Archive for the ‘GameBoy’ Category

Super Mario Land

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

If you take everything you know about the Super Mario Bros. series and throw it out the window and then try to make a Super Mario game, you’re either going to end up with something like Super Mario Bros. 2 or Super Mario Land.

Super Mario Land has Mario running to the right in his quest to rescue princess Daisy of Sarasaraland from the evil alien Tatanga. Along the way he’ll have to contend with giant bugs, exploding turtles, giant boulders, those weird stone statues from Easter Island, and lots more stuff. Man, I wish I could make up stuff this… um… offbeat.

Now, I’m not saying that the Mario universe makes more sense than this game, but this game is like something that would happen if you had someone who learned about the Mario universe from the scrawlings on the back of a time-share scam pamphlet that they found stuck between the seats on the bus and then made a game about it.

But that’s OK. A little fanfiction never hurt anybody right? And just because the silly little submarine and airplane that Mario piloted along with the main antagonist, Tatanga, and every other part of this game, except Daisy, haven’t been seen in any other games since doesn’t mean that it’s a complete wash. And good ol’ Daisy. Filling up a spot in whatever sports game that ends up being short a female. She’s a trooper.

But I did have a lot of fun with this game. I liked to pretend that even though this game starred a guy named Mario that it wasn’t actually the same Mario from the other games. Once I did that, I moved through it pretty quickly. The game’s really pretty short, with something like 12 stages total. So if you get passably good at it, you can blow through it in about a half hour.

This is also one of the few Game Boy games that my mom would get into. I’m pleased to report that she was good enough at it to get all the way through it and only had to pass the game to me so I could finish up the last encounter, mostly because Tatanga is a jerk. He just refused to explode when she was playing the game. But that’s OK. Having a parent that would actually play video games with me on occasion was pretty awesome, it’s just too bad that so many parents these days can’t be bothered.

Super Mario Bros. 2

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

I always thought that Super Mario Bros. 2 was a little bit of an anomaly. The game is a complete departure from from the original game, and it seemed only tangentially related. I would later figure out the real story behind it. But I guess that doesn’t really matter if you’re not a scholar of obscure video game minutiae.

So what you end up with is a game where you have to guide Mario, Luigi, Toad, or the Princess on a quest to save the realm of Subcon from a giant frog named Wart. They all have varying abilities: Luigi jumps real high, Toad picks things up real fast, and so on. You pick up whatever’s growing on the ground or one of your enemies and you chuck it at the remaining enemies.


I guess I really liked this game because it was so different than its predecessor. I would play the game almost to death trying to figure out its general strangeness.

For example: hidden throughout the stages are potions that, when thrown, create a door. You go through the door and you have a few seconds of access to a shadowy version of the screen you were on. In that mystery realm any vegetables growing out of the ground are mysteriously coins that you use for the Extra Life Machine at the end of the level. But there are also two locations on each level where a mushroom is placed. Get the mushroom and you get an extra hit point. Sometimes the mushrooms were hidden near the potions, but sometimes not. It took more lots of trial and error to find them. And, the feeling of elation when I did find a particularly craftily-hidden goody was pretty intense.

And I only found one game-breaking bug that manifested very late in the game. It’s possible to get irreparably stuck about 80% of the way through the game, requiring a reset. Thankfully this was fixed in some rereleases, so I don’t even worry about that any more. I just worry about killing a frog by throwing turnips in his open mouth.

Pokémon Blue

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

You’ve no doubt heard of Pokémon by now. It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been over ten years now since the series first came out. But it did, and sure hit the US like a sack of wet cats.

So what is the game, exactly? The best I can describe is that you go around, capture creatures (the titular ‘Pocket Monsters’), teach them special moves, and combine them to make your unbeatable team. There’s a story in the game, but it’s largely irrelevant. It’s just an excuse to slowly introduce you to the mechanics of the game. The real meat of this game is figuring out how to make your unbeatable team, and you have lots of choices.

I got this game during my Sophomore year at college. I didn’t actually have a driver’s license at the time, so I needed something to kill the time on the bus to and from school. So I got very familiar with this game. I thought that mixing and matching monsters and moves to create your perfect unbeatable team was just about the best feature that I’d seen in a role-playing game up till that point. The only thing that I didn’t like about the game was that you really needed to have friends who also play the game to get the full experience.

See, there were two versions of this game, Blue and Red, and a third, Yellow, that came out later. Each version has a different subset of the total 150ish total creatures, which means that in order to actually build your perfect team, or just to see all of the monsters available, you have to trade monsters with someone who has a different version. I suppose that’s not going to be a problem for most people, but most of the folks I went to college with either didn’t play Teh Game Boyz, or they did it so covertly that I couldn’t find any. I did manage to convince one of my non-college friends to get the complimentary version to mine, but I don’t think he really got into it so much. In fact, so far as I know, he hasn’t yet finished the very straightforward and non-complicated story portion.

I should probably check out his progress on that.

