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The games that showed off the gba's power during its lifespan

cavencruiser

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Hi, I wanted to talk about a topic that has been on my mind as of recently. The gba during its launch was one of the most powerful 2d consoles out there far surpassing anything that can have been done on genesis and snes, or any of those gen of consoles. The general question comes down to; why did most games during this era of gba games seem like most of them could have been done on the latter systems? I generally blame it on the dev side of things and the lack of ambition for optimization with the modern era of consoles catering to devs with the easy usage of c language. Most gba games are probably coded in c anyways because of developer budget and lack of interest in the said platform, so that is my take on that topic. I believe the gba has faster dma speeds and memory speeds than even the genesis, but we never even got anything of that calibur on the gba. What do you guys think this is all about? System bottlenecks with no audio, development constraints, or maybe even something else?
 

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Like always, developers are always learning to develop for a new platform. Sometimes it may come from budget issues, internal issues or downright pure incompetence, among other factors. As time goes on, devs. slowly learn how to harness the power of the platform to produce some truly hardware-pushing titles... that's just my opinion...
 

StevO9389

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The rise of Pokemon and the shift in public opinion that Nintendo no longer cared about the audience that grew up with them led to the fate of the GBA. This is completely ignoring the fact that 3D games were really starting to take off and DVD playback was damn near a deal breaker. I was impressed with the specs when it came out but found myself put off by 90% of the user base being 10 year old, snot-nosed, yuppie kids running around the store screaming while the life slowly slowly drained from the batteries running a game they weren't paying attention to half the time. That remaining 10% of a user base wasn't incentive enough for a studio to treat development very seriously. It wasn't until several years later Resident Evil 4 arrived that I picked up a Game Cube with GBA player so I could go back and play the few games that weren't enough for me to buy a GBA for. The GBA deserved far better treatment than "go play with this and be quiet while mommy takes her pills and day drinks"
 
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speedyink

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There were some games that definitely pushed the hardware, but it seemed most the developers went the lazy or "safe" route.
I remember when the GBA Pokemon games came out, the big graphic flares they were advertising were reflections on water and foot steps in sand. Like, really?? Those effects were easily done on the SNES, and with some clever programming, pretty sure it could be pulled off on the GBC.
 

cavencruiser

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There were some games that definitely pushed the hardware, but it seemed most the developers went the lazy or "safe" route.
I remember when the GBA Pokemon games came out, the big graphic flares they were advertising were reflections on water and foot steps in sand. Like, really?? Those effects were easily done on the SNES, and with some clever programming, pretty sure it could be pulled off on the GBC.
What games do you know of besides the shitty looking 3d titles on the gba that pushed the limits? I cannot find any at all, and the ones that are always mentioned are the 3d games. This just further proves my point that noone wanted to develop 2d games anymore and were geared more toward 3d development. Please, if you know of any 2d gba games that pushed the limits of the system, be my guest and show me a few as I would really like to see them.
 

cavencruiser

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I am only aware of very few 2d titles that show what the GBA can do.
 
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cavencruiser

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The rise of Pokemon and the shift in public opinion that Nintendo no longer cared about the audience that grew kup with them led to the fate of the GBA. This is completely ignoring the fact that 3D games were really starting to take off and DVD playback was damn near a deal breaker. I was impressed with the specs when it came out but found myself put off by 90% of the user base being 10 year old, snot-nosed, yuppie kids running around the store screaming while the life slowly slowly drained from the batteries running a game they weren't paying attention to half the time. That remaining 10% of a user base wasn't incentive enough for a studio to treat development very seriously. It wasn't until several years later Resident Evil 4 arrived that I picked up a Game Cube with GBA player so I could go back and play the few games that weren't enough for me to buy a GBA for. The GBA deserved far better treatment than "go play with this and be quiet while mommy takes her pills and day drinks"


This is pure gold☝
I am so pissed that we got such shitty games on gba. I mean, it fills up about 70 percent of the library for christ sake!
 
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speedyink

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Whoa dude...

Most of the ones are the 3D games, which not all of them looked like total ass. The Lego Drome Racers for example took the textureless approach and did well with it.

