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GBA Ambassador Games Edition

by Carmine Red and Karlie Yeung - February 1, 2012, 5:59 pm
Total comments: 7

3DS Ambassadors got 10 free GBA games from Nintendo, but are they all worth recommending?

When Nintendo dropped the price of the 3DS by $80, the company also announced that gamers who had already bought and registered the hardware would get twenty free downloadable virtual console games by way of amends. Nintendo World Report already looked over the ten NES virtual console games 3DS Ambassadors got, and in December Nintendo finished off the set by releasing the ten promised GBA titles for download.

But before we see whether these games hold up enough to earn our recommendations, a gaming public service announcement:

When running these GBA VC games, the 3DS automatically stretches the graphics across the top screen. While this enlarges the viewing area, it's pretty evident that this is not the resolution that the games were meant to be played at. But you're in luck: hold down either the start or select buttons when you launch the game from the 3DS menu, and the game will launch in its original and undistorted, albeit smaller, resolution!


Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

SystemVirtual Console - Game Boy Advance

Cost$0
Players1
ControllersNULL
ESRB RatingEveryone
ReleasedMay 23, 2005

RPG fans rejoice—one of the biggest titles on Game Boy Advance is back. Two siblings have lost their home and must find out the cause of the war that has engulfed the land. Battle your way through monsters and soldiers with swords and magic as you make your way to the climactic battle that awaits you at the end of your journey.

For any fan of the Fire Emblem series, this game is a must-have. Sacred Stones is also a nice introduction to the Fire Emblem series for people who are unfamiliar with the series. The controls are easy to pick up, the battle and class systems are intricate yet understandable. Whether players just want a five-minute taste or are willing to sit down for hours to complete the story, the game is perfect for the portable 3DS system.

Recommended for Everyone

- Josh Max



F-Zero: Maximum Velocity

SystemVirtual Console - Game Boy Advance

Cost$0
Players1
ControllersNULL
ESRB RatingEveryone
ReleasedNov 06, 2001

When the first F-Zero was released on the SNES players were dazzled by the game's ability to simulate racing on a 3D track. F-Zero: Maximum Velocity didn't inspire the same awe upon its release, but it did show that the GBA was fully capable of displaying Mode 7 graphics and delivering the power of the SNES in a tiny portable form.

The tracks in the GBA game are completely original, but will look very familiar to fans of the Super Nintendo game. The controls are smooth and allow you to use the L and R bumpers for precision turning. The biggest negative aspect is probably the music which doesn't come close to matching the blissful tunes of the Super Nintendo title. Also, the 3DS Virtual Console emulation does not allow players to access any of the game's multiplayer features even though they are prominently displayed on the main menu.

Still, with four Grand Prix circuits and multiple unique racers, anybody who wants a challenging futuristic racing title will have fun with F-Zero's first portable adventure.

Recommended for Fans

- Jared Rosenberg



Kirby & The Amazing Mirror

SystemVirtual Console - Game Boy Advance

Cost$0
Players1
ControllersNULL
ESRB RatingEveryone
ReleasedJul 02, 2004

Classic Kirby platforming gameplay is alive and well in Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. Nintendo's little pink creampuff can inhale enemies and obstacles, sometimes swallowing them in order to copy their special abilities, attacks, and methods of transportation. But when this GBA game was originally released, it added an entirely new layer on top of that gameplay. Kirby and the Amazing Mirror dispenses with discrete levels that players play straight through; instead its entire world is interconnected for players to explore, re-explore, and get lost in.

That Metroid-esque world design adds an element of complexity to a game series originally conceived as something for beginner game players. It's easy to spend time retracing previously played sections of the world if you're not paying attention to where you're headed, and players will have to actively seek out access to new areas of the game world in order to hunt down the game's bosses and objectives.

This all makes Kirby and the Amazing Mirror a unique entry in the series, one that fans of the games should delight in. However, the game's higher difficulty and complexity, compared to some other Kirby games doesn't make it the best introduction to what Nintendo's spherical mascot is all about. Add that to the fact that the GBA game's original multiplayer feature doesn't work in this rerelease, and this 3DS Ambassador exclusive release of Kirby and the Amazing Mirror may well be amazing, just not for everybody.

