Game Boy Advance Explained

Game Boy Advance
Family:Game Boy line
Type:Handheld game console
Generation:Sixth generation era
Cpu:ARM7TDMI, 16.78 MHz
Gpu:Custom 2D core
Unitssold:Worldwide: 81.44 million, all versions combined (as of December 31, 2008).
Japan: 16.95 million
Americas: 41.64 million
Other: 22.85 million[1]
Topgame:Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, 13 million combined (as of November 25, 2004)[2]
Pokémon Emerald, (as of March 31, 2007)[3]
Compatibility:Game Boy, Game Boy Color
Predecessor:Game Boy Color
Successor:Game Boy Advance SP (redesign)

The is a 32-bit handheld video game console developed, manufactured and marketed by Nintendo; resembling Sega's 8-bit Game Gear. It is the successor to the Game Boy Color. It was released in Japan on March 21, 2001; in North America on June 11, 2001; in Australia on June 22, 2001, in Europe on June 22, 2001; and in the People's Republic of China on June 8, 2004 (excluding Hong Kong).

In 1996, magazines including issues 53 and 54 of Total! and the July 1996 issue of Game Informer featured reports of a new Game Boy, codenamed Project Atlantis. Although the expected release date of "early 1997" would make that machine seem to be the Game Boy Color, it was described as having "a 32-bit RISC processor" and "allowing similar to SNES standard games-playing to be played in the palm of your hand"—a description that more closely matches the Game Boy Advance.

Technical specifications

The technical specifications of the original Game Boy Advance are, as provided by Nintendo:[4]

Backward compatibility for Game Boy and Game Boy Color games is provided by an 4/8 MHz Z80 co-processor, while a link port at the top of the unit allows it to be connected to other devices via use of a Nintendo Game Link cable or GameCube cable. When playing Game Boy or Game Boy color games on the Game Boy Advance, the L and R buttons can be used to toggle between a stretched widescreen format (240x144) and the original screen ratio of the Game Boy (160x144).

All Nintendo handheld systems that have been released since (the SP and Micro versions of the Game Boy Advance, as well as the Nintendo DS, DS Lite, and DSi) have included a built-in light and rechargeable battery.

Other Models

Game Boy Advance SP

See main article: Game Boy Advance SP. In early 2003, Nintendo introduced a new Game Boy Advance (model AGS-001) that looks like a pocket-size laptop, with an internal front-light that can be turned on or off, a rechargeable lithium ion battery, as well as a folding case approximately half the original size. It was designed to address some common issues with the original Game Boy Advance which was criticized for being somewhat uncomfortable, especially due to an overly dark screen. The Game Boy Advance SP also came with a new and much brighter LCD screen for improved playability.

Around the same time as the release of the Game Boy Micro, Nintendo released a new backlit version of the SP (model AGS-101) in North America (commonly referred to as the "GBA SP+"). The switch that controls the light now toggles between "normal" (which itself is already brighter than the original Game Boy Advance SP's screen), and "bright," an intense brightness level similar to an LCD television set.

Game Boy Micro

See main article: Game Boy Micro. In September 2005, Nintendo released a second redesign of the Game Boy Advance. This model, dubbed the Game Boy Micro, is similar in style to the original Game Boy Advance's horizontal orientation, but is much smaller and sleeker. The Game Boy Micro also allows the user an ability to switch between several colored faceplates to allow customization, a feature which Nintendo advertised heavily around the Game Boy Micro's launch. Nintendo also hoped that this "fashion" feature would help target audiences outside of typical video game players, much like its Wii. Unlike the previous Game Boy Advance models, Game Boy Micro is unable to support Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles. The Game Boy Micro did not make much of an impact in the video game market, as it was overshadowed by Nintendo's other portable, the Nintendo DS, as well as Sony's portable gaming system, the PSP.


On December 1, 2006, Nintendo of America released launch-to-date information indicating that the Game Boy Advance series had sold 33.6 million units in the United States.[6] In a Kotaku article published on January 18, 2008, Nintendo revealed that the Game Boy Advance series has sold 36.2 million units in the United States, as of January 1, 2008.[7] As of December 31, 2008, the Game Boy Advance series has sold 81.44 million units worldwide, of which 43.52 million are Game Boy Advance SP units[1] and 2.42 million are Game Boy Micro units.[8]

After the Game Boy Advance's support lessened, the most popular software became mostly games oriented to younger gamers.[9]


See also: List of Game Boy Advance games. The Game Boy Advance became the modern flagship of sprite-based games. With hardware comparable to the Super NES it had proven that sprite-based technology could improve and live side by side with the 3D games of the day's consoles. The Game Boy Advance not only has typical platformers, but also a huge collection of SNES-style RPGs. It has also become a popular system for old-school gamers due to the increasing number of games ported from various 8-bit and 16-bit systems of the previous era, including the popular Super Mario Advance series, as well as its compatibility with all earlier Game Boy titles.

The last Game Boy Advance game released was Samurai Deeper Kyo, in February 2008.



Nintendo released many add-ons for the Game Boy Advance. These include:

Released in 2004, this adapter hooks up to the back of the Game Boy Advance. It replaces link cables and allows many people to link up to each other. It markets for US$20 and came included with Pokémon FireRed and Pokémon LeafGreen. Because it was released so late in the Game Boy Advance's life, fewer than 20 games support this hardware. The adapter's usefulness is most evident in Pokémon; FireRed/LeafGreen and Emerald feature a "Union Room" where up to forty people can enter to battle or trade Pokémon. A Game Boy Micro version has also been released – it can interact fully with both models of the Wireless Adapter.