Bubble Bobble Old and New

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Somehow I managed to miss out on the whole ‘Bubble Bobble’ thing until many years after the machines had disappeared from the arcades and the surviving NES systems turned into little more than grey paperweights. Though I did hear about it. Just about every book that I bought or was given that was about ‘How to Win’ at Nintendo games mentioned it, and offered stratagems to guide me to victory. But still, to this day, I’ve never seen a copy of the game for the NES in the wild.

But! Fortunately the fine folks at Taito saw fit to release it on the Game Boy with some… enhancements.

So Bubble Bobble is about two guys who were turned into dinosaurs and then had their girlfriends kidnapped. They, as dinos, have the ability to blow bubbles to trap enemies, and then pop the bubbles to take out the foes. You have to use this bubble blowing ability to make it down through 100 rooms full of deviously-placed enemies, wind currents, and just plain mean level design to get your girls back and turn back to normal.

Yes, it all makes perfect sense… I guess.

You’re going to notice that the theme song is ridiculously catchy. If you’re not careful, it’s going to get stuck in your head and won’t leave for days. The other thing, which isn’t immediately obvious, is that the game likes to mess with you.

See, the thing is, you can finish the game the ‘traditional’ way: plowing ahead and beating all 100 levels. This is no small feat, and if you do so you’ll get the ‘bad ending’ if you’ve died more than zero times and if you don’t have a second player. Yep, you don’t get the best ending unless you finish the entire game without dieing, and in a game where you die in one hit, this is a bit of a challenge. Now, there are hints that tell you all about it, but the thing is, to get them you have to make it to certain milestones without dieing. Then you’ll get the chance to enter a secret room. In the secret room is a wall decorated in some odd symbols, looks kind of like just background art. Turns out that it’s a coded message that tells you how to finish the game properly. So you have to make it to at least level 20, get in the secret room, decipher the coded message, and then know that you have to finish all 100 stages without dieing and have both players in play at the endto get the ‘true’ ending. I don’t have that kind of perseverance, but I can totally understand the motivation. If I was making a game and had complete control, I’d screw with the player too.

The game is called ‘Old and New’ for a reason. In addition to the original arcade mode, there’s a revamped mode. It’s basically the same but with updated graphics, updated music, and the ability to continue where you left off. This is pretty handy, but still ridiculously hard. But with the advantage of unlimited continues and the ability to call in the second player in the 11th hour so you can see the ‘good’ ending, I was able to finish the ‘New’ part of the game and experience what those ‘How to Win’ books were talking about all those years ago.

And another game was checked off the list.

Revenge of the ‘Gator

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

The title of this game is a bit misleading. Yeah, there are alligators in it, but it’s a pinball game. There’s no story or anything, but there is a pinball table full of alligators, which is worth… something.

So picture four pinball tables in a row, lined up so that the top of one is the bottom of the next. The further up you go, the more possibilities for points exist, but the tables are tougher to keep your balls on. Lower tables are slightly easier, but give you less points, and are slightly less desirable.

Revenge of the ‘Gator

I played this game a lot. It’s a much better game than the crappy 1985-ish NES Pinball game. Plus I could take it on the go with me. My only complaint with it is that no matter how high a score you got, there was no way to save it. As soon as you turn off the power, you lose everything. It’s a limitation of the hardware of the day, I suppose.

I didn’t really think so at the time, but this game seems to be pretty rare. I know there’s a two-player mode, but I never found anyone else that had it, or even a store that carried it. Heck, I got my copy second hand. But I’m still keeping an eye out. If I find a second copy, it’s mine. I’ve even got two Game Boys and a link cable on continuous standby. I’ll experience two-player even if I have to play both myself.


Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

Several December holidays ago (Christmas around these parts), I got one of the original Game Boys. That day, the next day, and most of the following days during that holiday break from school we constantly played one game and one game only. Tetris. Never mind the fact that it was the only game I’d own for the next few months. Now when I say ‘we’, I really do mean ‘we’. I played it, my mom played it, even the drunken hobos that showed up from time to time played it.

The game has reached a saturation point now, so I don’t think I really need to go into detail about it. Shapes fall from the sky and you have to artfully arrange them to form complete rows which disappear and shrink the stack. The game is super simple, and easy to pick up and play. But as you continue it gets tougher and tougher until you just can’t take any more.

Around the same time my uncle got a Game Boy, and Tetris, which he instantly fell in love with. He played it bit more than I did, and our link battles turned into fairly one-sided stomp-fests. (It’s OK, I got my revenge years later with Pokémon Puzzle League).

But I really would like to see more games like Tetris, which the industry is seeming to come back to. Games that are easy to learn, tough (or impossible) to master, and have a broad appeal. I simply can’t see this as being a bad thing.

Mario Party-e

Saturday, December 8th, 2007

I think that I’m the only person in the Western Hemisphere that bought an e-Reader. It was a device that allowed you to scan dot codes on cards for various effects. Most of the time it involved stupid little gamelets or unlocking things in other games. But Mario Party-e was a little different.

Mario Party-e

It’s kind of hard to explain the game, but it’s essentially just a card game. You have to collect parts of Mario’s costume, get a star, and win. But! To get the pieces of the costume you have to scan cards and play a silly little game.

