noiseredux vs.

Posted on May 27th 2011 at 01:09:23 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under PlayStation, Game Boy, Puzzle




This month's Together Retro game club pick over at http://Racketboy.com was Zoop. Now let me guess -- you've heard of Zoop, but never played it. You vaguely remember a magazine ad for it, but aren't really sure what it is. Am I right? Probably. That's generally how it went. Zoop was a puzzle game released in 1995 and it was ported to just about every platform available at the time. It made its way to SNES, Genesis, Game Boy, Game Gear, PC, Mac, Saturn, Atari Jaguar and the PlayStation in an honest-to-goodness attempt at being the next Tetris. Indeed it was even marketing as "America's Largest Killer of Time!"

Perhaps what's more interesting about the game's place in history is that it was designed by a team called Hookstone. Though that name may not ring a bell, most of the members of Hookstone went on to form Mobius Entertainment, who you probably know better as Rockstar Leeds. That's right, the same team responsible for bringing Manhunt and the Grand Theft Auto series to the PSP had its humble beginnings in a simple puzzle game.






Originally my plan was to play the Game Boy version, but I found it to be a bad idea. You see Zoop is all about a little triangle that's inside a big square. And all these multi-colored shapes are attempting to get in the square. But the triangle can turn into each color, and then take out like colored rows. Maybe you see where I'm going with this? Yeah, a game where color is important just isn't going to work so well on a monochrome system. So I soon decided that I'd pick up the PlayStation port instead. Some of my fellow Racketboy forum members actually played and enjoyed the GB port. Well, more power to them. Personally it just confused my eyes.






The PlayStation version was very good. At least I assume it would be just as good as any of the other console ports at the time (Jaguar, Saturn, etc.). The controls were responsive, the colors were vibrant and thanks to the newly implemented CD technology, the music was really great. I personally wasn't great at the game. In fact that's my high score in the picture up above there. But what was really nice about playing this month is that so many members got really into the game. It's really fun to go back and play a game with a bunch of people even though it's not handing out achievements or syncing trophies.

Truthfully, I lost interest in the game about halfway into the month. But in fairness, it was my birthday this month which means I got a lot of new games and all of them were begging for my attention. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't come back to this one. In fact Zoop certainly has a certain appeal to it. That kind of timeless replayability that makes games like Dr. Mario or Tetris so addicting. If you haven't played Zoop yet, you've really got no excuse. I guarantee you own one of the systems it's available for.



Posted on Mar 9th 2011 at 01:15:36 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Zelda, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance

Last month The Legend Of Zelda turned 25. And because of this every single retro-gaming related website ran a bunch of features related to the series. So I figured I'd wait for the celebration to die down and then get into it here. Or rather, I just got sidetracked and forgot to get around to it until now. Whatever. But the series is certainly important to me. And as such it's important to this blog. Seeing as how the blog started as a way to showcase lesser known Game Boy carts, it should be noted that my purchase of the Nintendo Game Boy Player attachment for the GameCube was based almost solely on the fact that doing so would suddenly mean that there were a pile of Zelda games that I could play on my TV. So let's take a look at all those Zelda games that found their way to a Game Boy handheld.






The Legend Of Zelda was re-released as part of the Game Boy Advance's Classic NES series. That choice was certainly a no-brainer. The game is of course not only a high-point of the NES, but of gaming in general. It basically created an entire genre that meshed action with elements of role playing. The GBA port is excellent and cheap-n-easy to find on the after market. All GBA enthusiasts should have this one.






Surprisingly the sequel Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link also made it to the Classic NES line. Strange considering the phrase "black sheep" being almost synonymous with the game. Though for all the flack it receives, I'm a longtime fan of this one. The truth is, Adventure Of Link was actually my first Zelda game. I got it for my birthday soon after its release. At the time the first game was impossible to find in local toy stores, so this was my introduction to the series. Say what you will about it. There's a very unique and daring quest within. The GBA port is wonderfully faithful to the original, and considering it's probably the cheapest GB-related Zelda game to find in the wild, it's worth giving it a go even if you don't remember loving it the first time.






A Link To The Past is my favorite game ever. So I'm totally biased when I say that everybody should own this game either in its original SNES form, or here on the GBA. It looks fantastic on a GBA SP screen, although suffers slightly from a few oddly annoying voice samples that were added to the re-release. They aren't nearly as overdone as in the GBA port of Super Mario Bros. 2 though.

The GBA re-release is also notable for including a bonus game, the brand new Four Swords which would be the first multi-player Zelda game. It recycled sprites from Link To The Past which was welcome artistically, but it was also somewhat of a burden to play. Sadly unlike its GameCube sequel, there's no single-player campaign on the GBA game. This means that some of us (me) who don't have local gamer friends with their own GBA's and copies of the game never got the chance to delve in to this one.







