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reviews >> gameboy advance
GT Advance

written by Shaun McCracken

Game Information
Publisher: THQ
Developer: mTO
Year Released: 2001
Players: 1-2
ESRB Rating: Everyone

Visuals 7.75
Not bad, but the rendered cars move around a little odd.
Audio 6.75
The soundtrack sucks and the sound effects are just passable.
Gameplay 8.5
The game itself plays fine, and has some light simulation elements such as part upgrades. I wish you can actually earn money to buy parts instead of unlocking them, though.
Replay Value 5
The lack of a battery kills this game. How many people are going to take a piece of paper and a pen with them just to write the password down of a portable game? Plus, everytime you shut off the system, your time records are gone.
Reviewer's Impression 6.75
GT Advance would have been a welcome addition to the system had it came with battery backup, like the Japanese version did. It's a stab to bring simulation racing to a handheld, which is admirable, but we also want to keep our progress by saving, not by passwords.
Overall 6.75
Sure, GT Advance brings a different kind of racing, but there is just one factor that almost kills the game: a lack of a battery save.

GT Advance is really a game that is fairly self explanitory. It is after all a racing game, most likely to be based upon Sony's popular Gran Turismo series. One of the first games to be released at the GBA's launch, GT Advance may have had some nice trimmings at the time, but now is very overshadowed by even it's own predecessors. THQ snagged the rights to this Japaneese title, and was met with high anticipation. When it was released in the US, everything was the same as it was in the Japan release, except for one thing: no battery save. The Japaneese version had it, but THQ got cheap and replaced it with a password save, which did not fare well with a lot of gamers. And who can blame them? Would you want to punch in a 16 character password to engage in only 10 minutes of play? THQ learned from that mistake, and released the future GT Advance titles with the battery.

GT Advance aspires to be the GBA version of Gran Turismo, and it almost works to a certain point. The game features licensed cars from Nissan, Honda and Subaru, gives players the chance to add parts to increase performance and participate in many race events. But I really would have liked to see the concept of buying the cars, earning the money and purchasing parts. Without that element, the simulation seems less in depth. Plus, the game feels more like Ridge Racer than Gran Turismo (but that's probably a better suit for a GBA game).

The graphics, by todays standards for a GBA game are pretty mediocre. While GT Advance 2 and 3 look fairly similar, some new effects were added that are not here. And as far as Mode 7 racers go, games like SpyHunter have displayed hills and reflections. Then if you compare GT Advance to a game like V-Rally 3, which has a 3-D engine, GT Advance seems a tad pedestrian. But even if it did have better effects, the color pallate is a tad muddy and the textures need a slight bump in resolution. The cars are fine, and perhaps that's the main thing that matters, but the courses could be prettier. At least the framerate holds up.

As for sound, there's not much to write home about. The engine noises are fine, pretty much standard issue for a racing game. As for the music, it falls way behind other GBA releases. Granted, this was a GBA launch title, but so was Catlevania: Circle Of The Moon, and it had a much better soundtrack. The GBA can do more than you think when it comes to sound, but when a game sounds like an NES title, come on.

Replay value is limited due to the lack of a battery save. If THQ would have kept the battery in, I probably would still have this game. For a game like this, I would like to have an ongoing record of my best times, and to have all the cars I've unlocked ready to go. When you get towards the end, you really care less about the game when you have to keep entering in those inane passwords.

With GT Advance 2 and 3 out, as well as countless other racers, the first GT Advance is really not worth your time. The lack of a battery save really kills the game as a whole, even though there are some good things about the game. If I were to review this at the GBA's release, I would probably recommed it. But now we know better, as does THQ. The game's design isn't poor, just THQ's decision.