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A hand-held video game system.
The Game Boy Advance (often shortened to GBA) is a handheld video game console developed, manufactured and marketed by Nintendo. It is one of the latest in the Game Boy series of consoles, and the successor to the popular Game Boy Color. It was released in Japan on March 21, 2001; in North America on June 11, 2001; in Europe on June 22, 2001; and in China on June 8, 2004 (excluding Hong Kong). Its codename during development was Project Atlantis.
The Game Boy Advance is backward compatible with most games previously released for the Game Boy or the Game Boy Color, as well as new software developed to take advantage of the new technical capabilities of the system. It is powered by two AA batteries, which give about 15–30 hours of play time, as well as an optional power supply that plugs directly into the GBA's battery bracket.
The GBA has a custom 32-bit 16.8-MHz ARM processor (ARM7TDMI) based on a RISC architecture, which is much more suited to the C programming language than the 8-bit Z80-like processor used in older Game Boy models. The ARM processor can run both 32-bit ARM and 16-bit "Thumb" instruction set encodings. The system also contains an 8.4-MHz Z80-like processor to provide support for legacy GB software; however, both processors cannot be active at the same time.
The 2.9" LCD is capable of a maximum of 240×160 pixels in 15-bit color (32,768 colors). This display includes more pixels than Game Boy's 160×144; when playing legacy games, the user can press the "L" or "R" button to switch the display between 160×144 with a black border and scaling to 240×144 pixels. Early games had very dark color palettes because the display in the development kits was much brighter than the one in the production units; the production display has a gamma value of 4. Newer titles use gamma correction in their palettes.
If the color LCD has a fault, it is that the Game Boy Advance is lit by ambient light. Users quickly learned to tilt the device to take advantage of window or overhead illumination. An aftermarket internal lighting kit known as the Afterburner was briefly popular before the introduction of the Game Boy Advance SP, and influenced the development of the new model.
The GBA has hardware support for simple 2D operations using graphical elements called sprites. It can scale, rotate, sum-blend, and alpha-blend sprites against a background (with one alpha value for the whole screen, not the alpha-blending of image edges seen in the PNG format), and it can change the scaling and rotation of sprites and the background on each scanline to give a pseudo-3D effect.
The GBA's picture generator has six display modes (three tiled and three bitmap) and 96�KiB of dedicated RAM. In tiled display modes, the system can manage four pixel-to-pixel layers, two pixel-to-pixel layers and one affine layer, or two affine layers, and it uses 64�KiB of RAM for tile and map data and 32�KiB for sprite cel data. In bitmap modes, it can display one large 16-bit bitmap, two 8-bit bitmaps (with page flipping), or one small 16-bit bitmap (with page flipping), and it uses 80�KiB of RAM for bitmap data and 16�KiB for sprite cel data. In all modes, it can show up to 128 sprites (individually controllable small moving objects) of 8×8 up to 64×64 pixels in either 4-bit or 8-bit indexed color. Each sprite can be drawn using either direct pixel mapping or affine mapping; it's possible to fit more direct sprites on a scanline.
Later games pushed the GBA to its limits with simple 3D graphics. These games include Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem Advance, and Doom and Doom 2. Utilizing 2D sprites for objects and 3D graphics for architecture, these games usually achieve a passable framerate, although sometimes in large environments or with many objects onscreen the framerate will drop to a very noticeable level. Some feel that such 3D games are a logical and welcome step for the GBA, while others feel that they are overly ambitious and beyond the capabilities of the system. With the release of the DS, future 3D games for the GBA will most likely be limited.
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