|Box art scan shamelessly stolen from GameFAQs.
Someone at Capcom USA should have been sacked for turning
Firebrand into a green gargoyle instead of his signature crimson.
From time to time, video game companies see fit to tinker with their intellectual properties. This may be due to creative surges within the development teams wanting to try something new. Sometimes a dev team knows the formula within a given series has become stale or rote, and they feel the need to mix things up. There are examples where changing the formula has had resounding success, such as Konami's Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, as well as instances where this approach completely flopped, as was the case with Accolade's Bubsy 3D. Whatever the reason, creative minds generally need to branch out to do different things to keep things fresh and flex their creative muscle.
Such is the case with Gargoyle's Quest from Capcom. It's sort of an off-shoot of the Makai-Mura series, better known as Ghosts 'n Goblins, or Ghouls 'n Ghosts. In Japan, the game is known as Reddo Arima: Makai-Mura Gaiden, which can be roughly translated as Red Arremer: Demon World Village Side-Story. Rather than starring the main protagonist of the Ghosts/Ghouls series, Arthur, it actually stars the "red arremer" enemy from the original game known as Firebrand. Based on the game's plot, it could be seen as a prequel to the original game, which you find out at the end.
Continue reading Gargoyles Quest, 1990
Image shamelessly stolen from the Castlevania Wikia page.
When I was a kid, this was the baddest looking box art in all the land
when it came to Game Boy games. And by bad, I mean AWESOME.
Nostalgia can be a very powerful force. It can make adults look back fondly on all sorts of things that, viewed objectively, probably aren't as great as we remember them. For a child of the 80's, that can be almost anything. From VCRs and teased hair, to classic cartoons and our favorite movies and video games, there are times when it's hard to take a step back and look at those old favorites with a more critical eye. Sure, that one Poison album might be one of your favorites of all time, but musically, does it still hold up? What about your favorite childhood cartoon...could you watch it today without cringing or thinking it's nothing but pure cheese?
Now think about your favorite video games as a child. Sure, some of them probably stand the test of time. But for every Super Mario Bros or Contra, there's always a handful of games that we may still hold in high regard and still have much affection for. If we could set aside our own memories and youthful experiences, would we still hold those works in the same esteem? For me, one of those games is Konami's Castlevania: The Adventure on the Game Boy.
Continue reading Castlevania The Adventure, 1989
Image shamelessly linked from GameFaqs.
It's Star Wars, and it's a "Million Seller" - how bad can it be?
I am a fan of Star Wars. I'm a big fan of the original trilogy of movies, I don't completely hate the prequel films, and even got some level of enjoyment (as a kid, anyway) out of the two "Ewok Adventure" films, and the short-lived Droids cartoon. Though I didn't get to go see it right away, I did go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens and enjoyed it very much. I plan to go see it again, if I have the opportunity before it's out of theaters, and will be purchasing the BluRay once it's available. I own at least 3 Star Wars-themed t-shirts and a zipper hoodie, and as of this writing, I own 2-dozen video games set within the Star Wars universe. I have the final VHS release of the original trilogy (before George Lucas began changing subsequent releases with his revisionist history), I own the "special" edition DVD set, and at some point, I hope to own the original trilogy on LaserDisc. I'm holding out for a BluRay release, hoping that, at some point, Disney will decide it's worth putting out something equivalent to the original theatrical release (or at least the final VHS/LaserDisc version), though that could be a sticky Wicket (see what I did there?), if Lucas made that a stipulation of his $4 billion sale of Lucasfilm to the Disney corporation. After all, those of us "in the know" won't settle for a cut of the original film where Han Solo didn't shoot Greedo first, right? Needless to say, I'm a big fan of the Star Wars universe, characters, and mythos.
Continue reading Star Wars, 1990
Image shamelessly linked from GameFAQS. I'm not seeing much that
screams "castle" here, save for the faux family crest with carrots on
it. And never once does Yosemite Sam fire a gun in the game.
