Arcade & Classics Revisited on the Gameboy Advance – Arcade Advanced, Donkey Kong Country, Gauntlet/Rampart

One of the things I really enjoyed about the GBA when it was released was the plethora of classic titles, both arcade and console, made available on a handheld system for the first time. Technology now allowed me to play classic NES/SNES as well as arcade titles on a tiny, portable device (a precursor to the smart phone as gaming device 10 years later) and I was all in. Some of these titles were purchased with the intention of recreating arcade experiences I had as a kid, or in the case of Donkey Kong Country, playing one of the SNES most iconic games for the first time (I ignored it when it was released originally). I’ve since added several Donkey Kong Country titles to my SNES library and have played and enjoyed them tremendously. For awhile in 2003, this was the only method I had of playing one of the iconic platformers in history and it was immensely fun on a handheld device.

The Konami Classics collection, titled Arcade Advanced, featured six of Konami’s early 80s classic arcade titles such as Frogger, Gyruss, Rush n’ Attack, Scramble, Time Pilot, & Yie Ar Kung-Fu. I played many of these during the course of their original arcade releases but it had been a very long time since I had touched games such as Gyruss, Time Pilot and Yie Ar Kung-Fu. All of the adaptations are faithful to their arcade counterparts, from what I can recall, but admittedly Gyruss is a little tough to play on a D-pad instead of rotary controller. That is a common complaint for any attempt at taking games like Arkanoid, Tempest and Gyruss away from what made them amazing in the first place. If you have Frogger, Scramble, Rush n’ Attack or Time Pilot ports for any of the 80s consoles they were converted for, you’ll be pleased with the arcade faithfulness of the Konami Classics versions.

I bought the Gauntlet/Rampart double cart primarily for Gauntlet. Back in the 80s, my friends and I would spend whatever time and money we had on Gauntlet whenever it showed up in a Wal-Mart lobby, bowling alley or local gas station arcade. Gauntlet was the perfect 4-player co-op adventure for passive aggressive types that wanted to piss off their friends while still working towards the goal for the greater good. It is a massive button masher of game with seemingly endless number of levels and seas of enemies. Playing as either a Warrior, Valkyrie, Elf or Wizard, you move around levels in top down mode, gathering treasure, keys, food, magic potion and finding exits to advance to the next stage. It was one of those co-op games that usually got intense between players if more than one happened to need food to replenish their health or if you sensed someone was hoarding all the potions or treasure. I recall more than one exasperated name calling session if someone got a little overzealous and shot up the food supply. Another visceral Gauntlet memory is coming upon the practically invincible black cloaked Death. You could kiss your quarter goodbye if they cornered you. Without serious supply of magic potion to scare them away, your party was toast once those Terminator-like black hooded baddies started after you. The strategy was and always will be, run Forrest run! Gauntlet on the GBA does a great job of recreating the arcade feel, sounds and voices but obviously can’t compete as a one player game.

Rampart is a strategy and action game that I reviewed for the Atari Lynx awhile back. The gameplay on the GBA version is very similar and faithful to the arcade version. This never felt much like an arcade title but instead fits better as a computer game that was converted to consoles and handhelds. I like Rampart but it doesn’t blow me away and there is zero nostalgia for me when I play it, unlike Gauntlet.

Currently in my collection:

Arcade Advanced, Konami Classics – game, manual, box A-

Donkey Kong Country – game, box A

Gauntlet/Rampart – game, manual, box B

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