Saturday, January 28, 2017

Five overlooked GameBoy Advance games you need to play as soon as possible

So far, my "five overlooked games you need to play as soon as possible" series has offered up posts about (what I consider to be) unfortunately ignored Famicom, PC Engine, PlayStation, Game Gear and GameBoy gems.

This entry obviously focuses on a handful of disappointingly overlooked GameBoy Advance titles.

I've got at least a few more such posts up my sleeve, by the way--in case any of you are worried the one you're reading right now is this series' last hurrah. In fact, the plan is to publish write-ups about PSP, DS and 3DS games I think you need to play as soon as possible, and I'll also likely publish follow-ups to my earlier GameBoy and Famicom features as well.

In the meantime, here are five GBA games I believe too many people have turned up their noses at (intentionally or not) over the years.

Guru Logi Champ--Do you like Picross? If the answer is yes, you'll undoubtedly like this 2001 title, which was developed by the wizards at Compile. (They gave the world Aleste, Gunhead and Puyo Puyo, among other classics.) Don't worry, Guru Logi Champ is no simple Picross rip-off; it takes the basics of Nintendo's electronic nonogram games and runs with them, injecting a smidge of action and a dash humor into what's usually a rather sedate experience. Add in the fact that Guru Logi Champ's box and cartridge are among the most appealing ever produced for the GameBoy Advance (see photos of both in this "Nice Package!" post) and it's not hard to understand why pretty much anyone who's played this colorful puzzler is sure to recommend it.

Hatena Satena--Here's another wacky GBA game that's similar to Picross. It's quite a departure from Gugu Logi Champ despite this fact, though, and that's likely because Hatena Satena also recalls another classic puzzler, Minesweeper. Although I'd say Guru Logi Champ is more immediately accessible than this Hudson-made game, don't take that to mean I'm suggesting you pick up the former over the latter. If forced to choose between the two from an aesthetic standpoint, I'd go with Hatena Satena, no question. (Of course, Guru Logi Champ is a looker, too.) Also worth noting: copies of this 2001 title should be much cheaper than those of the above-mentioned one. The only problem here is that Hatena Satena may not be easy to find these days, so be patient if you want to add it to your collection.

Hitsuji no Kimochi--This is likely to be the most "controversial" of all the game recommendations I make in this post. Why? Though Capcom both developed and published this 2002 title (released outside of Japan as Sheep), it hasn't received the best of reviews in the years since. Still, I think it's worth checking out if you're open to trying something different. That's what you get with Hitsuji no Kimochi, after all, as it's an action-puzzle game that tasks players with herding--you guessed it--sheep. Admittedly, its graphics could be better, and it's hardly the longest of GameBoy Advance titles (offering just 24 stages), but it's also unique and sports some wickedly cute packaging (see it in all its glory here), so you could do worse than hunt down a copy if you need to fill out your GBA library.

Slime MoriMori Dragon Quest: Shōgeki no Shippo Dan--This 2003, Japan-only release isn't as good as its successors, the first of which is known by many North American fans of the Nintendo DS as Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. Still, it's well worth buying and playing if you enjoyed that dual-screened follow-up. Anyone who has experienced Rocket Slime will feel right at home with Slime MoriMori Dragon Quest, as both titles feature the same gameplay--save the latter's frantic tank battles. In other words, you spend a lot of time flinging an adorably vacant blue slime around a vaguely Zelda-like overworld. And you spend nearly as much time picking up and flinging the many enemies and items that litter those same playfields. You also gather resources and rescue slime buddies, activities that should sound familiar to anyone who's at all knowledgable about this title's highly acclaimed DS sequel.

Zooo--If this game's name doesn't ring a bell, how about Zoo Keeper? For whatever reason, developer Buddiez, Inc.--or was it publisher Success?--changed the series' name from Zooo to Zoo Keeper between the release of this title and its 2004 sequel. Thankfully, the gameplay's basically the same no matter what it's called, although of course there are no touch controls in this iteration. That's actually the main reason I like Zooo the most out of all these animal-themed, match-three puzzlers. For me, the Zoo Keeper DS and 3DS games are too easy because of their stylus-focused controls, while being forced to use the GBA's d-pad and face buttons in Zooo creates a kind of tension that makes you feel really good whenever you hit any sort of milestone. Bonus: pretty much any copy of Zooo you come across these days is sure to be bargain-basement cheap.

Are there any GameBoy Advance titles you think are overlooked and thus deserve more love from the masses? Let me and others know about them in the comments section of this post.

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