Not once. False advertising, or just paying homage to a lovable,
idiosyncratic cartoon character from a bygone era? You decide.
Licensed properties can be a tricky beast. If you pay for licensing rights to a property, chances are, you're not going to have exclusive rights to that property, or your rights won't cross all borders. Your licensing rights will expire at some point, and you'll have to weigh the pros and cons of paying to continue those rights, or let them lapse. Sometimes, the window of opportunity for a licensed property is relatively small, and you are forced to come up with a product based upon that property in a rather short time frame. Sometimes, the results can be less than stellar. Such is the case with Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle.
Continue reading Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle, 1990
Image shamelessly linked from Adventure Amigos.
"I choose" the realistic offensive strategies, but the defensive strategies
are tough - does that mean they're not realistic? Or are they both
tough AND realistic? Can the game possibly live up to this box art?
I must begin this review with a bit of history, nostalgia, and a confession. As I write this, I'm reeling from the news that the Kansas City Royals, long the proverbial butt of many a baseball joke, have won the World Series against the New York Mets. Though I don't consider myself a sports fan, I got a little bit of whiplash with that announcement, and had to check my calendar to make sure it wasn't 1985 again. I was a fan of baseball for many years, as a kid, until the player strike brought the ugly realization that athletes can often be petty, whining oafs that are just money hungry. Granted, they're not all like that, but the strike certainly gave me a new perspective on things. So while my love for baseball lasted a number of years, my interest in professional football was relatively short-lived. In 1985 and 1986, I fancied myself a pro football fan, if only to impress my classmates and the neighbor kids, who all thought I was a giant dork (spoiler alert: I was). I told people I was into the Dolphins and the Bengals, and that Dan Marino was pretty much the best quarterback on the planet. Of course, I never really watched any football games, because we had 1 TV in the house, my parents weren't into pro football, and none of my friends invited me over to watch with them. Subsequently, my neighborhood kids (and kids at school) saw through my petty charade. Yes, I was destined to be a nerd.
Continue reading Play Action Football, 1990
Image shamelessly linked from GameFAQs.
2 out of 5 Game Boy launch titles were sports games.
I'm not sure what that says about Nintendo, but it does
make me wonder why every platform got so many.
So this is Tennis, the final of 5 launch titles for the Nintendo Game Boy. The 2nd of 2 sports titles in the launch line-up, Nintendo of America must really have been banking on the popularity of sports games, because the launch line-up included 2 games, much like the Japanese launch included Yakuman, a mahjong game. In the same way that every video game console ever released in Japan has likely seen a mahjong game (or thirty), every game system ever released in North America is generally peppered with sports titles throughout the console's life span. The Game Boy was no exception, and it received both Baseball and Tennis.
Continue reading Tennis, 1989
Image shamelessly linked from GameFAQs.
I love classic video game box art like this. It symbolizes
the imagination many artists put into the artwork. Imagination
that unfortunately, rarely ever captured the true look and
feel of the game. Still, it gave us hope of the contents within.
One of the video game genres that I've been a big fan of over the last 20 years or so is shoot-em-ups. No, I'm not talking about "shooters", those fast-paced, first-person games where you brandish a firearm of some sort and snipe guys at 300 feet, reveling in every headshot. I'm talking about the scrolling shooter, one of the staples of what we now know as classic, or "retro" gaming. You see, from the early-mid 1980's, until around the mid-late 1990's, the scrolling shooter genre evolved tremendously, from humble beginnings like 1942, Vulgus, Star Force, and the like, to highly sophisticated games with deep, complex scoring systems like Battle Garegga, Dodonpachi, Radiant Silvergun, and many more. While I appreciate the complexity and replayability of games like that, give me a simple "shmup" (a term, coined by Zzap!64 Magazine) with twitchy game play, a simple control scheme, and solid action any day. While there's room in my heart for "danmaku" games (aka bullet curtain, or "bullet hell" shooters), I generally prefer classic shoot-em-ups to their more grown-up descendants.
