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GBA Picks for the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Program

12th August 2011; By Jack

If you own a 3DS and connected to the eShop before today, you will find yourself enrolled in Nintendo’s Ambassador Program. Over the next few months Nintendo will be sending 20 downloadable classics your way both as a thank you for supporting the system so early in its life cycle and as an apology for any disappointment caused by the upcoming system price cuts. The selection of free games includes 10 classics from the NES as well as 10 games originally released on the Game Boy Advance. So far Nintendo has confirmed five of the 10 Game Boy Advance games that will be made available:
Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Mario vs. Donkey Kong, Metroid Fusion, WarioWare, Inc.: Minigame Mania and Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3. But with the remaining five Game Boy Advance games yet to be announced, read on as I take a look at what Nintendo-published titles I would like to see complete the package.

Mario Power Tennis

I'm a big fan of the Mario Sports series, which manages to blend a solid arcade sports game with a dash of occasional madcap mayhem in the form of special attacks and court designs, while still keeping everything feeling fairly balanced. And as a fan of tennis games in general, I love the Mario Tennis sub-series. Although the console versions of these games are perhaps better known, it doesn't take long to see that their handheld cousins are perhaps even more worthy of your attention.

Along with the usual exhibition modes found in the N64 and Gamecube games, Mario Power Tennis adds an extensive RPG mode, which sees you joining a tennis academy and working your way through the ranks in both singles and doubles games, eventually representing the school at the Island Open. Along with challenging your classmates, the game also supports a levelling system, allowing you to build up your character and adjust their stats to suit your play style.

When it comes to value and longevity a good pick up and play sports game is a must for the Ambassador Program and there are few greater than Mario Power Tennis. If it doesn't make it into the games offered, I sincerely hope we will see Mario Tennis for the Game Boy Color arrive on the eShop soon, which is an equally excellent addition to the series. The solid arcade gameplay combined with the extensive RPG mode really does offer a lot of value and should be a must have for any handheld.

Kirby & The Amazing Mirror
It's hard to mention the Game Boy without the little pink ball that me know and love as Kirby popping up somewhere and the Game Boy Advance is no exception, sporting two excellent Kirby games.
Kirby & The Amazing Mirror was his second outing on the system and delivered not only an incredibly fun platformer, but one of the most unique and interesting adventures in Kirby's history.

Much like The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, Kirby & The Amazing Mirror let four friends take independent control of their own Kirby's and work their way through the colourful world of Dream Land, hunting down eight fragments of the titular mirror. Along with multiplayer mayhem, the game also moved away from the traditional level based gameplay of the series in favour of a Metroidvania-esque sprawling overworld, with every area connected together and mirror shards able to be collected in any order the player wishes. The usual array of copycat powers proved to be more useful than ever due to the games unique layout. Holding onto the right powers could open up new areas of the map and open up shortcuts between the games worlds.

While the game will certainly miss something without the multiplayer functionality, it is still an absolute blast to play on your own and certainly one of the series finest moments. Due to the non-linear progression of the game and the extensive abilities available it is also one of the most replayable and would certainly occupy a slot on the 3DS for a long time to come.

Advance Wars

The Game Boy Advance was a great system for strategy fans, with fantastic titles such as
Fire Emblem & Final Fantasy Tactics Advance appearing on the system. While I would love to see them all sitting on my 3DS Menu, I believe Advance Wars deserves that spot the most.

The game sees you taking control of Andy, Max & Sami -- Commanding Officers for the nation known as Orange Star -- who are locked in a fierce war with neighbouring country Blue Moon. Battles are turn-based with you deploying units, capturing sites & attacking your rivals as you try and conquer the battlefield and drive your opponent away, either by destroying their army, or capturing their base. What makes Advance Wars a perfect candidate for a slot in the Ambassador Program is that it manages to be welcoming for new players, but also provide a tough challenge where every move counts. Although there are a lot of different units, terrain and mechanics to master, offering almost unlimited strategies for the player, the game manages to introduce and present these features in a way that makes the game very easy to pick up and play. It is also one of the most vibrant and colourful strategy games on the system, making what should be a very cold and brutal exercise into something much warmer and accommodating.

While Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series also offers excellent value in the strategy genre, I feel the much harsher limitations on unit numbers along with the punishments if a unit falls in battle make it less accessible to the general consumer. Advance Wars provides a much better gateway into the genre while still providing great value for the experienced player. With so many options available, the game has a very high replay value, with even the same battles playing out very different each time and will likely keep you entertained for a long time to come.

Game & Watch Gallery Advance

One of the big advantages of downloadable titles is that they have instant availability, making them the perfect platform for smaller games that you want to quickly play for five or ten minutes. These arcade gameplay compilations continue to be a great amount of fun and few offer the fun, value and variety of
Game & Watch Gallery Advance.

With 20 different classic Game & Watch games to unlock and play (11 of which also included a modern remake, which improved and expanded on the originals), this game really packed a punch, offering something for everyone. I would often find myself turning my Game Boy on for a quick five minute session, only to find myself still playing an hour and a half later. The games may have been simple, but the fun to be had from each of them was immense.

I realise this choice may look like a bit of a curveball to most people, but what I want to see from the games offered in the Ambassador Program is lasting value and there are few games on the system that I believe fit that description better than Game & Watch Gallery Advance. It's a title that has provided me with hundreds of hours of enjoyment in the past and will continue to do so in the future. With such a rich history of Game & Watch games that it draws upon it is a real tribute to the philosophy of the Virtual Console and sure to provide everyone with a lot of fun for a long time to come.

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

While the idea of putting everyone favourite plumber into an RPG may seem absurd at first, Mario has proved time and time again that he can deliver a first class experience, whether collecting seven stars, pressed into a sheet of paper or teaming up with his brother for some turn based action. While the Mario & Luigi series may be better known for it's DS titles, such as
Bowser’s Inside Story, the series first adventure on the Game Boy Advance is not to be missed and proudly stands above it's DS sequels in a league of its own.

There are two things that really make Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga stand out as a classic for me. First of all is the series evolution of the traditional menu based combat, adding in the ability to increase attack power or defend yourself with well-timed button combinations, keeping you active and engaged in the battles at all times. The other contributing factor is the games vibrant charm, personality & humour. I'd be hard-pressed to find another game which brings me so many smiles. The dialogue is a joke a minute, but never feels forced, the character interactions and incoherent mumblings have an alluring charm and each of the weird and wonderful scenarios the game comes up with continue to impress, but never feel out of place. The whole world feels like it's inviting you to have fun.

Mario & Luigi
wasn't Nintendo’s only successful RPG on the system though, the Golden Sun series also saw its debut and many would argue that it is equally, if not more deserving of a spot. While I don't want to spoil the Golden Sun games for anyone who hasn't played them, Golden Sun feels half-finished, with your quest abruptly ending only to be continued in Golden Sun: The Lost Age. With no current plans to bring more Game Boy Advance games to the eShop, I feel it would be unfair to only give people half of the full experience, while including both would take up too much space in the bundle, omitting other games and decreasing variety. However, I believe the action elements of Mario & Luigi as well as it's humour, personality and the expansion on the established Mario universe makes it a lot more accessible and a lot more fun for the majority of people.

While these five games make up my personal preferences for Nintendo published Game Boy Advance titles I would like to see as part of the Ambassador Program scheme, this is just a small drop in the ocean of quality titles published for the system. While Nintendo officially stated they have no current plans for a Game Boy Advance Virtual Console service in the future, I do hope that it is something we eventually see appear. The Virtual Console service not only gives many of us the chance to revisit many of our favourite games from the past, but also to discover new titles and series that we may have otherwise never known about. With an extensive catalogue of classics waiting to be discovered, I hope Nintendo gives a new generation of gamers the opportunity to discover the fun many of us had with the GBA.

Feature by Jack
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