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Feature: GameCube - GBA Connectivity and Wii U

Posted by Morgan Sleeper

Blazing a trail

Nintendo has been known to dip into its past when looking for the future. The 3DS is a good example: while the handheld may be the first glasses-free 3D video game system, it's hardly the company's first foray into the third dimension. The forgotten Famicom 3D System brought pop-out graphics to Nintendo's original home console in Japan back in 1987, and the Virtual Boy famously failed to find an audience for its retro-red 3D in 1995. The idea was always there, but it was perfected with 3DS.

Nintendo's newest home console is no different, and many of the Wii U's most exciting new features have closely related Nintendo antecedents in an unlikely source: the oft-overlooked connectivity between the GameCube and Game Boy Advance. With the GameCube-Game Boy Advance link cable the two systems are able to link up and exchange data, and when used creatively this pairing presents players with gameplay possibilities remarkably reminiscent of the kind seen on Nintendo's upcoming console.

Nearly ten years before Katsuya Eguchi introduced us to Nintendo Land's Luigi's Ghost Mansion at E3 2012 , Shigeru Miyamoto gave us a wonderful example of asynchronous multiplayer with Pac-Man Vs. for the GameCube and Game Boy Advance. One player, using a connected GBA, controls a hungry Pac-Man and tries to gobble up as man Pac-Man pellets as possible before up to three other players, directing their ghosts with GameCube controllers, can catch him. Just like Luigi's Ghost Mansion's asynchronous action on Wii U, the different screens show distinct views: the player with the GBA sees the entire map from a classic top-down perspective, while the GameCube ghosts see only a limited area around their characters.

Similarly, the Boost Mode in New Super Mario Bros. U, in which one player uses the Gamepad to place platforms and stun enemies, and the equivalent feature in Rayman Legends, both call to mind the GameCube-Game Boy Advance link in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The GameCube Zelda adventure lets a second player in on the action by using a connected GBA as the “Tingle Tuner”, allowing them to help Link by restoring his health or magic, granting him temporary invincibility, and even setting off bombs on the main screen: all for a small fee in rupees, of course.

The execution may not be as impressive as the dual-screen mechanics in ZombiU or Game & Wario on Wii U, but a number of GameCube games employ the GBA link cable to expand the action to two screens. A relatively common example of this is using the handheld's screen as a map or radar to complement the main game (analogous to the use of the second screen in Pikmin 3 on Wii U); the “Tingle Tuner” in Wind Waker serves this purpose alongside its multiplayer possibilities, and Ubisoft's Splinter Cell features an enhanced radar on the GBA screen, which additionally acts as a slick remote-control interface for detonating certain weapons.

The dual-screen functionality of the GameCube-Game Boy Advance connection was also put to good use in two top-tier multiplayer adventures. Both The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles require players to use connected GBA systems as controllers in multiplayer modes to take advantage of the multiple screens. In Four Swords Adventures, whenever a Link wanders out of range on the TV view, the action shifts to that player's GBA screen, allowing all four players to explore together or independently as needed. In Crystal Chronicles, the portable screens are used to access player-specific menus without obscuring the gameplay on the main screen. The Wii U Gamepad opens up similar possibilities on the next generation console, though the limitation of two Gamepads per system means that developers will have to get creative to craft these kinds of multi-screen experiences for four players.

Like the system used in Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure's “Portal of Power”, the Wii U's NFC (near-field communication) will allow real-world objects, such as figurines and cards, to have in-game effects. The technology for true NFC as seen in the Wii U was never present in either the GameCube or Game Boy Advance, but the link cable between the two did provide a spiritual predecessor with the Nintendo e-Reader. The e-Reader is an add-on for GBA that can be used to load data and small games by swiping specially printed cards through the reader. When this is linked with the classic GameCube title Animal Crossing, players are able to obtain special items, decorations, and music in their game by swiping Animal Crossing e-Reader cards. The DS and Wii sequels in the series lack an equivalent feature, but the Wii U's NFC capabilities could point to its return in a future instalment of the series.

One of the most unique features granted by the Wii U's design is the ability to play certain games entirely on the Gamepad's screen, without using a television. While the hardware disparity between the two systems ruled out any chance of playing a full GameCube game on your Game Boy Advance, one title in particular showed that Nintendo had been thinking about off-screen play long before New Super Mario Bros. U came along. Nintendo Puzzle Collection, a Japan-only GameCube release featuring 4-player renditions of Dr. Mario, Yoshi's Cookie, and Panel de Pon (Tetris Attack without the Yoshi theme), uses the link cable to transmit scaled-down versions of all three puzzlers to GBA for on-the-go play. The games are stored in the on-board memory of the handheld, where they remain until the system is turned off.

