The Game Boy Advance is a sixth generation video game handheld console by Nintendo, the successor to the Game Boy Color. Although no Shantae game were specifically released for it, the first game was compatible with it and a new episode, Shantae Advance, was developed to a large extent for it before being cancelled. It was created by Satoru Okada (岡田 智) and first released in Japan on March 21, 2001. In February 2003, a new version called the Game Boy Advance SP was released, featuring a different appearance, resembling a foldable laptop, and for a later model, a backlit screen. In September 2005, a last iteration, the Game Boy Micro, was released, which was much smaller. The Game Boy Advance successor, the Nintendo DS, was released one year prior and all the versions of the GBA were progressively discontinued between November 2008 and December 2009.


The Project Atlantis

Satoru Okada

Satoru Okada.

After the departure of Gunpei Yokoi (横井 軍平), co-creator of the Game Boy, development of a new handheld hardware was entrusted to the other Game Boy co-creator, Satoru Okada. The preliminary work on it started in 1996[1] or 1995,[2] at which time the development of the new console bore the name "Project Atlantis".[3] According to some sources, the name actually came from the fact that Nintendo hoped to release the console in 1996 concurrently to the Atlanta Olympic games.[2]

Little circulated around the Project Atlantis before 2001, and the competition made it necessary to produce a stopgap machine, which the Game Boy Color actually was.[3] However, its massive success allowed Okada and Nintendo to further refine the Game Boy's successor.[1]

Unveiling and launch of the Game Boy Advance


Super Mario Advance, one of the first great successes of the GBA.

Finally, Nintendo announced and launched almost simultaneously the Game Boy Advance in 2001[4] with much publicity[5]. The console was sold at its start at less than $100 and featured a larger than usual line-up at its start,[1] which included notably Super Mario Advance, a remake of Super Mario Bros. 2 which sold by the millions,[1], F-Zero: Maximum Velocity, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon or Konami Krazy Racers[4]; and was also backward compatible with all previous Game Boy games.[6][1]

The console came under frequent criticism in its beginnings because of its screen, which was extremely dark and had to relay on external light sources to be visible.[4] Despite that, the console managed to sell extremely well within a time period which was even shorter than for the original Game Boy.[1] Further future games, including Golden Sun, Sonic Advance,[4] and the very successful Advance Wars, Metroid Fusion or the new versions of Pokémon helped consolidate the commercial smash of the GBA.[6]

Addressing the lighting problem and the Game Boy Advance SP

GBA afterburner

An Afterburner-equipped GBA featuring Advance Wars.

The screen problem remained the main complaint against the Game Boy Advance. The first widely available solution to remedy it was called the Afterburner, it was a third-party kit that was to be installed by the user himself in order to brighten up the screen. The kit is considered now to have made a difference,[7] but was also criticized for its difficulty of installation[4], its tendency to wash out the colors and create trapezoid shadows in the screen by reflecting the console's internal parts,[7] and the expensive fees taken by technicians to fit the screen for people unwilling to make the operation themselves.[4]

GBASP HeadphoneAdapter

The mandatory GBA SP headphones adapter.

However, Nintendo was aware of the problem and quickly started work on a new GBA model. In early 2003, the new model was finally released, and called the Game Boy Advance SP. The design, although still very small, was considerably different from the original model, featuring a clamshell design protecting the screen when not playing. However, it finally had an integrated backlight that made possible to see the game,[4] and a built-in rechargeable battery[5] which allowed a long play after a single charge.[4] The new model was not without criticism, with complaints against the removal of the headphone jack for space which forced players to buy a pluggable accessory to use headphones.[5] Still, it was a player dream at the time and went on to sell even more units than the original model,[4] also helped by the game library which now included a port of the SNES game Zelda: A Link to the Past.[5]

Release of the Nintendo DS, the Game Boy Micro, and the end of the Game Boy line

Nintendo DS

The Nintendo DS, successor of the Game Boy Advance.

