In a move of sheer brilliance, Nintendo has said to hell with today’s technology and has instead opted to heed the calls of the millions of gamers who have wondered what it would be like to play 10-year-old games on their two-year-old hardware. Thus begat the E-reader a brilliant little contraption that won’t exactly be wowing today’s sensory intensive audiences but will do well to cater to the hordes of 30-something gamers who are looking to relive their youths.
What is the E-reader exactly? Consider it an emulator for your GameBoy Advance but then again, it’s so much more than that. Consider it an emulator that has the ability to extend the life of your favorite games, namely Animal Crossing, and then you’ll have a great idea of what the E-reader is really about.
What do you get when you throw down the $34.99 for the package? Well you’ll get the actual E-reader itself, a package of five cards that contains the entire Donkey Kong Jr. game on it and another package of cards that contains one Animal Crossing card, three Pokemon Cards, Machoke, Machop and Machamp, and the full game of Manhole, an old Game & Watch title. Scanning the short side of the Pokemon cards will reveal some information about the card while scanning the long sides of the Pokemon cards will unlock a special minigame, in this case it’s a very simplistic rock breaking game. The Animal Crossing cards unlock new features in the game, you’ll have to buy more of them separately in packs that cost $2.99.
The unit itself plugs into the expansion port on the top of your GBA and while the unit contains an additional expansion slot on it, some 3rd party light products, such as the Pelican Light Shield, can’t fit in to the port. Unfortunately this means that you’ll be left to play without a light source which is disastrous in but all of the most optimal lighting conditions. It seems like the only device that fits comfortably into the expansion slot of the E-reader is the GBA to GC cable which, not surprisingly, is one of the unit’s main selling points.
For the most part the games available for the unit are faithful to their NES counterparts right down to the last pixel. Everything looks just as I remembered it and thanks to the smaller, more compact screen, the visuals actually look more clean and crisp. Classics such as ExciteBike and Balloon Fight looked exactly as I remembered and while the graphics are pretty simplistic and archaic, they’ll still manage to be appealing to the fans who are looking to wax nostalgic.
Since the GBA has two face buttons the controls are pretty faithful to the original. In case you don’t quite remember the control layout of Donkey Kong you can refer to the first card in the five card set to find out the controls. Each of the games are like this, with the other four cards displaying gameplay tips, think of the surface of the cards as the instructional manual.
Then again, the E-reader might not exactly be what you think it is. How many of you thought that playing a game was as simple as scanning one card? Oh how wrong you are, the NES classics come on five cards each, but the fun doesn’t end there. You’ll have to scan both sides of the card, resulting in 10 scans before you can actually even play the game. The unit itself will store the game into memory after it has been scanned, the downside? It can only hold one game, so if you want to play ExciteBike and then decide that you want to play Donkey Kong, you’ll have to scan the 5 cards all over again just to get back to ExciteBike. Sometimes it’s just not worth the 3 minutes that it takes to get a game up and running, especially when it’s something extra crummy like Mario Bros..
Currently there aren’t too many reasons to purchase the E-reader, and unless you’re a huge fan of Excitebike, you’ll probably want to hold out for a little while. The only games currently available are ExciteBike, Mario Bros. Donkey Kong, Balloon Fight, Baseball, Pinball, Tennis, Urban Champ and Ice Climber. Sure these games are nice but they’re all first party games, the biggest potential for the unit lies within the third party support. Can you imagine a portable version of the classic Contra? How about Final Fantasy? There’s just so much that the E-reader can do but for now, it’s not quite worth the price of admission, especially when you can get two full high-quality games for the price of the unit and a pack of cards.
A neat little peripheral that really doesnâ€™t have too much functionality at the moment but given the time, could really extend the usefulness of your GBA.
Rating: 8.4 Good
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile