Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gaming Past: The Gameboy Era


The Gameboy Era

I could have sworn that I had received the Game Boy right around the same time I got the Famicom, but in hindsight, I'm not even sure anymore. Like most people, the first thing they remembered about the GameBoy was Tetris. Even though I swore by Tengen's version (which I didn't know was any different at the time), I still played the GameBoy version more than anything else at the time. There was something very very satisfying about clearing lines, optimizing and planning out for blocks ahead. However, I was quickly distracted by the glut of other games due to the easy access of pirated carts available back then.

Unlike the Famicom pirated carts, GameBoy carts consisted of these stupid rubber nubs at the top of the cartridge, which toggled to the next game in the list. Given the amount of games that were on these (one of them billed as 58 in 1), the horrendous packaging (I had a picture of a cover, instead of even the title), and almost an infinite amount of time to figure stuff out, I pretty much tried all of the games on these carts 1 by 1. Emphasis on TRY, as the Japanese language and other obscure games would have put me off completely before the menus started.

One of the games I remembered the most was Motocross Maniacs, a 2D side scrolling "motorcross" game. At the time, I had strongly contrasted it against Excitebike as this weird racing hybrid game. On one hand, there was a "racing component" to the game, where you had to get a certain time to advance; but you never ever see any other racers on screen at the same time. What was fascinating to me were the loop-de-loop jumps, requiring the right amount of nitro boosts, item pickups, skill, and luck. Eventually, random ledges and rocks started appearing in the stages (which I later found out, needed me to pop a wheelie), which frustrated me to rage quit. However, since the carts never saved, I've always gone back to play the first 7+ stages, before quitting all over again.

Tiny Toon Adventures: Babs' Big Break was in hindsight, the most fully realized game on the GameBoy I've played at the time. Every stage was playable by at all three characters, and they would all play slightly different. It had some basic gameplay elements that reminded me of Mario (item boxes, etc), but it also had interesting quirks that was interesting to play with (everyone had a weird weapon throw angle). Stupid pirated carts don't have any save data (and I'm not even sure if you can actually save in the actual game), so I've never really finished it.

Like Gradius and LifeForce, Volley Fire was another SHMUP like game that kick started my lifelong obsession with things shooting other things while dodging between things. Volley Fire, however, was done more like a fighting game in attempts to outsmart the AI. Shooting between the floating asteroids moving in a given direction never made any sense, nor did the reflective mirrors in the middle, but it was great fun nevertheless.

Solomon's Key, along with Flipull and Dr. Mario, were a few of many interesting GameBoy puzzle games that I had first discovered on the Game Boy before finding them on the Famicom. Solomon's Key was fantastic in the world and the rules it creates, but I absolutely hated some of the timing puzzles when it came to creating/destroying blocks (and since it's pre-youtube days, I'm still left wondering how some of them are done). Flipull is reminiscent of Yoshi's Cookie of today, and it had a maddeningly addictive "step" mode, where you are limited in the number of moves and blocks that can be used. Dr. Mario needs no introduction, and I've blown way too many hours on setting the difficulty at max, filling the play area, and seeing how long it takes to clear it back down to nothing.

And just like the Famicom list, I've now gone on far too long, and still nowhere close to covering everything that's worth, here goes a (shorter list) of stuff: Adventure Island (I eventually discovered it to be much much better on the Famicom, but yes, I associate it with the GameBoy first), Hudson Hawk (I've never seen the movie, but the game was interesting and weird with the baseball throwing, the wire grabbing and platform dodging), Klax (in hindsight, I have no idea why this was even fun, but the match 3+ risk reward system was interesting, and that stupid sound effect is still goofy today), Pitman (looking back, OH GOD, IT'S FURRIES, but again, another weird platformer/puzzle game that was fascinating), Tennis (Mario is a terrible ref, but I have a killer ace serve), Yoshi (hmm, another puzzle game, do I really need to explain anymore?)

...I think this is a natural point to stop this post and moved on. The GameBoy for most people sorta fell into the background in a few years as the industry transitioned. For me, I moved from Hong Kong to Canada, and it's a pretty good point to start my next post.

Up Next Time: My real foray of console gaming.

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