Game Boy Advance emulation is for wimps.
Anyone who has played an original Game Boy Advance will tell you the system has one major problem: visibility. Nintendo has finally provided one solution, the Game Boy Advance SP, but replacing a working GBA with a new $100 model just isn’t money-smart for many. Fortunately, the GameCube’s Game Boy Player is the perfect solution.
The Game Boy Player is the spiritual successor to the Super Game Boy for the SNES, allowing GameCube consumers to play their handheld games on their televisions. A one-inch tall peripheral that attaches to the GameCube’s base via its Hi Speed Port, the GBP and GC were clearly made for each other. A strong grip holds the GBP in place, only dislodging slightly in the front when held from the GC handle, though Nintendo has gone the extra mile and included two attached screws for those wanting peace of mind. The two complement each other well, too—the uninformed bystander would probably think the GBP was an integral part of the GameCube, assuming the colors match.
The GBP is little more than a GBA motherboard with some altered I/O ports and a new casing. GBA, GBC or original GB carts slide into the front-mounted slot. This sometimes requires lifting the system slightly—a minor inconvenience, but nothing worth fussing over. Removing the game pack is as easy as sliding the eject lever found on the right side. The Player also has a standard GBA EXT port complete with GC-GBA cable latch holes on the front, offering all the multiplayer and linking capabilities of a normal Game Boy Advance.
Of course the real issue at hand isn’t how the Game Boy Player looks but how it performs. Loading the player is as simple as popping in the GameCube disc and a GBA game (if needed) and pushing power. That’s it! You can now play Castlevania: Circle of the Moon without squinting or surrendering your comfort for a light source! The game can be played on a GC Controller using the D-pad or analog stick or with a GBA, using a GC-GBA link cable. Pushing Z at any time on a GC controller brings a simple menu to the foreground while the game continues to run. In this menu players can “turn off” the Game Boy Player to swap game carts, make subtle adjustments to screen sharpness, choose screen size, toggle the button layout for GC controllers, set an alarm clock and choose among twenty borders to frame the GBA screen. The virtual GBA screen is originally to scale, providing a crisp and vibrant picture worthy of Metroid Fusion’s rich atmosphere, Golden Sun’s lush palette and Luigi’s tail pipe. However, the menu provides the option of a 2x zoom (full screen) for those willing to sacrifice a little clarity for a bigger screen. For those wondering, GB/GBC games are treated no differently than with standard GBA systems and can be (poorly) stretched to fit the entire virtual GBA screen. Those hoping for Super Game Boy borders are out of luck. On the bright side, though, high-end users will be happy to know that the Game Boy Player runs in progressive scan, ultimately providing an unsurpassed GBA display.
There are a few drawbacks to the Game Boy Player, some of which were unavoidable, but still worth keeping in mind. Firstly, those thinking of purchasing a Game Boy Player instead of one of its handheld brethren should be aware that they will not be able to take advantage of the various GC-GBA linking features unless they have access to TWO GameCube consoles. Secondly, although the Game Boy Camera and eReader work with the GBP, less conventional games such as Kirby’s Tilt ‘N Tumble will be tough to manage. There are also rumors that not all colors of the GBP will be available in the United States, meaning that those without imported or modified GameCubes may have to settle for an alternate color GBP or buy an import GBP as well as a copy of the U.S. boot disc from Nintendo’s store (assuming one will be available). Also, the extra inch the GBP adds to the system may pose a problem for those owning GC carrying cases or backpacks which may not accommodate the accessory. Since it requires a screwdriver to remove or install, the GBP clearly wasn’t designed to be taken on and off when traveling. On a more technical note, the GBP shares the same 8-bit audio output found in the handhelds, which is a minor disappointment. However, when looking at the big picture, all these complaints don’t amount to much, putting tiny dents into what is otherwise a fine product.
This peripheral does exactly what it promises and does it well. The Game Boy Player provides the best picture possible for Game Boy Advance games (even better than the GBA SP) and is perfect for current GBA owners. It’s also recommended to gamers uninterested in handheld gaming, yet enticed by the GBA library itself. Simply put, unless you're specifically looking for portability, the Game Boy Player will not disappoint.