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

DonF

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The GBA had a much wider color range than SNES and that made its original games prettier, just look at how pretty Minish cap looks in comparison to ALTTP.
that must be it, also, I feel like lots of gba games have smoother animations, compared to snes. Like super metroid and fusion, megaman x and megaman zero, I always prefer the gba game over the snes.
 

dirthead

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The pinnacle of 2D game design?

It's a nice platform, but i don't see any evidence of that. (Boots up Amiga...and then the Megadrive as I wait for it to boot up)
Yeah it's really not. The SNES, Genesis, and Saturn's libraries make the GBA's look like a joke.

In fact, the GBA is especially bad for 2D games because it came from an era where everything was low poly 3D assets saved as low resolution bitmaps. Basically a lot of games looked like Killer Instinct only uglier. To make matters worse, people were really into using GBA scaling effects in place of actual 2D animation, so sprites are constantly being spun and rotated, and it looks like complete shit because the resolution's so low and there's aliasing up the ass.

Portable machine games have essentially never been "beautiful" relative to real gaming machines at the time.
 
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Yeah it's really not. The SNES, Genesis, and Saturn's libraries make the GBA's look like a joke.

In fact, the GBA is especially bad for 2D games because it came from an era where everything was low poly 3D assets saved as low resolution bitmaps. Basically a lot of games looked like Killer Instinct only uglier. To make matters worse, people were really into using GBA scaling effects in place of actual 2D animation, so sprites are constantly being spun and rotated, and it looks like complete shit because the resolution's so low and there's aliasing up the ass.

Portable machine games have essentially never been "beautiful" relative to real gaming machines at the time.
Agreed. The 2D arcade ports and 2D games developed natively for the Saturn are still beautiful today, as are the likes of titles on the Amiga, PC-Engine, Megadrive or SNES.

Never mind having to squint to look at the screen unless you owned a GBA adpater for the GC.
 

Ovek

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Ahh the memories... I imported a GBA from Japan on launch day I even installed the very first front light mod kits in it, sadly it never survived being thrown around in my bag for years so I could play advanced wars when commuting.... such good god damn memories.

Been meaning to build myself a new one with a good AGS(?) screen and what not... might make a nice summer project for me... humm...
 

DunDunDunpachi

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Ahh the memories... I imported a GBA from Japan on launch day I even installed the very first front light mod kits in it, sadly it never survived being thrown around in my bag for years so I could play advanced wars when commuting.... such good god damn memories.

Been meaning to build myself a new one with a good AGS(?) screen and what not... might make a nice summer project for me... humm...
Two of my buddies did the mod (AGS 101 screen + original football design) and they've been very pleased with it. You can buy kits with custom-colored shells and buttons, even.
 

cireza

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Man this thread is gonna cost me money. Itching to buy a modded GBA with game collection on eBay right now.
There isn't a single satisfying solution as far as screens are concerned in my opinion. I played GBA a lot, had pretty much all models, and nothing is great. Everything aged horribly. Many of the AGS-101 screens out there are Chinese replicas that have an important color loss. Micro is too small. Original is not backlit. Some games were created with the backlit in mind, others not. This happened with DS too. As always, everything is a shit fest with Nintendo and picture quality.

The best solution to play these games is the fantastic emulator made by M2 for the Switch, and playing on the gamepad directly. They implemented some excellent color correction for the games that use high contrast.
 
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Sub_Level

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GBA is awesome. You do have to mute it, tho, because that sound chip is god awful.

Also that Top 25 list is missing Duke Nukem Advance. Which shouldn't have been a good game considering its a shooter on the goddamn GBA, but it totally was.

 
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DonF

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Man this thread is gonna cost me money. Itching to buy a modded GBA with game collection on eBay right now.
I call my PSP the modded gba. Emulators work great and the screen is way better.
 

Bakkus

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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.
You still need skill. And now we also have much better control, physics and actually inspired stages.
 

Animagic

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The sound chip was ass and samples sounded like swamp ass.