Recommended for Fans

- Carmine Red



Mario Kart: Super Circuit

SystemVirtual Console - Game Boy Advance

Cost$0
Players1
ControllersNULL
ESRB RatingEveryone
ReleasedAug 11, 2001

Developed by Intelligent Systems, Mario Kart Super Circuit was one of the earlier GBA titles, and the first Mario Kart title to be released on a handheld system. The game takes its gameplay and aesthetic cues directly from the two previous titles in the series, Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64.

Super Circuit features the usual three speed classes, 50cc, 100cc and 150cc, with five cups within each. Once every cup on every class has been completed, the game unlocks every track from the original Super Mario Kart, which helps to add a considerable amount of extra tracks for players to tackle.

The game features some cool design tweaks that help to relieve some frustration if you become good at the game. It is possible to outrun red shells if you have gained a max top speed, as long as you do not slow down while it is behind you. This method can also be effective against the blue shell when it rears its head from time to time, although it is harder. My favorite addition to the game, though, was that you can drop red shells behind you, turning it into a homing mine, which will go after the next racer when they drive by. Coins also make a return from Super Mario Kart, allowing you to extend your kart’s max speed.

Super Circuit also featured single- and multi-card multiplayer, but unfortunately these modes are currently not playable on the 3DS. The only other mode the game offers besides racing is time trials.

The game can feel a bit strange compared to other entries in the series, but if you take the time to adjust to the way you control your kart around corners, you will begin to get better—it does not control badly, just differently. Super Circuit can often feel very fast in the later speed classes too, and when you are dashing and zipping around tight corners at high speeds, it feels pretty awesome.

Recommended for Everyone

- Nicholas Bray



Mario vs. Donkey Kong

SystemVirtual Console - Game Boy Advance

Cost$0
Players1
ControllersNULL
ESRB RatingEveryone
ReleasedMay 24, 2004

Mario vs. Donkey Kong picks up where the original Donkey Kong Game Boy game left off. It requires players to make their way to the end of a short level while solving basic platforming puzzles and defeating enemies. The story involves Donkey Kong stealing a collection of Mini Mario toys, with Mario chasing after him.

Each level is broken up into two parts. The first part of a level requires Mario to collect a key and take it to the exit door to continue chasing after the nefarious Donkey Kong. The second parts usually require the player to simply get to one of the Mini Mario toy balls. Levels also feature small pickups to collect in the form of present boxes. These are similar to Star Coins in other Mario titles, and usually require a little more skill in order to claim them all.

Graphically, the game looks fairly nice, although players will likely want to play this one in its native resolution, as the character sprites are in a pre-rendered style similar to the Donkey Kong Country series. The characters all animate very fluidly, especially Mario. Mario vs. DK also features a Game Boy Player video mode, which alters the colors to display better on a TV. I found it to look good on the 3DS.

Controlling Mario is a little less stiff than it was in the original Donkey Kong, and it appears he can take a fall from a little higher up as well. Mario can use various moves throughout the game to traverse the levels, such as a handstand move, backflip etc.

At the end of every world, Mario must face off against DK. These usually feature Mario having to climb, dodge, etc. to reach DK and drop some sort of item at him or on him. The first world boss fight has Mario picking up and throwing barrels at him while trying to dodge anything DK throws.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a fantastic follow up to the original Game Boy game. If you fell in love with that one, this will surely make you happy.

Recommended for Everyone

- Nicholas Bray



Metroid Fusion

SystemVirtual Console - Game Boy Advance

Cost$0
Players1
ControllersNULL
ESRB RatingEveryone
ReleasedNov 17, 2002

After Nintendo’s neglect concerning the Metroid series’ 25th anniversary, it is nice to finally have something other than the rerelease of Metroid II to commemorate it, and Nintendo could not have picked a better game to honor the series with than Metroid Fusion. Not only was it the first Metroid title to successfully introduce dialog and story elements to the series — some would say the only to — but at the time of its release it was the first Metroid title to come out in almost nine years.