As for 2D, a couple off the top of my head would be
Iridion 2: A little blocky at times but lots of scaling and high quality animation
Golden Sun: Good animation, battle effects such as magic effects looked really damn cool
Yoshi's Island: Not the greatest but it handled the large manipulable sprites and 3D add on effects the SFX chip was used for like a champ.

There were some other games with some really good sprite work and animation as well, like Sonic Advance for example. Tons of frames of animation for the sprites makes it look like Sonic Mania levels of 2D sprite work.
 

cavencruiser

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Whoa dude...

Most of the ones are the 3D games, which not all of them looked like total ass. The Lego Drome Racers for example took the textureless approach and did well with it.

As for 2D, a couple off the top of my head would be
Iridion 2: A little blocky at times but lots of scaling and high quality animation
Golden Sun: Good animation, battle effects such as magic effects looked really damn cool
Yoshi's Island: Not the greatest but it handled the large manipulable sprites and 3D add on effects the SFX chip was used for like a champ.

There were some other games with some really good sprite work and animation as well, like Sonic Advance for example. Tons of frames of animation for the sprites makes it look like Sonic Mania levels of 2D sprite work.
Yeah, I would also like to add to this list as well. I would say that castlevania harmony of dissonance and castlevania area of sorrow are worthy contenders. Gunstar super heroes and astroboy omega factor are the two titles that absolutely pushed the gba to its fullest as far as 2d goes. Also, that's not saying much since gunstar super heroes was mostly just a port of the og with better textures and some extra stages. Yoshis island is a good example, I always think of that one as far as the gba being pushed to its limits goes. Even though it was a snes game, the og one had to use software rotation through the fx chip and so did most of the effects seen in that game. On the gba, it's all natively handled through hardware. As far as 3d goes, I would say asterix and obelix xxl on the gba takes the cake for being a true 3d platformer on a system that wasnt designed to do such games.

GBA--Super Mario Advance 3  Yoshis Island Mario Brothers_Nov9 13_47_33.png
 

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Oh, so this is a thread about which games truly did push the GBA hardware? I don't have most of them on my head right now, but the first two that came to mind were Iridion 3D and Iridion II by Shin'en...
Gba_iridionbosslvl.png222326-iridion-ii-game-boy-advance-screenshot-the-looping-fmv-backgrounds.png
 

cavencruiser

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Oh, so this is a thread about which games truly did push the GBA hardware? I don't have most of them on my head right now, but the first two that came to mind were Iridion 3D and Iridion II by Shin'en...
View attachment 4622View attachment 4623
Yeah I guess you can say that, might as well change the title. I was wanting to go down that route, but I also wanted to complain about how devs severely underutilized the hardware.stuntman-08.png

Yes, that is a gba game, and its fucking horrifying to say the least. Just watching that fuckers mouth move gives me the chills. The game is called "stuntman".
 
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cavencruiser

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Also, I think iridion 2 reminds me of a neo geo game called viewpoint. Am I the only one to think this?
 

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Also, I would like to add both maya the bee games, they are really obscure and they looked really nice for gba standards. It was made by the same people who made iridion 1 and 2


maya2-01.png
maya2-02.png
maya2-03.png
maya2-08.png
 

Trimesh

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...

Yes, that is a gba game, and its fucking horrifying to say the least. Just watching that fuckers mouth move gives me the chills. The game is called "stuntman".

There are only 3 BG modes that support bitmaps in the GBA:

Mode 3 - uses the full screen resolution (240x160) 15 bit direct color (5:5:5 RGB) but is single buffered
Mode 4 - also full resolution, and supports double buffering but uses 8 bit indexed color
Mode 5 - double buffered and uses direct color, but is reduced to 160x128 resolution

So if you want to display video you end up with a choice between screen tearing (mode 3), really bad color banding (mode 4) or poor resolution (mode 5) - developers just had to chose the one that offended them the least, which was generally mode 5.
 

cta

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I am only aware of very few 2d titles that show what the GBA can do.
You can only use so many effects before it starts to look chaotic. 3D is a much better area to flex in.

