While I have always loved the idea of portable gaming I have to say that console gaming is where it’s at for me. I just love relaxing in the sofa and playing games on a big screen instead of having to squint at a small one for hours on end which I find to be very tiresome. And this ladies and gentlemen is why I love Retro-bit’s Super Advance Retro adapter. It is a Super Gameboy-like adapter and allows for you to play your Gameboy Advance games on your regular TV through the Super Nintendo. Now, the Gameboy Advance was a system I was quite hesitant to collect for at first since I didn’t like the system’s screen that much and the selection of games available were mostly aimed at kids resulting in an overload of bad movie/cartoon tie-in games. But as I noticed, look a bit further and you’ll find an impressive selection of epic games that just deserve to be played on a big screen instead of on the horrid GBA screen. And lots of these games were good ports or sequels to 8 and 16-bit classics. And considering how many of these ports are cheaper and easier to obtain on the GBA than for their original consoles you can see how this is really cool for the non-purist collector.
The Super Retro Advance is basically a SNES cartridge with a GBA cartridge slot on top reminiscent of the Super Gameboy of yore. But this unit is a lot more compact compared to the Super Gameboy and looks more like a typical European/Japanese SNES cart in size and shape except for the fact that they trade the traditional grey colour for a more sexy and sleek black. This is to differentiate the cartridge from the regular ones I suppose. Some more tiny differences you’ll notice is that at the sides of the unit there are two ports, one is for linking other GBA’s to the unit for multiplayer or data trading. The other is for connecting the unit to your TV as it is actually the Super Retro Advance outputting the signals and doing all the processing work instead of the SNES. The SNES just acts as the controller input basically. In case you have one of Retro-bit’s clone consoles though you won’t even need this port at all as you can just plug the unit in and the console accomodates for the output itself.
Installing the unit is simple and straightforward. It was nice of them to include a manual but in all honesty, if you own even an inkling of common sense you won’t even really need it. You just insert the unit as if it were a regular SNES cartridge, hook it up to your TV, insert a GBA cartridge and boot up your SNES. Et voila, you’re playing the Gameboy Advance through your trusty old SNES. Sadly, the A/V lead through which you connect the unit to your TV is a bit on the short side. This should pose no problem if your console is close to the TV but if it’s not you’re in a bit of a pickle. Luckily though, you can use other similar cables like the ones supplied with the Dingoo 320 or Neo Geo X and they will work just fine too. Or you can find similar cables in an electronics store or online. One thing I noticed when inserting a cartridge into the unit is that the cartridges don’t click into the unit like they do when you insert them in a Gameboy Advance. This lead me to think that I hadn’t inserted the cartridge firmly enough but upon booting the unit the game just started as it was supposed to. So don’t force the cartridge waiting for an audible click. Trust me, the cartridge is connected.
At first I was kind of afraid that the image might look horribly stretched out on a big screen but apparently the GBA actually has a pretty good resolution for a pre-PSP portable. It even employs all of the screen real estate which means no Super Gameboy-like borders. Also, it outputs at 60hz which is good news for Euro gamers as for us the image will also fill the entire screen. Graphically, the end result is comparable to a SNES game but more detailed and advanced looking as the GBA was after all a 32-bit system as opposed to the SNES’s measly 16-bits.
The GBA games actually look a whole lot better on your TV than on your GBA screen and it feels like this is the way these games were meant to be enjoyed in the first place. Contary to what I first expected it doesn’t feel weird at all to play these portable games on a big screen. In fact, I felt some of the games were now easier and more comfortable to play as you have better visibility due to the bigger screen. In F-Zero: Maximum Velocity for example I found it easier to dodge other cars whereas on the GBA I kept bumping into them all the time. One thing you’ll notice though is that the text can be huuuuge at times as it was meant to be readable on a pretty tiny screen. But I can’t say it was something that bothered me. It’s just a rather funny sight that might take some time getting used to.
So graphically I’m pretty impressed but the sound and especially music on the other hand can sound quite weak at times. But I don’t think the unit itself is to blame here as it really depends on the game that you’re playing. I’m guessing some of the sound and music for GBA games was mixed with the weak GBA speakers in mind and didn’t accomodate for TV speakers or headphones. I can say that Golden Sun and Metroid Fusion definitely have console-quality sound and music and sound just amazing. Other games such as F-Zero: Maximum Velocity and Sonic Advance sound rather weak in comparison and will make you think you are holding a GBA in your hands instead of listening to music coming out of an actual TV-set.
But all in all I can say that it’s definitely an experience to play GBA games on a big screen. In fact, I dare say I enjoy my GBA games more this way and it has inspired me to add plenty more to my collection. Metroid Fusion for example, which I have always loved, now feels more like playing the Super Metroid 2 we never got. It now really has it’s chance to shine on the big screen and it definitely feels more at home there. I can’t say much for the compatibility of the system but the small selection of games I own all worked fine. Classic Gameboy and Gameboy Colour games though won’t work even though they were compatible with the original GBA so keep that in mind if you’re interested in the unit. It’s strictly GBA!
I know i’m pretty much gushing over this thing and I wish I could be more critical but in all honesty, I just love it! You’ll be surprised by how much more fun the games are by playing them on a TV screen and how well the device handles it. And for a bit more than the average price of a second hand Gameboy Advance I’d say this isn’t a bad deal at all.