The Game Boy Advance (often shortened to GBA) is a 32-bit handheld video game console developed, manufactured and marketed by Nintendo. It is the successor to the Game Boy Color. It was released in Japan on March 21 2001; in North America on June 11 2001; in Australia on June 22 2001, in Europe on June 22 2001; and in the People's Republic of China on June 8 2004 (excluding Hong Kong).
In 1996, magazines including issues 53 and 54 of Total! and the July 1996 issue of Game Informer featured reports of a new Game Boy, codenamed Project Atlantis. Although the expected release date of "early 1997" would make this machine seem to be the Game Boy Color, it was described as having "a 32-bit RISC processor" and "allowing similar to SNES standard games-playing to be played in the palm of your hand"—a description that more closely matches the Game Boy Advance.
The technical specifications of the original Game Boy Advance are, as provided by Nintendo:
- Size: Approximately x x .
- Weight: Approximately 140 grams (5 ounces).
- Screen: 2.9 inches reflective thin-film transistor (TFT) color LCD.
- Power: 2 AA batteries.
- Battery life: The average battery life is approximately 15 hours while playing Game Boy Advance games (also dependent on the Game Pak being played and the volume setting).
- CPU: 16.8 MHz 32-bit ARM7TDMI with embedded memory.
- Memory: 32 kilobyte + 96 kilobyte VRAM (internal to the CPU), 256 kilobyte WRAM (external to the CPU).
- Resolution: 240 x 160 pixels.
- Color support: 15-bit RGB (16-bit color space using 5 bits depth per channel), capable of displaying 512 simultaneous colors in "character mode" and 32,768 (2^15) simultaneous colors in "bitmap mode".
Backward compatibility for Game Boy and Game Boy Color games is provided by an 4/8 MHz Z80 co-processor, while a link port at the top of the unit allows it to be connected to other devices via use of a Nintendo Game Link cable or GameCube cable. When playing Game Boy or Game Boy color games on the Game Boy Advance, the L and R buttons can be used to toggle between a stretched widescreen format (240x144) and the original screen ratio of the Game Boy (160x144).
All future Nintendo portable systems (the Game Boy Advance SP, Game Boy Micro, DS, and DS Lite) have included a built-in light and rechargeable battery.
Game Boy Advance SP
In early 2003, Nintendo introduced a new Game Boy Advance (model AGS-001), with an internal front-light that can be turned on or off, a rechargeable lithium ion battery, as well as a folding case approximately half the original size. It was designed to address some common complaints with the original Game Boy Advance which was criticized for being somewhat uncomfortable, especially due to an overly dark screen. The Game Boy Advance SP also came with a new and much brighter LCD screen for improved playability.
Around the same time as the release of the Game Boy Micro, Nintendo released a new backlit version of the SP (model AGS-101) in North America (commonly referred to as the "GBA SP+"). The switch that controls the light now toggles between "normal" (which itself is already brighter than the original Game Boy Advance SP's screen), and "bright," an intense brightness level similar to an LCD television set.
Game Boy Micro
In September 2005, Nintendo released a second redesign of the Game Boy Advance. This model, dubbed the Game Boy Micro, is similar in style to the original Game Boy Advance's horizontal orientation, but is much smaller and sleeker. The Game Boy Micro also allows the user an ability to switch between several colored faceplates to allow customization, a feature which Nintendo advertised heavily around the Game Boy Micro's launch. Nintendo also hoped that this "fashion" feature will help target audiences outside of typical video game players, much like its new Wii. Unlike the previous Game Boy Advance models, Game Boy Micro is unable to support Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles. The Game Boy Micro did not make much of an impact in the video game market, as it was overshadowed by Nintendo's other portable, the Nintendo DS, as well as Sony's slim horizontal orientated gaming portable system, the PSP.
On December 1 2006
, Nintendo of America
released launch-to-date information indicating that the Game Boy Advance series had sold 33.6 million units in the United States. In a Kotaku
article published on January 18 2008
, Nintendo revealed that the Game Boy Advance series has sold 36.2 million units in the United States, as of January 1 2008
. As of June 30 2008
, the Game Boy Advance series has sold 81.24 million units worldwide, of which 43.41 million are Game Boy Advance SP
The Game Boy Advance became the modern flagship of sprite-based games. With hardware comparable to the Super NES
it had proven that sprite-based technology could improve and live side by side with the 3D games of the day's consoles. The Game Boy Advance not only has typical platformers, but also a huge collection of SNES-style RPGs
. It has also become a popular system for old-school
gamers due to the increasing number of games ported from various 8-bit and 16-bit systems of the previous era, including the popular Super Mario Advance
series, as well as its compatibility with all earlier Game Boy titles.
The last Game Boy Advance game released was Samurai Deeper Kyo, in February 2008.
Nintendo has released many add-ons for the Game Boy Advance. These include:
- Wireless Adapter: Released in 2004, this adapter hooks up to the back of the Game Boy Advance. It replaces link cables and allows many people to link up to each other. It markets for US$20 and came included with Pokémon FireRed and Pokémon LeafGreen. Because it was released so late in the Game Boy Advance's life, fewer than 20 games support this hardware. The adapter's usefulness is most evident in Pokémon; FireRed/LeafGreen and Emerald feature a "Union Room" where up to forty people can enter to battle or trade Pokémon. A Game Boy Micro version has also been released – it can interact fully with both models of the Wireless Adapter.
- Game Boy Advance Infra-Red Adapter: This adapter was included with the game Cyberdrive Zoids, as it is only compatible with this game and the latest GBA Pokémon games. The adaptor was not sold separately. This is also currently the only Game Boy Advance accessory that has not been remade for the Game Boy Micro.