Other than that, DS games were much more enjoyable to play, and since the games could be paused by closing the unit, solved a big problem the gba had, which was if you had to stop playing for any reason and turn it off you would lose what you were doing.

I don’t miss gba although at the time it was cool.

Gba micro the best
 
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BlackTron

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One can argue DS games are better because it had better specs (or worse because weak 3D muddied the waters. In some ways, literally). But this isn't about what's better or worse, the question is, what's SNES2?

If anything DS would be SNES3 in my opinion. GBA's limitations prevented the presentation from getting any better, but game design kept advancing within similar constraints of SNES (you have traditional input buttons and 2D sprites, figure it out).

Metroid Fusion carried on the 2D Metroid torch, with its own thing, despite hardware limitations. While SNES games were higher res and generally preferable if there was an SNES version, 2D game design kept maturing on the GBA. That's what made it SNES2.

I feel the same way that GCN is basically N642. Despite power variance, game design was still progressing within the context of "you now have polygons and a control stick".
 

iconmaster

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i was a sega kid.
i missed the snes (well played at friends)
then years later i got my pink gba.

bought all the snes ports. Shit was cash.

a link to the past
super mario world
yoshi's island
breath of fire 1
breath of fire 2
final fantasy 6

and a fuck ton of instant classics.
my fave handheld ever.

and the last truly 2d focused console.






shit is crack
Now that's a collection. You even have the Super Game Boy 2!

Love that Game Boy pocket.
 
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Knightime_X

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I'd argue Nintendo DS was SNES2.
GBA had a few things such as graphics and sound being a little jank compared to snes.
DS however rotf stomps SNES across the board while not being too advanced.
 
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petran79

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I felt this was a dark time for video games when all those great games were released on portables instead of desktop consoles and computers. It was not like with the original gameboy that had unique portable games.
Majority of those games could have been released with updated res sprites on desktops too.
 
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clem84

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Astro boy Omega looks really fun. I was crushed when I saw the Ebay prices. :messenger_loudly_crying::messenger_loudly_crying::messenger_loudly_crying: I had no idea some GBA games were up there in terms of rarity. I guess I'll have to import if I want to play it.
 

Spukc

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Astro boy Omega looks really fun. I was crushed when I saw the Ebay prices. :messenger_loudly_crying::messenger_loudly_crying::messenger_loudly_crying: I had no idea some GBA games were up there in terms of rarity. I guess I'll have to import if I want to play it.
you can always get a flash card ofc.
no point in supporting scalpers

just be sure to buy it if it;s available on VC
 
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kingbean

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Astro boy Omega looks really fun. I was crushed when I saw the Ebay prices. :messenger_loudly_crying::messenger_loudly_crying::messenger_loudly_crying: I had no idea some GBA games were up there in terms of rarity. I guess I'll have to import if I want to play it.
I found that game locally for like 8 bucks. Check retro games stores if you are lucky enough to have one near by.
 

Belmonte

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3 Fire Emblem, but only 1 Mario & Luigi!
Oh, that's right! I played Partners in Time in my DS! The similar art style got me confused.

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.
Yeah, it is awesome! I played a lot of GBA but I'm discovering the GB/ GBC only recently too. It is a neat little console, very charismatic. I like how many games have expressive and "fat" sprites for the characters and how they use the simplicity to their advantage. Everything feels very cozy.
 
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yurinka

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Had some good games but it wasn't the pinnacle of 2D game design, the listed games didn't add anything new in terms of game design. If something, Botkai with the light sensor. But was more a tech innovation of that game, not from the console and others did similar things before.
 

64bitmodels

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"Best Castlevania games"
OH HEYALL NO
Just look at the DS games. Harmony of dissonance is..decent i guess. Aria of sorrow is amazing, but it doesn't even come close to Dawn of sorrow. and god forbid i talk about the rotten egg that is Circle of the Moon. Like no. Portrait of Ruin, Order of Ecclesia and Dawn of Sorrow are so much better than the GBA games.
 