In short, it’s kind of a cool fusion of old-fashioned card-playing technology and new-fashioned video-gaming technology. But I only could convince people to play it with me one time… and I lost.

Final Fantasy I and II: Dawn of Souls

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

The original game in the Final Fantasy series is kind of a legend. It was rumored that the company behind it was facing bankruptcy and could only make one more game. It was going to be a fantasy game, and the final game that the company would make. Then the game sold so well that it saved the company. I don’t really know how true that is, but I do know that this game was the genesis for a whole series of games, most of them pretty good, so that’s worth something, I suppose.

Since this game is more than 20 years old, I’m not going to feel too bad spoiling the huge plot twist, but you’ve been warned.

So it turns out that there is a group of four generic warriors who need to restore the light to four crystals. These crystals represent each of the four elements: earth, water, fire, and wind. Almost immediately they run into a king whose daughter was kidnapped, so you go find and kill the captor, rescue the daughter and continue. You end up battling your way across the world, fighting fiends that represent each of the elements. After that you end up having to travel back to the past because right before you killed the guy at the beginning the four fiends sent him back in time. In the past he sends them forward in time so that they’ll be there to send him back. Yep, we have a game that originally came out for the NES that contains a predestination paradox.

I didn’t manage to play this game until well after the NES had ceased to be. I held off because the used video game shops around here decided that this game was worth upwards of $45, and I didn’t think they were sane. So I waited until this game was rereleased for the Game Boy Advance (packaged with its sequel, Final Fantasy II). It would turn out that right about three or so hours into it, whenever I got the boat, I got really lost. What that means is that I fought lots of enemies, and what that means is that I got pretty powerful (overleveled, you might say). So the game ended up being a little easier than it could have been. I did enjoy it, though. Enough to play through the bonus dungeons at the end. They’re additional levels not in the original game that have boss fights from later Final Fantasy games.

In fact, I liked the game so much that I immediately went to play Final Fantasy II, it was on the same cartridge, after all, but thought it was pretty terrible. So bad, in fact, that I’m surprised the series made it to the third game, much less the upcoming thirteenth. The problem I had? The battles, and the story progression. And without both of those you don’t have much of a game.

The battling is the crux of any RPG, it’s where the player spends most of his time, and is generally rewarded with getting a bit stronger overall. In this game, as you battle with certain types of items certain stats rise. The problem becomes that what stat rises with each item used isn’t really intuitive and having to choose what items to use to have well-rounded characters is tedious. Tedium isn’t really fun.

The other problem is that in order to progress the story you have a set of key words that come up. Secret passwords and the like. You have to find the right person and tell them the right word to continue the story. Sounds kind of interesting, but what ends up happening is that you talk to every person you can find, ask each of them about all of the key words that you know, and pray that you happened on the right combination to move the story along.

And what is that story? Honestly, I can’t remember, and I can’t be bothered to look it up. It would be too traumatic for me to relive that experience. Playing Final Fantasy II has cost me 2 hours that I can never get back.

Donkey Kong ‘94

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

The name of this game is technically Donkey Kong, but it’s a remake of sorts of the original, so I like to use its prerelease name just for clarity. If you’ve never played Donkey Kong, the story can be summed up thusly: A big monkey kidnaps a damsel, Mario scales a construction site in an effort to save her. Let’s suppose for a moment that after scaling the four sets of scaffolding that the big ape decides to rekidnap the damsel and run off. What’s Mario to do? Rescue her, I suppose.

In the first Donkey Kong game, you had to get to the top of the screen, then Donkey Kong would grab Pauline (the damsel) and climb a little higher. In this game, after every stage, Donkey Kong grabs Pauline and runs off through something like 100 stages across a variety of locations, each much more complicated than your vanilla Donkey Kong experience. Not to worry, though, Mario has a plethora of new moves to help him along. Your goal in each stage is to find the key, avoid the enemies, and carry the key to the door before the time runs out. It starts out pretty easy, but gets a bit tougher as the game wears on.

This is definitely one of my favorite Game Boy games. Not just because it’s the first game I bought that was compatible with my Super Game Boy, but because it’s a fantastic package. It’s fun, controls well, and is easy to pick up and play for a few minutes at a time (you get to save after every 4th stage). The game is also extremely lavish with the amount of extra lives it gives you. If you’ve never played this game, then I weep for you.

Secretly… on the inside.

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Monday, October 15th, 2007

I have a hard time keeping up with the chronology in the Castlevania series. The series now spans over a thousand years and represents several generations, locales, and families and is so convoluted that you’re almost going to need crib notes to keep up with it all.

Thankfully, you can understand the gist of what’s happening without knowing the ins and outs of the mythology: Dracula’s been resurrected and you, the descendant of a vampire hunter of old, have to kill him… again. Like most of the games in the series since the 1997 Symphony of the Night, the games have been of the ‘run around exploring a huge castle, fighting monsters to get stronger and having random bits of dialog flesh out the story’ variety.

While you travel around the dungeons, you come across cards which have strange magical abilities, which you can combine to all kinds of things. But the game is really about exploring a gigantic castle, killing things that are already dead with a whip, and deepening your understanding of a storyline that gets significantly more convoluted with every addition to the series.