Link's Awakening was released for the Game Boy in 1993, and was a total revelation. Although the GB's hardware was lesser than that of the NES, the graphics, gameplay and story of this one actually aligned with the SNES' Link To The Past. Playing the game on Game Boy hardware back then was stunning to say the least, as nobody realized that the handheld was capable of such things. Even to this day the title remains a cult-classic in the Zelda series, often considered the standard by which to judge all portable outings.

Link's Awakening received a Game Boy Color re-release in 1998 which adds to the game by giving it vibrant colors, an extra dungeon and even compatibility with the Game Boy Camera.






Perhaps the two most overlooked titles in the official Zelda cannon, Oracle Of Ages and Oracle Of Seasons are the definition of ambition. What began as an attempt to port the original Legend Of Zelda to the NES somehow turned into an original game, then three games, and eventually scaled down to two games. The misconception among gamers seems to be that these are two takes on the same game -- like Pokemon Red and Blue. But that's not the case at all. The two Oracle games are completely different and original quests. One relies heavily on puzzles, the other on action. One toys with time, the other with nature. But each of them are remarkable little gems that should get a bit more attention than they do.






Minish Cap would be the final Zelda game to come out on a GB handheld, and it's a solid affair. Admittedly it's the one that I've spent the least amount of time with as I personally got slightly bored with the shrinking and growing gimmick. However, I can certainly say that it's artistically great, borrowing heavily from A Link To The Past's art style and features some jaw-dropping visuals on the GBA. Fans of the heavy-puzzle side of the series will enjoy this one quite a bit, though the game's biggest criticism tends to be its brevity.


So there we have it -- the GB side of Zelda. What are your favorites and why?



Posted on Feb 4th 2011 at 02:17:19 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Game Boy



Just a quick plug for http://Racketboy.com, as the recently published Game Boy 101 article was co-authored by myself. I've been meaning to mention it here since it went up in January, but kept forgetting. Anyway if you want to kill some time, it's a fairly extensive overview of the original Game Boy's history and was also written by RFGen-blogger Ack, who keeps an awesome (though not updated often enough) horror blog on this very site.

Link: http://www.racketboy.com/...01-a-beginners-guide.html



Posted on Jun 18th 2010 at 12:49:31 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Game Boy

One of the biggest requests I get from Game Boy Player Land blog readers is the old "show me your collection." And I promise to get around to that at some point with pictures. But read any video game collection forum and you're bound to find various ongoing conversations about the best way to store Game Boy games. Should they be cart-only (like most of the ones you'll find in the wild) then it gets even tougher since none of the Game Boy line of carts had top-stickers. I personally keep my games in NDS cases with printed artwork, unless I'm lucky enough to have the original boxes. However one clever reader, Tony wrote in and shared these pretty awesome picture as a rather cool way to store -- and more importantly, proudly display his Game Boy collection. Here's a quote:

Here are some pictures of how I store my Gameboy collection. It is a golf ball case that I bought from a craft store chain called Micheal's. If you do not have a Michael's store you can probably find it at another place like Hobby Lobby or Ben Franklin. It cost about $20 but Michael's often has coupons in the mail for 40-50% off one item so I purchased a couple of these. As you can see they will store quite a few original Gameboy carts and a lot more GBA carts if you turn them slightly. There is a glass door with a metal hinge to keep it closed. I included a shot of the hinge. Also they have rear mounts so you can mount them on your wall for display as seen here in the pictures. Overall I have been very happy with this way of displaying my games.

Tony


And now, more importantly -- here are the pictures:







Pretty awesome in my book. What do you guys think?



Posted on Jun 12th 2010 at 02:27:34 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Game Boy



According to the Nintendo list there was somewhere in the neighborhood of 650 (official) games released for the original gray brick in the US. It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time when there were only five Game Boy titles to choose from. That's right, at the Game Boy's launch we ecstatic pocket gamers had very little choice. Of course it wouldn't be long before every major publisher began carrying over their popular franchises. But for a brief holiday season, these were the five games in every Game Boy owners' collections.





Alleyway is generally referred to as "that Breakout clone." And that's mostly what it is. Or technically it's a clone of Arkanoid, which was the NES' Breakout clone. But it also delivers some variants on the original simple game that make it surprisingly fun and interesting. Similar to the approach that Nintendo would later take when creating Donkey Kong 94, Alleyway begins with a very familiar level causing an initial feeling of comfort. But only a couple levels in and things start to get wacky. Whole levels begin to shift, paddles get smaller. Though the graphics are simple and the sound effects are generic bleeps and bloops, Alleyway is decent time-killer that can be a lot more fun than a game that was technically already 20 years old in concept by the time it was released on the Game Boy.





