My Top 8 GameBoy Advance Games

Posted: February 5, 2014 in My Top 8, Retro Gaming
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GBA

Just Missed the Cut: Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, Spyro: Season of Ice/Season of Flame, Golden Sun, Final Fantasy Tactics, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Sword of Mana8. Sword of Mana
Sword of Mana is actually a remake of The Final Fantasy Adventure for the GameBoy, and of the many Mana games, is the one I consider the most like Secret of Mana. The design and look of the game seems to be tailored after Secret, as do the menu wheels and weapon leveling system. Sword of Mana is also interesting in that you can pick to play through the game as either the male or female character. By and large, the game remains the same, but there are sections that are specific to each character and it’s quite cool that they meet up and interact. This gives the game some replayability as you’ll want to see the story from both perspectives.

MM Zero7. Mega Man Zero
When I first played this game, I didn’t like it. At all. It was confusing and seemed extremely hard. My problem was that I didn’t fully understand the Cyber Elf system and how they could be used to increase your abilities. Once I learned how the game played, it became a game that I thoroughly enjoyed. I won’t say that it tops the original games, but the open world type of gameplay is appealing, as is the Cyber Elf system that had confused me for so long. I don’t like the fact that your Rating for each encounter is punished for using the Cyber Elves, but since that doesn’t actually affect the gameplay, it doesn’t affect the joy I get from this game.

MM & Bass6. Mega Man & Bass
Yes, I know that this game was a Super Famicom game in Japan, but as an American gamer, my only way to play this title was via the GBA. Much like Mega Man Zero above, this game is tough. The bosses are very unforgiving, as are the levels, but the game doesn’t cross the line into frustrating. Once you best a level, you feel accomplished at having beaten it, not tired from the frustration. This game also allows you to play as either Mega Man or Bass. Given that the game was designed around Bass’s double jump with Mega Man being added in later, playing as Mega Man can be a tough task. Not impossible by any means, but definitely tough. Again though, that just makes you feel that much happier about completing a level that had been owning you.

Castlevania - Aria5. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Some people may disown me for this, but I think this game is a better game than Symphony of the Night. There is no doubting that SotN paved the way for this style of game, but I’m not the type of person that’s unwilling to say a sequel topped what the pioneer game started, and I think this one did. Aria of Sorrow has great design going for it, and brings the Castlevania story into present day (well, the future, actually) with an engaging and deep story. What puts this game over the top is the fact that Soma Cruz, the main character, can collect souls from every enemy in the game, giving him different abilities to use and exploit. Some are just simple powers, but others are extremely important to reaching new areas. While the soul drop rate for enemies varied, it is extremely exciting when you finally get that soul that you’ve been after for quite some time.

Metroid Zero Mission4. Metroid: Zero Mission
As much as I love the original Metroid, the lack of an in-game map (which I drew instead) and the limitations of the NES (password system?) really handicapped the game. This remake solved all those problems, while being able to stay true to the original game. Zero Mission also expanded the story of Samus Aran by adding a large section after you’ve finished what was the end of the original game. This new area finds Samus shot down and without her power suit, forced to stealth her way through the Space Pirate Mothership, before finally reattaining her powers and exposing her origins as an adopted child of the Chozo. Aside from the expansion of the story, the gameplay is very tight and well made, perfectly capturing the feel and atmosphere of the original game.

Castlevania - Circle3. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
Much like Aria of Sorrow, this game follows the Symphony of the Night mold, while improving on it (in my opinion). I rank this game above Aria of Sorrow because I just think it’s a bit better designed overall. The two games are very close in quality, so the two could easily be swapped. While this game doesn’t have the soul aspect of Aria, it does employ a card system. You can equip two at a time (one in the top row, one in the bottom) to gain various affects, such as an elemental attack being added to your whip. The cards are dropped by various monsters and much like gathering the souls, locating them becomes a rewarding task.

Minish Cap2. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
I did a full post about this game last week, but I’ll recap here. While A Link Between Worlds is a true sequel to A Link to the Past, The Minish Cap feels very much like a spiritual sequel. So much about the game seems to have shades of A Link to the Past, and it’s been available for years. Aside from the comparisons though, it is a very good game in its own right. The design is fantastic as is the pacing and the gameplay. As I said in my recap, if you’re still looking for a Link to the Past fix, this game is your answer, and I mean that as a very high compliment to The Minish Cap.

Metroid Fusion1. Metroid Fusion
Much like The Minish Cap felt like A Link to the Past, this game feels much like Super Metroid. Metroid Fusion is the most recent entry, storywise, into the Metroid universe. It finds Samus Aran attacked by a strange parasite during a return to SR388 that ultimately forces her to lose most of her trademark power suit and abilities. When the parasite breaks lose on a space station, Samus is recruited to take them on. While this game has been criticized for being a bit linear, once you complete the first quarter or so of the game, much of it opens up for your exploration. You will almost always have a stated destination, but getting there and getting back is rarely very cut and dry. Fusion also introduced the SA-X as an antagonist. This enemy looks much like Samus and has her abilities when she’s at full power, meaning that until you power Samus up, you will be crushed if you try to take it on. There are a few sections where you must hide from this enemy and one particular chase sequence that is very difficult and very tense. Finally, Fusion again captures the Metroid feel of isolation and playing against the odds. As with The Minish Cap, if you’re longing for more action akin to Super Metroid and haven’t yet played this title, then this is the one you are looking for.

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Comments
  1. Ron M. says:

    This list brings me back to the days! I will sure look for more of these games when I find my SP! Great read. Metroid Fusion was a great game, I only had a chance to play it for a little bit.

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