The Nintendo DS is one of the hottest selling systems of all time, and with so many great games available for the handheld system, it can be easy to forget that the system also has the ability to play Game Boy Advance games — for the time being, anyway. Sadly, that function will go the way of the dodo once the Nintendo DSi is released. In North America, that means that gamers looking to trade in and upgrade their systems have roughly a year left to enjoy GBA games. Why not spend that time trying out some of these forgotten gems?
Astro Boy: Omega Factor — The first of two entries on this list developed by Treasure, Astro Boy: Omega Factor is a side-scrolling platformer/beat-‘em-up game based on the Astro Boy manga by Osamu Tezuka. Astro most kick, punch and blast his way through foes, while leveling up and using special attacks to over come a series of epic boss fights, one of the developer’s true specialties. The game received a fairly warm critical reception shortly after its release and, while it might not have aged too well, it is still recommended for fans of Treasure’s work.
Car Battler Joe — Ever since the release of the original Pokémon games way back in 1996, it seems as though many developers have worked to duplicate the series formula while adding their own little twists. Natsume’s Car Battler Joe is one of the few that got it right. In Car Battler Joe, players must collect car parts to improve their ride while battling and trying to ultimately win a tournament. However, when it comes to combat, everything is done in real time, as players race along paths in Super NES-style Mode 7 graphics and blast opponents in duels or while completing various jobs. The game is a little on the short side, at least in comparison to the Pokémon titles, but it is nonetheless tremendous fun while it lasts.
Gekido Advance: Kintaro’s Revenge — In the mold of the Genesis classic Streets of Rage 2 and the arcade beat-‘em-up Final Fight comes Gekido Advance, a good sequel to an abysmal PlayStation title. In Kintaro’s Revenge, a side-scrolling fighter that features incredible graphics and an easy-to-master combo system, players will have to not just defeat enemies, but solve puzzles and explore non-linear levels was well. Unfortunately, the game uses a password system instead of save slots, but they are short and easy to remember, and shouldn’t be too much of an annoyance to deal with.
Gunstar Super Heroes — A sequel to the legendary Treasure-developed Genesis run-and-gun shooter, Gunstar Super Heroes once again pits Red and Blue in a fight to stop the Empire and prevent the return of their nemesis, Golden Silver. The game is absolutely incredible fun, with players using various guns and mêlée attacks to dispose of hordes of enemies and bosses during incredibly intense fights. If you were a fan of the original, or you enjoy similar style games like the DS’s own Contra 4, this is definitely worth tracking down and picking up.
Karnaaj Rally — If you can get past the absolutely abysmal name and the ridiculous cover art (featuring a checkered-flag background, a blurry pink car and a guy with blue hair who appears to be stoned out of his mind), you will find Karnaaj Rally to be one of the best racing games available on the Game Boy Advance. It is a top-down racer/car combat game that features a lengthy career mode in which players can upgrade their vehicles. Karnaaj also includes nearly two-dozen tracks and even supports multiplayer, and should be available for less than $10 these days. At that price, Karnaaj Rally is an absolute steal.
Ninja Five-O — This Konami-developed action title has drawn more than its fair share of praises and comparisons to the old-school Ninja Gaiden games over the years, and it’s easy to see why. As Joe Osugi, a ninja/police officer, the player must use his swords and shurikens to defeat an evil group of ninja terrorists and complete six different missions. However, Joe also comes equipped with a series of moves. He can use a spiral attack, he can crawl and he can even use a grappling hook. The game is awful short, but it has an old-school charm that makes it a must play for fans of the aforementioned Ninja Gaiden series back in its NES heydays.
Riviera: The Promised Land — A turn-based roleplaying game first released in the United States by Atlus in 2005, Riviera: The Promised Land is a unique entry in the genre, and thus is quite difficult to describe in such limited space. Exploration is not controlled directly by the player, but rather the game utilizes a sort of point-and-click method to investigate things and move from one small area to another. Battles are heavily dependent upon which character uses which item at any given time, and the game even contains some dating simulation elements, as conversations between main character Ein and any of his female companions affect the game and can lead to a different ending. Riviera is highly recommended for RPG fans looking for something fresh.
Summon Night: Swordcraft Story — Like Riviera, the final entry on our list, Summon Night: Swordcraft Story, and its sequel are roleplaying games that were published in the U.S. by Atlus. The Swordcraft Story games have a lot in common with Namco’s Tales RPG series in that they feature real-time side-scrolling combat that is great fun. These Summon Night games also put an emphasis on weapon-forging, allowing the player to enhance a number of different swords, lances and so forth. One other feature worth mentioning is, like its DS sequel Summon Night: Twin Age, the Swordcraft Story games allow players to have different conversations with different characters at the end of each chapter, leading to multiple endings and thus improving the games replay value.