Early Impressions: GBA Ambassador Games

How do these games hold up today?

We all know and love the GBA. Even when the GameCube was not all that successful (but still profitable to Nintendo nonetheless), Nintendo’s sixth-gen portable was selling like hotcakes. And now, less than a decade later, we have them on Nintendo’s brand new portable system, the 3DS (of course, just for us special “early adopters” people). A few months ago, I wrote a blog about the 10 free NES games and how much I thought they were worth.

I’m not even going to bother with putting a price for each of these games. By now, I think there is no doubt that all 20 of these games MORE than make up the $80 price drop Nintendo shelled out in August. So, here we are again, impressions for EACH of the 10 GBA ambassador games.

F-Zero Maximum Velocity

I’ve never really been a fan of F-Zero. Its wild physics and uncontrollable high speeds simply frustrate me to the point of me just giving up. Maximum Velocity is no different. Even with an assortment of different vehicles, tracks, and modes, the game overall is quite boring, even when you’re racing at extremely high speeds. Perhaps as time goes on, I’ll get used to it a little bit more, but as for right now, I’m done with any F-Zero game that is not on the Nintendo 64 or the GameCube. At least those games were a bit interesting.

You’ll love:
• + racing at high speeds

You’ll hate:
• – slippery physics
• – boring landscapes
• – lack of character
• – very high difficulty

Mario Kart Super Circuit

As if one racing game wasn’t enough, Nintendo decided to throw in another one, this time a Mario Kart title. And I’m just going to put this out there. I hate Super Circuit. In fact, I think Super Circuit is the worst Mario Kart game to date. But surprisingly, after playing Super Circuit with the circle pad, my perception has changed, though ever so slightly, to the better. Mario Kart: Super Circuit is actually kinda fun. For starters, the game features a whopping 40 different tracks, including EVERY track from the SNES original. Plus, your eight favorite characters from Mario Kart 64 are all playable, each with their own unique stats. But fans of modern Mario Kart games will receive a rude awakening: Super Circuit has some of the slipperiest physics in any Mario game, making the game extremely hard to control even at 50cc. Also worth noting: no multiplayer. The game has multiplayer modes, but Nintendo didn’t include that into the Virtual Console service, which is a bummer, because it effectively renders half of the game useless.

You’ll love:
• + 40 different tracks to race on
• + smooth controls with the circle pad

You’ll hate:
• – slippery physics
• – lack of multiplayer support on 3DS VC
• – Luigi’s old Japanese voice acting

Wario Land 4

Wario has a lot of character. He’s greedy, he’s rude, and he’s totally bad*ss… which is what makes Wario Land 4 so awesome. Sure, it doesn’t do anything ground-breaking in platforming or puzzle-solving, but it’s a well-rounded package that is also a ton of fun.
It’s really hard to describe Wario Land other than the phrase “puzzle-platformer,” but Wario Land 4 is so much more than just that. I’ll just leave the game to you and let you feel surprised at how fun this game is.

You’ll love:
• + Wario’s quirky personality
• + solving fun puzzles
• + playing included minigames

You’ll hate:
• + missing a piece of treasure because of a small mistake

Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3

I remember loving Yoshi’s Island. I remember trying to collect all of those red coins and flowers to unlock every secret level of the game. I remember playing those extra levels that were hard as hell. I remember hating myself for trying to beat the Endless World of Yoshis. Everything, including the classic Mario Bros. arcade game (though the 3DS VC currently has no multiplayer support), returns in this version of Yoshi’s Island. Unfortunately, as seen in the NES ambassador games, the circle pad works terribly for 2D platformers, which is a shame. Controlling Yoshi with the d-pad is the best idea overall, due to the many tricky platforming segments that require precision. But though these things may take a while to get used to, Yoshi’s Island is still as good as you remembered it. The art design for this game is totally unique, and it is one that holds up well to this date, even when the screen is stretched to fit the 3DS, and the platforming is still as hardcore as it can get.

You’ll love:
• + over 60 levels to explore
• + epic boss battles
• + the return of the classic Mario Bros. arcade game
• + colorful art style

You’ll hate:
• – using the circle pad
• – no multiplayer support for Mario Bros.

