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The GBA was basically SNES2 and the pinnacle of 2D game design - change my mind

Romulus

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Wasn't a big fan visually at the time. For 2d, sprites are a huge part of it, and GBA's sprites almost always seemed off, either the animation or they had a low quality look to them. There were a few standouts but it just wasn't my jam, and thats considering I was a big Nintendo and handheld fan at the time.
 

404Ender

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SNES2? Yes, in terms of the volume of awesome 2D games (plus all of the ports). I loved my GBA. The perfect handheld for me would be something capable of 100% accurate emulation of SNES and GBA. That's all I'd need, really. Since that doesn't really exist (3DS XL comes close, but falls short with its handling of SNES), I've turned my attention towards modded GBA's with much, much better screens. There's a topic about them over on Era with some pretty amazing pics of finished products.

Pinnacle of 2D game design? Nah. SNES is king.

I hope the new Link's Awakening remakes sells well, because a brand new 2D Zelda game (ideally with sprite-based graphics) is probably in my top 3 most wanted games (along with a new 2D Metroid).
 

Pimpbaa

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I'm sure this has been said but SNES displayed games at a much higher resolution plus the SNES had an amazing audio chip whereas the GBA had none and relied on the CPU to do sound processing. Which meant most of the library had shit sound. Even the decent sounding games sounded like someone recorded a mp3 off a SNES with a super low bit rate.
 

dirthead

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SNES2? Yes, in terms of the volume of awesome 2D games (plus all of the ports). I loved my GBA. The perfect handheld for me would be something capable of 100% accurate emulation of SNES and GBA. That's all I'd need, really. Since that doesn't really exist (3DS XL comes close, but falls short with its handling of SNES), I've turned my attention towards modded GBA's with much, much better screens. There's a topic about them over on Era with some pretty amazing pics of finished products.

Pinnacle of 2D game design? Nah. SNES is king.

I hope the new Link's Awakening remakes sells well, because a brand new 2D Zelda game (ideally with sprite-based graphics) is probably in my top 3 most wanted games (along with a new 2D Metroid).
https://www.amazon.com/Handheld-Portable-Gameplayer-Notebook-Graphics/dp/B07CK7DRYS/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=gpd+win&qid=1561958467&s=gateway&sr=8-3
 

Whitesnake

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The GBA was great and I won't argue against the idea that it's a SNES2, but it's absolutely flawed and I don't think it holds the a candle to the DS or even the original Playstation in terms of 2D games.

First off, the screen is obviously limiting. That comes with the territory of being a handheld of course, but the smaller screen means that sprites either have to be crushed or the player's view has to be limited.

Second, the sound is awful. Thanks to copyright kerfuffles they couldn't even use a soundchip similar to the SNES's soundchip, so they went for one that is closer to the NES than anything in terms of capability. Most game also used the CPU for audio mixing, meaning that the more things were happening on screen that were being calculated, the less audio you could have.

And third, and this one infuriates me personally, the original GBA did not have a backlit screen. This in and of itself is no big deal, third party accessories like wormlights could be used to light the screen anywhere, and all future variations of the GBA would feature backlit screens. The big problem is that, in order to counteract this lack of backlight, developers made their games a blotch of bright saturated colors. This works as intended in that you can at least see whats going on without a backlight, but with any screen that is properly-lit will make it burn your eyes.

Some examples:








Here's a comparison of Donkey Kong Country's GBA port vs. the original:

All blacks become light gray, and all the distinct yellows become the same saturated shade.


These next 2 images are of the Sector 6 area in Metroid Fusion.




This is supposed to be the dark area. Adam comments on how it's too dark to see anything. The player isn't supposed to be able to see anything outside of a certain radius around Samus, because of how dark this environment is. Can't you tell how dark it is?

Anyway, the GBA is great, but not perfect.
 
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dirthead

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The GBA was great and I won't argue against the idea that it's a SNES2, but it's absolutely flawed and I don't think it holds the a candle to the DS or even the original Playstation in terms of 2D games.

First off, the screen is obviously limiting. That comes with the territory of being a handheld of course, but the smaller screen means that sprites either have to be crushed or the player's view has to be limited.

Second, the sound is awful. Thanks to copyright kerfuffles they couldn't even use a soundchip similar to the SNES's soundchip, so they went for one that is closer to the NES than anything in terms of capability. Most game also used the CPU for audio mixing, meaning that the more things were happening on screen that were being calculated, the less audio you could have.

And third, and this one infuriates me personally, the original GBA did not have a backlit screen. To compensate developers made their games a blotch of bright saturated colors. This works as intended in that you can at least see whats going on without a backlight, but with any screen thar is properly-lit will make it burn your eyes.

Some examples:








Here's a comparison of Donkey Kong Country's GBA port vs. the original:

All blacks become light gray, and all the distinct yellows become the same saturated shade.