The imaginatively titled Baseball was almost a no-brainer for a launch title, being the American Past Time and all. And in truth, it's not a terrible game either. It plays rather well, although all the players are extremely slow for athletes. For the most part the game works well as a pick-up-and-play-one-game cart, but due to the fact that you cannot progress throughout a season, really there's little reason to get truly wrapped up in the game. More than likely Baseball was released as a quickie launch title that could demonstrate the benefit of the Link Cable for some 2-Player action.





As far as I'm concerned, Super Mario Land was the Game Boy's killer app. That year the top two items on my Christmas list were a Game Boy and Super Mario Land. It just seemed so exciting, a brand new Mario game -- on a brand new system! And I'll be honest, I probably liked (the American) Super Mario Bros. 2 far more than the next guy, but the prospect of Mario Land playing closer to the original Super Mario Bros. was good news. Nowadays I hear a lot of complaints about Mario Land -- it's too short, it's too easy, the sprites are too small, the controls are bad, the enemies are weird. But honestly, I shrug all of that off. This is still one of those titles that I play through once or twice a year and still enjoy every bit as much as I did back then. Truthfully, it is a short and easy game, the sprites are on the small side, the controls do take some getting used to and the enemies are weird. But that's all part of the game's charm. The new Game Boy system seemed to give a new outlet for game companies to experiment before releasing a major home console game. And that was fine with me. Generally gamers tend to prefer Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins, but not me. Although it may be technically superior in every way, this is the first Game Boy game that I got completely attached to.





Though I have absolutely no data to back this up, my guess is that far more kids found Baseball under their Christmas trees that year as opposed to Tennis. Though it is a similarly simple sports game that was probably rushed to launch to promote the Game Boy's 2-Player capabilities, it's actually a much better game than Baseball. For starters, it's rather fast-paced with controls that are difficultly nuanced though very good once mastered. Graphically the game looks great -- especially today when colorized via the GBA. And the music is also quite good. Though most gamers today will overlook this one and instead for one of the Mario Tennis titles that this game preceded, I'd certainly suggest giving the original a try if you happen upon it at a reasonable price.





Ah, Tetris! I almost hate to even attempt to write about it. There's been so many long and in-depth essays written on the game. So I guess what I'd like to point out it is the sheer balls that Nintendo had when making this the pack-in game with the new Game Boy system. At the time, Mario was such a draw that they could have easily insured some immediate sales just by including Super Mario Land with the system, much like that had been doing with Super Mario Bros. and the NES. But instead, they chose some simplistic boring-looking puzzle game with a Russian soundtrack. I won't lie, I didn't even play my copy for several months. But once I did, I was as hooked as anyone else. And though it may sound like a cliched story, my mom really did constantly steal my Game Boy so she could play Tetris, which didn't end until she got her own Game Boy. We would then play against each other, and although she was good -- she just wasn't as good as me.

So this was it. These were the only games you could buy if you were a proud launch-era owner of the Game Boy. Of these original five titles, I myself only had Tetris and Mario Land at launch. How about the rest of you? Which games did you have at launch? And which would you choose now if you could go back in time?



Posted on Jun 6th 2010 at 02:24:09 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Game Boy, Fighters, Classic Gaming

Over the past couple months I've done a lot of posts surveying various arcade-centric genres of games to play using an arcade stick. In that time I've developed a certain new-found fondness for Shmups. But the truth is the real reason I bought my Hori Fighting Stick in the first place was to play, well... Fighting Games. Now many of you out there probably scoff at the thought of a Game Boy Fighter, but there were actually quite a few commendable ports released.





When the Playstation was first released, it took me forever to save up for one. And one I finally was able to get my hands on the console, I couldn't actually afford to buy any games for a while. Thankfully it at least came with a demo disc that contained a demo for a new game called Battle Arena Toshinden. And though I never actually played the full game, I rocked that demo for quite some time. The concept of a 3D Fighter was still very new and impressive to me at the time.

The Game Boy port of Battle Arena Toshinden obviously removes the 3D perspective. But what's most impressive is that Takara was able to strip the game of its selling point, and still make a rather awesome 2D Fighter out of the remaining game. All eight characters are present as well as an exclusive hidden character, Uranus. Takara wisely chose to use a super-deformed approach to the sprites which allows for more screen-space to play with. Perhaps most importantly is the fluidity of the controls. Special moves are pulled off with ease. Battle Arena Toshinden is an incredibly impressive port that stands on its on as a great portable Fighter.





You have to hand it to Rare for at least trying to port Killer Instinct to the Game Boy. However it just didn't fare as well as the conversion that Donkey Kong Country had made from the SNES to the Game Boy. First off Cinder and and Raptor were cut from the roster. And though the the remaining characters are recognizable, the backgrounds are rather boring. The controls are decent enough, though. So if you're a huge fan of the series then this might be a passable portable version for you. It's also notable that Rare was able to implement a 2-Player capability when using the Super Game Boy.





