Nintendo’s GBA emulation for Switch Online is amazing

A GBA over the GBA logo, on a red background.

Image: Nintendo

Last week full of Nintendo Direct surprisesalongside the sweeping announcement that Metroid Prime it was finally remastered for the Switch, came the fantastic news that Nintendo Switch Online’s previously insignificant offerings have now been bolstered by the inclusion of Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket and Game Boy Color games. Meanwhile, for those who pay for the more expensive Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack version, Game Boy Advance games would start appearing. And that’s exciting news, because it includes some of the best handheld games of all time.

The GBA, according to leading scientists, was the best handheld gaming device ever made, and a huge part of why it was the impressive template for so many of its first-party games. And instead of launching it with its typical “Huh, why that?” titles, Nintendo knocked it out of the park with six games you really want to play right now, along with five more classics coming soon.

Okay — and look, let’s all whisper for a moment so no one can hear us — what about the… emulation? How does this compare? Haven’t people who really care about the 22 year old GBA already found one of the seventy billion ways to play these games on crystal handheld screens or even scaled up and enhanced on a PC? Sure, every single one of them is an Evil Pirate™ and the electric chair is very good for them, but it would be silly to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Heck, there are even much more legitimate options for things like Analog pocket, which plays the original GBA cartridges. But, as it happens, Nintendo might even have the edge here, with the Switch emulation proving itself more faithful to the presentation of the original devicecombined with offering multiplayer connectivity that can be much more of a game on…less official machines.

Nintendo has also enhanced each game with options to create de-facto saves in any game with “Suspend Points”, along with the ability to reset your game to undo unfortunate errors. (Challenge Metroid Fusion and Zero shipmentfor maximum cheeky cheesing.) They’ve even included the US and EU versions of the games if you want things properly localized.

Oh, and there’s one more feature there that’s weird. You can switch to “Classic Feel”, which, well, adds those coarse lines to the image to make it look like it’s running on the original GBA hardware. I understand why people want CRT lines when playing old console titles, so maybe there is a strong group that wants this effect as well? But remember, those lines wouldn’t be there if they could help it at the time!

So let’s take a look at each of the six games available at launch and see if that might be enough to tempt you to fork over the extra $30 on top of Switch Online’s standard $20 annual fee. I rather suspect it might.

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