Nintendo wasn't the only company to implement this feature. Sega added portable versions of ChuChu Rocket!, Puyo Pop and NiGHTS (in the form of a single-level score attack) to both Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II and Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, which can be sent to a Game Boy Advance over the link cable once certain requirements are met in the GameCube games — while these GBA games are sadly tied to now-unavailable online quests in Phantasy Star Online, they're still obtainable in Billy Hatcher, making that game a sound investment for GBA-owning NiGHTS fans. Similarly, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle and Sonic Adventure DX contain a link feature called “Tiny Chao Garden”, where players can send their virtual pets (“Chao”) from the GameCube games to the Game Boy Advance for portable nurturing and minigames; afterwards, the newly powered-up pets can be sent back to the original GameCube game with their stat changes intact.

The GameCube-Game Boy Advance link was perhaps, like the Famicom 3D System and Virtual Boy, ahead of its time. Dozens of games supported the feature in one way or another, but the effort and high price-point associated with assembling all of the necessary hardware — a GameCube, four GBA's and four link cables for Four Swords Adventures, for example — relegated it more or less to novelty status. The great promise of Wii U is that it integrates all of these features into a single piece of hardware, with superior technology and the potential of opening up a range of gameplay innovations to a wider audience. Even so, hopefully we haven't seen the last of connectivity between Nintendo's home consoles and handhelds. While the idea seems largely to have skipped the Wii and DS generation (save for a few titles such as Pokémon Battle Revolution and Driver: San Francisco), it will be exciting to see where Nintendo takes connectivity between the Wii U and 3DS. With more ways to interact and fewer cables than ever before, the possibilities seem endless.

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User Comments (36)



Hokori said:

When I saw the article I thought it was about GBA VC connecting to GCN VC oh well great no the less



Tasuki said:

I remember using my GBA SP with the link cable for the Gamecube for FF: Crystal Chronicles. thought it was pretty sweet on how I could have my own screen without having it all over the main screen.



evildevil97 said:

I've spent a lot of time using the e-reader in SMA4:SMB3 (using the Gameboy Player as the second GBA). Probably doesnt count, but that's my main memory. I also spent a lot of time on the tiny island in Animal Crossing to dog for new NES games. The WiiU would be perfect for bringing this connectivity back for GCN VC games.



Emaan said:

I remember connecting my GBA and Gamecube to go to the Island in Animal Crossing back in the day. Its interesting how Nintendo often looks to their past for innovations. Game & Watch - DS, Virtual Boy - 3DS, and now GBA / Gamecube - Wii U.



TrueWiiMaster said:

The GBA-Gamecube Link was awesome. I remember using it to access the island in Animal Crossing and enjoying the Pacman VS. Demo (sadly I never got the game) while my brother enjoyed it in Splinter Cell. And the E-reader? Great times.

Come to think of it, Pac-man VS 2 would be a great downloadable game for the Wii U. I know I'd be interested.



LavaTwilight said:

A strong connection fromn Wii-U to 3DS may be just what I need to finally purchase the 3DS... let's wait and see!



komicturtle said:

Also, Guitar Hero, or one of, had a neat feature connecting DS to Wii where someone could help you.. I forgot how, but it was pretty well received...



MeloMan said:

Nice article. I'd say "ahead of it's time, but limited by the technology of that time". In some ways the Dreamcast VMU could be credited though it was extremely primitive. I just wish there were many more Four Swords and Crystal Chronicles types of games.



The_Fox said:

Instead of attempting to figure out the online market they wasted time and resources on this. That certainly hasn't come back to haunt them.



sinalefa said:

I agree with MeloMan, the Chao Adventure in Sonic Adventure 1, where you could send a Chao to the VMU to play on the go is a precursor of the Pokéwalker. And you could also connect two VMUs without cables.

Having the 3DS connect to some Wii U games could bring the asymmetric gameplay further, by giving a role to the Gamepad user, another one to the 3DS user, and a third one to wiimote users.

Just having the 3DS as a second gamepad could free up some of the machine's power, if using two gamepads at the same time is taxing for the processors.



Imagine23 said:

The first time I got one of those GC-GBA connectors was to import Pokemon for Pokemon Colosseum to unlock HO-OH



Kawaiipikachu said:

Well I don't see the Wii U control pad that great when we already has a perfectly fine 3DS already which is capable of as a touch screen motion sensitive Dual Analog(Circle pad pro) controller plus with the 3DS's 801.11g Wi-Fi being faster the Control Pads Bluetooth meaning the video feeds should be even more limlined to the 3DS.
I even tried duscussing here about it.

