Welcome back to part two in a series where I try to equate a handheld system to its closest console equivalent. If you missed part one, click here to see which console I deduce is the counterpart for the Game Boy.
So, how do I compare them? I could judge each system by video game conventions and standards, hardware and limitations, or ports and remakes, but these are just pieces of each whole game system. They do not define the system and would not give us a very meaningful answer. Just like last time, I will be using this gauge: “a console can usually be summed up by the type of experience that is had over the course of its life. It is not represented by its tech demos and cross platform games, but rather the games the console is known for.” This leaves a lot of room for interpretation, but I think it’s safe to assume that each system has a lowest common denominator. For instance, the Game Boy has a huge library but it is synonymous with Pokemon, Tetris, and slow-paced platform games.
This week, I will be trying to figure out which console the Game Boy Advance resembles. What’s that? I skipped the Game Boy Color? Oh…its counterpart is the Nintendo Entertainment System. A home for tons of ports and sequels with gameplay that differs from the source material? Check! A library flooded by licensed games for every hot property to exist during its lifespan (for better or worse)? Check! Visuals defined by improved color graphics over the last generation, but lacking in polish we’ve come to expect? Check! Game Boy Color = NES.
Now, onto the Game Boy Advance. It sports a medium-weight contoured form factor that feels just right in your hands, a stark contrast to its angular predecessors that jut into your palms. The purple and gray color scheme made it all the more appealing. The system was capable of color graphics, but that was nothing new. But while the Game Boy Color had neat games that you could play in short increments, the Game Boy Advance featured full-length, action-packed adventures. The GBA made it clear that deep stories, detailed visuals, and polished gameplay were possible on a handheld system. Whether you were into RPGs (turn-based, tactical, or action), side-scrolling beat ’em ups, or shmups, this system was guaranteed to have plenty of games for you, and even a few great games that catered to your niche. It attempted 3D games that are lovingly referred to as “impressive” and “ahead of their time” (this means “looks like rubbish, but still pretty playable”), but that’s just a footer in the system’s history, and a hint of things to come. The Game Boy Advance is the Super Nintendo in your hands.
Sure, the SNES has a 16-bit processor clocked at 3.58 MHz which pales in comparison to the GBA’s 32-bit processor clocked at 16.8 MHz, not to mention it has half the system memory. But you have to remember that the SNES stood toe-to-toe with 32-bit consoles during its time. While competitors were trying to cram as many bits into your front-side bus as possible, Nintendo was succeeding with inferior technology because they focused on getting their games to make the most out of the system. The SNES may have achieved 3D effects with pre-rendered sprites and adding a SuperFX chip to some cartridges while the GBA did its graphical processing within the handheld unit, but does it matter how the system got the job done? I think what matters is the overall experience it gives you. And there’s no arguing with that sweet purple and gray color scheme.
You might’ve thought I was just brushing off the Game Boy Color in a hurry to write about the Game Boy Advance, but the two handhelds parallel the NES and the SNES in a way that makes me wonder if Nintendo was playing it safe, or if they actually knew their fans. The Game Boy Advance was great for the same reasons the Super Nintendo was: they shared the same regal color scheme. Both the GBA case and SNES controller were arguably the first to feel comfortable in one’s hands. Have there been deviations? Sure, but the handhelds and controllers we have today are improvements over these shapes and button layouts. Both systems have so many great games and even more good games that to this day, I’m still delightfully surprised to find new ones.
That’s my choice and I’m sticking with it. Let me know which console you would equate the handheld Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance to. I do read the comments, and I love knowing that some of you out there are on the same weird wavelength as me.
I got some interesting responses to the last article covering the original Game Boy. One person chose the Super Game Boy, which allows you to play Game Boy games on the Super Nintendo console. Another person argued that the PS One was similar to the Game Boy because they both had a long lifespan. And my personal favorite pick was the Vectrex, which someone believed had a similar form factor, black and white graphics, was relatively portable compared to other consoles at the time, and had some funky add-ons as well.
That’s all for this week! Thanks for reading, folks.