There's always excitement in the air when a new system launches, it's one of those pure joys that never gets old. It's a time when you can explore the technology and see all kinds of new games and features unavailable in older consoles. But what happens when the excitement of the new system has worn off? What do you do when the next new game is a month away and you've played all the great launch titles?
Well, these are problems Nintendo DS owners are currently suffering through. After the launch of Nintendo's newest portable things went from good to very, very bad, with almost no games coming out, and the next big title not due until a couple months into 2005. Thankfully DS owners can use the system to play Game Boy Advance games until Wario and Yoshi show up to save the day.
Of course there are the great Game Boy Advance games you can't live without, the Zeldas, the Advance Wars, the Marios. But over the last few years a number of great games were completely ignored simply because they didn't have big names or a giant marketing campaign. As a service to you, the DS owning reader of Defunct Games, I have collected ten of the best and most ignored Game Boy Advance games of all time. You may have missed them when you were still using your SP, but don't make the same mistake now that you're starved for portable games.
Turok Evolution (Acclaim)
On the consoles Turok Evolution was a complete waste of time. It was riddled with frame rate issues, inaccurate controls, and some of the ugliest graphics you will ever see. It was so bad; most people completely ignored Turok Evolution on the Game Boy Advance. But that's a shame, since it's one of the best action games you can get on the GBA, even better than Contra Advance and Metal Slug Advance.
Now I know what you're thinking, how on Earth can it be better than Contra AND Metal Slug?? Those games are classics; they represent the best of 2D action games. Well Turok takes the best elements of these shooters and takes them back in time with insane boss battles, amazing levels, and some of the sharpest graphic on the system. Had they released the game in this form on the consoles people might not have hated the game nearly as much.
Comix Zone (Sega)
Now here's a game that has been ignored on not just one system, but two completely different consoles almost ten years apart. On the Genesis Comix Zone was one of the last great 2D games, providing an interesting twist of Streets of Rage-style action mixed with a truly unique comic book world. It didn't just look like a comic book, the game actually had you going from frame to frame, with graphic novel influences the whole way through. Thankfully everything we loved about the Genesis version has been retained in this Game Boy Advance port.
Unlike Capcom's Game Boy Advance port of Final Fight One, Comix Zone stands on its own thanks to its unique look and presentation. Sure the action becomes somewhat repetitive, but it works perfectly on the portable system, making it one of the best games you can pick up for your GBA or DS. Don't be scared that it's nearly a decade old, Comix Zone is one heck of an adventure you'll be glad you took.
Tactics Ogre: the Knight of Lodis (Atlus)
Although there is a newer, prettier tactical RPG currently on the Game Boy Advance, I suggest you look past Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and focus your attention on Tactics Ogre. Not only is it a far better playing tactical RPG, but it also features a number of improvements to the theme that make it easier for new comers to get excited about this often stale genre. It may look like every other game of its type, but Tactics Ogre offers one of the best stories with deep character classes.
There's also an amazing amount of extra content to be found and earned in the Knight of Lodis. Among my favorite includes a two-player battle that pairs up your best team with your friends fiercest fighters. There are also bonus quests and a whole emblem system that requires you doing specific tasks in everything from the game to trainer to the aforementioned two-player mode. All this adds up to dozens of hours of goodness making this one of the best games on any portable game system.
Elevator Action - New & Old (Taito)
Elevator Action is one of those games that found mild success on a number of platforms, but has been all but forgotten by just about everybody. By combining simple game play with a basic premise (get your way to the bottom of the building, no matter what), Elevator Action became one of the most fun games of its time period. Even though it required a little dusting off, Elevator Action still has a lot to offer on the Game Boy Advance.
As the title suggests there are two different versions of Elevator Action on this cartridge. The original is a faithful port of the computer game, but the new remixed version is a real treasure indeed. Here you will find brand new graphics, new playable characters, diverse levels, and much smarter AI. The game won't pass as a new game, but it's as addictive as ever. If you're one of those people who missed Elevator Action the first time around, don't make the same mistake now that you have nothing else to play.
Pinball of the Dead (Sega)
You have to hand it to Sega for going out of their way to make interesting use of their House of the Dead franchise. Most companies would have been just as happy to keep churning out the same light gun game year after year, but Sega has managed to use the name and theme for everything from improving typing skills (Typing of the Dead) to, as demonstrated here, playing a mean game of pinball.
