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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Title: Game Boy Player
Platform: Nintendo Gamecube
Manufacturer: Nintendo
Written By: Matthew Prunty

March 12, 2005 - Some people may think it's odd, but I've always been of the opinion that the Game Boy has consistently been the best video game system for some time. The Game Boy series has the widest variety of video games known to man, and when a new Game Boy comes out, it has the ability to play the previous handheld titles. However, I didn't play it as often as my other consoles because of one major factor - my hands would start throbbing from pain when playing my GBA to long.

Back in the 16-bit era, I solved this by getting a Super Game Boy for my Super Nintendo, but that was about ten years and two Game Boys ago. After witnessing the displays at E3 2003, I decided to hit an import store and pick up the Game Boy Player, the Super Game Boy for this generation of consoles. And I've played more Game Boy in the past week than I have in nearly a month.

The accessory itself is really light and simple to set up. It comes with the adapter itself, a boot disc, and instructions for use. Setting it up is as simple as removing the door from the GameCube's bottom and plugging in the adapter. If you like, you can also attach it with screws built into the Game Boy Player's base. It adds no significant weight or size to the system, and yes, you can even get matching colors to go with your system.

For the lazy, like myself, it also does not interfere with regular GameCube games. Some peripherals have to be unplugged when not in use, but the Game Boy Player sits there quietly, even if there's a Game Boy game inside, and it won't become active unless you start up the boot disc.

Wisely, Nintendo also made sure to include a Link Cable port on the front of the system. Thus, you can use the Game Boy Player to link up for anything you'd use a regular Game Boy Advance for, with the obvious exception of using it as a controller for certain GameCube games.

The only oddity of all this is in how you remove the Game Boy games from the system. You can't just pull them out - you have to hit the "eject" button found on your right. The eject is built on a fairly powerful spring, so don't be too surprised to see the game come flying out rather rapidly.

Enough of the hardware issues, though, what's important is how it plays. I've run tests of all the features with four games: Final Fantasy Adventure, for Game Boy; Dragon Warrior III for Game Boy Color; and Castlevania: Circle of the Moon for Game Boy Advance. Here's how they work:

Final Fantasy Adventure: This plays very similar to how it plays on Game Boy Advance. Since one of the four pixel choices was white back when this was made, it really is easy to see and play in portable format as well as on the GameCube. Also, just like the Game boy Advance, you can choose which palette to load up when the game starts, and the background sprites are colored differently than the active sprites for easier play.

The notable flaw, though, is when you use the analog control stick to play the game. The analog does register rather sensitively, so you may end up hitting a direction more than you initially intended, and end up overshooting where you want to go. For Game Boy games, it's best to use the GameCube's digital pad for control.

Dragon Warrior III: The major difference you notice here isn't in the picture, it's in the sound. I've complained so much about the sound capabilities of the various Game Boys so much that Nintendo probably wishes I'd just go deaf and spare them the complaints. However, while Final Fantasy Adventure sounds pretty much the same on either system, this game sounds dramatically better from the Game Boys to the Game Boy Player. It becomes clear, playing this, that the limiting factor for sound and music on the Game Boy is not the software, it's the hardware.

Control here is also a bit of a problem, but for some reason it wasn't nearly the issue that it was with Final Fantasy Adventure. It could simply be that I was already adjusting from playing Final Fantasy Adventure until I beat it, but the controls didn't go way off mark nearly as much. I was certainly happy with how it played.

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon: Here's the big challenge. Many people cite this for two reasons - one, as proof that some launch titles are worth playing, and two, as proof that GBA owners need a really good light source to play. Seriously, the game's graphics can be impossible to follow in some lighting conditions.

This is changed with the Game Boy Player. The colors are finally visible, and in some parts of the game even bright. Following the action is not a problem, and it's finally easy to see exactly how much detail went into the game's backgrounds.

Otherwise, this is like the Game Boy color games - you can hear the improvement in the sound, but sometimes the controls are a bit off. Both are tweaked a bit more, as this is built primarily for Game Boy Advance games. Really, you'll hardly tell the difference in the controls.

Of course, there are the software options available to all games, built into the system. Hit the Z button and you'll bring up the menu displaying your options. Some, like changing the surrounding background frame, is just fluff. Similarly, the option to adjust the contrast in the graphics doesn't really work. It claims to adjust between soft, normal, and sharp focus, but it really doesn't adjust the graphics at all. This option really isn't worth it.

However, the other options are more useful. There is a control option, in which you can define which GameCube buttons function as L, R, and select. Having X and Y function as select certainly makes sense... but then, having L and R in immediate thumb range also does. So you can choose whether X and Y act as select, or as L and R (respectively). That the option is there is nice.

More useful is the screen mode. You can adjust the game to be normal width (in which you can see the background frame) or full screen. It may be personal preference, but I actually prefer normal width. The system stretches the dimensions a bit under full screen, and it honestly doesn't look quite right to my eyes. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Parents will like the timer mode. This allows you to set the system to run for a set time (up to 60 minutes). After that, it will power down. Underage gamers everywhere will hate me for telling about this, but hey, it's on there, and if they're that good, they'll figure out how to get around it. Of course, a parent could just set a timer and turn off the system when the timer goes off, so I guess that's a wash.

What I like best, though, is the cartridge swap. By selecting this, you "power down" the system, and the game screen will go black. However, the GameCube is still on, and you can still adjust options as wanted. You can then take out the game without problems, and the second you snap another game in its place, it acts as if you just turned the power on. This is much faster and more efficient than turning on and off the GameCube every time you want to switch games.

Of course, best of all to me, I can now play Game Boy Advance games with a GameCube controller, which fits my hands. Seriously, I've talked with several people who are like me: they don't care about backlighting, or rechargeable batteries, or anything like that. All they want is a Game Boy that fits their hands. The original Game Boy was the only one that fit well in my mitts. But now, with a comfortable and ergonomic GameCube controller in my hands, I can afford to play Game Boy games to all hours. This might not mean much to the little ones, but to me, it's heaven sent.

Nintendo has been hit and miss with peripherals in the past, but this one is clearly a winner. It plays well, and you only need a minor amount of adjustment to play any Game Boy game on the system. It's also very easy to use, and to top it off, it's cheaper than a new Game Boy Advance. Probably the only flaw that I can see is that you can't save your progress onto a Game cube memory card, but that's just as well - I can think of many ways to abuse that in Pokemon alone. In the end, this is perfect for people who want to play Game Boy Advance, but have a reason not to - batteries are expensive, the sound is bad, the screen is too dark, the system is too small, and so forth. Beyond making a Game Boy Advance SP XL (for the large gamer), this is the best thing Nintendo could have done with the hardware.


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