Mortal Kombat is bad. Really bad. Looking back on it now, the arcade game itself wasn't even really that great of a game. It certainly didn't have the excellent controls of Street Fighter II. But what it did have was digitized actors and lots of blood. In fact it had enough blood to make us overlook how poor the gameplay actually was.

Sadly the Game Boy port does nothing to detract from how terrible it is. The controls are obviously worse than the console ports due to the button limitations of the Game Boy. In fact most of the special moves are incredibly difficult to even pull off. It's almost astounding that Acclaim even decided to release the game, though at the height of MK-Fever it's understandable why they would have wanted the product out there.





When Mortal Kombat II was released in 1994, the clear winner to me was the SNES version. This was my chosen version, and got played a hell of a lot whenever a friend would come over the house. However, in all honesty it's a portable version that's remembered almost equally as fondly to me now when thinking back.

Sure the Game Boy port of Mortal Kombat II is not without its faults. Baraka didn't even make the cut! But at the same time it seems that Acclaim did everything in its power to right the wrongs of the first Game Boy game. Here, the characters don't look like shit; the controls are fluid so that special moves are actually possible to pull of; the frame-rate is suitable; and most impressively each character can do an individual fatality, a level-specific fatality and even a babality! As stripped down as this version is, it's actually quite a lot of fun.





Primal Rage is another example of a developer trying to cram too much into a small cart without understanding how to properly play to the strengths of the Game Boy's hardware. Which is to say that the game looks pretty well -- it does a nice job of attempting to mimic the impressive graphics of its console counterparts. But unfortunately, all the details put into the characters force the game to flicker pretty badly due to the frame-rate of the action. I can't say the game isn't fun, but at the same time the port leaves a lot to be desired and really is more of a curio than lost gem.





Takara's port of Samurai Shodown is similar to what they did with Battle Arena Toshinden. Which is a good thing. The character sprites are all super-deformed and excellently detailed. The controls are wonderful and easy to pull off special moves. There's twelve characters to choose from -- an impressive feat given that the Game Boy port of Mortal Kombat was forced to cut its roster down to six, for instance. This is definitely a game I'd recommend to any Game Boy Fighter fans out there.





The Game Boy port of Street Fighter II is far from perfect. The frame-rate is choppy, the characters move slow, and you're limited to only nine of the original twelve characters. But at the same time I have to give credit to Capcom for how hard they tried visually. The character sprites look rather awesome (look at Blanka!) and the backgrounds attempt the same level of detail as the SNES port. Though it's easy to say that this is a pretty lousy port of a 2D Fighter when compared to something like Battle Arena Toshinden, if you're a huge Street Fighter II fan like myself, you're going to at least be interested in giving this one a shot.

Now I'd like to think that this post was pretty exhaustive. But of course the Game Boy library is so vast, it's certainly possible that I missed out on some of the absolute best and worst Fighting Games out there. Please let me know via the comment box below!



Posted on Jun 3rd 2010 at 12:42:08 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Shmups

If you've been following the Game Boy Player Land blog then surely you're aware of my recent fascination with Shmups after finding my Hori Gamecube Fighting Stick. There were two previous posts I did about Shmups released for Game Boy Advance, which undoubtedly left some of you wondering when I might get around to the Game Boy Shmups. Well friends, here we are. I also threw in a couple of Game Boy Color titles, as it seems to me there just aren't enough good Shmups on the GBC. Now let's dig in, y'all!





In 1990, Ultra released a little Game Boy cart known as Nemesis. If those screens look at all familiar, they should. That's the Vic Viper flying around, shooting shit. And Nemesis is the Game Boy port of the Konami classic Gradius. Like most early Game Boy versions, Nemesis is certainly a lot more stripped down than its NES counterpart. The music is nothing to write home about, and the backgrounds are generally simple. But the game is no less fun.

The controls in Nemesis work well, and there are plenty of power-ups to keep the Vic Viper kicking ass. Not to mention the fact that the game is also generally easier than the NES version, compounded by the fact that you can choose which of the five levels to start on or select up to 99 lives. Most likely these helping-hands were put forth to make up for the extra challenge caused by cramping so much within the Game Boy's tiny screen. But if you're playing on the Game Boy Player, then things feel a lot less claustrophobic.





In 1991 Konami brought it's cult-classic Parodius to the Game Boy. Sadly, they didn't release it in the US. What's upsetting about that decision is that Parodius is easily one of the absolute best Game Boy shooters released.

Parodius seems to have gotten everything perfect that Nemesis was close to getting right. The music is fantastic; The backgrounds are great and even include various scrolling effects; The boss battles include impressive animation; And best of all -- you can choose from multiple ships -- I always go for the Octopus myself. If you can find it, do yourself and add Parodius to your collection!