Continue reading Solar Striker, 1990
Image shamelessly linked from Game FAQs.
Flying lizards, giant bugs, robots, and dragons as
enemies? Count me in! Wait, what's with the nails?
The mid-late 1980's, and early 1990's were a magical time. Forget Iran-Contra, forget Black Friday, forget the rampant materialism of the Baby Boomer generation, forget "yuppies", and forget the Gulf War. During that period of time, we had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Karate Kid, G.I. Joe and Transformers, Ghostbusters and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!, and so much more. And we had video games. If you're reading this, you're likely either from my generation, and have fond memories of the 80's and early 90's, or you're experiencing them for the first time, something I often wish I could do, as I approach 40 years of age. For those in the latter camp, I envy you.
Continue reading Nail 'n Scale, 1992
I am a bit of a dichotomy, as a gamer. I consider myself to be reasonably knowledgeable with regards to video games, gaming history, and in general, gaming culture. I will fully admit that I'm not up on the latest thing in today's gaming scene, but from the standpoint of "retro" games, I have a pretty broad base of information. That said, I know that I don't know everything, and there are definitely some gaps in my knowledge. There are consoles I've never seen or played, games I've not heard of, and experiences I lack as a whole, that prevent me from being the "be all, end all" of video game know-how. I'm a student of life, like anyone else, and I'm always learning.
Bearing that in mind, why would anyone who admittedly doesn't know everything call themselves a "guru?" Why would I want to subject myself to the level of scrutiny that comes from identifying oneself as a "guru?" What is my motive for elevating myself so much, other than to draw attention to myself? Am I crazy enough to think that I know enough to even refer to myself with such distinction? Do I deserve to even be calling myself by such a title?
Continue reading The Guru Inside: A Clarification on the Use of the Term
Image shamelessly linked from GameFAQs.
"Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the crowd..."
I'm not a sports guy. Truth be told, I never really have been, though I did have some relative interest in sports as a kid. I was sort of into football, I was sort of into basketball, and I had a passing interest in a couple other sports. The sport I was most interested in, like many other red-blooded American youth, was Baseball. Yes, America's pastime was my preferred sport, in part because of the strategy, and in part because that's what my dad was into. My team was the Kansas City Royals, in part because of their proximity to where we lived, and my favorite player was the pine tar king himself, George Brett. Needless to say, as a chubby nerd of a kid, I played exactly one summer of little league and played poorly enough that I didn't feel like playing a 2nd year. Once the player strike happened, I quit collecting baseball cards and pretty much lost all interest in the sport. I guess I had no sympathy for guys who made more money in a month than my dad made all year, and them whining about not getting paid enough.
Continue reading Baseball, 1989
Before you begin to dig into another fine GameBoy article by MetalFRO, I would like to take a moment to congratulate this author on his acceptance of a staff writing position. We've been happy to promote some well-written articles from his personal blog and we are looking forward to many more great articles on our front page!
Image shamelessly linked from Museum Of Play.
Just look at all the cool stuff on the front cover - Mario is
obviously in for a big adventure this time around!
It's quite timely that the 2015 edition of Review a Great Game Day is happening as I begin to cover the Game Boy library, especially since I'm trying to get the 5 North American launch titles out of the way in relatively short order. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with them; far from it. In general, the launch library was a demonstration of the baseline for what the Game Boy hardware could do. Ultimately, many subsequent games released for the Game Boy would far and away eclipse the launch titles in terms of scope, size, graphics, sound and gameplay, as we'll discover together through this journey. As most gamers know by now, however, the technical wizardry is only window dressing. If the game isn't fun, it doesn't matter how pretty it looks or sounds. Super Mario Land is a complete package - it looks good for its time, sounds good, and is loads of fun.
Continue reading Super Mario Land, 1989
Image shamelessly linked from GameFAQs.
This was a game even your grandmother could love.
