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Why Make A New GBA Game In 2021? ‘Goodboy Galaxy’ Dev Talks Sonic, Spelunky, And Yoshi’s Island – Feature

Image: Nintendo Life

Last week a Kickstarter campaign went live for Goodboy Galaxy, the first brand new, commercial release for the Game Boy Advance for 13 years. A colourful 2D platformer with running, gunning and a space-faring good boy called Maxwell, it’s a beautifully animated and incredibly impressive-looking project that will be coming to both Switch and PC alongside the bona fide GBA release.

The campaign reached its funding goal in a matter of hours, and we recently caught up with developer Rik Nicol via email to find out a little more about the game’s development, the team’s influences, and what it’s like to be making a GBA game in 2021…


Nintendo Life: First up, can you give us a little background on your as a dev and how you came to start work on Goodboy Galaxy?

Rik Nikol: Jeremy [Clarke, developer and composer] and I met while working at a mobile game studio in the Netherlands. We both love playing and making games, and often did game jams together – me as an artist and him on the code side. The first prototype version of Goodboy Galaxy was our Ludum Dare jam game “Goodboy Advance”. It was quite basic, but it actually came together in the final hours and ran on GBA which was pretty exciting and motivating.

What attracted you to the GBA specifically instead of, say, the SNES?

We think the GBA is one of the most fun and accessible handhelds to develop for, being a 32-bit console with many hardware features from the 8/16-bit era.

The constraints are just right: You can use modern programming languages, so development isn’t a chore, but you still have to work with limited resources. There’s still plenty of opportunity to experiment with old school techniques such as palette-cycling and scanline scrolling effects.

What games had the most influence on you when you began developing Goodboy?

Funny character based platformers were a big inspiration for me — I really love Crowtel Renovations by SinksAdventure and Pikuniku (by Arnaud De Bock, Remi Forcadell, Alan Zucconi, Calum Bowen).

We decided to have the mini ‘quests’ based on how much we enjoyed that in Link’s Awakening, and Jeremy is a huge Yoshi’s Island fan (he insisted I make a cave level with waterfalls like Yoshi has). Like every game developer, we’re also both massive fans of Spelunky (by Derek Yu) and it’s thoughtful approach to game design. Sonic Advance 2 & 3 were also direct inspirations on how to pull off some tricks with the backgrounds.

What is the most distinct technical limitation of working on GBA, and does it present opportunities for ingenuity and experimentation?

There’s quite a few constraints that you never need to care about on modern platforms. For example we can only have so many 15 colour palettes in use at any one time, so we have to do a lot of careful management around which objects can share palettes and how many different things can be in the same area. There’s also a limit to how many tiles we can have in use, which I’m often fighting with.

There’s been some helpful stuff too: The way the GBA draws tilemaps to the screen automatically wraps them, which was great for us as it inspired the level-wrapping mechanic.

In terms of the Switch and Steam versions, you’ve passed the ‘Enhanced port’ stretch goal. How exactly will the enhanced version be different? (There’s also a GBA exclusive chapter now, we see!)

If we couldn’t raise enough funds, our plan was to directly emulate a modified version of the GBA rom, but now we can afford to make it a native port — so [it] will fill the full screen, have high quality audio and also some special co-op missions, probably some modern accessibility options, too.


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