It is no secret that the Game Boy Advance is dead or, at the very least, dying a slow death, barely kept alive by games based on popular children’s movies and TV shows. Rather than mourning and casting aside any hope, devoted fans of the system should instead look online for import games.
Due to the demise of the system, many online retailers who still carry import GBA games are reducing the prices of the titles. A game which normally would have cost $40 can be found for a fourth of the price.
When you add to that the fact that GBA games have no region protection and the DS is backwards compatible with those titles, it provides added incentive to see what is out there.
While many of the great GBA games were translated and released outside of Japan, there are still a few popular titles which never made it. Today we’ll look back at four of the best GBA titles which would make a fine addition to your game library, and look at what I consider to be the Must-Import GBA game.
Honorable Mention – Mother 1+2
A long time ago, on the SNES, there was a great game released in North America known as Earthbound. Earthbound’s original title in Japan though, was Mother 2.
So Mother 1+2 is essentially a port of the first Mother game and Earthbound for the GBA. It contains both games in the series in a portable format. For devoted fans this is a dream come true. Earthbound was one of the most unique and entertaining RPGs released stateside. In it Ness, a young boy with psycho-kinetic powers, joined with other gifted kids to battle against aliens and save the world.
Mother 1+2 only receives an honorable mention though, because it really does require Japanese to really enjoy the game. Sure, there are guides available online, but it somehow tarnishes the experience and the joy of the game. This title will still cost around $29 online, as it is considered a GBA value game. My advice is to wait for a Virtual Console release of Earthbound instead.
Second Runner-Up – Mother 3
Mother 3 is the most recent addition to the Mother series and was released only on the GBA. Like the first two Mother games, the action takes place in a modern setting. Unlike the other Mother games, Mother 3 is centered first on the family of the main character, Lucas, and then on Lucas. The earlier titles features groups of children as heroes. Mother 3 is also the only game in the series that is divided into chapters.
In Mother 3, Lucas and his family live in Tazmily Village, which is on one of the Nowhere Islands. The islands are invaded by the Pig King and his Pig Mask Army, who are destroying the land and introducing foreign technology and concepts. Lucas, along with associates Duster, Flint and Salsa, decide to work to expel the invaders.
Of course Lucas may already be familiar to North American audiences, as he replaces Ness in Super Smash Brothers Brawl. This may be a hint that North American audiences might still have some hope of seeing a release of Mother 3. Or maybe he’s included just because of his popularity in Japan. Either way, it is nice to see him get some attention.
Normally a blockbuster exclusive like this would be higher up on my recommendation list, but it suffers from the same problems as Mother 1+2. Mother 3 is an RPG that requires the player to at least be able to recognize hirigana and katakana. It also is still quite expensive for a GBA game, and costs about $48 online.
First Runner-Up – bit Generations: Soundvoyager
The bit Generations titles were all released near the end of the GBA’s run in Japan. All of them are fairly simple both visually and concept wise, but at the same time each featured addictive gameplay. The titles were heralded as a throwback to the great classic games available on the NES. Despite their simplicity, the titles were also quite stylish and broached some new gameplay ideas.
The most famous of the titles would have to be bit Generations: Soundvoyager. It is the first game were you aren’t supposed to look at the screen to play. Instead, you put headphones on and are supposed to instinctively reacted to the sounds you hear by pushing the face buttons on the GBA.
Soundvoyager may sound like a silly idea and ridiculous, until you get the opportunity to play it. It is unlike any other video game that has been released. It also can be surprisingly relaxing, as you just focus in on the sounds and press buttons when the noises make you feel it is necessary.
Of course its uniqueness has made Soundvoyager one of the rarer bit Generations titles. Most sites which still list it state that it may take a week or longer for them to find the title. It is completely worth it though. Also, since no language is necessary to play, it is a perfect import. If you look online, you can probably find it for about $25.
Must-Import GBA Game – Densetsu no Stafi 2
We’ve come across Densetsu no Stafi before in Important Importables. In case you missed prior columns where his games were discussed, the series is a classic platformer from TOSE, the creators of the various Kirby games, and stars a star/starfish known as Stafi. The series is easily one of the most beautiful and engaging platformers to be released for the GBA (and DS), yet none of the games have ever been released outside of Japan.
Densetsu no Stafi 2 begins wih Ogura, the constant villain in the series, kidnapping Stafi’s father PapaStar. As Stafi, you must set out to save your father. Of course on the way you also help other denizens of the deep with their various issues.
Stafi has made a few cameos overseas though. If you played Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, you probably noticed a Stafi poster in one of the houses in the games. Stafi also briefly appeared in Super Princess Peach. Stafi is also going to be an assist trophy in Super Smash Brothers Brawl.
These brief cameos may hint at a North American release someday, but it is likely that any release will be of his DS titles and not his GBA ones. Densetsu no Stafi 2 requires absolutely no knowledge of the Japanese language, so it is a perfect import game for anyone. It also is available at a discount price online. Play-Asia, for instance, has the game on sale for $14.90.
COMING NEXT WEEK: Important Portables shows off video game plushies.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Important Importables looked at the smartest PSP peripherals.