Every video game console has at least one game that defines it. One title that, above any other, people associate with it. For modern consoles, it's often a launch title that soars above the rest in quality, or a later game that is exclusive to that system. Usually, it's a great game that is universally hailed as something special. For early consoles, that game often happened to be the pack-in title, i.e. the game that came with the system when you bought it. In the case of the Game Boy, that game was Tetris.
Continue reading Tetris, 1989
Image shamelessly linked from Hardcore Gaming 101.
Now you're playing with power - Turtle Power!
1990 was a fabulous year for Peter Laird, and Kevin Eastman, creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters. They saw the 4 intrepid heroes at the height of their popularity. The comic book was selling, the cartoon series was all the rage among adolescent males, and the live-action movie starring the turtles came out and became the most successful independent film of all time. In addition, TMNT the action figures were selling well, and as such, "Turtle Mania" was in full swing. Pizza Hut even did a TMNT-themed promotional tie-in where they did a concert tour of guys in rubber Turtle suits singing and dancing to 80's rock called the "Coming Out Of Their Shells" tour, complete with pay-per view performance and VHS, and audio cassette. One might even go so far as to say that the 4 turtles had over-saturated the market by that point.
Continue reading Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan, 1990
Image shamelessly linked from the Super Mario Wiki.
When did Pauline become a brunette in a red dress,
instead of a blonde in a pink one? The Mario canon
is a confusing one, indeed.
Donkey Kong, sometimes referred to as Donkey Kong '94, or Game Boy Donkey Kong, is a re-imagining of the original 1981 arcade smash. I say a re-imagining because, though the game includes the original 4 levels of the arcade game, it also includes an additional 97 (!) levels beyond that, taking place over the course of 9 "areas", comprising of stages in multiples of 4. It's an ambitious move for Nintendo, considering that it comes over a decade after the original game's release, and a solid 8 years after the incomplete NES port of the game. Despite the original titles modest graphics and sound, can that successfully translate to the small Game Boy screen? More importantly, can Nintendo devise that many levels that are worth playing through? The answer to both is, unsurprisingly, yes.
Continue reading Donkey Kong - 1994
My name is Josh, and I've been playing video games, in some form, since I was 5 years old. I first experienced the thrill of video games at the ripe young age of 5, at a family get together. My uncle brought his Atari 2600 console, and between Pac-Man, Combat, Battlezone, and a handful of other titles, I was completely smitten with the idea of controlling some small, multi-pixel object on the screen. Every time we would get together with family, I hoped one of my uncles would bring their Atari 2600. Every time I'd visit friends, I would beg them to play video games. And eventually, I would own my own gaming platform, but more on that later.
After having been exposed to the Atari 2600 through family members, and then computer gaming through another uncle, my parents bought a family computer. Mostly, my dad wanted to be able to do productivity stuff with it, but as much time as I could spend on it, I did, playing various shareware games and games designed for the system. And while we were late to the game, owning the IBM PCjr well after its marketability had all but dried up, that little machine gave me countless hours of joy. I had adventures with King's Quest, played hoops with One on One Basketball, destroyed property as a Paperboy, and spent hours exploring space and discovering new life forms with Starflight. Until I started buying games that didn't really work on the PCjr, due to the limitations of RAM (and no hard drive), that computer was the perfect outlet for my early gaming curiosity.
Image shamelessly linked from Old Computers. Our PCjr had multiple "sidecar"
upgrades to boost it from the stock 128KB to a smoking 640KB of RAM!
My parents wouldn't buy me a dedicated games console, in part, because they said I would monopolize the TV. They were right, I absolutely would have. I did have a short stint with my uncle's 2600 when he let me borrow it during part of a summer. Sadly, the somewhat broken joysticks led me to fits of young gamer rage, which prompted my mom to pack it up and send it back to him. Once again, I was relegated to just my PCjr, and various friends' consoles, to get my gaming fix. Thankfully, my next door neighbor had a 2600, NES, and even an original Magnavox Odyssey, and was happy to have me come by any time to play games with him.