The Pleasure

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The SNES had higher resolution that is true. But the GBA was superior in every other way. Eventually you get used to the lower resolution and games look just as good.
The same was said about jim belushi being just as good as his older brother. That was obviously a lie.
 

xemumanic

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I think it was more of an SNES "1.8". The lower native resolution has been mentioned, but what always irked me was the lack of a dedicated sound cpu. If both were addressed, it would have been basically the "SNES 2.0", no doubt.

IMO, just as the GBA isn't fully a handheld SNES, so too is the DS not a N64 handheld. The latter really addressed the two issues I have with the GBA.
 
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DT MEDIA

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I've always been a huge fan of Gameboy Advance. Its library was overshadowed by far too many Super NES ports, and some lazy design decisions by Nintendo (no X-Y buttons, no backlight, no dedicated sound chip) held it back for too long. The GBA SP model was a superb improvement over the original and the definitive version for me.

GBA was my platform of choice in those post-Dreamcast years, as I wasn't very much interested in the other 6th Generation consoles. I was probably a "retro" gamer by that point, spending most of my videogame time with classic system emulators. I would much rather be playing M.U.L.E. or Seven Cities of Gold on Atari 800.

What impressed me most about this system was its impressive collection of deep cuts, where all the best games lie. Hardly anybody had ever heard of Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer, Moto GP, Motoracer Advance, Gekido Advance, Virtual Kasparov or Hikaru no Go 2, all of which were (and are) spectacular. GBA is very similar to Sega Saturn in that sense, which is probably why I enjoy both so much.

Here are a sampling of screenshots for reviews that I wrote and published on my old arts website from long ago. The sizes are a bit small, due to smaller monitor resolutions and the need to optimize everything for websites (many people were still using dialup in those days). The screenshots were taken from the excellent Virtual Boy Advance emulator, which allowed me to dive deep into the software library. I also owned a GBA SP and a large stack of games.

Of the mainline franchise games, the Castlevania titles are very good, each better than the last, but always far too easy for their own good. Zelda Minish Cap is terrific fun and wonderfully designed. Lunar translates to the small screen very well, as does Tactics Ogre. Pac-Man Collection is always a must, although I really wish Ms, Baby and Jr Pac-Man were included. And Advance Wars 2 is the best thing to ever hit the Gameboy Advance. I only wish there were more save states for user-created maps.

Overall, an excellent little handheld that offers classic arcade thrills and a vast library with something for everyone. I'm grateful that Nintendo stubbornly held onto 2D videogames at a time when the classic style was all but extinct.


































 

DT MEDIA

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Here is a gallery of maps that I created for Advance Wars 2 on GBA. I really enjoyed the map creator and always tinkering around, creating boards that were challenging, balanced and fast. A lot of play time was needed to iron out the kinks and ensure proper flow. Some maps have pre-selected armies, others don't. Many are inspired by classic videogames: Pac-Man, 2600 Combat, Adventure, Warlords, Gauntlet, Rampart and Herzog Zwei.

Somebody created a PC program where you could create AW2 maps, and it was absolutely essential for designs. It was very fast and simple to use. I would then recreate those maps on the Gameboy Advance, making changes and refinements where necessary, as well as extensive play testing to ensure games were properly balanced and flowed smoothly.

I really need to put these into a portfolio and shop around for any software studios that need level designers. Such an indie gaming scene didn't exist 15 years ago, so such thoughts were little more than pipe dreams. But it's still fun to create, and as long as you can find others who appreciate the effort, it's all worth it.

I posted these maps onto my arts website which included detailed explanations on starting army units, neutral bases or factories, and various strategies or points of interest. I also included a Virtual Boy Advance save file to that anyone could play on them. Those save files are long since gone, so if you want to play, you'll have to build from scratch. There was also a fan website where one could post and share their own user-created maps. I shared everything there and tried to impress those kids, who were a bunch of teenage Comic Book Guy snobs. That site closed down over a decade ago, which is unfortunate. Oh, well, whatever, nevermind.

