Well, it's been a couple weeks since I wrapped up my Favorite Games of the sixth generation of consoles: PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube. And now that I'm all moved into my new place, I was able to pull out the next series of handheld games to discuss. Here is part one of my favorite games of the...
Game Boy Advance
Finally, after more than a decade with the Game Boy (and a few years of the Game Boy Color), Nintendo finally produced a completely new handheld in 2001 with the Game Boy Advance. With the GBA, Nintendo finally produced a series of new, more powerful cartridges allowing for a leap in the design of their games. Game Boy Color games had added a new spectrum of color to the latter part of the previous generation but was still basically technology from the late-80s. The GBA had processing power comparable to that of the Super Nintendo (and as such saw a number of SNES ports make their way to the system). It was also a part of Nintendo's first attempts at a dual-screen experience in that the system was designed to be compatible with the Gamecube, unlocking exclusive content in games like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Pokemon Colloseum.
Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald - The first games in the series I didn't play through with my sister, Ruby and Sapphire (and later Emerald) were some of my go-to games to play on the college campus in between classes. Playing through the Hoenn region, this generation's Pokemon trainer wound up caught in the battle between Team Magma and Team Aqua on his or her quest to catch 'em all. With Team Magma wanting to dry up the oceans and Team Aqua hoping to flood the planet, it only makes sense for a ten-year-old child and their pets to fight through the world filled with all of that crazy. But who cares about plot? Now you could have two Pokemon in battle at once with the game's new Double Battles!
Pokemon FireRed/LeafGreen - The first set of Pokemon games to get remastered, FireRed and LeafGreen returned players to the original Kanto region to save the work from Team Rocket. Upgraded to accommodate all of the Pokemon introduced in Gold, Silver, Crystal, Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald, I tried at one point to play through these two in concert, one on my original Game Boy Advance, the other on my Game Boy Advance SP in an effort to go back and filled the PC with every single Pokemon. I don't remember how far down the rabbit hole I actually got but it involved pretty much every Prima Strategy Guide released for the series (of the games and the Pokedexes). If these versions had been re-released on the 3DS eShop recently instead of the original Red, Blue, and Yellow, I might have considered picking them back up. But I don't have the patience to sit through the incredibly slow pacing of the originals any more.
Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town - As I touched on back in the Super Nintendo and PlayStation One lists, I have a deep love of the Harvest Moon franchise. And while the console versions of the franchise went a direction I wasn't overly fond with in the PlayStation 2/Gamecube era, the handheld versions did a great job maintaining what I loved about the series. Borrowing heavily from my favorite iteration, PlayStation One's Back to Nature, Friends of Mineral Town provided an experience that felt like the greatest hits the original Super Nintendo version, the Game Boy Color version, the PlayStation One version, and the Nintendo 64 version.
The only reason it doesn't overtake Back to Nature as my favorite is probably because I just didn't ever put enough time into it. This was predominantly a console experience for me. So if I was ever really in the mood for it, I typically opted to play the PlayStation version on a 30-something inch television instead of the few inches of the Game Boy Advance screen. If I spent more time on my Wii U, I'm almost certain I'd enjoy experiencing it now on the Virtual Console but it's unlikely.
Before Stardew Valley, there was Harvest Moon. And it was something special.