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Game Profile
Game Boy
GENRE: Racing
PLAYERS:   1-4
June 11, 2001
GT Advance 3: Pro Concept Racing

GT Advance 2: Rally Racing

 Written by Alan Rumpf  on July 27, 2001

Review: As you race to the finish, with your fingers gripping the wheel, and sweat pouring down your forehead...don't forget your 16 character password!

There were two major racing titles available upon the Game Boy Advance's release. One of them was Nintendo's F-Zero: Maximum Velocity, and the other was from THQ and MTO, GT Advance Championship Racing. Unlike F-Zero's focus on insane speed and road obstacles, GT Advance is much more focused on realistic racing. The game comes off as surprisingly polished and fun, however lack of a proper save feature makes you dread starting back up again.

This racing game features a number of modes. The ones available right away are Championship, Quick Race, Time Attack, Practice, and VS. The modes are pretty self-explanatory and the game features many customizations. In Championship mode there are 4 different difficulty levels, each with eight tracks for a total of 32. You need to place 3rd or higher in each race in order to unlock the next course, and must complete all of the courses before going to the next difficulty level. By placing first in races you can unlock new cars and also unlock an upgrade for each part of your vehicle, such as engine, tires, suspension, body weight, etc. This tiny cartridge boasts 40 authentic cars from top manufacturers including Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Niassan. If you wish you may change the color of your vehicle as well.

The controls are relatively simple to learn, but tough to master. The A-button accelerates your vehicle and the B-button is the break. The R and L buttons are used for manual shifting; although I for one think it will take you long enough to get driving with automatic down well. The realistic style of gameplay means that you have to learn when to use your break and accelerator to accurately turn corners without sliding off the course. If you have ever played Gran Turismo, you will know the type of gameplay to expect.

The AI is fairly sophisticated, there are the slackers who are always in 7th and 8th place, but there are also the two or three driver's that will present a moderate challenge each race. The front-runner will always stay within a reasonable striking distance, and will never be so far in front that he's almost on your bumper. While in the beginner races it is fairly easy to blow out the competition by a half a lap, as you progress through the more difficult stages it is actually quite challenging. The difficulty is a nice break from the ?press A to win? racing games of late, however because of the lack of battery save feature, the challenging gameplay becomes, oh so annoying.

GT Advance is visually considered decent, with nothing spectacular; but what you would expect from a racer trying to be 3-D. The menus and models of the cars are very nicely done, easy to navigate and extremely polished. In game the cars look a bit pixelized, and a little too flat but overall they're well done. The actual racing track itself resembles a F-Zero feel, with more realistic racetrack settings. Sometimes the game feels a bit floaty, but overall it's a fun racing experience. The audio is nothing to gloat or groan about. Your basic bleepy tunes, and standard engine sounds.

The thing that keeps the US version of this game from being outstanding is the lack of a battery back-up save feature. In the Japanese version of this game, every thing you unlocked or recorded was automatically saved, however in the US version it was decided to forgo the inclusion of a battery, and use a password save feature. Because THQ wants to save a buck, it leaves US gamers with a particularly sour taste in their mouth. The lack of battery saves in all of THQ's games is really what's keeping this publisher from being one of the best on the handheld platform.

Bottom Line
GT Advance Championship Racing is a very fun and well-polished racing title. Developer MTO did a very nice job in simulating the Gran Turismo feel of a racing title on a handheld system. What would keep me from actually buying this title myself, is the lack of save feature. The game also boasts a two-player link feature, so you and your friend can speed around each other. If you are a very big racing fan, or car enthusiast, by all means go ahead and give this title a whirl, you will probably love it. Everyone else will have to see if you can enjoy it with the ridiculous password system.

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