The link cable was used to connect the Game Boy advance to the Gamecube gaming console. It was intended for interoperability between games for the Game Boy and corresponding games for the Gamecube. There were not many games that supported the hardware, notable titles are Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles and, allowing up to 4 players to use their advance or sp handheld as a controller that had additional information on the screen, as well as, allowing additional content to be unlocked through one of the characters in the game.

The Play-Yan is an MP3/MPEG4 player for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. The cartridge is slightly bigger than a normal Game Boy Advance cartridge and includes a built-in headphone port as well as an SD Card slot. Music or videos that users have downloaded from the Internet can be transferred onto an SD Card and slotted into the Play-Yan device. Nintendo has released several mini games for the Play-Yan that can be downloaded from their website, although Nintendo later removed all mini-game functionality through a firmware update. The Play-Yan was initially available in Japan only, but was released in Europe as the Nintendo MP3 Player on 8 December 2006, with the MPEG4 functionality removed. The Play-Yan never had a North American release.

The e-Reader is a rather bulky scanning device that plugs into the game cartridge slot of the Game Boy Advance. Specialized cards with codes along the side and bottom are slid through the slot, scanning the card into the Game Boy Advance. Many ideas for the e-Reader include cards that scan classic games like Donkey Kong and Excitebike onto the handheld ready to play, as well as a collaboration with Super Mario Advance 4 and Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire to have cards that unlock content. Nintendo GameCube games like Animal Crossing have cards with unlockable content as well, and the Pokémon Trading Card Game playing cards also adopt the e-Reader codes. The e-Reader works with the Game Boy Player and Game Boy Advance SP, but cannot fit into the Nintendo DS's Game Boy slot (however it can fit into the Nintendo DS Lite's Game Boy slot). Nintendo continues to manufacture the accessory and sell it at its Online Store. It is still quite popular in Japan. It was not released in Europe.

These cartridges contain two episodes of thirty minute cartoon programs. First released in North America in May 2004, they were US$19.99 at the time of release and included cartoons such as Pokémon, SpongeBob SquarePants, Sonic X, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Yu-Gi-Oh!. The movies Shrek, Shrek 2, and Shark Tale are also available for Game Boy Advance Videos and all three movies are full. Due to the Game Boy Advance screen ratio, the three movies are in their widescreen format. These cartridges display an error when inserted into a GameCube via a Game Boy Player. The Game Boy Advance Videos are no longer available at most major retailers.


Other accessories for the Game Boy Advance are:

The Afterburner was an internal front-lighting system. The installation consisted of disassembling the system, removing some plastic from the interior of the case, attaching the lighting mechanism to the screen, and soldering two wires to the motherboard for power. Optionally, a potentiometer or an integrated circuit could be added to allow adjusting the brightness of the light. When the Game Boy Advance SP was released, it included a very similar lighting system.

The GBA Movie Player is a versatile gaming cartridge that allows users to play NES/Famicom games, watch movies, read .txt files, listen to sound clips, etc. The GBA Movie Player does not actually play MPEGS or MP3s directly, a freeware conversion software is needed, that converts an array of formats into GBM and GBS formats that are compatible with the GBA Movie Player. There are two forms of the GBA Movie Player with one using a CF (CompactFlash) card and one using an SD (SecureDigital) card, though different companies have made their own devices similar to the GBA Movie Player.

The Game Boy Advance version of the GameShark. Programmed only to work with Game Boy Advance games as making the device accept Game Boy Color cartridges too would have made it expensive. This cheat device allowed users to hack their games. Codes could be entered by hand or uploaded to the device itself with the provided USB cable and software.

A cheating device like the GameShark, sold mainly in Europe. Had a few extra features as well as an updated interface.


Nintendo's competitors in the handheld market were the Neo Geo Pocket Color, Bandai Swan Crystal, Game Park 32, Tapwave Zodiac and the Nokia N-Gage. Despite the competitors' best efforts, Nintendo maintained its majority market share with the Game Boy Advance.

Homebrew software development

Many people have developed their own software to run on the Game Boy Advance. This is typically tested using emulators, and later written to flash cartridges to run on real consoles. Most such developers use a version of the GNU Compiler Collection (gcc) and program in either C or C++, though recently some developers have started using either Visual HAM or Free Pascal.

External links

Notes and References

  1. Web site: Consolidated Sales Transition by Region. 2008-10-30. 2008-10-30. Nintendo. PDF.
  2. Web site: Consolidated Financial Statements. PDF. 2007-11-11. 2004-11-25. Nintendo. 4.
  3. Web site: Supplementary Information about Earnings Release. Nintendo. 2007-04-27. 2008-03-15. PDF.
  4. Web site: GBA Technical Specifications. Nintendo. 2006-12-05.
  5. Web site: Game Boy Advance Frequently Asked Questions. Nintendo. 2007-09-06.
  6. Web site: Nintendo sales through end of November revealed. 2006-12-01. Behrens. Matt. 2006-12-01. N-Sider Media.
  7. Web site: Who's Winning The Console War In The US?. Michael McWhertor. Kotaku. 2008-01-19. 2008-01-18. UPDATE: Nintendo was nice enough to forward on GBA figures, just so we can see how the other last-gen, still-on-the-market platform is holding up..
  8. Web site: Consolidated Financial Highlights. 2007-04-26. 2007-04-26. PDF. Nintendo Co., Ltd.. 8.
  9. Web site: Top 10 Games of December 2008, By Platform. 2009-1-19. 2009-1-18.