Developed by Nintendo R&D1, Fusion continues where Super Metroid left off. With the Metroids taken care of, Samus now has a new enemy to face, the X Parasites. After barely surviving her first encounter with the parasite, Samus is saved with a vaccine created from Metroid DNA. However, she loses her power suit and all of her abilities in the process. In order to regain her abilities and destroy the X Parasites, Samus must go to the planet SR388.

Fusion follows the conventions set by prior games in the series; however, there is a greater emphasis on story. A direct consequence of this emphasis is the relative linearity of the game’s world compared to other Metroid titles. Nevertheless, Fusion still has plenty of hidden areas and power-ups to find. Great boss and enemy design also lend itself to making Metroid Fusion one of the most enjoyable titles in the series. If you’re lucky enough to be part of the Ambassador program, make sure you don’t let this game go ignored.

Recommended for Everyone

- James Dawson



The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

SystemVirtual Console - Game Boy Advance

Cost$0
Players1
ControllersNULL
ESRB RatingEveryone
ReleasedAug 11, 2001

Zelda’s 25th Anniversary is capped off with yet another re-release of a Zelda game. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap sets Link on an adventure to save Princess Zelda from being turned to stone by the sorcerer Vaati. Joining Link on this adventure is one of the Minish—a race of tiny beings—who was turned into a hat, named Ezlo. A key gameplay difference that sets this game apart is Link’s ability to shrink down to the Minish’s minuscule size. This can turn what used to be only a garden into a whole village, and creates a different sense of exploration that is very enjoyable.

The game plays out like most Zelda games, with plenty of dungeons and puzzles. While some tasks the game gives you may seem vague and daunting, Minish Cap never gets stale. Battling against standard enemies it sometimes too simple, but battle is not the focus of the game. There are also plenty of additional collectibles hidden just off the main path that are gratifying to go out of your way and get. If you are still looking to scratch that Zelda itch, then the Minish Cap is just the solution.

Recommended for Everyone

- Patrick Barnett



WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$!

SystemVirtual Console - Game Boy Advance

Cost$0
Players1
ControllersNULL
ESRB RatingEveryone
ReleasedMay 26, 2003

Pick that nose! Chop that block! Jump over the sausage with wheels! The first of the WarioWare franchise, the game is packed full of what it calls “microgames” that, on average, don’t last more than five seconds. Players can play up to 25 microgames in a row with no explanations of rules given before any of them (though they’re not that hard to figure out).

Mega Microgames is fun and can be played in short bursts, although the fun may not last too long. After all of the games are unlocked, there’s not much to do aside from replaying the games and trying to beat your own records. It’s easy enough to pick up and play, but it may not last you quite as long as some of the other Ambassador titles.

Recommended for Everyone

- Josh Max



Wario Land 4

SystemVirtual Console - Game Boy Advance

Cost$0
Players1
ControllersNULL
ESRB RatingEveryone
ReleasedNov 19, 2001

There's a lot to take in with Wario Land 4. For one thing, it's gorgeous-—one of the GBA's prettiest platformers. The whole "pixelated CG models" thing hasn't aged too well, so Wario Land 4's big, beautiful sprites are a wonder to behold.

For those who need some context to the Wario Land games, they're generally about Wario searching for treasure and using various transformations to get it. These transformations involve Wario being physically injured in some way—turning into a zombie, swelling up so much that he floats, or being set alight. Wario Land 4 resembles Wario Land 2 more than Wario Land 3, and is a direct ancestor to the excellent Wario Land: Shake It, complete with a race back to the beginning at the "end" of each stage, and the finding of CD's containing excellent level music.

This is definitely one of the most impressive games developed for the GBA, and one platforming fans should not miss.  

Recommended for Everyone

- Zachary Miller



Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3

SystemVirtual Console - Game Boy Advance

Cost$0
Players1
ControllersNULL
ESRB RatingEveryone
ReleasedSep 04, 2002

This game needs little introduction. Originally released in 1995, Yoshi's Island quickly became one of the most celebrated Nintendo platformers of all time. It is beautiful, creative, challenging, and ingenious.

The GBA port, released under the "Super Mario Advance" label, is largely the same, although the more limited screen size gives a more limited field of view that is, shockingly, not all that bothersome. If you haven't played Yoshi's Island yet, I can only assume you've been actively avoiding it, and you should correct that sin right now. Stop reading this and go play your free Ambassador copy!  

