- "This 2D Game Boy Advance design, at the very least, vastly improves on the originals, and fixes the game so much that it's now a great, recommended action title. It was definitely worth the long wait."
- ―Craig Harris, IGN.
Grand Theft Auto series
1997 – Grand Theft Auto
1998 – Liberty City Stories
1999 – Grand Theft Auto 2 (Possible)
2000 – Advance
2013 – Grand Theft Auto 2 (Possible)
Grand Theft Auto Advance, also known simply as Grand Theft Auto is a video game created and developed by Digital Eclipse, and published by Rockstar Games, released on 26 October 2004 for the Game Boy Advance. The game is played from a top-down perspective, similar to 2D Universe games (GTA and GTA 2). However, GTA Advance also borrows several aspects from the more recent 3D Universe, including vehicle-based side missions (such as vigilante), the heads up display and the inclusion of new weapons. GTA Advance serves as a prequel to Grand Theft Auto III, taking place one year before the game.
The game is set in 2000, one year before the events of GTA III, and it is set in Liberty City, the GTA city that appeared, most prominently, in Grand Theft Auto III. Indeed the earliest announcement of this game was that it would be a port of GTA III, but at some point in development (it is unclear exactly when this occurred) this idea was rejected, probably due to technical limitations and the time needed to reconstruct the previous game's missions in the new two-dimensional environment.
The game that was actually released is a prequel to GTA III, taking place one year prior to the events in GTA III. As it takes place in GTA III's Liberty City, familiar landmarks re-appear and the overall street layout is the same. However the locations of familiar secrets such as rampages and hidden packages and jump ramps have all been changed, so players familiar with the city's corners and alleyways in GTA III will have to explore them afresh in GTA Advance. The city's three islands have been noticeably changed in its conversion and elements impossible to interpret to a top-view perspective, so there are no longer any sloped surfaces, and the tunnels and train system have been removed. The city in GTA Advance is bigger than in GTA III, especially Portland Island (see image on the left).
The game's protagonist is called Mike, with some of the GTA III characters re-appearing in the game, including bomb-shop owner 8-Ball and the Yakuza co-leader Asuka Kasen. However, none of the Mafia characters from GTA III appear, and entirely new characters such as Vinnie (Mike's friend and first employer), Cisco (the leader of the Colombian Cartel), Jonnie (a bar tender) and Yuka (Asuka's niece) have been added. Several characters which were only referenced in GTA III are now met face-to-face, such as King Courtney, the Uptown Yardies boss. It is also the only game in the 3D Universe that allows the player to change the plot by making choices, though they will all lead to the same ending.
Mike is a small-time criminal, working for the more connected Vinnie. They decide to leave Liberty City together and try their luck elsewhere, but Vinnie convinces Mike to do some tasks for their sometimes-employers, the Mafia, prior to leaving. During one of these missions, Vinnie is apparently killed in a car bomb, taking his and Mike's money with him. For this, Mike swears revenge. Mike then works for 8-Ball, an associate of Vinnie's, who offers to help with Mike's quest. Mike does various jobs for him before 8-Ball suggests that he works for a bartender named Jonnie, who is also connected to the criminal underworld. Mike does some work for Jonnie including looking after his drunk girlfriend while Jonnie helps looking into Vinnie's death. Mike is slightly annoyed by Jonnie's paranoia but it later proves true when Mike finds Jonnie has been killed while Mike was on a loan shark job. Mike notices the assailants leaving the bar are members of the Uptown Yardies. Mike pursues the Yardies to Staunton Island.
Eventually Mike confronts Yardie leader, King Courtney. Courtney denies that he was responsible saying he is also looking for the killer because Jonnie owed the Yardies money. While Mike does some jobs for the Yardies, it becomes apparent that they are using him, this is confirmed when Courtney sends Mike to go after Cisco, leader of the Colombian Cartel and rival of the Yardies. Mike, believing that Cisco is the culprit, faces off against the gang leader at a restaurant. Cisco finally warns Mike of Courtney's treachery. Mike then works for Cisco and the Cartel, and also finds himself helping the Yakuza, when Asuka Kasen sends Mike to rescue her niece Yuka (who, ironically, was kidnapped by Mike while working for Cisco). Mike finds himself working for the two leaders of gangs feuding with each other, but does the work regardless as both Cisco and Asuka agree to look into Vinnie's death. Mike then unexpectedly finds Cisco dead, Mike speculates that the culprit is Vinnie's and Jonnie's killer. Mike begins to pursue the assailants car, not before being temporarily beset by men hired to protect the killer. Mike eventually crashes the escaping car and the criminal behind this is revealed to be Vinnie, who faked his death and was conspiring against Mike the whole time. Vinnie and his bodyguards engage in a shootout with Mike before Vinnie is wounded. Vinnie begs for his life, but Mike refuses to listen. Before Mike kills him, Vinnie warns Mike that in the event of his death, any criminal greedy enough will definitely go after him, but Mike doesn't take heed to this.
