Mario Tennis: Power Tour, Game Boy Advance

This 2005 tennis game is one of my favourite sports games of all time.

Mario Tennis: Power Tour was developed by Camelot for Nintendo and is known as Mario Power Tennis in Europe and Australia, but I’m sticking to the original title.

What makes this game so good are two things: one – the single-player ‘Career’ mode (“Power Tour“) is like playing a tennis-based RPG, and two: the game of tennis here I would say is second only to the mighty Super Tennis in terms of playable tennis games. Arguably even better!

Mario Tennis: Power Tour is a 2D tennis game, played at an overhead, three-quarter perspective. You can play one-off Exhibition games; begin the aforementioned career; link up your Game Boy Advance for multiplayer games; or play any of the minigames that you’ve unlocked in career mode.

In career mode you choose to play as a either a boy or a girl and enrol into a tennis academy. Here you learn how to improve your game in both singles and doubles matches, and also get to meet and converse with a variety of colourful characters who will either help or hinder you. As your career progresses and you start to win matches you will be able to put experience points into abilities, and unlock new skills – much like you see in most RPGs. This superb single-player career game is very much a tennis Role-Playing Game, and has some similarities with Camelot‘s RPG series, Golden Sun.

Mario Tennis: Power Tour is an engrossing and fun game, and also one of the best tennis games ever made. If you like tennis and haven’t played it: you might want to rectify that soon.

More: Mario Tennis: Power Tour on Wikipedia

International Karate Plus, Game Boy Advance

This handheld conversion of Archer Maclean‘s classic IK+ was published in 2002 by Ignition Entertainment and is generally quite excellent.

The only real complaint I have is that the fighters are slightly oversized (in relation to the backgrounds), although you probably wouldn’t notice unless you’d played the C64 version, or Amiga/Atari ST versions. Those of us who have played the earlier versions might be slightly irked by this scaling discrepancy, because it gives the player less room to fight in. Does this affect gameplay adversely in this GBA conversion? No, no really. Yes, there is less room to fight in, but International Karate is more about close-quarters combat, and timing your moves correctly, than jumping all over the shop like in Street Fighter II. So the oversized characters aren’t really a major problem.

This GBA conversion seems to have more responsive controls than previous versions, probably because it runs at a higher frame rate. I’m not entirely sure if that’s true of not. One thing is true: IK+ on the GBA runs at a blistering pace. Later levels require zen-like skill to beat and are often over in seconds.

IK+ is excellent on the Game Boy Advance, although does have limited appeal. It is a game you can pick up, play and enjoy at any time, though.

More: International Karate Plus on Wikipedia

Tales of Phantasia, Game Boy Advance

This 2003 remake of Namco‘s SNES classic Tales of Phantasia was the first time the game had been officially translated into English.

While much of the game remains the same, there are a few differences. Firstly, the screen ratio has been changed from the 4:3 of the SNES original to the ‘widescreen’ 240 x 160 of the GBA screen. Which makes it look more modern, even if the resolution is actually lower (the resolution of the SNES version is 256 x 224). The lower resolution of the GBA is not an issue though as many of the in-game characters have been re-drawn to make them look bigger in the play window. This becomes most apparent during combat, when all the figures appear significantly larger than in the SNES version. This is not a problem, though, because most combat is fought horizontally, and not vertically, so making the main characters larger has not had a detrimental effect on gameplay. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The only real criticisms I’ve read about this game are that the random battles are too frequent (didn’t seem too bad to me), and the combat system is “unrefined” compared to the ‘Tales‘ sequels. Well… No sh*t, Sherlock. That’s bleedin’ obvious. And a bit unfair.

Tales of Phantasia is a lovely game that still has a lot of appeal now and is worth a play if you can find a copy. With this GBA version being an official translation, and with its updated graphics, I’d give it a higher rating than any of the fan-translated versions of the SNES original.

More: Tales of Phantasia on the Game Boy Advance on Wikipedia

Final Fantasy VI Advance, Game Boy Advance

Final Fantasy VI Advance was released in Japan in 2006, and 2007 in English language territories. It’s a remake of the Super Nintendo original, developed by a Japanese company called Tose.

It has to be said: Tose did a great job with the remakes, and this final, fourth release cements that fact. The 4:3 screen ratio of the original has been replaced by the 240×160 widescreen ratio of the Game Boy Advance, which means that the graphics have been re-drawn and re-scaled to fit the new screen ratio. They’re essentially the same, though, with some colour enhancements. The story, plot, and other original elements all remain the same.

The best enhancement in Final Fantasy VI Advance is the menu system, which is fast, compact, and easy to navigate. It actually makes the original looked dated and shows you the power of good fonts and text alignment.

Again: if you want to play the early Final Fantasy games – including this one – I’d recommend the GBAAdvance” remakes over the SNES originals. Together they make a brilliant set.

Final Fantasy Advance remakes on The King of Grabs:
Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of SoulsFinal Fantasy IV AdvanceFinal Fantasy V Advance, Final Fantasy VI Advance

More: Final Fantasy VI on Wikipedia

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Final Fantasy V Advance, Game Boy Advance

Final Fantasy V Advance is the third Tose-developed remake for the Game Boy Advance and was first released in 2006.

Again: it uses the same refined interface and beautifully-drawn and coloured graphics of the previous two Tose remakes and somehow manages to make the Super Nintendo original look a little drab in the process.

Story-wise: all you need to know is that you play a guy called Bartz and your mission is to stop an evil sorcerer from breaking the four seals that hold her.

An extensive “job system” (as initially seen in Final Fantasy III) allows customisation of playable characters, and Final Fantasy V has been rightly praised for its customisation features – it helps keep the game interesting.

Given the choice I would play this over the SNES original, because it’s quicker, and because it looks better. And because the English translation is official, and obviously much better than the unofficial fan translations found littering the internet.

Final Fantasy Advance remakes on The King of Grabs:
Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of SoulsFinal Fantasy IV Advance, Final Fantasy V Advance, Final Fantasy VI Advance

More: Final Fantasy V Advance on Wikipedia