These next 2 images are of the Sector 6 area in Metroid Fusion.




This is supposed to be the dark area. Adam comnents on how it's too dark to see anything. The player isn't supposed to be able to see anything outside of a certain radius around Samus, because of how dark this environment is. Can't you tell how dark it is?

Anyway, the GBA is great, but not perfect.
I can't believe they didn't make it at least 320x240. Would have been such a massive improvement.
 
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BloodFalcon64

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And the lack of buttons doesn't really help titles like...



Super Street Fighter II Turbo Revival.

It was rad though, a decent-enough portable Super Street Fighter II.
They managed to squeeze Alpha 3 in a tiny cartridge and that was also impressive or at least until the PSP version became a thing.


Although I'm not sure why they skipped over 2. Even 1 had a Gameboy Color port and you'd think Capcom would want even more easy port money. It could have been close to the SNES version but maybe without the long load times.

 
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SpiceRacz

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The only thing the GBA has over the SNES is Advance Wars, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and portability.

Otherwise, the SNES has the best versions of the best Mario platformers. The best 2D metroid game. The superior version of the best 2D Zelda game. The better Mario RPG. The better controls (especially for fighting games).

And this is coming from someone that bought the GBA at launch with Super Dodgeball and Circle of The Moon. I love that thing but you're out of your fucking mind if you think it's superior to the SNES.
 

Panajev2001a

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Not only that, the GBA probably had the most under rated and under appreciated gaming library of all time. If you look at this very excellent list of the Top 25 best GBA games, you'll realize the GBA was chock full of amazing 2D games of all types whose ingenuity and fun probably hasn't been surpassed yet. The GBA wasn't all just all Pokemon. It also had arguably the best 2D Metroid, Zelda, Mario, Dragonball, and Castlevania games ever made.


Here's just a sample of amazing GBA games people may not have heard of:


If you take the awful sound processing (and the fact that processing sound was mostly software based) and some effects SNES could do in HW (Yoshi’s Island Touch Fuzzy Get Dizzy section and the “wizard “ transparency trail before each boss fight), the GBA was the best of SNES and the best of Mega Drive/Genesis put together: very fast sprite engine with background mode effects and rotation and scaling support coupled to a very fast ARM CPU (for the time).
 
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Neff

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I loved my GBA but no.

The visuals and sound were weaker. It didn't have Capcom and Konami at their 2D peak throwing out multiple must-haves yearly.

PSone was SNES 2.
 

404Ender

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Yeah I know all about the GPD family. They all have pretty shitty controls (The XD probably has the least awful, but it's Android so the emulators are worse, have more input lag, etc than their Windows counterparts). Battery life is not great either.

I'd still take the 3DS XL with less SNES compatibility but perfect GBA support (it has actual GBA hardware inside so it can natively play GBA games), much better battery life, and much better controls (plus access to the DS and 3DS libraries doesn't hurt either).
 

Dr.D00p

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...I wouldn't know, every game I tried on one was completely hidden behind an abysmal no back light LCD screen which meant I couldn't see a damn thing most of the time.
 

EightBit Man

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The Netherlands

(Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney)


(Bomberman Tournament)


(Bouken-Ou Beet: Busters Road)


(Goemon: Shin Sedai Shūmei!)


(International Superstar Soccer Advance)


(Mario vs. Donkey Kong)


(Oriental Blue: Ao no Tengai)


(Phalanx)


(R-Type III: The Third Lightning)


(Shining Soul)


(Shining Soul II)


(Spider-Man: Mysterio's Menace)


(The King of Fighters EX2: Howling Blood)


(The King of Fighters EX: Neo Blood)


(Yoshi Topsy-Turvy)
 
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Great thread. And great screenshot collections from EightBit Man EightBit Man

The spirit of SNES was definitely alive in GBA and, for me, absent in the DS.
I feel that the dual screen and touch screen aspects of the DS diluted game quality and were rarely used especially well. The Ouendan games are the only ones I regard as being a perfect execution of what these hardware conceits offered.

Perhaps this makes me a purist as the GBA had nothing like that. Just vanilla grunt.

Drill Dozer and, in particular, Ninja Five-0 are my shining stars on the platform. Rock solid 2D games, great controls, style, polish and immediately accessible.

2D game design is very much alive and, with games like Celeste and others, is reaching heights that exceed what the GBA library offered. So whilst I'm fond of the sentiment of the OP, I can't agree with it 100%.
 

K1Expwy

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GBA had an excellent library that echoed 1990s design... despite the hardware limitations (such as the lack of backlighting at launch, forcing devs to choose strange/ugly color schemes for the sake of contrast) that made the games look rough at day one. GBA reminds me of NES games that clearly have amazing music compositions despite the rudimentary chip music, and makes you wonder what that era would have been like if CD audio was available.
 