Project S-11 is the only Game Boy Color-exclusive Shmup that I can think of to recommend. The game is bright and colorful as you can see from those screens above. It also features some really great music -- y'know upbeat techno kind of stuff that gels so well with space shooters.

The gameplay mechanics are quite good. Your ship is responsive, and unlike most Shmups Project S-11 differentiates itself by straying from the one-bullet-kills-you deal. However if I had to pick one element that causes S-11 to demand replays it would be the power-ups. There are many interesting power-ups that force you to figure out the best way to implement them. For instance some are best left to holding down the shoot button, while others are better off with rapid tapping. Likewise, there's even a weird plasma-laser that works best if you shoot one stream, hold it down for a bit and then let go as it then sucks itself back at you causing more damage to enemies on its way back. Very original.





The first two R-Type games were released for the original Game Boy, and I wasn't a huge fan of them. My main plight was that the ship just felt too damn big to maneuver comfortably through such tight quarters. Eventually both games were combined and colorized and released as R-Type DX for the Game Boy Color. Now certainly the same complaint can be made about the ship size, but in some way I feel that the enhanced graphics somehow made the ship-handling at least slightly easier.

The sound and graphics are wonderful, feeling like a long-lost NES port that we all wish we had played. Though obviously the GBA port of R-Type III would put this version to shame visually, I find R-Type DX a far more playable game. Recommended if you're a fan of the series.





Released very early in the Game Boy's lifespan, Solar Striker may in fact be the first Shmup released for the system. It's an unassuming little title. Those screens above really don't do it the slightest bit of justice. For all the simplicity in the games' presentation, just a few minutes of playing reveal that Solar Striker is one hell of a fun game. The controls are tight, the bosses are generically awesome and the power-ups useful yet rather cliched, and yet somehow that works in the games' favor. It's as if Solar Striker is the perfect example of what a simple Shmup should be. It's a game that's both somewhat banal and completely must-own at the same time.





Trax is actually pretty different than all the other games I outlined in my Shmups posts. For one thing, it doesn't take place in outer space. Instead you man a tank... that's shaped like an egg. Also, the screen doesn't automatically scroll like in so many genre-defining Shmups. This alone gives it an extremely different feel than the other games mentioned. What's even more different is that your gun can move independently of your tank's movement.

Okay, so Cute-Em-Up style graphics? Unconventional controls? That's right! You guessed it! This is a Hal Labs game. All the more reason for you to give it a try. It's definitely nothing like the other games I went over, but it's interesting enough to warrant a try. And you know Hal always delivers. This is definitely a game that seems a bit forgotten, which is too damn bad. The game also features a secondary mode that plays out in a melee style and seems to be an homage to the Atari 2600 classic Combat. Certainly a bonus.

Okay so obviously I've given my arcade stick a total workout on Shmups. But just in case I missed something awesome, please let me know. Or if there's a specific Shmup I should keep miles away from, also a warning is appreciated.



Posted on May 25th 2010 at 12:08:34 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Game Boy, volleyball, sports



The Summer of 1990 seemed like a pretty perfect time for a volleyball craze to sweep the nation. First there was the film Side Out -- a movie so awesome it only needs a one-sentence Wikipedia entry: "Side Out is a 1990 film about beach volleyball competition, featuring C. Thomas Howell, Peter Horton and Courtney Thorne-Smith." And then there was Malibu Beach Volleyball, a Game Boy game that can best be summed up by that neon monstrosity of a cover above. But alas, volleyball didn't quite gain the credibility it was after. Thankfully for those of us who feel the need to re-live the Summer of 1990 we can add Side Out to our Netflix queues (seriously -- I just checked!) and eBay surely must have a copy of Malibu Beach Volleyball floating around for next to nothing.

Now the truth is, I really have no idea I why I would have owned a volleyball game in 1990. I had very little interest in sports at that time. And let's be frank, volleyball is pretty low on the sports food chain. If memory serves correctly, I got it from a friend who didn't care for it, and most likely I just figured any Game Boy cart was better than no Game Boy cart. And that's mostly true. Mostly.



Looking at Malibu Beach now, it's clear to see that it's not a very great game. It's an overly simple game (even if it is based on a sport that's really just Pong on a beach); the music is horrible; the hit-detection is shit; and if I tried I could probably come up with a longer list of negatives. But strangely I have some fond memories of playing this stupid game at the beach that Summer. And if that doesn't scream geeky kid, then I don't know what does. Though the game is boring almost before the end of the first round, I can't help but pop it in with the warm weather and remember Summer vacation felt like as a little kid.



