March 28th 2003

2 GBAs + 1 e-Reader = More Fun

Well, it had to happen eventually, and now it's a reality: Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire are the first two GBA games to take advantage of the e-Reader via the GBA-to-GBA Link Cable. The words "it's about time" immediately come to mind, mainly because the possibility of this kind of link-up was acknowledged in the e-Reader's instruction manual from the very beginning.

As you may already know, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire come with a special "Battle-e" e-Card (PN 00489 and 00490 in the e-Card Catalog), which are designed to unlock access to battles with secret trainers. More Battle-e cards will eventually be released by Nintendo (perhaps with upcoming issues of Nintendo Power magazine, or some other promotional means), and I think it's a great idea. There's only one problem: I'm not into Pokémon. :-P

This leads me to look beyond Ruby and Sapphire, and wonder what other kinds of applications could be devised around the Link Cable connection between the e-Reader and another GBA. There are several avenues that can (and should) be explored...

Regular loader application

This is the scenario that is used for Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire: The GBA game sends the loader application to the e-Reader via the Link Cable, the player swipes in one or more e-Cards designed for the GBA game, and once the data from the e-Cards(s) has been transfered, the Link Cable connection is severed. The GBA game makes use the e-Card data as it is designed to.

This kind of scenario can support many types of e-Card data. You could: Whatever the data contained on these compatible e-Cards may be, it should always be optional stuff, so that people without access to an e-Reader and a Link Cable will not encounter a dead end which cannot be passed without the proper e-Card.

Independent loader application

This scenario is quite different: The idea is for the GBA game to contain a bonus application which is completely independent from the main game.

More precisely, after connecting itself to the e-Reader via the Link Cable, the GBA game transmits the loader application to the e-Reader, and then disconnects. From there, the e-Reader runs the loader as a stand-alone application, with no actual ties to the GBA game. The loader would even save itself into the e-Reader's Flash ROM for later use.

This scenario offers many interesting possibilities, but for developers and publishers (including Nintendo), it may not be worth the effort, because the compatible e-Cards would be dependent on a loader application which is not built into the e-Reader, and players would be required to buy a GBA game in order to use the cards. It's somewhat unfair, to say the least, since the cards have no actual effect on the GBA game, and many players would not bother getting the cards unless they are free.

Connection with a cartridgeless GBA

This is yet another scenario which offers a lot in terms of play value: The e-Reader is linked to a GBA with no cartridge inserted in its cartridge slot, the player inputs the loader application encoded on a few e-Cards, and this application copies itself into the cartridgeless GBA via the Link Cable. The two applications then boot up and talk to each other over the Link Cable as the game is being played.

The obvious application here would be two-player mini-games. After all, who wouldn't like to go head-to-head with a buddy in a friendly match of Air Hockey-e? :-)

The downside to this is that even the most basic two-player application might requires many e-Cards, because implementing Link Cable communications between two GBAs is rather complex and requires a lot of program code. For example, a two-player version of Air Hockey-e might require two or even three cards! Developing and debugging such applications would also take longer than single-player applications.

In the end, this would be the coolest way to use the Link Cable with the e-Reader, especially if both GBAs are equipped with e-Readers. I'd love to play a game of Battleship or Connect Four with a friend on two GBA screens without having to buy one or two GBA cartridges!

In conclusion

I'm hoping Nintendo will make further use of the e-Reader with the GBA-to-GBA Link Cable. Right now, as you may already know, Capcom is working on a new GBA Zelda sequel for Nintendo, and it seems like the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the e-Reader! Hmm... Zelda e-Cards... Gotta love that idea!