Thanks to Astro Boy, I have sort of fallen down this nostalgic rabbit hole of old GBA games I was obsessed with a decade ago. Hot Take: Nintendo had a great handheld where a good chunk of its best games were buried underneath a mountain of licensed dogshit based off of a cartoon that was already memory holed months before the game left the planning stages, or games that were left in Japan entirely. The latter is what happened to the bit Generations series. A series of simple yet aesthetically pleasing games that ranged from “eh, not that great” to “put this on your list of must-play GBA games” in terms of quality. Orbital is, not surprisingly, one of the latter.
Orbital is a game where you are a tiny white star that’s trying to become a planet. You do this by absorbing other stars of an equivalent size until you become big enough to move on to the next stage. You can only move by using your planet’s own force of gravity to attract itself to or repel itself from another celestial body, all while trying not to collide with another planet or asteroid. You do this for 30 levels, then two additional sets of stages, assuming you unlock them. It’s a pretty simple concept, but a compelling enough one.
You may find yourself wondering if Orbital counts as this chill game. Is this the kind of thing you want to play in order to relax?
Orbital is a pretty hard game! The weird movement and relying on gravity can be pretty tough in later stages full of asteroid belts, or when you have to maneuver between multiple large planets orbiting one another, where your gravity gets really weird and you don’t know where you’re pulling yourself to. You can go from clearing one stage in moments, to crashing into seemingly everything and getting a game over in the next stage. Orbital can be obtuse, it can be frustrating, it can be weird in an uncomfortable way. All that being said, Orbital is still a tremendous amount of fun that still looks great. I consider this my favorite in the bit Generations series. Yes, Dotstream is extremely colorful and visually pleasing to me, and Coloris has a Cornelius music video included with it, but I still prefer Orbital. Also, it probably doesn’t hurt that it’s a game about space, and space is one of my many gimmicks.
Orbital also got a sequel (remake?) on the Nintendo Wii where it was called Art Style: Orbient. This was also a pretty fun one, and it at least was given an international release. I know this because I bought it day one on the Wii Shop and enjoyed the hell out of it. It’s a bit easier to get into than the GBA game, but not an easier game to finish. Still rules. Play it in Dolphin.
It’s always fun to load up the emulator (mGBA seems to be the go-to these days) at night and play this game about literally finding your place in the universe. I did it all those years ago, huddled up and freezing to the bone in my shitty apartment where the heat doesn’t work, listening to shoegaze and moody ambient music. I’m doing it again now, still freezing, still listening to great music, still enjoying the sight of the stars.