The Analogue Pocket may be one of the best places to play Game Boy Advance games today, and there’s no lack of titles to choose from. Boasting a crisp 3.5″ LCD screen with a staggering 1600×1440 resolution, the Analogue Pocket runs classic portable games natively on the handheld, which means no emulation hiccups or new bugs that didn’t exist on the original hardware. The Game Boy Advance was one of the more unique systems released that could fit in the palm of a hand, and somehow the team behind the Pocket has managed to make these titles look even better.
The Analogue Pocket comes with everything players will need need to run most of the retro Game Boy titles, especially the Game Boy Advance. Enthusiasts that wanted to keep the spirit of classic titles alive while realizing their full potential on modern hardware are why this console exists. The problem, of course, currently is being able to secure one, as the Analogue retro handheld sells out instantly, and the next round of pre-orders is due for an undetermined time in 2023. While a wizened or technologically proficient individual could undoubtedly spend time or money modding an older GBA to have a brighter screen, new buttons, or a custom-colored shell, that doesn’t give users the versatility of the new portable console.
The Game Boy Advance was by far one of Nintendo’s most successful handheld consoles pushed out, and even today, a large number of the games hold up beautifully. In addition, the console was capable of incredible artistic options, ranging from painterly games like Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand to the impressively detailed Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. It’s a shame that Nintendo neglects GBA games as much as it does, as visually and gameplay-wise, a handful of these titles deserve players’ time and attention – and players should play them where the games look and feel their best.
Sonic Advance Runs Great On The Analogue Pocket
Sonic Advance was a return to form for the speedy blue hedgehog back in 2001, spearheaded by developer DIMPS. It was a weird time to see Sonic premiering with a new game on a Nintendo console, but the game didn’t just show up; it soared past most critics’ and fans’ expectations. Sonic Advance sported a large cast of unique playable characters, and the levels were long, sprawling, colorful adventures that rivaled some of Sonic and Tails’ classic entries’ standout levels.
Seeing brilliant orange skylines or active snowfall in the Ice Mountain stage as the player blitzes through fields of frost-covered trees is a sight to behold on the Analogue Pocket. The screen does justice to the finer details the art team labored over. While the first Sonic Advance is the standout here, the second and third entries in the series are also worth the time from players, with more playable characters, more massive multi-tiered levels, and a unique tag mechanic introduced in the third entry. The first advance entry stands tall with the four big Sonic Genesis games, and with no other way to play it, the Pocket is the perfect place to look at such a stellar game.
The Analogue Pocket Was Made For Astro Boy: Omega Factor
A legend in Japan, Astro Boy, is a story created by the famed Osamu Tezuka about a humanoid robot discovering what it means to be human. Players may not have noticed this game, but it certainly didn’t fly by critics. Treasure, the team that developed Omega Factor, is known for other standout titles like Ikaruga, Guardian Heroes, and Gunstar Heroes. The game is a side-scrolling action-adventure game that quickly runs through major story beats throughout Astro’s lifetime.
After a single level acclimating players to how the game works, Astro Boy: Omega Factor kicks it into overdrive and immediately sends waves of enemies and bosses that don’t let up and never fail to impress. The game’s pixel art and sprites ahead of their time are impressively detailed – so much so that some bosses fill up the screen and push players’ skills to the limit. However, the difficulty feels mitigated somewhat (mainly for the better) as the Pocket’s larger button layout allows for more precise movements. In addition, the Analogue Pocket gives the game a chance to truly shine on a higher resolution screen, showing how much effort went into bringing 50+ years of characters to life on what was once a game meant for one of the medium’s tiniest displays.
Metroid Fusion On The Analogue Pocket Is Terrifyingly Good
As Metroid Dead arrived last year as one of the best games of 2021, the Game Boy Advance is where the last numbered entry in the franchise appeared, as Metroid Fusion, the fourth title in the main cannon. Shortly after the events of Super Metroid, Samus returns to assist a Galactic Federation spaceship. However, she is attacked on her ship by a mysterious parasite known as the X. After surviving the encounter, she is thrown into an even more harrowing journey as she must now navigate the infected, claustrophobic halls of the Federation’s ship.
Metroid Fusion remains one of the best-looking and sounding titles on the system today, an experience that the Analogue Pocket can significantly enhance. Seeing the purples, greens, and blues in a whole new stunning level of detail on the larger screen brings an entirely new depth to this classic. Combined with the Analogue’s excellent audio workstation, the haunting sound design can make a player feel isolated on this ship with Metroid protagonist Samus Aran. Unfortunately, a TV screen can’t replicate its sublime gaming experience until Metroid Fusion gets a remake.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is a must-play on the Analogue Pocket
The Game Boy Advance was home to some of the best action-adventure games on the market, but none stand out nearly as well as the Castlevania series. Though Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance are fantastic, Aria of Sorrow is the game that truly needs to be experienced at its best. Aria of Sorrow stars Soma Cruz, heir to Dracula’s power, who is teleported with his best friend to the vampire’s castle within an eclipse. The game features an addictive soul collecting system that allows Soma to create powerful and varied weapons or use the powers of fallen foes as spells to hit harder or reach new areas of the castle. Completing the game even unlocks a second character from the old Belmont clan, giving players a whole new way to experience Dracula’s castle.
Castlevania is known for its stellar sprite work that looks great at high resolutions, as seen with the games in the Castlevania Advance Collection released in 2021. However, as lovely as this collection is, emulation can’t capture the games as accurately as on original hardware. As a result, some of the backgrounds lose a bit of their charm in the collection. But on the Analogue Pocket, the locations spring to life, showing off cracked wooden barrels, water cascading off of rocks, and lush vegetation growing over bricks in the environment in stunning high definition. Aria of Sorrow is one of the best games on the GBA, so it stands to reason that it’s also one of the best on the Pocket.
The Golden Sun Titles Shine on the Analogue Pocket
Ask most fans what they say is their favorite RPG on the GBA, and they’ll usually answer Golden Sun & Golden Sun 2: The Lost Age. Golden Sun, which is frequently the subject of discussion regarding games Nintendo should reboot, was an ambitious 3D RPG developed by Camelot Software, which most will know now as the exclusive developers of Mario sports titles. Golden Sun stars a team of four heroes leaving their home searching for four lighthouses that they must stop from being lit; otherwise, calamity will befall the world. Some plot points can be a little cliche, but the games remain unique due to a feature that never saw use again by modern technology.
Upon completing the first title, players could directly transfer data to the second title via link cable or a 50-character password that carried over progress via a fantastic twist that players need to experience. The pre-rendered backdrops in combat and story beats were beautiful and vibrant, meshed well with the colorful sprites in battle. The game was easy to pick up and play, but mastering it rewards players with screen-filling attack animations and summon spells that still awe players today. A series as legendary as Golden Sun is a game worth experiencing however it can be, but the Analogue Pocket is where it can truly shine.
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