Things took a new turn when, the same year, Sony announced they were working on a handheld machine called the PlayStation Portable to be released in 2004. It showcased a powerful graphic motor which threatened Nintendo's dominance on the handheld market.[5] Therefore, Nintendo quickly announced and released the Nintendo DS, an experimental machine which was supposed to compete temporarily with the PlayStation Portable until the release of the next generation of Game Boy.[5] The console came with no new games at the beginning, instead relying on backward compatibility with GBA games to sell.[4] Although derided by critics, it dumbfounded everyone, including Nintendo, when it became a major commercial success.[5][1]

One year in the lifetime of the Nintendo DS, at the E3 conference in May 2005, Nintendo unveiled the new Game Boy model, the Game Boy Micro,[4] which was the smallest Game Boy console ever and compatible with GBA games, but not with the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color games. Although it was supposed to coexist with the Nintendo DS, it proved to be competing directly with it and the lack of support from developers, who were more seduced by the DS,[5] entailed lackluster sales[4] and therefore the Game Boy brand was definitely retired, even though it was not Nintendo's intention in the beginning.[1]

Shantae and the Game Boy Advance

Shantae 102803 000 640w

The title screen to the aborted Shantae Advance sequel.

No Shantae game was actually released exclusively for the system, however, the first Shantae game was compatible with it and featured exclusive content for players using the GBA. It was due to the fact that the game was released one year in the lifetime of the GBA, as the elected publisher, Capcom, had been really slow to finally put it out. The game also had a special addition brightening the color pallet when played on a GBA, to compensate the darker screen of the system.[8]

Despite the commercial failure of the first game, WayForward had enough faith in the franchise to start work on a sequel for the Game Boy Advance. Many features were completed, and the resulting game, Shantae Advance (or Shantae 2: Risky Revolution) was actually playable but development on the game was ultimately stopped, for the low sales of the first game prevented WayForward from finding a publisher this time around.[9]


Original model

  • Size: Approx. 3.2" height/5.69" width/0.97" depth
  • Weight: Approx. 5 ounces
  • Power: 2 AA batteries
  • Battery Life: 15 hours
  • CPU: 32-Bit ARM with embedded memory
  • Memory: 32 Kbyte + 96 Kbyte VRAM (in CPU), 256 Kbyte WRAM (external of CPU)
  • Screen: (diagonal) reflective TFT color LCD
  • Resolution: 240 x 160 pixels
  • Color: Can display 511 simultaneous colors in character mode and 32,768 simultaneous colors in bitmap mode
  • Software: Fully compatible with Game Boy and Game Boy Color Game Paks[10]

Game Boy Advance SP


The Game Boy Advance SP.

Same as original model, except:

  • Light Source: Front light integrated with LCD
  • Size (closed): Approx. 3.3" height/3.23" width/0.96" depth
  • Screen (diagonal) reflective TFT color LCD
  • Weight: Approx. 5 ounces
  • Power: Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery Life: 10 hours continuous play with light on, 18 hours with light off, 3 hours recharging[10]

Game Boy Micro


The Game Boy Micro.

  • Height: 2"
  • Width: 4"
  • Depth: 0.7"
  • Weight: Approx. 2.8 ounces
  • Faceplates: all faceplates are interchangeable
  • Memory (RAM): 32KB, 256KB external
  • CPU Speed: 32-bit RISC-CPU (16.78MHz)
  • Power: Lithium Ion Rechargeable Battery; charge lasts six to 10 hours; Recharging takes approximately 2 1/2 hours
  • Screen Size: 2" (diagonal)
  • Resolution: 240 x 160 pixels
  • Colors: 512 out of a maximum 32,000 colors
  • Screen Type: TFT with adjustable back light
  • Manufacturer: Sharp[10]


As of today, the combined sales of the Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Advance SP and Game Boy Micro are of 81.51 million units, of which 43.57 are Game Boy Advance SP.[11] In 2007, the last published sales number of the Game Boy Micro were of about 2.42 million units.[12] By region, the GBA has sold 16.96 million units in Japan, 41.64 million units in the Americas and 22.91 million units elsewhere.[11]

The combined sales of Game Boy Advance games sum up to 377.42 million games.[11]


The Game Boy Advance is currently the third best selling handheld console of all time, and the eight best selling console overall.[13]


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