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nkarafo

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Most SNES ports are worse than the SNES originals in almost every way.

The system was more powerful but the lower resolution and awful sound didnt help.
 

Naked Lunch

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Sega Saturn is the King of 2D.
Pretty much all GBA games dont hold up to the legends on SNES - just worse versions.
 

cireza

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The GBA is fantastic, and it is the best handheld from Nintendo in my opinion.

However, I don't see it as the pinnacle of 2D game design. It did not add much to the table as far as 2D games go.
 

Hudo

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Okay, OP, I will try to change your mind.

I do agree that GBA felt like an SNES sequel. It preserved a lot of what made SNES so good. Plus, it was a handheld, and I've noticed that Nintendo doesn't put out as much b.s. on their handhelds. Games must be snappy and to-the-point, even RPGs and strategy titles. I spent many hours on the GBA. In particular, the platformers and the RPGs did a nice job of taking what worked for the SNES iterations in those genres and leaving behind the clunk and the fat. If you were are a fan of the SNES's platformers and RPGs, GBA was like heaven.

However, the pinnacle of 2d game design -- under these same criteria -- is the DS. As good as the GBA is, the DS had that little bit of extra hardware power to truly surpass what the SNES (and GBA) were capable of in terms of 2D design.

And I know that it doesn't relate directly to the graphics, but the bump in sound quality on a pair of headphones from GBA > DS was significant.

In an arbitrary "deserted island challenge" where I was only allowed to have one system and all of its 2D games, well... I'd probably pick a Saturn or a PS2, but DS would be my next pick. GBA would be somewhere in the Top 10 for me, to be fair.
I agree. However, as I can't possibly come up with such well presented arguments, I want to refer to the only argument in favour of the DS (which is already a killer argument for me)that I have: Etrian Odyssey III, specifically the awesomeness of Yuzo Koshiro:


Thanks everyone for listening.
 

polybius80

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the resolution is horrible, to be fair GameBoy had low resolution too compared to nes it caused lot of trouble in games like DKC but the GBA is a powerful console and it still limited by low resolution even nes games had better resolution its a huge problem for many games and force game to use less pixels in characters

 

Kazza

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Okay, OP, I will try to change your mind.

I do agree that GBA felt like an SNES sequel. It preserved a lot of what made SNES so good. Plus, it was a handheld, and I've noticed that Nintendo doesn't put out as much b.s. on their handhelds. Games must be snappy and to-the-point, even RPGs and strategy titles. I spent many hours on the GBA. In particular, the platformers and the RPGs did a nice job of taking what worked for the SNES iterations in those genres and leaving behind the clunk and the fat. If you were are a fan of the SNES's platformers and RPGs, GBA was like heaven.

However, the pinnacle of 2d game design -- under these same criteria -- is the DS. As good as the GBA is, the DS had that little bit of extra hardware power to truly surpass what the SNES (and GBA) were capable of in terms of 2D design.

And I know that it doesn't relate directly to the graphics, but the bump in sound quality on a pair of headphones from GBA > DS was significant.

In an arbitrary "deserted island challenge" where I was only allowed to have one system and all of its 2D games, well... I'd probably pick a Saturn or a PS2, but DS would be my next pick. GBA would be somewhere in the Top 10 for me, to be fair.
Can you recommend any particularly good-looking 2D DS games? There'll work on my 3DS, right?
 

GigiFusc

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I don't know about pinnacle of 2D game design, but GBA is my favorite portable console. It has sufficient power to go to places were it was impossible for Game Boy and no weak 3D to mess with the games artstyle like DS.

Zelda Minish Cap is, IMO, the most beautiful portable Zelda to this day because of that. We can argue if it will be dethroned by the new Link's Awekaning but it is more beautiful than ALBW and much more beautiful than DS Zeldas.

No touch screen experiments made the games more of my taste also.

3 great Metroidvanias, including Aria of Sorrow, 4 Megaman Zero, 2 original Metroids, Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, Zelda Minish Cap, Sword of Mana, 2 Mario & Luigi, 2 Golden Sun, and many other games. GBA is great!
I just finished Minish Cap for the first time at the weekend. Incredible game. How the hell they managed to put so much into a teeny GBA cart is just beyond me. Reminds me of how Rare put SO much stuff into Banjo kazooie.

I have a newfound respect for the little GBA. TBH, I'm finding a new level of respect for the original GB too. There's something quite beautiful about the green overlay and its simplicity.
 

Holammer

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I'm not a GBA fan, but I do recognize the fact that it carried the 2D torch in a long period where console manufacturers (Nintendo included) actively discouraged developers from making 2D sprite based games. If that thing had higher resolution its games would be truly timeless.
 
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10000

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It house some of my favorite rpg games:

Pokemon Emerald & ruby & sapphire
Golden sun 1 & 2
The sims bustin out & urbz
Harry potter rpg
FFTactics Advance
Tactics Ogre Knight of Lodis
Breath of Fire 1 & 2
Shaman King RPG
Yugi Oh RPG
Three castlevanias title

Coming from PS2 at that time, I was mindblown
 
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PhoenixTank

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Dead serious.

It's before they turned Mario Kart into a participation trophy. You actually needed skill to win in the old ones.
Largely agree. Super Circuit was great and felt like a follow up to the SNES original for me. Many hours went into clearing it.
 

BloodFalcon64

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I'd check out any of the games I posted on the previous page. And yeah, as far as I know, any physical DS game (I don't know about digital DSi Ware) will work on the 3DS.
I've transferred most of my DSi games onto my 3DS, but some were not transferable.

"Please note that even after the Nintendo DSi Shop closes, most Nintendo DSiWare will continue to be sold in Nintendo eShop on Nintendo 3DS family systems "

So get some of the best stuff you might have missed if you can find them.
 
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Northeastmonk

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The GBA is awesome. What I think is crazy is how well they did on the VC for Wii U. I was playing mine this weekend. Its wonderful and its all on that platform. If you sold your Wii U then you're out of luck. I wouldn't be against owning another GBA, but the Wii U VC is wonderful. Nintendo could do a lot with list of GBA titles, but they'll likely to left on a legacy device. I'd say its on par with the NDS. The DS had a lot of wonderful games (more than the 3DS if you ask me).
 

BloodFalcon64

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Megaman Battle Network series.

Nuff said.
Well there was one it missed out on. Maybe not the best game but it still should have made it to the GBA.

You'd think they would have ported it instead of leaving it on a tiny user base handheld.
 
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got my first DS this year just so i could play all the gba games i never got to, and the entire DS library i missed out on.

I wish someone would compile a massive list of good titles to check out

enjoyed my gba way back when. had like 15 games or so....though i dont think i appreciated it as much as I should have.

between getting into high school life and the lack of a backlight - I never experienced as many games as i should have. I grew out of handheld gaming then only to finally be sucked back in with the purchase of a vita and now switch.
 
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Pejo

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GBA SP was my jam when it was released. I do agree that the aesthetic of the games for the system were great, but the music and being limited to 2 face buttons hurt the console in general.
 

stranno

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No Ninja Five-O shots yet? It was an absolutely wonderful blend of Bionic Commando and Shinobi series.





And what about Lady Sia. There was a big hype with this game back in the day. Not a tech milestone but it was one of the better looking games of the first GBA year.



Not to mention this Klonoa 2 bonus level, so fast and smooth.



It was more like the Playstation 0.1
Nah, that was just the black magic from Fernando Velez and Guillaume Dubail, probably the best tech dealers ever worked on a Nintendo console. They were like a mix of Factor 5 + Boss Game Studios + Rare on handheld.
 
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BloodFalcon64

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It was more like the Playstation 0.1

Actually it's more fun to think of the GBA as the 32X but not a complete failure. They have similar looking 3D graphics.


It would have been an interesting fight if Nintendo had their own 32-bit add-on that gave the SNES better 3D than the SFX chips instead of doing the Virtual Boy.

But speaking of Sega



A shame Treasure stopped making games.
 
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RScrewed

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The title is weird.

"SNES2" implies the GBA was an intended sequel and more powerful console by assumed tech progression, but then the title posits its greatly improved of in "game design" which is not really comparably limited by either system when stanced against each other. It'd be easier to break these two metrics up.

In terms of end user experience from technology offered - The GBA was SNES 3/4, maybe even SNES 1/2, but on-the-go. Better looking assets but lower final rendering resolution; more varied sound palette but lower sample rate.

How that power was leveraged to create compelling gameplay was more effective on the GBA which is obvious, more than a decade had passed since the SNES released and a lot of lessons had been learned about 2D game design.
 
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dirthead

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Actually it's more fun to think of the GBA as the 32X but not a complete failure. They have similar looking 3D graphics.


It would have been an interesting fight if Nintendo had their own 32-bit add-on that gave the SNES better 3D than the SFX chips instead of doing the Virtual Boy.

But speaking of Sega



A shame Treasure stopped making games.
I'm really irritated that the 360 Guardian Heroes hasn't been released on the PC.
 

Pimpbaa

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Second, the sound is awful. Thanks to copyright kerfuffles they couldn't even use a soundchip similar to the SNES's soundchip, so they went for one that is closer to the NES than anything in terms of capability. Most game also used the CPU for audio mixing, meaning that the more things were happening on screen that were being calculated, the less audio you could have.
The only NES like soundchip would be for GB backwards compatibility (as in not for use for GBA games). All sound processing was done by the CPU.