Metroid Fusion

To tell you the truth, I’ve never ever loved Metroid. That’s probably because the only Metroid game I’ve played is the original NES title, and that game is as hard as nails. But for people like me, this game was made with simplicity in mind. Guidance in this game is a lot more direct (there are plenty of tutorials for beginners like me), and the game also controls surprisingly well with the circle pad, especially when you’re trying to shoot diagonally (something that was a bit frustrating on the GBA d-pad). Unfortunately, like Yoshi’s Island, anything that requires you to slide the circle pad downwards will not always connect properly, making me opt out for the d-pad at some points. But though I’ve only played through half an hour of the game, I’m surprisingly enjoying this fun little sci-fi shooter.

You’ll love:
• + simple yet clever level design
• + the well-done help system
• + circle pad in its help with diagonal shooting

You’ll hate:
• – anything that requires you to slide down on the circle pad (including ducking and morph balling)

WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$

Ahhh… the one that started it all. The original WarioWare is back, and we once again have the chance to play those 3-second games in their original form WITH NO GIMMICKS. Honestly, with a game like this that places so much emphasis on timing, there is no way you’ll get the same experience as this if played on an emulator. And unlike other WarioWare games, the original minigames were all bare-bones… which is why they’re so much fun.

You’ll love:
• + the classics of the classics of 3-second games
• + the numerous minigames, including multiplayer games that require only 1 3DS
• + the wonderful and amusing stories of WarioWare
• + using the circle pad for most minigames

You’ll hate:
• – long and time-consuming cutscenes
• – dying at the boss stages only to start the entire level over

Kirby & The Amazing Mirror

Traditional Kirby games have always been underrated. It’s either because they’re too easy, or just too simple. The Amazing Mirror? It’s none of these. Kirby & The Amazing Mirror is very challenging, and unlike other Kirby games, you explore ONE giant world trying to collect everything you can and fix the Amazing Mirror. Surprisingly, the game plays well with the circle pad (probably because Kirby’s mechanics are so much about moving in all directions). Unfortunately, without multiplayer support, certain parts of the game are inaccessible (mostly because your idiot Kirby friends fail at cooperating with you).

You’ll love:
• + exploring Kirby’s giant world
• + wondering to yourself how Kirby got so hardcore
• + full directional control over Kirby with the circle pad

You’ll hate:
• – no multiplayer support (and not being to complete the game because of that)
• – double-tapping (sliding?) the circle pad to run

Mario vs Donkey Kong

Do you love puzzles? Do you love Mario? Did you absolutely adore Donkey Kong ’94 on the 3DS VC? Well here is its sequel. Mario vs Donkey Kong is the direct sequel of of DK ’94 and is arguably one of the best Mario & Donkey Kong games ever made. The game may look simple at its premise, but as you play through the worlds, you’ll be surprised by how much depth this game actually has (and the amount of moves Mario actually can do). Even if it may look boring, Mario vs Donkey Kong is a great game, a game that surprised even me when I first played it.

You’ll love:
• + Mario’s many moves (and the many sound-effects he makes)
• + very clever level design
• + amusing story
• + the many unlockable bonus challenges

You’ll hate:
• – the relatively short game length

Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

I hate strategy RPG’s. I don’t know why, but they just feel a bit boring to me. This game changed my mind. The second Fire Emblem game to come to America, Sacred Stones provides a deep story and gameplay that actually felt fun. If you felt the same way as I did about strategy RPG’s, give this game a shot, and perhaps you’ll feel the same way as I do now. Even though I’ve only played the first two chapters of the game, there is no doubt in my mind that Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones is a surprisingly fun and robust game.

You’ll love:
• + deep storyline
• + engaging and addicting gameplay
• + gradual learning curve

You’ll hate:
• – not being able to save midway through a chapter

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

At long last, the final GBA game in the line-up. Minish Cap is by far my favorite Zelda game ever created. Guide Link with the almighty and wonderful circle pad (which allows full control over Link) in an epic adventure throughout Hyrule. Even with its cartoonish look, Minish Cap has everything that Zelda games offer: a great story, deep dungeons, mind-boggling puzzles, and quirky NPC’s. If you love Zelda, you’ll absolutely adore this game. And even if you don’t, the Minish Cap is a great starting point. And considering that most emulators can’t run Minish Cap (the game will freeze in the middle of the final dungeon), you’ll be thankful that Nintendo decided to put this up for 3DS ambassadors. And the circle pad works surprisingly well in Minish Cap. Wow. I couldn’t have been happier with how this game, and all of the other GBA ambassador games, turned out (with the exception of maybe F-Zero; boy do I dislike that game).

You’ll love:
• + wonderful story with a lot of character
• + adorable art direction
• + controlling Link with the circle pad
• + saving anywhere you want

You’ll hate:
• – relatively short (but adequate) story length


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