Also, I would like to add both maya the bee games, they are really obscure and they looked really nice for gba standards.
While those screenies do look very nice, it seems to be down mostly to the art design. From a technical perspective all I can make out is transparency and some rotation on the logs.
 

cavencruiser

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Yeah, the 3d games just dont look good to me. Also, you could do more with 2d than what we see on gba without making it too chaotic. Look at symphony of the night for example. How about cotton 2, or sonic mania? Salamander 2 and the 2d gradius on ps1. Most of the games we got on gba ended up looking like snes titles. Take wario land 4 for example, no shame on the title, but everything in that game could well be done on snes without coprpcessors. You just cant do any of the rotation or scaling in the game. Devs can find a way past this by drawing each frame manually, or software render the sprites into sram before the effect is applied in realtime.
 

Trimesh

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Yeah, the 3d games just dont look good to me. Also, you could do more with 2d than what we see on gba without making it too chaotic. Look at symphony of the night for example. How about cotton 2, or sonic mania? Salamander 2 and the 2d gradius on ps1. Most of the games we got on gba ended up looking like snes titles. Take wario land 4 for example, no shame on the title, but everything in that game could well be done on snes without coprpcessors. You just cant do any of the rotation or scaling in the game. Devs can find a way past this by drawing each frame manually, or software render the sprites into sram before the effect is applied in realtime.

I'm not sure what you were expecting though - if you look at the hardware specs of the GBA, it's pretty comparable to the SNES with a few extensions:

1) Better color depth - the SNES could only handle 4 colors/tile in 4BG mode - the GBA could do 256 with a single palette or 16x16 in multi-palette mode.
2) Ability to combine "mode 7" type effects with regular BGs (2 BGs + scale/rotate) (or 2 mode 7 type screens with no BGs)
3) Addition of full-screen bitmap modes
4) Significantly higher maximum number of OBJ per line
5) OBJ could be rotated and scaled

These are all certainly nice things to have, but they don't fundamentally change what sort of system it is. I was told the designers intent was to enable the production of "SNES level" games in a portable system, and they succeeded. Sure, if someone had pulled out all the stops to make the most impressive game possible on the GBA it would have likely been very impressive - but that would have also required someone to put a rather large budget behind a mobile game, which isn't generally going to happen.
 

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I'm not sure what you were expecting though - if you look at the hardware specs of the GBA, it's pretty comparable to the SNES with a few extensions:

1) Better color depth - the SNES could only handle 4 colors/tile in 4BG mode - the GBA could do 256 with a single palette or 16x16 in multi-palette mode.
2) Ability to combine "mode 7" type effects with regular BGs (2 BGs + scale/rotate) (or 2 mode 7 type screens with no BGs)
3) Addition of full-screen bitmap modes
4) Significantly higher maximum number of OBJ per line
5) OBJ could be rotated and scaled

These are all certainly nice things to have, but they don't fundamentally change what sort of system it is. I was told the designers intent was to enable the production of "SNES level" games in a portable system, and they succeeded. Sure, if someone had pulled out all the stops to make the most impressive game possible on the GBA it would have likely been very impressive - but that would have also required someone to put a rather large budget behind a mobile game, which isn't generally going to happen.
It's just that the horsepower of the 16mhz was mostly left unused in most games, like the above mentioned wario land 4, or metroid titles for example.
 

cta

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So what would you have wanted to see, given the stated raw horse power but obeying your arbitrary limit to 2D? As I said, you quickly reach a sort of "fx overload"; there's certain limits in place wrt screen modes, and the bigger address space compared to a SNES means you can put any graphics you need in the ROM instead of relying on tricks. Really, the direction to go would've been more behind-the-scenes complexity, for example in the form of improved enemy AI (anyone ever do a comparison between SFC- and Advance Wars?), or maybe a more dynamic sound system - but I get the feeling that wouldn't meet your criteria of "showing off" either because it's not "graphics-flashy"?
Also, keep in mind the GBA was portable. You don't want it eating six batteries per hour because the CPU's maxed out 102% of the time.
 
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