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The Nintendo Handheld Experience Part 2

2001 was a total game changer for Nintendo. The Nintendo GameCube was getting a holiday launch, but to hold the wait a new Game Boy hardware was released, the Game Boy Advance releasing in the summer season, and after seeing shopping catalogs showcasing the games released for it I was on a mission to make sure I was studying in school enough to make my grades soar and get my parents into buying me this shiny new handheld that I wanted. Nintendo had more handhelds on the way though, and today I'll be looking back at them in....


The Game Boy Advance model differed from its previous handheld releases, now having two shoulder buttons and a horizontal shape in design, as well as allowing some Super Nintendo quality graphics in the games, which Nintendo then realized that they could re-release some of their 16-bit Mario and Zelda titles, though the GBA was already getting a good selection of titles at launch, one unexpected surprise was seeing Sonic make the jump to a Nintendo system.

Aside from that though, the games I got were Super Mario Advance (a port of the Super Mario All-Stars version of Super Mario Bros. 2 with extra features), Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, Golden Sun and Wario Land 4. While the games were great, the GBA unfortunately kept the drawback of the other Game Boy models, the lack of a backlit screen.


Castlevania: Circle of the Moon was a great game to have at launch, but because it used dark color palettes playing the game would become a chore when in a dim lit environment due to not having the backlit screen.


More solid titles like Metroid Fusion, Super Mario Advance 2 (a port of Super Mario World), Pok'emon Ruby and Sapphire, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga and Donkey Kong Country would continue to release up until 2005, and it sure made my high school years feel like they were going by fast. In the middle of the system's lifespan we got an updated version of the system, the Game Boy Advance SP, and it had a convenience that GBA owners had been asking for.


The Game Boy Advance SP had a more compact design allowing to fold the system closed when not in use to help keep the screen clean, and now featured a backlit screen along with a rechargeable battery.


The SP was a money saver for me as I no longer had to make trips back and forth to a store to get more batteries, as I got roughly four hours of playtime with it, twice as much when playing the original GBA system from, using just two AA batteries. With 2005 over with, my next plan was to save up for Nintendo's upcoming handheld, the Nintendo DS. Taking inspiration from one of the old Game & Watch handheld designs, the DS came with two screens, with the bottom using touch controls and a stylus.

The launch titles certainly looked promising, with games like Super Mario 64 DS, Mario Kart DS, Animal Crossing: Wild World, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow and Brain Age, it was turning out to be a great and innovative new gaming device. And dare I say, Super Mario 64 had never looked better.


Mario Kart DS made for some great travels on the road and introduced some neat new features, two being an emblem designer for your kart, and the new Retro Course tracks, allowing you to play courses from past Mario Kart games.


I also got back into playing Pok'emon games again, with the release of Diamond and Pearl, along with the Gold and Silver remakes, Heartgold and Soulsilver (and yep, I even traded some Pok'emon over with a few members over at RetroJunk!), and I saw my library piling up with more DS titles, two of which were remakes of some Super Nintendo titles, Chrono Trigger and Kirby Super Star Ultra.


Kirby Super Star Ultra was a mindblowing remake if I'd ever saw one, the environments and character sprites were spruced up, in-game cutscenes used CG renders and there were even some new game modes to unlock giving the game much more replay value than its SNES original.


The Nintendo DS had quite the lifespan and even sold a lot more units than the GBA and going so far to have three other versions of the system, the DS Lite, DSi and DSi XL, but it was time for Nintendo to work on a new handheld by 2011, in which we got a successor to the DS, the Nintendo 3DS. This updated version had new graphical hardware, a 3D visual effect function and augmented reality that came with its built in camera.

The 3DS had to have been the handheld with the most games that I bought for it. Since it allowed SD card storage and the option to purchase games in digital form, I no longer had to worry about the inconvenience of losing those tiny game cartridges, which unfortunately happened with one of my previous Pok'emon games. Just like the GBA before it, The launch titles for the 3DS were no slouch.


The Pilotwings series made one last return with Pilotwings Resort, returning to Wuhu Island (the setting of Wii Sports Resort) as you use a Mii as a playable pilot character and go through a variety of flight missions and having a free flight mode choosing the aircrafts of the jetpack, hangglider and plane, and unlocking more as you tackle the flight missions. It really showed what the 3DS was capable of, and was a personal favorite 3DS title of mine.


Nintendo also continued with remaking titles as they did with Super Mario 64, this time with the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Star Fox 64. These remakes were given great graphical updates as well as making the games more accessible with new features, like Ocarina of Time now using the touch screen for inventory and map use, and Star Fox 64 having more of a balanced difficulty.

Aside from its main retail library of games, Nintendo introduced the eShop, a digital store allowing owners not only to buy digital versions of their games, but purchasing classic NES, Game Boy, Sega Game Gear and SNES titles for reasonably low prices. Even some hard to find games like Mario's Picross were in there.

Although Nintendo's newest home console the Switch doubles as a handheld, there may come a time when Nintendo returns to going back to making a standalone handheld in the future after the DS proved to be a phenomenal success for them. And with that, this wraps up this two parter series. What are your memories of playing Nintendo's handheld games? Leave a comment and as always, see you next article!

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Mr Magic Posted on Jul 03, 2020 at 06:04 PM

I even had a compilation of Namco classics. It had: Dig-Dug, Pac-Man 2, Galaga and Pole Position.

Benjanime Posted on Jul 01, 2020 at 02:54 AM


it sounds like you got some good mileage out of the handhelds as well ^^ i look forward to playing DS games on the DStwo :)

@Mr Magic

they're all classics, old and modern ^^

Mr Magic Posted on Jun 30, 2020 at 04:24 PM

I've had a few games like Pokemon Emerald/Ruby, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga. and NES titles like the original Castlevania and Donkey Kong.

Julie Posted on Jun 30, 2020 at 03:11 PM

I remember the hype for the launch of the Game Boy Advance in the Nintendo Power magazine. They said that the new handheld is 32-bit and even though I thought the PlayStation had just become obsolete. Of course this hasn't been confirmed over the months. My first Game Boy Advance was the SP model with a pirate cartridge of Street Fighter Zero 2 (as always, pirate cartridges mimic the Japanese versions of the games) and I quickly got the flashcart of the time to have all the games I wanted at hand. Fortunately today I have a definitive version of the flashcart. Finished Pokémon Emerald and I still play on this handheld until today, especially Mario Kart Super Circuit.

I had the Nintendo DS after purchasing the Sony PSP. I missed Nintendo's games so I bought the DSi XL model, also with a flashcart that I still have today. Almost finished Pokémon Black 2 and played a lot of Mario Kart DS, Chrono Trigger and all the Kirby and Sonic games for it.

I really miss my Nintendo 3DS XL. Fortunately I kept its flashcart and all the games, now I just have to buy another model back. Again, I played a lot of Mario Kart 7 and Tomodachi Life (I miss my Mii) here.

My congrats on the very well written and pleasant to read article. Just like the late and unforgettable magazines of the era of the great hype of video games. ❤

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