

The first card shows how to play the game, with each subsequent card giving some important tips on how to play and eventually master the game. It’s nice considering people even of my generation never grew up on the older NES catalog, but them not being based on more “powerful” NES games like Super Mario Bros. really made this particular series only interesting to diehard Nintendo fans.

It also didn’t help it came on five cards, with one set of two dot codes each. That’s 10 codes I had to scan to play this thing. Worst off, if I wanted to play any other game, I had to remove the game from memory, thus requiring me to scan all ten codes again if I wanted to replay it.

Funny enough, some of these games later got treatment as part of a brief stint of a different “Classic NES Series,” which was on traditional cartridges. These featured more of the NES classics you’d be familiar with, like The Legend of Zelda and Metroid. Why scan 10 codes of Ice Climber when you could buy the same thing for a higher price on a traditional cartridge? Nintendo probably didn’t think that one through too well.

I’ve seen some of these Classic NES Series card packs on sale during the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, and I sometimes get the temptation to get another one of these. Then I realize I’d have to scan 10 codes, and I could play that game elsewhere with less hassle.

…Have I mentioned I hated having to scan 10 freakin’ codes yet?

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There are many things that I’m always fascinated by, and one of them is portable versions of big console games. It’s surprising to see studios small and large try to squeeze as much power out of handhelds and hopefully make a good game out of it. I collect these on a rare occasion, and thought I’d dig one out of mothballs I bought awhile back and give it a spin.

Let's OWN THE CITY! As opposed to what, Own the Parking Lot?

Let’s OWN THE CITY! As opposed to what, Own the Parking Lot?

Let’s hop in a ride and drive the mean streets, because we’re checking out Need for Speed: Carbon – Own the City for the Game Boy Advance. I mentioned buying this in an old “I bought stuff!” post from a year ago, and I wanted to see what a racing game looks on the ol’ GBA. This is an EA Canada joint, and came out on the GBA, PSP, and DS as the spinoff portable title alongside the main game. Usually the portable version is different in some ways than its console brother, so let’s check it out.

nfscarbonotc-intro1nfscarbonotc-intro2nfscarbonotc-intro3nfscarbonotc-intro4

The story’s fairly silly: You were in a race alongside your brother Mick, and a multi-car pile up by some unknown assailant caused the death of your brother and made you get amnesia.. What follows is a typical revenge plot as you work with Mick’s former crewmembers, Sara and Carter, as you climb your way to the top and dominate districts and solve the mystery.

So let’s take a look at how this looks on the Game Boy Advance…

nfscarbonotcgameplay

If you think it looks bad on a screenshot, imagine this in motion!

Oh. Oh dear. I’m not a graphics snob by any means, but wow this game looks pretty bad, even by GBA standards. Feel the thrill of going 100 mph while it looks like a casual stroll through a city road. The game runs pretty slow for a racing game. Now I know the Game Boy Advance is not a 3D powerhouse, but something is really wrong when this runs at a snail’s pace. It doesn’t help that I can barely see anything. It’s hard sometimes to see what’s ahead of you, and most of the roads are made at 90 degree angles that make it hard to make good turns. Doesn’t help that this perspective also makes swerving past traffic and other racers difficult.

One of the few modes where being in first isn't guaranteed a win.

It’s impressive how the 3D looks, but it looks like a pixely mess where I can’t see crap.

But enough about how it looks, here’s how it plays. A accelerates, B brakes, L activates Nitrous – provided the car has it unlocked, and R is the handbrake. There are four race types: Circuit, Sprint, Elimination, and Hunter. Circuit and Sprint are simple races. Elimination removes the last place driver at each lap. Hunter is a strange one: Every skill or trick you do fills up a health bar, but hitting anything or stopping loses health. It’s less about finishing first and more about finishing skillfully.

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I’ve mentioned in the past that I collect a bunch of unusual things, such as demo discs and promotional DVDs. I covered a Nintendo Promo DVD from 2002 last year, and mentioned that I had other promo discs that I intend to write about. Well, here’s another one of these.

This is a special promo DVD from Nintendo Power, released around mid-2005. 2005 was a dark age for Nintendo. The GameCube was literally on its last legs, the DS was floundering and the GBA was the only success for the big N. This was before the Wii (or the “Revolution” as it was called) was even revealed. Like the 2002 promo, this disc is chock full of demos for the hottest new games on Nintendo platforms.

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