Recommended for Everyone

- Zachary Miller


Talkback

TJ SpykeFebruary 01, 2012

I am sorry, but I could not disagree more on Mario Kart: SC being recommended for everyone. I would be hesitant to even recommend it for fans. The controls are terrible and too loose, graphics not that good, and the retro tracks not handled well. Easily the worst Mario Kart game and one of the few duds in the GBA ambassador list.

BranDonk KongFebruary 01, 2012

It's a good thing no one listens to you or agrees with you. MKSC has a Metacritic average of 93 and on Gamerankings a 92 - hardly what anyone would consider a dud.

TJ SpykeFebruary 01, 2012

That was at the time, lots of games age poorly. And even on Connectivity, they admitted the game is not for everyone and I am not the only one that thinks it is the worst Mario Kart game.

xcwarriorFebruary 01, 2012

To add to the debate above, Mario Kart: SC is the best MK game of the series. Why you ask? The try again feature in 1P mode and no blue shell like it is now. That auto jumps it to the top, not factoring in multiplayer.

I haven't gotten through all the GBA games, but I would probably agree everything but Wario Ware Micromachines. I blew throgh the game but had about as much fan as I do at work most days. 5 second garbage mini games are what led to the mini game gluttony on Wii. Bleh.

StrawHousePigFebruary 01, 2012

Super Circuit doesn't cut it. It was crippled back then but now after several releases with control that surpasses it it's really only for Fans.

Love Wario Ware. The multi-player games in it are nothing short of ingenious. I say Everyone.

Fire Emblem is great RPG/RTS fun, but I have too hard a time losing any allies. I want them to all survive, but that is proving beyond my capability. :(

Didn't play Kirby, Metroid or Yoshi, but Wario Land has definitely proved to be still worthwhile.

I'm surrently playing Skyward Sword so I don't want to start Minish Cap yet. No idea how it's aged but I'll be jumping on it soon enough.

Though I must gripe about not being able to put the system to sleep and freeze the game state of the GBA VC. Why was this not possible???  >:(

oohhboyHong Hang Ho, Staff AlumnusFebruary 01, 2012

I can't believe F-Zero got a recommended for fans. I love F-Zero and I hate Maximum Velocity. It has aged terribly, and I am not talking about the graphics. The controls or the lack of "control" make it near playable without ridiculous amount of throttle abuse.

Quote:

The controls are smooth and allow you to use the L and R bumpers for precision turning.

Who the hell wrote this?! Who the hell approved this? Utter lies. Even in the podcast the bumpers are said to be near useless, there is nothing smooth about the controls. The cars handle like jelly sliding on an air hockey table. That's not even getting into the AI which has cars made of Osmium with none of the inertia when it comes to taking corners. Only the most hand breaking amount of obsessiveness can make this game playable.

I have never outright rejected a review from NWR before, this a first. It's like you played a completely different game. The music a neutral nitpick issue at worse compared to the control and AI problems.

ejamerFebruary 02, 2012

I think the ratings given are good, but personally would downgrade both Mario Kart and F-Zero.


Mario Kart Super Circuit won't appeal to everyone because the controls are different from other games in the series (not bad, but definitely different) and it's much more skill-based than what is now considered "normal" for Mario Kart. That said, it's a solid game considering the hardware, an excellent single-player racer for old-school gamers, and a game that I really enjoy playing again. Too bad that multiplayer modes are currently disabled - I am still hopeful that Nintendo will change that in the future as they've already said that NES games will have multiplayer added eventually.


Sadly, F-Zero: Maximum Velocity hasn't held up as well as Super Circuit. Even upon release (and yes, I owned the game at launch) it was a disappointing game with incredibly cheap AI and weak gameplay.  Races devolve into puzzle-like matches where the biggest challenge is not to read-end the endless stream of cars you are lapping while waiting for the right place to use your boost.  A tight limit on the number of racers on-screen at any one time, computer racers that steer as if they were on rails, and plenty of rubber-banding to ensure any slip-up is punished all combine to make this entry in the series very forgettable.  While it made a nice early showpiece for the speed and power of the GBA system, years later there is little to go back for.


But hey, everyone has their own opinions, right?

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