Posted on May 6th 2010 at 06:58:58 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Game Boy, Hudson



Back when the 16-big Wars were in full rage, there was the Sega Army and the Nintendo Army. Meanwhile, a rather awesome and little-known troupe became a fatality. It was known as the TurboGrafx-16. The system was impressive, but could never seem to make a dent in the American market. Without much fanfare it was soon delegated to electronic stores' cut-out bins. Around this time I was able to convince my mom that we were fools to not own a TurboGrafx-16 at such a price. She surprisingly agreed and console came home with us.

Now in these days there was no eBay; no Amazon. Back then most of us got our games from one or two local chain stores that had limited shelf-space. So even if you read about some amazing and exotic game in a magazine, either your store had it or you were shit out of luck. Unfortunately for me, I was never able to find most of the TurboGrafx games that made me want the system in the first place. Sure my Genesis was stuffed to the gills with Sonic games, and my SNES had more than enough Mario. But finding a Bonk game seemed impossible -- never mind Air Zonk!

Luckily as the TurboGrafx petered out it seemed a lot more lucrative for Hudson to start porting some of their more popular franchises to more successful consoles. Which is why we happy Game Boy owners were blessed with a magnificent port of Bonk's Adventure in 1992.



Bonk's Adventure for Game Boy is really an amazing version. The game is not a full-on port of the TurboGrafx title. Instead, it takes cues from the original and incorporates them into a brand new game. The levels are all pretty much based on the original's levels, but offer enough variety to keep fans interested.

Playing through Bonk's Adventure it's almost amazing that the franchise didn't catch on in the US. Even if the TurboGrafx failed, a game like this could have really made its home on the Game Boy and sparked a whole series -- as made evident by this release. One can only assume that the game just managed to slide under everyone's radars at the time of its release. Which is too damn bad. The graphics are quite impressive on the little screen. Though they keep the cutesy and simplistic art style of the original, there's also just as much subtle detail thrown in. The enemy characters and Bonk himself are varied and have expressive animations. Everything is visually rather amazing.



A great little gimmick to the gameplay is the power-ups. Bonk will eat pieces of meat that will turn into different Bonk-variants. Be it an angry punk or a Frankenstein's monster, or even a tortoise. The whole presentation is extremely impressive and shows an amount of effort put into a portable port that was generally not seen at that time. The game is not terribly long, but it is challenging enough to keep you from beating it too quickly.

Two years later Hudson released a similar port of the sequel, Bonk's Revenge, which I've yet to play. But based on how great this game is, I certainly plan to. Bonk's Adventure is highly recommended. Do check it out if you get the chance.



Posted on Apr 15th 2010 at 12:15:52 AM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Game Boy, SpiderMan



Like many collectors, I sometimes browse Ebay listings of cheap Game Boy carts in an effort to stumble upon something awesome.  And one night the cover above caught my eye. I had completely forgotten about Spider-Man 2, but I knew the instant that I saw it that I had owned the game when I was younger. And how could I have not? Look at that cover! It has Carnage on it! And yet strangely as hard as I tried, I just could not recollect the game itself. I did a quick Google Image Search, and nothing jogged my memory. I could see the game was published by LJN who had been responsible for several games I have fond memories of, so I figured it was worth tracking down.

When the game arrived I tossed it into my Game Advance SP and within about two minutes I remembered Spider-Man 2 with a vengeance. Yes friends, this game is terrible. It is so unbelievably hard that I doubt anybody has ever had the skill patience to even make it past the first level. I know I never did when I was younger (and I was way more skillful patient when I was younger).



The game begins in an abandoned warehouse. You exit out a window and there's the Hobgoblin. Then he hits you with a pumpkin-bomb, you fall off the side of the building, quickly run out of webs while trying to make your way back up to the Hobgoblin and eventually somebody kills you or you just shut the game off in disgust. Seriously. That's everything that happens in this game. I mean, it's possible that there are other levels after this one. But I'm not sure they're needed, because this scenario is going to play out every time.

And yet what's really strange about this game is that I have no urge to get rid of it. I've gotten rid of far better games than this simply because I never felt like playing them. Perhaps there's a part of me that wants to hang on to the nostalgia associated with a game that infuriated the child version of myself nearly 20 years ago. Or maybe I'm just a masochist.



Posted on Apr 11th 2010 at 06:08:54 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Game Boy, Robocop



One of my highest collecting priorities these days is tracking down all the games I remember spending the most time with when I was younger. What this means is that although certainly classic games like Super Mario Bros. 3 or A Link To The Past are high on that list, they also rub elbows with games that another collector may have never played -- or even thought twice about playing. Friends, I present you with one such game: Robocop.

Released in 1990 and developed by Ocean, Robocop was based on the ultra-violent film classic of the same name. Due mainly to the limitations of the Game Boy hardware, the game isn't nearly as blood-soaked as the film, but it is a surprisingly competent release which is saying a lot for a movie-licensed 8-bit game.



