Are you so addicted to Hikaru no Go that even the anime and manga in their entirety can’t satisfy your needs? Have you discovered a new love of Go but want to hone your skills against a computer before you completely embarrass yourself against a human opponent? If, like me, you find yourself answering yes to both those questions, then help is at hand- in the form of the Hikaru no Go GBA game (in actual fact, there is more than one game, but for the purposes of this review I’m only covering the first one).
As far as games go, this one is as simple and straightforward as they come; you play Go against characters from the game and solve tsumego (Go problems) in Story Mode, and then replay them in Free Mode with a handicap and board size of your choice (9×9, 13×13 or 19×19). Given that the game is aimed more at anime fans than Go players, the computer isn’t particularly strong, but whilst experienced players won’t even bat an eyelid at the game’s strongest opponent, it’s an excellent training ground for newcomers to the Go world.
Even if you’re just after a light taster of Go, however, the game isn’t without its drawbacks. The GBA is hardly known for its processing power, and even with the fast-forward function provided by emulators, waiting for the computer to make its next move can often be a frustratingly long experience (so much so that I suggest multitasking and doing something else at the same time as playing). Fortunately, the game does at least let you resume your match if you switch off the power and reload later. The other main complaint is that Story Mode is extremely short; don’t expect to follow the story of the anime as all you’ll be doing is selecting locations around town and playing opponents there.
Whilst it’s far from perfect, the first Hikaru no Go GBA game is as good a way as any to start making the transition from anime fan to Go player. If you watched the anime and felt that you wanted to join in the games, then be sure to take this opportunity to do just that.
Further Resources: As far as I know, the game is only available in Japanese, and whilst I’m not about to say where it can be acquired, I will, however, point prospective players in the direction of this walkthrough from the ever-useful Sensei’s Library.