- Play-Yan: The Play-Yan is an MP3/MPEG4 player for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. The cartridge is slightly bigger than a normal Game Boy Advance cartridge and includes a built-in headphone port as well as an SD Card slot. Music or videos that users have downloaded from the Internet can be transferred onto an SD Card and slotted into the Play-Yan device. Nintendo has released several mini games for the Play-Yan that can be downloaded from their website, although Nintendo later removed all mini-game functionality through a firmware update. The Play-Yan was initially available in Japan only, but was released in Europe as the Nintendo MP3 Player on 8 December 2006, with the MPEG4 functionality removed. The Play-Yan never had a North American release.
- e-Reader: The e-Reader is a rather bulky scanning device that plugs into the game cartridge slot of the Game Boy Advance. Specialized cards with codes along the side and bottom are slid through the slot, scanning the card into the Game Boy Advance. Many ideas for the e-Reader include cards that scan classic games like Donkey Kong and Excitebike onto the handheld ready to play, as well as a collaboration with Super Mario Advance 4 and Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire to have cards that unlock content. Nintendo GameCube games like Animal Crossing have cards with unlockable content as well, and the Pokémon Trading Card Game playing cards also adopt the e-Reader codes. The e-Reader works with the Game Boy Player and Game Boy Advance SP, but cannot fit into the Nintendo DS's Game Boy slot (however it can fit into the Nintendo DS Lite's Game Boy slot). Nintendo continues to manufacture the accessory and sell it at its Online Store. It is still quite popular in Japan. It was not released in Europe.
- Game Boy Advance Video: These cartridges contain two episodes of thirty minute cartoon programs. First released in North America in May 2004, they were US$19.99 at the time of release and included cartoons such as Pokémon, SpongeBob SquarePants, Sonic X, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,Yugi Oh. The movies Shrek, Shrek 2, and Shark Tale are also available for Game Boy Advance Video and all three movies are in full. Due to the Game Boy Advance screen ratio, the three movies are in their widescreen format. These cartridges display an error when inserted into a GameCube via a Game Boy Player. These Game Boy Advance Videos are no longer available at most major retailers.
- Cleaning cartridge - A white cartridge that has a soft cloth inside so that it cleans the connectors of the Game Boy Advance when inserted. It can also be used to clean Slot 2 of the Nintendo DS or DS Lite.
- Afterburner: The Afterburner was an internal front-lighting system. The installation consisted of disassembling the system, removing some plastic from the interior of the case, attaching the lighting mechanism to the screen, and soldering two wires to the motherboard for power. Optionally, a potentiometer or an integrated circuit could be added to allow adjusting the brightness of the light. When the Game Boy Advance SP was released, it included a very similar lighting system.
- Halo Light: The Halo light was an external front-lighting system that replaced the screen protector / lens of the GBA. The Halo had an external power adapter that connected to the link port, it featured on/off functions with a dimmer and a pass-through connector so other devices could be connected to the link port.
- GBA Movie Player: The GBA Movie Player is a versatile gaming cartridge that allows users to play NES/Famicom games, watch movies, read .txt files, listen to sound clips, etc. The GBA Movie Player does not actually play MPEGS or MP3s directly, a freeware conversion software is needed, that converts an array of formats into GBM and GBS formats that are compatible with the GBA Movie Player. There are two forms of the GBA Movie Player with one using a CF (CompactFlash) card and one using an SD (SecureDigital) card, though different companies have made their own devices similar to the GBA Movie Player.
- GBA TV Tuner: It makes the portable system into a portable television. There are several versions (made by different companies) available. The most popular TV Tuner requires a cartridge inserted in the Tuner to start up. The TV Tuners can store up to 99 channels.
- GameShark: The Game Boy Advance version of the GameShark. Programmed only to work with Game Boy Advance games as making the device accept Game Boy Color cartridges too would have made it expensive. This cheat device allowed users to hack their games. Codes could be entered by hand or uploaded to the device itself with the provided USB cable and software.
- Action Replay: A cheating device like the GameShark, sold mainly in Europe. Had a few extra features as well as an updated interface.
- Action Replay MAX Duo: This was an update to the Action Replay for Game Boy Advance. Not only did it function as an Action Replay, but for DS users, it could hold premade game saves or "powersaves" that could be downloaded from the Action Replay site as well as user made saves. It did not, however function as a cheat device for Nintendo DS games, it was only for data backup.
- Worm Cam: this device by Nyko attached to the top of the Game Boy Advance and connected into the link port of the GBA. This device functioned as a digital camera which allowed digital pictures to be taken. The snapshots could then be uploaded to a PC with the USB cable and software provided. This camera's strange shape prevented it from being used with the GBA SP.
- DigiCam SP: This camera attachment was also made by Nyko and was essentially the Worm Cam for the Game Boy Advance SP. This add-on would slide on to the top half of the GBA SP (behind the screen) and a small plug would be connected into the link port.
- DataBoy: This cartridge plugs into the GBA game slot and converts the Game Boy into an RS-232 data scope (also known as serial line monitor or protocol analyzer). Users can play GB games, GBC games and GBA games on it.
- Game Boy Advance flash cartridges: These devices are commonly used for homebrew and for piracy.
Nintendo's competitors in the handheld market were the Neo Geo Pocket Color
, Bandai Swan Crystal
, Game Park 32
, Tapwave Zodiac
and the Nokia N-Gage
. Despite the competitors' best efforts, Nintendo maintained its majority market share with the Game Boy Advance.
Homebrew software development
Many people have developed their own software to run on the Game Boy Advance. This is typically tested using emulators, and later written to flash cartridges to run on real consoles. Most such developers use a version of the GNU Compiler Collection
(gcc) and program in either C or C++, though recently some developers have started using either Visual HAM or Free Pascal