There was light at the end of the tunnel, however. Though my parents wouldn't allow me to own a home console, with only 1 TV set in the house, they did say I could buy a Game Boy, provided I bought it with my own money. I didn't get that much in allowance money, but I dutifully saved my cash, rather than spending it on G.I. Joe figures, and saved up until my 13th birthday, April 1990. I bought the Game Boy, complete with Tetris cartridge, and my parents bought me Castlevania: The Adventure as my birthday gift. It was a glorious birthday, potentially one of the best ever.
Image shamelessly linked from Wikipedia. This game
was an integral part of my early Game Boy experience.
It was an impressive use of the modest Game Boy hardware.
What followed over the next 2 years was pure childhood gaming bliss. I bought over a dozen classic Game Boy games: Super Mario Land and its sequel, Alleyway, F-1 Race, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan, Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters, Gargoyle's Quest, Final Fantasy Legend, Duck Tales, Dr. Mario, and several others. I poured a lot of time into my Game Boy, and every time my family went to visit my grandparents or other relatives, I had my trusty Game Boy with me. When I stayed overnight with friends, we each had our Game Boys with link cables, ready to duke it out in Tetris, Dr. Mario, or whatever other 2-player extravaganza we both had. I also spent countless hours in my bedroom, fighting and clawing to reach the end of Castlevania and Gargoyle's Quest, and a lot of time perfecting my 4-row technique in Tetris. It was a magical time.
Sadly, that time came to an end in 1992, when I decided that I absolutely had to have a Sega Genesis. My parents were buying a new TV, so that opened up the possibility that my younger brother and I could buy their old TV, pool our money together and buy a Genesis, so we could experience the awesome power of the system. I had already played Last Battle, Golden Axe, and the awe-inspiring Sonic the Hedgehog at a classmate's house, and I knew that was what I wanted. I still didn't have that much money, however, so I ended up selling my Game Boy and all my games to pay for the Genesis. I don't regret buying, owning, or playing the Genesis, because it's still one of my favorite systems, and I have a ton of great memories of that. I just wish, in hindsight, that I hadn't let go of my entire collection of complete-in-box Game Boy titles, especially F-1 Race, because I had the 4-player adapter with it.
Image shamelessly linked from GameTrog.
This Genesis model is the one I sold my
Game Boy to obtain. I still have the system and
box and still use them today.
Thankfully, I recognized my egregious error 2 years later, and when my best friend from school decided to sell his Game Boy, I bought it from him without a moment's hesitation. Granted, I didn't get back the boxes and manuals, but I did reacquire some favorites like Tetris, the original Super Mario Land, and Alleyway. I soon purchased Dr. Mario and Duck Tales again, and was reliving the fun of owning a portable system once again. I snagged Super Mario Land 2: The Six Golden Coins (still have that complete-in-box!), and loved it, as well as a handful of other games, to eventually get back nearly all the titles I enjoyed just a few short years earlier. By the time I graduated high school, however, I wasn't gaming much, in part because all my money was going toward dating my girlfriend.
I rediscovered gaming again in 1998 when my wife and I took a trip to another uncle's house for a big family get together weekend, and my younger cousin had his PlayStation there. We spent the better part of that weekend pouring over Tekken 2, and my wife decided at that point that we needed a PlayStation. We bought one, got Tekken 2 and Tekken 3, and I also picked up a couple shmups and a copy of Final Fantasy VII. Once again, I immersed myself in gaming, and though my Game Boy laid largely dormant during that period, I was still cultivating my love for gaming, and the memories of that earlier time were still part of what propelled me to continue to invest in games. I spent a lot of time with that system, and it's still one of my favorites to this day.
Image shamelessly linked from GameSniped.
This DualShock PlayStation model is what I have, and
still have, complete in box. I sunk a LOT of hours
into a whole cadre of games on this great system.