Pinball of the Dead isn't simply a funny use of the franchise; it's one of the best playing pinball games in years. Working as an homage to classic titles like Devil's Crush, Pinball of the Dead adds interesting mini games, bosses, and all kinds of weird and gory ways to better your high score. This is the perfect game for a portable system; it's the kind of game you can play for any length of time without growing tired of its challenge.
Urban Yeti (Telegames, Inc.)
If you're going to get a strange game you might as well go for the weirdest, craziest one of them all, right? Well that's the logic that led me to the wacky Urban Yeti, a game that goes way beyond being strange and kooky. You play a Yeti who smashes his way through four different city stages. Or, if you choose not to bananas on the city folk, you can simply try to avoid them and play it like a stealth game. The real innovation of this game is that as you interact with the people they start to act different, eventually making the game extremely difficult.
If the game were just weird it would be one thing, but it's actually a fun experience no matter which way you choose to play it. There is also plenty to do and see, thanks to a number of exciting mini games. Although it may look like one of the strangest games you will ever see, many of the mini games are rooted in classic arcade titles you have probably played. At one point the game turns into a giant homage to Toobin', an inner tube racing game the likes we never saw again. Like the character he's named after, Urban Yeti is extremely hard to find but well worth spending the time to track down and trap for yourself.
Desert Strike Advance (EA)
Although the series has been all but scrapped, in the 1990s Electronic Art's 'Strike' franchise was one of the most popular and highly regarded. It gave you a chance to pilot a number of vehicles (though, mostly a helicopter) through all kinds of terrain. The size of the areas were truly impressive and required you to use some thought and strategy to complete each of the varied missions. The programmers didn't slouch, they through just about everything at you making this one of the most challenging and ambitious titles of its era.
This Game Boy Advance port isn't a slouch either. This game holds up remarkably well considering the age, and even shows some shades of the inspiration for games like Grand Theft Auto. Like the Genesis counterpart, this GBA version is extremely difficult and will have you working on it for hours just to see how it all comes out. But if you do make it to the end, you won't be disappointed with all the different kinds of missions and activities to take part it. Perfect for anybody who wants to participate in the War in Iraq, but doesn't actually want to join the Army.
Phantasy Star Collection (Sega)
These days most gamers only know Phantasy Star for the Online title released on the Dreamcast, Xbox and GameCube, but for a few years in the 1980s and early 90s, Phantasy Star really looked like it was going to be the biggest competition for Final Fantasy. Unfortunately there hasn't been a true Phantasy Star sequel since the days of 16-Bit so most gamers have completely forgotten about this spectacular series. If you're one of those people, then Phantasy Star Collection is for you.
This compilation cartridge features the first three Phantasy Star games (but not the fourth) which were originally released between 1988 and 1990. Not only did these games feature amazing graphics and science fiction-themed stories, but they introduced several themes that are still being used in games today. Up until now the original Phantasy Star could only be found on the Sega Master System, but thank to this Game Boy Advance set you can experience one of the greatest lost gems of all time. And while you're there, the two Genesis sequels are worth a look as well.
Extreme Ghostbusters (LSP)
I know it sounds silly, but I am actually going to recommend Extreme Ghostbusters, a game that, believe it or not, is actually one of the most playable 2D action games on the GBA. Like Turok Evolutions, Extreme Ghostbusters brings something new to the table, and not just a brand new environment. For one thing, it's not just a 2D action game; it's also an APB clone, and a highly enjoyable one at that.
When you're not driving around looking for spooks, it's your job to shoot, collect, or trap the various specters and move on to the next area. Extreme Ghostbusters brings more platforming action than you're used to in the average Contra-clone, and even allows you to double jump. You can select between two different characters, each with their own weapons, special items, and abilities. The game has quite a bit of replay, and it looks remarkably good for being so old. If you can get past the license you'll find one of the most playable games for this little system.
Super Dodgeball Advance (Atlus)
Dodgeball is hot! It has its own TV show, a movie, and community leagues popping up all across this nation of ours. But Dodgeball is nothing new to video game fans who have been enjoying the violent game since the early days of the 8-Bit era. Now you can play Dodgeball on your Nintendo DS thanks to Super Dodgeball Advance, a game that will be instantly familiar to anybody who played the sport on other systems.
Here you are given a chance to assemble a team of dodge-ballers ready to take on the world one team at a time. The teams and stadiums are interesting, but it's the control that really makes this game worthwhile. No matter whether you're playing in a standard one-player mode or the various multi-player modes, Super Dodgeball Advance is worth your time. It hasn't changed much over the years, but judging by this effort it doesn't need to.