Although the Gameboy Advance was released two years ago now, its demoscene
seems to be still in its infancy, with few dedicated groups. Actually lots
of groups have released one demo for it, but seem to have stopped there,
as if it was just to have a try and they were not convinced for some
reasons... This is now changing, with groups like Unique or Matt Current
becoming productive and loyal to Nintendo's handheld. Hopefully the new
GBA SP with its new front light screen should make the platform even more
The vast majority of sceners active on GBA did not come out of the blue,
but are rather experienced guys wanting to have a go on a new popular
platform. What makes the GBA attractive is its "fixed" specifications,
even more than the ST and A500 are, as you won't see demos requiring extra
RAM anytime soon! Therefore no time of the development process is wasted
on compatibility issues. A specificity of the GBA demoscene is also the
variety of the background of the groups involved: Some persons come from
the ST (Leonard, Defjam), some from the Amiga (Potion alias Vivid Design),
some from the Acorn -as the GBA uses an ARM CPU- (Exoticorn from Icebird
and Farbrausch), some from the PC (Unique, Nocturnal). Strangely there are
no ZX Spectrum sceners at the moment, whereas they were very active on the
Gameboy Color... probably because the new Gameboy is not based on a Z80
Once you get the demos (Pouet.net should provide you with most of them),
you have two possibilities to watch them: if you have a PC, the easiest
way is to use an emulator. They are really accurate nowadays, so 90% of
the demos will behave fine, considering most of them are developped with
the help of emulators. The best one at the moment seems to be
VisualBoyAdvance, which exists in various flavours (Windows, Linux, BeOS,
MacOS X). You can also go the genuine way and secure yourself a flash
cartridge (have a look on my other article for more information). Not only
the demos will be 100% accurate, but it's also much more portable than a
PC with an emulator!
Amongst the dozens of productions available, here are some of the most
interesting GBA releases at the moment:
- Phloam by Unique, ranked first at Breakpoint 2003.
The latest major GBA demo released, and the best one today. It's a massive
production, with more than 10 persons involved in the making. The two
parts are packed with high-quality effects (texture mapped scenes,
textured tunnels, environment mapped objects, bump, etc.) and fortunately,
the design wasn't forgotten. Lots of scenes have graphics displayed as
overlays, and even if it's really over-exploited in modern demos, it sure
looks good. The two musics are really good too, and fit the style of the
demo. Finally it also offers some beautiful full-screeen pictures. If you
have to watch one GBA demo, it should be Phloam!
ST Sound GBA by Leonard/Oxygene.
That one is a bit special: it's a kind of giant music-disk based on ST and
Amiga soundchips emulation, containing not less than 240 ST-made
chiptunes, and 33 Amiga Future-Composer tunes, for a total playtime of
nearly 10 hours! So if you enjoy old ST tunes, you should give it a try!
The ST tunes are from Jochen Hippel, LAP and An Cool, ripped from famous
games, such as 7th Gates of Jambala, Enchanted Lands, Turrican or Wings of
Death, but also from some classic demos of the same period. A nice plus is
the shuffle option, which brings a bit of variety.
- Beyonds the Limits by Vivid Design, released at Assembly 2002.
The guys from Vivid Design are no newbies, since most of them come from
the Polish Amiga group Potion, whose 64kb intros are amongst the best on
any machines in my opinion. Vivid Design is actually the studio they
founded to develop games for handheld devices. The demo itself use a good
3d engine to show different 3d scenes, some of them, like the F1 race,
could easily be seen as the first steps of a game. My favourite scene
shows an eagle flying over arid mountains. Admittedly one could complain
that looks more like a portfolio for potential publishers than a real
demo, but it's really well done and worth the watch!
Finally some useful links:
- VisualBoyAdvance homepage: vboy.emuhq.com
- Pouet.net (demos database): www.pouet.net
- PD ROMS (legal ROMs for GBA and more): www.pdroms.de