In any case, here are the AW2 maps. Enjoy!




Crazy Baby



Gauntlet Lives



Die Fatty Die



Oasis



Warlords



Rampart



Combat or Tank



Freak'n Vietnam, Man



Gonzo's Dead



Kill the Swiss



Pac-Man



Candyland Sucks



Drink and Drown



Where's Ohma?



Sunburst



Flatland Bums



Twin City War



Adventure
 

DT MEDIA

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One last Advance Wars 2 post. I created an additional series of maps from 2006 that were created in the map editor but never refined or completed. I was fairly burned out on the project by that point and decided to focus my energies elsewhere. These look pretty good and only need to be properly tweaked with armies and whatnot.




Kentucky Rain



My Brain Hurts



Harvest Moon



The Cycle of Birth and Death



No War 4 Empire
 

Voost Kain

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SNES has better 2D graphics and can scale sprites better. It also had better sound if you knew how to master its sound software.

The GBA was only better than the SNES in 3D.
 

Ballthyrm

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the pinnacle of 2D game design
Let me put a quick list of 2D games that were released after the GBA stopped production (in 2008).
  • Plants vs. Zombies - Braid - Machinarium / 2009
  • Limbo - Super Meat Boy / 2010
  • Terraria - Bastion - The Binding of Isaac / 2011
  • Mark of the Ninja - FTL - Castle Crashers / 2012
  • TowerFall - Papers, Please - Skullgirls / 2013
  • Valiant Hearts - South Park: The Stick of Truth - Shovel Knight / 2014
  • Undertale - Ori and the Blind Forest - Mini Metro / 2015
  • Stardew Valley - Reigns - Hyper Light Drifter / 2016
  • Hollow Knight - Cuphead - Gorogoa / 2017
  • RimWorld - Celeste - GRIS - Dead Cells - CrossCode - Just Shapes & Beats - The Messenger / 2018 (this was a really good year)
  • Baba Is You - Oxygen Not Included - Katana ZERO - Cadence of Hyrule - Wargroove / 2019

In conclusion : 2D games are better than ever.
Nostalgia is one hell of a drug.
 
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molasar

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Let me put a quick list of 2D games that were released after the GBA stopped production (in 2008).
  • Plants vs. Zombies - Braid - Machinarium / 2009
  • Limbo - Super Meat Boy / 2010
  • Terraria - Bastion - The Binding of Isaac / 2011
  • Mark of the Ninja - FTL - Castle Crashers / 2012
  • TowerFall - Papers, Please - Skullgirls / 2013
  • Valiant Hearts - South Park: The Stick of Truth - Shovel Knight / 2014
  • Undertale - Ori and the Blind Forest - Mini Metro / 2015
  • Stardew Valley - Reigns - Hyper Light Drifter / 2016
  • Hollow Knight - Cuphead - Gorogoa / 2017
  • RimWorld - Celeste - GRIS - Dead Cells - CrossCode - Just Shapes & Beats - The Messenger / 2018 (this was a really good year)
  • Baba Is You - Oxygen Not Included - Katana ZERO - Cadence of Hyrule - Wargroove / 2019

In conclusion : 2D games are better than ever.
Nostalgia is one hell of a drug.
I do not agree with your conclusion. The 90s were the best at pixel art and sprite art. And there is not many good artists nowadays to do it right. Not to mention it takes ages to develop these games in comparison to 90s.
Also I am surprised that Hotline Miami series, Stealth Inc. series, Door Kickers: Action Squad and Xeno Crisis are not on your list or some WayForward games.
No offence, it is just my specific taste.
BTW, Huntdown is the only game in 2D category aesthetically speaking I really wait for.
 
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cartman414

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I don't think it was, both the Saturn and PSX had a much more interesting 2d lineup (for me at least). I find the resolution too low on the GBA, plus sound is of a lower quality than even the SNES (I usually prefer playing the SNES release of games that are also available on the GBA).