The game is mainly a side-scroller in which you patrol the mean streets of Detroit. There are a load of scumbags out there looking to take you down, and for an incredibly strong cyborg you can die pretty easily. And unfortunately the controls can feel a bit clunky. For instance when you duck down, you have to manually push Up to stand up again. However, this and the rather limited height of Robocop's jumps actually help to make him feel a bit more robotic and heavy. Perhaps this was unintended, or perhaps it was brilliant design. Either way, it works in a strange way.

What's really interesting about the game are the mid-levels. Each one offers some kind of change-of-pace to the usual shoot-everything side-scrolling levels. For instance, you may find yourself reconstructing the face of a wanted criminal via the police computer systems. Or maybe you'll be using a scope to disrupt a hostage situation in the first-person perspective. There's definitely a lot of variety to the level layouts. And in no shocking surprise for many early Game Boy releases, Robocop gets really hard really quickly. Though there are only ten levels total, I've never beat the game myself. And yet, the difficulty never really stops it from being fun either.

There are a surprising number of Game Boy sequels including a crossover with the Terminator, and even eventual Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance releases. But I can't speak about any of them from experience. All I can say is that either nostalgia has skewed things way out of perspective, or Robocop is one hell of a fun game.



Posted on Mar 20th 2010 at 09:06:10 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Game Boy, Books



GameSpite Quarterly No. 1: (Game Boy) x (20 Years) = Retrospective

If you are not aware of http://www.gamespite.net, then I suggest you put on your reading glasses, direct your browser in that general direction and set aside a serious amount of time to think about retro-games. It's a fantastic website that offers thoughtful, funny, brainy, and at time brutally honest essays on games of yore. What's even more wonderful is that in the Spring of 2009, GameSpite began a quarterly campaign to compile their website essays into journals that share a common theme. And the premier issue was dedicated to our friend, the Game Boy.

Now in theory, you can read pretty much the entire contents right on the website (save for a handful of the bonus essays that were only included in the more expensive hardcover edition). However, holding this little book in your hand is really something special. You see, this is the first time I've seen a claim to condense the Game Boy's 20 year history into a single tome something of a reality. What makes the book work so well is that it doesn't allow nostalgia to distort the history into something it wasn't. In fact, there are are essays on all of the Game Boy's primary threats and they are completely forthcoming about the Game Boy's hardware inferiority in each case. Likewise, it is not just the "classic" games that are mentioned, nor is it the "overlooked gems"-only; there are chapters about games that we may all remember playing or that seemed important at the time that are total duds.

Each essay is generally short (usually less than 5 pages) and covers a specific topic: be it a game, accessory or competitor. But the book as a whole works both as a brisk primer for those just getting into Game Boy collecting and as a wonderful recollection for those of us that have been interested for the past 20 years.

Games picked apart:

Baseball
Battletoads
Bionic Commando
Castlevania: The Adventure
Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge
Daedalian Opus
Donkey Kong '94
Final Fantasy Adventure
Final Fantasy Legend II
Final Fantasy Legend III
Gargoyle's Quest
Gradius: The Interstellar Assault
Heiankyo Alien
Kid Icarus: Of Myths And Monsters
Kirby's Dream Land
The Legend Of Zelda: Link's Awakening
Mega Man (series)
Metal Gear Solid
Metroid II
Nemesis
Ninja Gaiden Shadow
Operation C
Picross
Pokemon Red/Blue
Street Fighter II
Super Mario Land
Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins
Tennis
Tetris
Wario Land II


The book also includes essays on the Game Shark and Game Boy Camera as well as competing hardware such as Atari's Lynx, Sega's Game Gear, SNK's Neo Geo Pocket and Bandai's WonderSwan. All in all, it's a fantastic read. Highly recommended.




Posted on Mar 14th 2010 at 09:43:13 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Game Boy, Skate Or Die, Konami



One of the main reasons I love collecting Game Boy games is that it gives me an excuse to relive my youth. Truly, many of the games that are highest on my wishlist aren't what you would consider classics. And in some cases they might not even be considered great games. But when you're young and your only source of games is what happens to be in stock the at the toy store the day your parents decide to get you a new one, you learn to love an ordinarily overlooked game because you can either spend some serious time with it, or just do your homework instead.

One such title that fits into this description is the 1990 Konami release Skate Or Die: Bad 'N Rad. This is a title I played the hell out of in my pre-teens based mostly on the merits of the NES Skate Or Die titles, along with the promise of an experience that would be equally bad AND rad -- two very enticing words to adolescents of the the 1990's.

