Mini-Reviews of the Wii U's First GBA Virtual Console Games

Little Games Hit the Big Screen with Varied Results

In April 2014, the Game Boy Advance came to the Wii U virtual console with some of the best games every released for that handheld. Here’s a quick look at those first offerings.

Advance Wars

Advance Wars
Nintendo

*****

My favorite turn-based-strategy series holds up quite well on the big screen. The graphics aren’t particularly impressive, but they’re functional, and the gameplay is as mesmerizing as ever. My main problem with the original was that when I played it on the subway I would become so immersed that I would miss my stop, so it’s nice to not have to worry about getting lost in the gameplay. 

Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Mario and Luigi Superstar
Nintendo

*****

For me, the Mario & Luigi action/RPGs are among the best things Nintendo has ever put out, and I’ve been wishing for some time that they would develop a home console version. That may never happen, but I found when playing Superstar Saga that it’s just as amazing as I remember. Superstar reinforces my belief that graphics don’t matter, because even though it doesn’t look like much, I could still play it all day long.

Metroid Fusion

Metroid Fusion
Nintendo

****½

The original Metroid Fusion was a fascinating, challenging, engaging game. It was also a game with a bad save system, in that you might play for half an hour without reaching a save point, die, and have to replay that half hour, again and again.

This makes the Wii U version a gift, because you can save any virtual game anytime you like. So now I get Metroid Fusion without the aggravation of replaying huge swathes of the game every time I died As far as I’m concerned, ​Fusion on the Wii U is better than Fusion on the GBA. And graphically it actually looks superior to most of the modern games that attempt to recreate its retro style.

Golden Sun

Golden Sun
Nintendo

****

Golden Sun received rave reviews when it came out hailing its engaging gameplay and stunning graphics. As someone who has never been a fan of these old-school three-quarters view turn-based RPGs with little kid figures wandering around, I didn’t immediately embrass the game, but even though it’s way too talky and the graphics did nothing for me, as I played more I began to see the immersive depth that makes this one so popular. If you’re a fan of this JRPG subgenre, this is a must-play.

Kirby & the Amazing Mirror

Kirby and the Amazing Mirror
Nintendo

***½

In NES Remix 2, I was surprised by how challenging and complex the Kirby levels were. My experience with Kirby has always been more like Amazing Mirror, where it is fun and imaginative but offers little no challenge. Graphically it holds up nicely, and in spite of its ease, it’s funny to wander through its endless mirrors.

WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$

WarioWare
Nintendo

***½

This was the first game of the brilliant WarioWare series, and it has held up quite well. The concept behind the games – simple challenges done in a couple of seconds – doesn’t change much from one iteration to the next (excepting the clever variation in the WarioWare section of Game & Wario), but it’s such a great formula that it doesn’t matter. This is the same simple gameplay, wacky animations, and inane, tedious cutscenes that typify the WarioWare series.

Of every GBA game I played on the Wii U, this is the one that suffers the least from its big screen expansion, because the graphics are so clean and simple. If you like WarioWare games, you need this one. 

Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3

Yoshi's Island
Nintendo

***½

Yoshi’s Island is a tremendously fun platformer; I loved it when it came out. It is a clever and charming game well worth playing. But it doesn’t work as well on the big screen, where the pixelated graphics give the game a washed-out look. It’s still a very fun game, but one where you’re very conscious that it was designed for a smaller screen. 

Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Bros
Nintendo

I’m just not a fan of the side-scrolling Mario Bros. platformers, so I won’t give on opinion on the gameplay. If you’re a fan of these games, it is considered a series classic. Graphically, the game has a stripped down, rather primitive look to it, but also contains that Nintendo whimsy. 

F-Zero: Maximum Velocity

F-Zero
Nintendo

I am perplexed by why this game is considered an equal to the many brilliant initial GBA releases for the Wii U virtual channel. The graphics are underwhelming and the gameplay doesn’t seem especially entertaining. But apparently it’s some sort of classic, so to each their own.

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