In 2000, I got the itch to get back into portable gaming again, so I picked up an Atomic Purple model of the Game Boy Color. I could go back and play my existing Game Boy library, and then also some new games I picked up, like Bionic Commando Elite Forces, Project S-11, R-Type DX, Frogger, and even the goofy game The Smurfs' Nightmare. Once again, I immersed myself in portable gaming, taking the unit with me on trips and to various places when I had the chance. The screen was better, it only used 2 batteries instead of 4, was more truly portable, and I could plug in one of those ingenious "snake light" peripherals to give light to the screen without a giant, bulky attachment. Suddenly, my original Game Boy library came alive again, some titles with a reasonable amount of color, and on a much improved display.
I missed out on the Game Boy Advance immediately, because I was concentrating on mostly console and PC gaming throughout much of the mid-2000's. I didn't pick up a GBA until years later, sometime in 2008 or 2009, when I found a GBA SP very reasonably priced at a used game store. Within a short period of time, once again, I found myself enjoying old Game Boy games, picking up more original Game Boy and Game Boy Color games I hadn't owned before, and also buying new Game Boy Advance games that had come out years before. The advent of the backlit display was a huge bonus, and the GBA SP is still my handheld of choice for playing any of my Game Boy library. My portable gaming life is now split between my GBA SP (and library of Game Boy family of games), and my Sony PSP, which my wife bought me for Christmas in 2005. I occasionally cross over, playing some GB, GBC, or GBA titles on the PSP (via custom firmware and emulation, of course), in part, due to save states, and additional color options, but sometimes strictly out of convenience.
Image shamelessly linked from Wikimedia.
The stunning silver Game Boy Advance is my weapon
of choice when it comes to playing GB games on the go!
So now we come to the genesis (sorry, pun intended) of this project! There are a number of folks who have endeavored to do full system reviews, which are game-by-game analysis of every title for the respective console(s) they've chosen. You have Nintendo Legend, and Dylan Cornelius' Questicle project to review every North American NES title, and his subsequent descent into all things Sega with his Sega Does website and podcast. You also have HuCard Heaven, for TurboGrafx and PC Engine games, and Sega Galactico, aka The Sega Legend, working his way through the Sega Genesis library. Tom Hall, of the Breaking Bits Podcast, calls himself the N64 Connoisseur, and is attempting to review every North American N64 release. Not every system has a "Legend" working on the game library, but it's becoming more prevalent. In the Game Boy space, there's GameBoyle, a fantastic YouTube series and Twitter account of a great resource for all things Game Boy. There's also Game Boy World, a great resource of GB game reviews and information.
So why does the world need a Game Boy Guru? I'm not sure it does, but as my conversation with Dylan Cornelius went (great dude, go follow him on Twitter right now!), the more people exploring the entire game libraries of each console, the better. The more people that are uncovering the lesser known titles, milling through the shovelware, and truly highlighting the best games of a platform, the better off the retro gaming community will be. My opinion may be just one in a sea of opinions, but I want to express it just the same. This will be an outlet for me, but also a learning experience, since the vast majority of the Game Boy library remains undiscovered by me. As much as I've enjoyed my Game Boy systems over the years, I'd love to play through a lot of the library. I've been actively buying Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games when I find them inexpensively, and have built a small, respectable library that will be a great place for me to start.
"It's dangerous to go alone, take one of these!"
I hope to build a near-complete collection of North American Game Boy releases, as well as eventually getting close to that with both the GB Color and GB Advance. I will cover Japanese and European games if and when I can, based on when I can acquire them. If the site gets good feedback and people are asking for content faster than I can acquire games, I may look into Patreon or some way folks can help me continue to acquire games for review. I may also look into a YouTube channel, though my existing channel has been quite neglected of late. Either way, I want to bring you my thoughts on the Game Boy family of handhelds, and I felt like now was the right time to start doing that. Game on!
Original version posted on the official Game Boy Guru site: