This Week’s Purchase: Orange GameBoy Advance (with Backlight) + Japanese Games
This week I bought a first generation GameBoy Advance. This was a console I used to really like, but its unilluminated screen means that by today’s standards it’s just about impossible to see in pretty much any lighting condition. However, when I found a fix for the console’s Achilles heel, in the form of a custom installed backlit screen, I also rediscovered my love for Nintendo’s classic handheld.
Overall I went on a bit of a spending spree, and as well as the console I also bought six games that fit nicely into my already fairly extensive GBA collection. Most of these were Japanese titles (because who can resist their delightful box art) including the first two Legend of Starfy titles, which were never localised and I’d been after for a while. I also got Metroid: Zero Mission (a classic), Mario and Donkey Kong, and a couple of pinball games (English versions), including the fairly terrible Super Mario Ball which I kinda like in a weird nostalgic way.
In total this all cost me a little over £110, largely due to the high price of the GBA console (£60 because of the backlight). Maybe around this time last year I’d have looked at doing the installation myself, and I’ve done similar modifications in the past, but currently I do not have the time (or will) to research the process and acquire all the parts. Plus I’d have inevitably broke a few GameBoy Advances in the process, which would have reduced potential savings. Overall £60 seemed like a fair deal considering that the console is in pretty much brand new condition, is a lovely orange colour, and came complete with box.
The games on the other hand were all pretty cheap (£5.50 for The Legend of Starfy 2?!) but there were quite a few of them, Metroid: Zero Mission alone was £17, and with postage it quickly added up. Still, I ended up with a lot of great titles (all boxed in good condition etc.) and a really cool console to play them on, so overall I’d consider it money well spent.
This series of impulse buys started in an unlikely way. A couple of weeks ago I picked up Konami Krazy Racers at a local carboot for 50p (bargain), and I’d been enjoying it quite a lot. I was playing it on my GameBoy Micro, but as the game requires heavy use of the shoulder buttons and I found myself having to hold to console in an uncomfortable claw-like position. This got me thinking what the best way to play GameBoy Advance games would actually be, and also made me realise that there’s still some great games for the console even I’m yet to discover.
The main problem with GameBoy Advances are their screens; the original model is unlit, and the GameBoy Advance SP is frontlit. The only two GameBoy Advances officially produced with backlit screens were the GameBoy Micro and a very limited run of GameBoy Advance SPs that were released in late 2005 (these can be identified by their AGS-101 model numbers).
So when it came to choosing the perfect console to play GameBoy Advance games on I was left deciding between two options. One was to purchase an AGS-101 GameBoy Advance SP, and the other was the backlit installed original GBA I’d discovered when researching the prices of option 1 (Due to the rarity of the AGS-101 system, these consoles currently cost around £60+).
It was a decision that was essentially down to personal choice. I already own a couple of GBA SPs and to be honest I’m not a massive fan of the design, so I decided to go with something a little different. My only other concern was the potential quality of the install, and I’m still not exactly sure where these backlit screens are coming from. But even if they’re not directly grafted out of unwanted systems, they look great, and I couldn’t notice any difference in brightness when compared to my GBA Micro.
I’d almost forgotten the exact feel of the original GameBoy Advance; it’s a sturdy design that’s easy to hold and grip properly. It’s a lot larger than the Micro, but this really isn’t a bad thing. The screen is larger but the trade off is pixel density (similar to the difference between the 3DS and 3DS XL), but as this was the original design of the console (with the redesign being the smaller version) everything looks about the right size.
Once you get into a game everything feels just right. The shoulder buttons are about as comfortable as they’ve ever been on a Nintendo handheld, and for any game that relies heavily on them (which is a lot considering there’s only two face buttons) this makes all the difference. F-Zero in particular stood out as being much easier to play.
Overall I’d consider it a great purchase, and the GBA has proven itself as a console that continues to surprise me. I personally find it quite strange that it was only out for three years before Nintendo released the first DS, as in its (relatively) small lifespan a huge selection of great games were released.
If you’re interested in picking up a similar console with the backlit screen, the guy I bought it off still sells them on eBay here.
And that’s all from me today, I’ll leave you with this photo showing the current state of my GameBoy collection.