One of the best, but sadly least-used features of the Nintendo GameCube was its ability to talk to a Game Boy Advance. A few games used it, some exclusively, but now a lot more people can hopefully enjoy the idea with the release of a new version of popular GameCube emulator Dolphin.
If you’ve never seen the technology in action, the GameCube allowed users to connect up to four Game Boy Advance handhelds to a console and either unlock added features or even play entire games using the handheld. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and some Pokémon games are examples of the former, with a GBA giving you access to bonus stuff players without a GBA couldn’t enjoy, while Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles and The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords were the latter, being games built entirely around the idea of up to four friends huddling together around the one GameCube, playing the game on their GBAs.
To do this you’d need to literally connect your GBA to the GameCube via cables (or, in even rarer circumstances, via a wireless adapter), and being such an unwieldy solution in the real world, attempts to emulate it have been fraught with difficulty. The ability to do so has actually existed for over a decade, but it’s only recently that emulators have been able to do it properly, and even then you’d need to be running things separately, which was a bit much for the average “I just wanna play this old game for fun” kind of user.
The fact Dolphin now has integrated support for the GBA, via the addition of the mGBA emulator, changes all that. You can now play these GameCube games, along with their Game Boy Advance controls and display, all from the same program. The video below shows the new support in action:
This is very cool, but as the video explains, it even improves on the original connection methods by adding support for online play. The biggest hindrance to anyone ever actually playing games like Four Swords wasn’t just finding three friends who owned Game Boy Advances, but getting them all to want to play the game then all be in the same place at the same time to play it (despite this being, you know, a huge part of why Nintendo designed the games like this in the first place). Now friends can just play together online, meaning hopefully a lot more people get to enjoy these unique, ahead-of-their-time experiences than were able to at the time.
You can get the new version of Dolphin, and read a fascinating history of how GBA x GameCube emulation got to this point, here.