How much would it cost to produce the Wii U control pad? probably as much as a 3DS.
Why pay that much more to add a controller that does the same exact thing that our 3DS's is capable of & the fact many of us here allready has one.

Nintendo had it right with the Gamecube they had it right with the Wii now they decide to screw things up with the Wii U.



kyuubikid213 said:

@Kawaiipikachu No. The reason they made the controller for the Wii U is BECAUSE of the "failure" of the connection between the GBA and GCN. You had to own BOTH the GBA and GCN. Same problem with the PSP/PSVita/PS3 connection. You not only have to own the PSP, but also the PS3. With the creation of essentially a new handheld to be used as a console controller, you don't have to own another system entirely for the "bonus features."

Besides, if they just decided to use the 3DS as the Wii U controller, that would limit ownership and sales of the Wii U to the 17+ million people who own a 3DS. A bad marketing decision.



RR529 said:

Wow, I didn't know so many games took advantage of the connection.

I knew about Four Swords & Wind Waker, but I had no idea about the SEGA games (Sonic Adventure 2, Phantasy Star, and Billy Hatcher), Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, or Splinter Cell.



ecco6t9 said:

Sounds like Sega could make an extra $2 here and there by releasing Nights Score Attack as an eShop game.



BulbasaurusRex said:

@Sonicman Exactly. This is an especially important distinction to remember when you consider that the monster in Sonic Adventure 1 is named Chaos.



Kawaiipikachu said:

The reason for the failure is lack of marketing.
If they advertise better & even Wii U bundles that includes a 3DS & a circle pad pro I'm sure it take of, that's what it really need not an expensive controller,.



Marioman64 said:

four sword is fantasic with 3 players btw. everyone tries to get ride of the purple link



GotWii said:

I would have to agree with Kawaiipikachu #17
Wii-U had better come with at least the option to use the DSi/3DS as controllers for the WiiU. Other-wise I am forced to now have another device that has limited ability as a just a controller. Not to mention what is it going to cost to replace a controller pad? at least double if not triple the $50 bucks to replace a Wii-Controllers (that I have had to by 5 replacements for already). I for one have not seen anything amazing about the Wii-U that will make me go purchase it 1st year.
I will wait for Nintendo to fix everything and get their act together. Remember when we could not save WiiWare to the SD cards and it took Nintendo years to get that fixed. Well I remember and because of that I will never by a first year Nintendo product gain.
So all of you go buy a Wii-U first day and then complain like crazy so they get everything fixed in a year or two; then I can go buy mine.



gingerbeardman said:

I never knew about Driver:SF link mode. from

"A new feature for the Wii is the localized multi-player, where a second player may take control of the gun or, if they desire, can connect a DS, DSi or 3DS system through download play. The DS device can be used to make road blocks, look for police and buy player 1 some more time through playing various mini games."



Onett said:

Excellent read. I too wish that there were more games like FF:CC. Perhaps we may see more like it on the Wii U with the 3DS?



zipmon said:

@Sonicman Cheers for that! Fixed now =)

@Onett I definitely hope so! It seems like a no-brainer with no cables required, so I'm crossing my fingers! =)



bezerker99 said:

The GBA-Gamecube connection was just another reason the GCN version of AC is my fav! (Lawlz at Kapp'n!!)




Luffymcduck said:

GBA/NGC-connectivity was one of Nintendo´s best innovations. I had lots of fun with it in Four Sword Adventures, Animal Crossing, Pokemon Colosseum and XD, Pac-Man Vs. etc. I really hope for 3DS/WiiU connectivity to better that. Please, it´s been over 7 and half of Four Swords Adventures Europe release.



eleven59 said:

wow i didn't know about the pac-man one.. that sounds very cool and a great way to do connectivity!



Amauriel said:

My husband and I still play FF: Crystal Chronicles pretty often. I've picked up a couple more GBA SPs just so we can have them here for friends to play as well. (Nobody wants to play on the regular GBA with no lighting.)

That was probably the best use of the connection. I liked the Animal Crossing one a lot too, but I used to download it before my family would go on a trip somewhere, then my battery would die before we got back, and all the hard work was gone. Wasn't so bad after I got the SP, but burning through batteries to leave it on used to infuriate my mother.



Supereor said:

Can anybody tell me what the game is above the 'Second Screen' caption is? Me and my older siblings used to play that all the time as little kids

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