Race, dodge, repeat.
The Nintendo Need for Speed: Most Wanted Trifecta is complete with this review of the GBA port. After weeks of nearly violent brain wracking, the best possible metaphor I could think up is rice cakes. While it’s not particularly awful and gives you some sustenance, it’s totally lacking in any flavor and leaves you unfulfilled in the end.
At the very least, the game is consistent. It’s difficult to describe any particular aspect of it without the nagging sensation of repetition. All aspects of the game mildly suggest — I can’t say scream since that would suggest something vivid — “good-enough”. From the presentation to the gameplay; from the graphics to the controls, not one thing is particularly bad or great (with one minor exception).
You simply turn on the game, choose quick race or career mode, and move on. The styles of racing include time trial, circuit, point 2 point, lap KO, and barricade. Despite all the seeming variety, the goal remains the same; the only variable is the obstacles. Barricade mode is probably the silliest in that it attempts to compensate for the lack of a pursuit mode (easily the main attraction of the console version) by having a slalom-style event in which you drive through or around two strategically placed police cars. The only threat they pose is that if you slam into them, the race is over. Fortunately, the controls are significantly better than the DS version so dodging is never a messy experience; turns are as tight or as loose as you need them to be.
As far as the game’s presentation is concerned, again, nothing stands out. The menus are rather plain since there are so few actual features. Though the graphics are fairly detailed for a Game Boy Advance game, it suffers from what I lovingly call the “black-car-on-black-pavement-equals-Hulk-SMASH” issue. There's little joy in crashing into cars you can't see (actually it’s not so much a crash as it is a dead stop). Not only that, but the environmental colors seem to have a faded, washed-out look, almost as if you’re racing in a black and white film with color accents.
Sound design is also among the blah. The music would almost be tolerable if it wasn’t so repetitive; but the sound effects get the job done. Once again, the game avoids embarrassing itself without managing to wow the gamer.
Then there’s customization, a critical aspect of a game based on import tuning. In the GBA version, it could be charitably referred to as an afterthought. It’s pretty paltry stuff, really. Upgrades are locked until you reach certain milestones; and by the time you can upgrade, they’re so affordable that you don’t have to bother worrying about choosing one upgrade over another. One has to wonder: why bother with the middleman? Why not upgrade automatically? The only other items for sale are the cosmetic upgrades and different vehicles that become unlocked, but the game offers little incentive to buy them aside from some minor variety. This is analogous to playing an RPG where you can either upgrade your armor or make it prettier, but rarely both at once.
The true test of whether or not this game is worthwhile for purchase is your tolerance for mediocrity. Need for Speed: Most Wanted is a perfectly acceptable racer that simply doesn’t try very hard to please or impress. On the other hand, if you have limited funds and you need a great racer for your GBA, there are significantly better options from which to choose.