This is not mentioning the arcade and PC games from then and very long the GBA was even on the drawing board.

Oh, also modern pixel art games...

I'm on the phone, so no screenshots!😬
The PSX couldn't properly handle sprites legit without some trickery.
 

lachesis

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I didn't like my original GBA because of lack of backlighting.... so I gave it away to my nephew, I think. I bought a silver clam shell GBA SP later on, and was very very happy with it.

But to be fair, my favorite one by far is DS lite. It plays all GBA games to boot, and was much easier to hold - although original GBA was very good for holding. The styling of DS Lite and SP was another big plus for me - as it didn't look like cheap kids toy like original DS.
 
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ArchaeEnkidu

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Scott the Woz said it best:

"The Gameboy Advance was a re-release fiend. The Donkey Kong Country series, Contra III, Final Fatnasy, Street Fighter, Phantasy Star, Namco Museum, DOOM, the NES Classic games, etc. Sure the DS and 3DS probably had more original new titles from Nintendo and major third parties, but the GBA's library at the time was phenomenal. The fact that you could play all these amazing games portably was mind-blowing and it had some great original new games on top of that."

But that is where I stand as well. GBA had some great original games, but the best parts of its library were slightly downgraded ports of 16 bit console games. Those were where the best of the best 2D titles came from for the system.

I love my Gameboy advance. It wasn't my first handheld, but it is one that I hold dear to my heart and still enjoy playing to this day. However, I just can't see how it was the SNES 2 or the pinnacle of 2D game design.
 
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Ballthyrm

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I do not agree with your conclusion. The 90s were the best at pixel art and sprite art. And there is not many good artists nowadays to do it right. Not to mention it takes ages to develop these games in comparison to 90s.
Aesthetically I also agree that the quality of Sprite and pixel art as gone down.
However it was talking about game design. And on that front, modern game are richer, more diverse and have a lot better controls.

Most old games have brick controls and poor cameras. They have unfair challenges and redundant level design.

Modern 2D games have advanced a lot since then.

PS: I also like the games, you've highlighted, I was just trying to show the breadth of experience one can have nowadays.
 
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stranno

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Unfortunately the palette of the first games was horrendous, to compensate the lack of backlight. There are some patches, thanks to the scene, but still lot of work to do.

I recommend the somewhat obscure Ninja Five-O. A wonderful mix of Shinobi and Bionic Commando.
 
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RealGassy

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Scott the Woz said it best:

"The Gameboy Advance was a re-release fiend. The Donkey Kong Country series, Contra III, Final Fatnasy, Street Fighter, Phantasy Star, Namco Museum, DOOM, the NES Classic games, etc. Sure the DS and 3DS probably had more original new titles from Nintendo and major third parties, but the GBA's library at the time was phenomenal. The fact that you could play all these amazing games portably was mind-blowing and it had some great original new games on top of that."

But that is where I stand as well. GBA had some great original games, but the best parts of its library were slightly downgraded ports of 16 bit console games. Those were where the best of the best 2D titles came from for the system.

I love my Gameboy advance. It wasn't my first handheld, but it is one that I hold dear to my heart and still enjoy playing to this day. However, I just can't see how it was the SNES 2 or the pinnacle of 2D game design.
No way. It's as if the Woz guy is not familiar with GBA library:
the best games as in Metroid Fusion (and Zero Mission), Advance Wars 1/2, Castlevania: AoS (plus two more), Zelda Minish Cup, Astro boy, Ninja Five-O, Tactics Ogre, Gunstar Super Heroes, Fire Emblem (two games), Golden Sun (two games), FF:Tactics advance, Mario & Luigi SuperStar, Wario Ware etc were entirely new entries or as with Zero Mission - a remake of NES game (to the point you could consider it a new game)

Some were sequels/prequels of SNES/Genesis games (Tactics ogre, Gunstar Super Heroes).

There were some amazing ports too (like Link to the Past), but they were hardly the defining titles of GBA.
 
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