Later Mike meets 8-Ball (who failed to warn Mike about Vinnie). The two are suddenly attacked by the Colombians who blame Mike for Cisco's death. After a lengthy fight, police suddenly attack, and 8-Ball is arrested (setting the stage for his escape in the Grand Theft Auto III intro), but Mike manages to escape. Mike tries to get even with Cisco's successor who tells him that King Courtney has called a hit out on Mike for his money (as the late Vinnie warned). Mike later goes across the city massacring the Yardies' hitmen. Mike meets Asuka who offers to help him kill King Courtney. Mike and several Yakuza members meet at the Yardies hideout. The Yakuza flee forcing Mike to face King Courtney and his men alone. A climactic fight ensues resulting in Mike nearly killing Courtney who surrenders and begs for his life. Suddenly, the LCPD raid the area, but Mike manages to elude them after a climatic chase. Mike then boards Cisco's plane and flees Liberty City with joy, his journey across the city complete.
- Mike: the main protagonist of Advance. A former homeless taken under the wing of his mentor and partner Vinnie, Mike intends to leave Liberty City with him. After the supposed demise of Vinnie, the majority of Mike's journey sees him searching vengeance while also working to leave the city for good.
- Vinnie and King Courtney: the two main antagonists of Advance. Vinnie is Mike's partner in crime and first employer, whose supposed death sets the game's events in motion. Courtney is the leader of the Yardies, who employs Mike out of desire to locate money owed to him. While initially friendly or at least reasonable, they are slowly revealed to be Mike's greatest threats, motivated by greed, selfishness and power.
- 8-Ball and Jonnie: two old associates of Vinnie who become friends and new employers for Mike. Both 8-Ball and Jonnie attempt to help Mike to find the culprits behind Vinnie's death, as the latter also owed money to Jonnie.
- Cisco and Asuka Kasen: leaders of rival gangs in Liberty City, and Mike's final two employers. They both end up seeking Mike's services to help them out against opposing gangs and individuals, including against each other. In return, they help him looking more into Vinnie's murder, in spite of Mike's disdain towards their personal quirks.
- Yuka Kasen, Misty and the Colombian Cartel lieutenant: other supporting characters Mike encounters in his journey.
Each time a player gets in a car, it will play a looped, instrumental version of a single song. Songs serve as the "radios" in this game, and (with the exception of Slumpussy's "This Life", from GTA) they are from GTA 2. The following songs are featured:
- Slumpussy - "This Life" (GTA Advance's title theme)
- E=MC Good Times - "Jacking In Hilltown" (GTA Advance's pause theme)
- Reed - "L.E.D."
- Apostles of Funk - "Yellow Butter"
- Toys Are Real - "Flymutha"
- The One - "Southpark"
- Numb - "How It's Done"
- Voice Box - "Computer Lust"
The game had to be adapted to the Game Boy Advance's hardware limitations. As a result it does not have voice acting or animated cutscenes, nor does it have much-lauded pedestrian dialog of GTA III. All cutscenes are text-only with line-art pictures of the characters' faces, sometimes with a thematic backdrop behind. The art style is consistent with that used for the cover and loading art of the three-dimensional releases in the series. Replacing the pedestrian dialog, some soundbites taken from GTA III are played when the player hits someone's car, but there is a limited variety, leading to much repetition.
The game does not feature radio channels. Like the Game Boy Color ports of GTA and GTA 2, each car has one fixed tune that is constantly repeated and cannot be changed. These include parts of some familiar GTA2 and GTA III tunes, in instrumental versions.
These limitations, coupled with the game being released on the same day as its highly anticipated cousin Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, caused the game to be widely criticized by fans.
- GTA Advance is the only 3D Universe game which has a native top-down view instead of a third-person view, the only game which does not feature Dan Houser's producing, writing or voice acting, and game which does not have a PlayStation 2 port. It is also the first game not developed by Rockstar North.
- GTA Advance is the first GTA game where the player can save their game anywhere on the map. Though the only way to save the game without quitting is by going to the safehouses, the player can "quicksave" by selecting "Save and Quit" on the pause menu, so that they will return right where they left off when they continue playing. However, doing this will abort any mission the player was on.
- GTA Advance is the second GTA game which has been launched exclusively on one platform (the first one being GTA London 1961, for PC), the first to be created primarily for a portable device, one of four titles in the GTA series so far to be on a Nintendo platform (the other being Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars and the Game Boy Color ports of Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto 2), and the only game so far to be exclusive to a Nintendo system.
- GTA Advance was the first Grand Theft Auto game to incorporate a speedometer for cars.
- The theme song of GTA Advance played in the main menu is actually "This Life" by Slumpussy, which was featured on N-CT FM in GTA.
- This is the only GTA game not to be listed on the official website.
- Some songs from this game also play on GTA 2.
- GTA Advance is the game with the least cut content in the franchise.
- The arcade game Street Crimes: Gang Wars Edition from Grand Theft Auto Online reuses Mike's sprites and animations from Grand Theft Auto Advance.
- Characters in GTA Advance
- Vehicles in GTA Advance
- Missions in GTA Advance
- Weapons in GTA Advance
- Liberty City in GTA Advance
- Hidden Packages in GTA Advance