The Game Boy Advance released thirteen years ago today in Japan. Conveniently enough, Nintendo plans on launching the Virtual Console service for Game Boy Advance games on the Wii U next month. What better opportunity than to discuss some of the games that strike our fancy-- ones we're just dying to (re)play. Once you've seen our choices, feel free to list which GBA games you're most looking forward to seeing put on the Virtual Console.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
We begin our list of Game Boy Advance Virtual Console desires with one of Nintendo's most popular franchises, The Legend of Zelda. While the GBA received two Zelda titles, The Minish Cap (the second release) was the only wholly original entry, as the other was a port of the Super Nintendo's A Link to the Past. Offering the ability to shrink down to Minish size to get a glimpse of the world through that race's eyes and teensy perspective. The Minish Cap brought with it a wide variety of areas to explore, clever and crafty dungeons to take on, Kinstones to fuse, and a cast of characters that were both charming and memorable. 3DS Ambassadors already have this game at their fingertips, but it'd be nice for others to get their mitts on this title. Seeing as a loose cartridge version of the game goes for a fairly high price, the more people can play The Minish Cap, the better.
Confirmed for the Japanese GBA Virtual Console launch, Golden Sun is one of our favorite RPGs of all time. Its ability to seamlessly intertwine dungeon exploration with puzzles that need to be solved using magic (or as the game refers to it as Psynergy) made it a blast to journey through Weyard. Finding and collecting Djinn, magical creatures that boosted stats for characters and were used for summoning in battle, was a great pleasure. The combat system required strategy, even on easy fights. If an enemy was defeated and another party member was going to attack it, that member forfeits their turn. Golden Sun remains the best of the series, and we can only hope the game makes it to the North American GBA VC launch.
Fire Emblem & Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
Not only were these two titles the introduction of the franchise to many gamers, aside from those who already met Roy and Marth in Super Smash Bros. Melee, but Fire Emblem and its sequel are both expensive titles to get one's hands on. The ease of allowing people to enjoy them in a legal manner makes total sense to us. Plus, it'd get even more folks into this phenomenal strategy RPG franchise.
Metroid: Zero Mission
A remake of the now antiquated original Metroid, the Game Boy Advance's Metroid: Zero Mission is our favorite of the two Game Boy Advance Metroid games. Not only did the remake offer more distinguishable areas to explore, more items to upgrade to, a super-helpful map that was sorely missing in the NES original, updated music, and an entirely new endgame section featuring Samus without her armor. There's a lot of classics in the Game Boy Advance's library, and Metroid: Zero Mission is one that stands near the top of the heap.
Mario Golf: Advance Tour
What better way to gear up for the Nintendo 3DS' Mario Golf: World Tour releasing in May than with the Game Boy Advance entry of the series? Bringing with it highly detailed golf courses, a charming cast of characters, and the return of the RPG-like Career mode all created a fantastical golfing experience that we're sure many would love to return to or experience for the first time.
Mega Man Battle Network series
There are few games on the Game Boy Advance that we can say that we've poured the most hours into. As a sum, the six Mega Man Battle Network entries (not counting titles with two versions) gave us over 300 hours of play time total. Journeying around the world as Lan, Mega Man.EXE's operator, and then jacking into the net to bust viruses large and small in cyberspace, and see Robot Masters from the classic Mega Man series represented with new designs to challenge Mega Man all made for a fun time. The chip-based combat relied heavily on improvisation and working with what you have. The enjoyment of deleting a series of enemies in record time and being given a rare chip for your efforts made combat rewarding. If anything, we'd love to see the original Mega Man Battle Network launched on the Virtual Console, as that game is worth a fair amount of change even in cartridge-only form.
Sonic Advance series
"Sonic hasn't been good since the Genesis." How many times have you seen this argument? Sure, one can ignore Sonic Colors, Generations, and the handheld line of games to fit their argument, but it just makes them look silly. The Sonic Advance trilogy showed impressive design, especially for Dimps, who nowadays isn't exactly known for high quality games. The addition of four playable characters, each with their own special abilities, made the longevity of the games longer without feeling like much in the way of padding. It still feels odd to our 8-year-old selves that Sonic the Hedgehog is on a Nintendo system, and not every game has been great, but the Sonic Advance series is one that truly is.
Final Fantasy VI Advance
While Final Fantasy III was released on the original Wii Virtual Console service, its Game Boy Advance counterpart offered much more content, bonuses, and changes/improvements. Such changes and improvements included an all-new translation that followed more closely to the Japanese original, several bugs have been fixed from the SNES original, a duo of new locations were added, plus a bestiary and music player were present. It makes much more sense to release the fully featured version of Final Fantasy VI than simply the SNES original. Of course, Nintendo really doesn't do things that make sense all the time.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Viewed popularly as the best of the trio of Game Boy Advance Castlevania games, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow was a game starring Soma Cruz, and featured the familiar Metroidvania elements brought into the series by Symphony of the Night. Aria of Sorrow remains one of more sought after Castlevania games, so it seems like a no-brainer for Nintendo and Konami to put the game on the Virtual Console. Plus, we love our Metroidvanias, especially if both companies won't make any new ones...
Here's a pick of a game that maybe some of you have never heard of. It's Hudson's Ninja Five-O. It was a title that was very similar to something like SEGA's Shinobi series. The challenge was rather steep, but the difficulty was always fair. Ninja Five-O received great reviews, but it had very much lukewarm sales. It would be lovely to see Ninja Five-O get the attention it deserves, and Nintendo's Virtual Console service is just the platform to do that.