Review: Gamecube GB Player

May 8, 2003 4:08 AM PST

Game Boy Player (GC/Nintendo)
by brandon sheffield

The GB Player is like the SNES resurrected. Sure the resolution is a little strange, and the games come from a different era, but damn if it isnít great to be playing games on a 2D-heavy home console again.

Itís really quite different from playing the games on your GBA Ė the screen size is larger, to be sure, but the main advantage for me is the controller. Four buttons on the face?? Iíll take it. Even with the standard pad, games become instantly more playable. But for my tastes, the Hori digital pad completes the experience. If youíre one of those fellows who enjoys the SNES pad above all, even over the mighty Japanese Saturn pad Ė youíre in for a pleasant surprise. Holding the Hori pad is like coming home again. But when you get there, you find that your wife has lost about 20 pounds. Well technically, the pad is slightly meatier, with two bumps on the back to caress your fingers and assist with grip. So maybe she lost 20 pounds and went on bloussant, without the cancerous side effects. Whatever poorly conceived metaphor you assign to it, the pad is designed for the playing. The D-pad is robust, the buttons responsive, feeling much better in your hand than the stock Gamecube controller. Unfortunately the GC's control configuration is retained, rather than the more logical cross-shape of the SNES. But if youíve already acclimated yourself to the Gamecube, youíll barely notice.

And a cosmetic issue is resolved here Ė the GB Player finally makes my Gamecube a cube, not some 3D box-thing. The times of calling it the Gamerectangle are gone.

The functionality of the device is slightly above what I expected in several regards, horribly below in others. Beginning on a positive note, with a modified system, thereís no disc loading at all. The GBA screen is launched instantly, which was a nice surprise. I was expecting annoying menus on startup, but thankfully thereís nothing of the sort. Once youíve started something up, thereís a menu that can be accessed with a press of the Z button. This has thankfully been placed on the front of the Hori pad for easy access.

Activating the menu does not pause your game, which is unexpected, and slightly annoying. Remembering to pause beforehand is not overly difficult, but it seems a superfluous step. In the menu, you can choose from two screen sizes. One normal resolution, the other is 2x mode, almost enough to fill the screen. Games look just fine in both modes, though Iíd have liked an option to smooth the graphics a bit.

Other modes include a totally unnecessary alarm clock, smooth or rough screen modes (I found no real difference Ė maybe itís my TV), reset/cartridge change option and twenty or so borders. Most are obnoxious of course, so I basically stick to the black one. Of course this being a Nintendo product, thereís no option for not having a screen at all. Naturally itís terribly important to have the words ďGame Boy AdvanceĒ on the screen at all times, just in case you forgot what you were playingÖor something. I am irked.

The cartridge reset is very useful, and thereís a handy little ejection lever on the side of the unit for the purpose of launching your games halfway across the room. This requires a gentle touch, friends. Be careful with it.

Another fine option is that you can choose whether youíll have R and L assigned to the controllerís R and L buttons, or the Y and X buttons on the face. I like it. However, thereís something Iíd have liked more: the ability to map buttons how I fucking choose to. And again, Iím not shocked by the limitation. Nintendoís products are notorious teases. They always have to remind you that theyíre Nintendo products. Youíve got a GBA? Donít expect to be able to see the screen. Buying a GBA SP? Donít expect to use headphones. These built-in flaws are designed to make you purchase each gradual evolution of the product in order to maximize sales. Sony makes faulty products, Nintendo builds in limitations. Itís a tough life.

While Iím complaining, hereís the big one. You canít play two-player by using two Gamecube controllers.

Me: ďFinally, I can play KOF EX2 against my friends! I only have to buy one cart! I donít need a link cable!Ē

Nintendo: ďFuck you! You have to buy all that shit AND either you or your friend has to use the debilitating GBA as a Ďcontroller.íĒ

Me: ďMy ass!! My wallet!! They burn!Ē

Yeah, itís like that. They could have made this possible. The GB Player weighs easily twice that of a normal GBA. And thereís the disc. You donít need twice the weight and a whole mini DVD just for an added menu. No, they could have added graphics-smoothing capability. They could have enabled multi-play with controllers. But they want you to keep your GBA. They want you to buy a link cable and two copies of every game. Oh theyíre a crafty bunch. When one consoleís sales are showing signs of fatigue, itís time to milk the other for all itís worth. Hey, why not combine the two!

I feel as though Iím getting a bit off track. Letís get back to some more specific complaining. When playing normal GB games, youíve only normal and Ďstretchedí options. And no Super Game Boy compatibility or borders either.

Addition! It has come to my attention that a great many persons feel there is a flaw in my logic - that is to say, two-player one-console mode is generally implemented software side, not in the hardware. This is true, as true as it was with the Super Gameboy product. I'm simply tired of the hardware makers limiting what we can do, not taking the extra step to make the process simple and enjoyable. Take what you will from my bullheaded complaint - I stand by my indignation.

In spite of the many problems Nintendo forces upon you, the GB Player is really a nice thing to have around. I did in fact sell my black hole-screened GBA. I got some Sonic Advance 2 for my troubles. Iíve resigned myself to the fact that I will never play a GBA game against another human being, but Iím not completely shattered by this. Iíve moved on from there, and back to the wonder of having a home console dedicated to 2D games. And I canít help but think that the existence of the GB Player will force game designers to consider its influence. Software companies will have to realize that their game is likely to be played in at twice the normal resolution by letís sayÖ20~30% of the gameís intended audience. So you may well have to support additional resolutions, or at the very least, make the game sharp as hell to begin with. I canít see this as a bad thing. Weíve already seen Square address the problem, if only with color modes. If companies start making games designed specifically for play on the GB Player, I can tell you that I will not be sad. My GBA is gone, and Iím not getting another. Once freed from the A,B,L,R control scheme, Iíll never go back. Iíve got a nice, sizable D-pad now. I have four buttons on the face. This is what I wanted all along.

Who would have thought that Iíd be playing 2D fighting games and RPGs on a Nintendo home console again. Definitely not I.

Buy one now, or wait a month and a half and pay the same price. Sell your GBA, or keep it as a second controller. This GB Player thing is very import friendly, even with the launch disc. The menus are easy to navigate, and basically self explanatory. The combination of GB Player and Hori pad cannot be beaten, for my money. Those who say 2D is dead in the home market have another thing coming - Finally. It does what Nintendo wants it to do; there are no flaws in construction, only in design. AndÖitís not like thereís a viable alternative.

Thanks Nintendo, this is the nicest product youíve ever screwed me with.

brandon sheffield wants a SwanCrystal Player for the Playdia.



Release Date: Japan
March 21

Release Date: US
June 23, 2003

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