This Game Boy sequel bares very little resemblance to the first NES game. The original game focused more on open-ended skating and the ultimate goal of becoming a skateboarding champion. Or at least shutting up that mohawked jerk at the skate shop. Bad 'N Rad on the other hand plays out like an adventure game. On a skateboard.  You must skate through each level and dodge lots of spikes, rats, thugs, and for some reason people in life rafts with tridents.



Similarly to what Konami did with their Game Boy Contra games, they decided to split up the levels in Bad 'N Rad between sidescrolling levels and overhead levels. This seemingly offers a challenge to gamers that are better than one or the other, which ultimately probably helped make the game last a bit longer. Unfortunately the other thing that made the game last so long was the extreme cheapness of the obstacles! You might land in water and get hit by it twice. Or a rat might run at you from a two pixel buffer zone between you and the end of the screen. And there are a lot of spikes in the town this skater lives in. But none of this really stops the game from being fun. It instead calls for a certain blend of eye-hand coordination along with level memorization which is somewhat similar to the approach that Konami took with their early Castlevania games.



Like most of Konami's early releases for Game Boy, they put an awful lot of detail into the graphical details as well as the music. In fact, the music in this game is certainly on par with the original NES release. The sound effects are few, but good when they do pop up. Most importantly the gameplay is stellar. Left and right will make your skater coast appropriately with enough control over speed; A jumps and B crouches which is a great touch when you use it to go through large pipes and other interesting tricks.

Later Konami released a Game Boy sequel titled Tour De Thrash which I never got the chance to play. And though I won't try to say that Bad 'N Rad is a completely unheralded classic, it's certainly classic to my own gaming memories. And it's definitely worth picking up if you happen upon it.



Posted on Mar 10th 2010 at 09:58:10 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Game Boy, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance

From time to time I've encountered some pretty awesome ads from the history of the Game Boy line of handhelds. I was 8 years old when the first Game Boy was released, and I've followed the line rather closely. So in a way it's endearing to see this time line grow up with my generation. For your review I've assembled a bit of a retrospective of the Game Boy line and how each new iteration has been presented to the world.


Continue reading How To Get Ahead In Handheld Advertising



Posted on Feb 27th 2010 at 08:28:50 PM by (noiseredux)
Posted under Game Boy, Operation C, Contra The Alien Wars

 

As an active member of the forums at http://www.racketboy.com, I try to participate in the Together Retro game club every month. However, as I don't like to bother with emulation and I only collect for Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance and Gamecube, I can't always play the chosen game. Luckily what makes the GB collection so fantastic is that almost every major game or series has been ported, remade, or had some kind of sequel or related game land on the little handheld that could. So while the game club spent February with the NES classic Contra, I investigated the monochrome sequels.



Operation C was released only two years after the Game Boy surfaced, and yet it's a highly advanced and impressive game. It was a Game Boy exlusive that was obviously inspired by the second NES title, Super C. The attention to detail in the graphics is really a bit of a surprise for such an early release, and the music rivals that of any Contra game released on the NES. Lance is controlled just as smoothly in the NES classic, so if you've played that one you'll have no problem jumping into this. The weapon upgrades include two versions of the spread gun, a homing gun and some kind of single shot flame-thrower. The levels are split between side-scrollers and overhead levels (see above pictures). Although the game is relatively short at just five levels, the difficulty of the levels certainly makes them last. In fact, I couldn't beat level four since I decided to give it a go without using the Konami Code.



Released three years later, Contra: The Alien Wars is basically a port of the SNES game of the same title. Obviously the game is stripped down to fit onto the GB hardware, but a ton is stuffed into the little cart. Though Lance's movements aren't quite as fluid as they were in Operation C, he can now do a lot more such as transfer down to platforms below the one he's on, climb walls or hang from ceilings. Because of these new capabilites, the controls take a bit longer to get used to but eventually feel comfortable enough to master. Again, Konami did a great job with both graphics (fire even looks like fire!) and music. In fact, the music in this one might even trump that of Operation C.

The levels again vary between side-scrollers and overheads and have alot of fun twists and turns within them. The boss animation is extremely impressive even when comparing it to the SNES version. The game is again only five levels, but the levels are generally pretty long and extremely hard. In fact, this game offers three difficulty levels to choose from: Easy, Normal or Maniac. After spending a bit of time on Normal I decided to give Easy a try so I could at least take a better survey of the levels (again no Konami Code) but strangely the game reset itself after I defeated the third level boss.

In 2002, Alien Wars was remade for the GBA, which may appeal more to the fans of the SNES game. I haven't played this version, so I can't speak from experience. Ultimately I'd say that both Game Boy releases are worthwhile additions to your collection. And although Alien Wars is perhaps better musically and graphically, my vote goes to Operation C as the better game. I find the controls a bit more natural, and it tends to have the better balance of being difficult without being completely frustrating.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
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