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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

Game Boy Advance

SNES In Your Hands

By Chad Serrant

Staff Writer

The Game Boy Advance is Nintendo’s newest handheld system. It can perform as well as a Super Nintendo Enertainment System can. And, more importantly, it costs $99.

The Game Boy Advance is wider than it is tall, which is the opposite of the previous Game Boy systems. This means that people with large hands can rest assured that both hands will fit on the unit. This also means that the Game Boy Advance can have a wider screen. It uses two AA batteries that will last for about 15 hours (five hours longer than in the old Game Boy Color).

There are more buttons, too. You still have “A,” “B,” start, select, and the four-way D-pad, but there are top buttons on the unit. Just like the old Super NES controller, the L and R buttons are back. But there are no X or Y buttons, which some people have complained about.

The Game Boy Advance can handle many more colors than its predecessor, the Game Boy Color. Game Boy Color can only handle 56 colors at once, while the Game Boy Advance can handle 32,768 colors. Those are as many colors as the Super NES could handle. Additionally, the Game Boy Advance can have up to 128 sprites at once, allowing it to have more on-screen objects.

“But what about 3D?” Well, the Game Boy Advance does have a 32-bit processor, and it can handle a few hundred polygons without slowing down, but the system was designed to be 2D. Some people are trying to make first person shooters and other 3D games for the machine, but they are creating pseudo 3D effects (remember Doom)? Never mind the fact that the cartridges probably wouldn’t be able to take it due to lack of memory.

The Game Boy Advance has a lot more sound capability, too. It can handle speech and audio samples, it has decent MIDI, and it can emulate the older sounds of the Game Boy Color. If the Super NES could make it, the Game Boy Advance can do it.

Older games are still compatible. Plug in an older cartridge and the Game Boy Advance will play as if it is a Game Boy Color cartridge. The view area will still be square, unless you mess around with the shoulder buttons. If you do, the image stretches horizontally to fit the screen. You can even adjust the on-screen colors for black-and-white games, just like you could on the Game Boy Color. It makes me wonder if they threw a Game Boy Color processor inside the Game Boy Advance (cough, cough, Playstation 2!).

Nintendo owns the portable gaming market, so developers will flock to the Game Boy Advance. Unlike home console systems, you won’t feel upset that you bought the Game Boy Advance because a really cool game was released on another portable system.

Nintendo is also supporting multiplayer gaming on the Game Boy Advance. The link cable can support up to four players (as usual). But for some games, you will need only one cartridge to play it that way. Many of the launch titles will support this feature, so get some of your friends together and decide who will buy what game.

Now that I glossed over the pros, I will reveal the cons. First of all, there is no backlight on the Game Boy Advance. Nintendo’s explanation is that the batteries are drained faster with a backlight. They are correct (other portable systems barely lasted 6 hours), but people will complain anyway. On the plus side, there are many lighting peripherals that are on the way. However, it would be cool if there was a light switch on the Game Boy Advance. It would make life much easier.

Additionally, games will cost between $30-40. This is approaching Playstation CD range, and may make some people contemplate buying console games. But cartridges are more expensive to make than CDs, so Game Boy Advance owners will simply have to deal with it. Besides, the Playstation is over.

On a final note, the Game Boy Advance would be as strong as a Super NES if it had the X and Y buttons. Maybe those were too many buttons for such a small system. But remakes of old Super NES classics will need some help compensating for the lack of buttons.

I can’t give the Game Boy Advance an overall score because there is nothing to compare it to. When I give a game a score, I’m comparing it to the other games in the same genre on the same system. But the Game Boy Advance is a unique product -- although it has the potential to deliver great games.