Urbz: Sims in the City – A Tale of Handheld and Console Gaming
When it comes to gaming, the early 2000s were a time of innovation and exploration. This was especially true for Nintendo, with the release of both the Game Boy Advance (GBA) and the GameCube in 2001. These two consoles shared a library of titles, but often offered completely different experiences depending on which console you played them on.
One game that perfectly exemplifies this dichotomy is Urbz: Sims in the City. Originally released for both the GameCube and GBA, Urbz showcased the distinct differences between handheld and console gaming.
The Console Version
For many gamers, the console version of Urbz was the definitive experience. With its rich graphics and expansive selection of hair and clothing options, it offered a visually stunning and immersive gameplay experience. However, it also pushed the boundaries with its social interactions, including controversial actions like “Strip Tease,” “Grab Booty,” and “Suck Face.”
The console version of Urbz was rated ‘T for Teen’ and targeted a more mature audience. It focused on social roleplay, allowing players to engage in various interactions and climb the reputation ladder. It provided a comprehensive experience, from customizable looks with piercings and tattoos to bizarre social interactions.
The Handheld Version
In contrast, the handheld version of Urbz was rated ‘E for Everyone’ and had more of an action-adventure feel. It featured a linear plot centered around taking down the comically evil character Daddy Bigbucks and his harmful capitalistic forces.
The handheld version of Urbz maintained the spirit of the console version but presented it in a different format. It offered distinct minigames, such as squeegeeing windows while dodging bird poop and performing as a comedian on stage. These unique gameplay mechanics made the handheld version stand out and drew players back to experience the game in a new way.
The Game Boy Player
The Game Boy Player, an accessory for the GameCube, allowed players to enjoy GBA games on their TV screens. This bridged the gap between handheld and console gaming, enabling players without a GBA to experience major handheld-only titles.
For example, the main Pokémon series, which was hugely popular on the GBA, could be played on the GameCube using the Game Boy Player. This created a unique gaming experience, akin to reading a book that has been translated into one language and then separately translated back into its original language. It was a strange and uncanny phenomenon that blurred the lines between handheld and console gaming.
The Legacy of Handheld and Console Gaming
As we look back on this era of gaming, it’s clear that the distinctions between handheld and console gaming have become less pronounced. With the advent of modern consoles like the Nintendo Switch, players can seamlessly transition between handheld and TV gameplay.
However, the era of handheld and console gaming in the early 2000s holds a special place in gaming history. It was a time of translations that confused and delighted, doppelgangers that diverged further from the original the more they materialized. The gaming world witnessed the challenges faced by developers in creating games that worked on multiple systems with different processing capabilities and player experience expectations.
Today, developers face new challenges that continue to push the boundaries of the gaming world. But will we ever see the likes of 2001 again? The translations that perplexed and the doppelgangers that delighted? Only time will tell.