Memories of the Game Boy
By Dan Hearth Tuesday, 6 May 2008

I didn’t get a Game Boy of my own until Christmas of 1995 when I got one with clear casings from the “Play it Loud” series of Game Boys. Up until then, I’d play my friends’ Game Boys whenever I had a chance. I ended up with a rather large collection of Game Boy games over the years which I am still building to this day.

The first game I got was Donkey Kong Land (why was everything for the Game Boy “_______ Land”?). I wasn’t too impressed with Donkey Kong Land as it was pretty much a toned-down, harder-to-see version of Donkey Kong Country; a game I was never a big fan of in the first place.

Wario Land is a great platformer and I was happy to see that Wario didn’t play like a complete clone of Mario. He had his own set of moves and power-ups, and he really appealed to me as a character since he wasn’t really a hero or a good guy at all. Everything he does is to further his own ambitions: in the case of this game, to get enough cash to buy a bigger, better castle than Mario’s. That’s funny… I didn’t know Mario had his own castle.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is such an awesome game that I don’t think I even need to discuss it. If you don’t have this game, go and buy it right away. If you don’t have a Game Boy, go and buy one so you can play Link’s Awakening.

Not a lot of people are familiar with “Bombliss”, a spin-off of Tetris where the pieces are loaded with bombs. There is a version of this game for Game Boy called “Tetris Blast”. It’s just as fun as the classic version of Tetris, and in some ways, even better. If you’ve only played the original Tetris, you don’t know how satisfying it is to clear the whole screen with one giant bomb.

I’ve got Wheel of Fortune. It’s only moderately fun. And it’s as slow as sin.

Not everyone appreciates Metroid II, and I can see why. Every Metroid game since has been better in some way, and a few in practically every way. That doesn’t make this game bad. It made some big improvements over the original and I find it genuinely fun to play. Perhaps it’s just the nostalgia factor; I’ve noticed most people who played Super Metroid first don’t like Return of Samus. If you ask me, they’re both great games.

My Game Boy didn’t come with Tetris, unlike everyone else who had the ol’ gray one. Since everyone had it already, it was cheap, so I bought it. Five bucks ain’t bad. I’ve got six different

Game Boys now, and two copies of Tetris. Most people sold their old Game Boys, so if I wanna play Tetris with a friend, I’ve got everything we need.

I’m a huge fan of Vegas Stakes on the Super Nintendo. When I heard there was a Game Boy version, I had to have it. Nothing beats being able to gamble anywhere.

One of the oldest Game Boy games I own is a little puzzle game called “Kwirk”. My brother had his own Game Boy many years ago which he ended up selling, but he held on to Kwirk for some reason. When I got my own Game Boy, he passed it on to me. It’s a neat little game, and I emphasize “little” as there is not much to it. You navigate your little tomato-man through a number of mazes that require you to flip around doors and move blocks into pits to form bridges, and occasionally swap around different vegetable-people to lead them all to the goal. It’s fun and all, but a lot of puzzles are pretty complex and I end up giving up before I ever complete them.

I was pretty disappointed with Donkey Kong Land (and Donkey Kong Country for that matter) since I really didn’t like the direction Nintendo and Rare were taking the series. Then I got a Game Boy game simply titled “Donkey Kong” and I felt much better. In my mind, Donkey Kong is not a hero. He’s a mindless ape who wanders into construction sites and creates havoc. That is the only true Donkey Kong.

One summer, when I was reading an issue of Nintendo Power, I saw an ad for the Game Boy Camera. The first thing I thought when I saw it was “Can that thing even take decent photos?” Well, in the right conditions it can, but it takes a lot of effort to get them looking good. If you’re shot is not well planned, it usually looks pretty terrible. The weird thing is, I really like the Game Boy Camera, but not because of its picture-taking capability. I really like the multitude of applications and games this thing has built into it. It has a really flexible animation program, a paint program similar to Mario Paint that let’s you draw on your photos and make your friends and family look ridiculous, even a couple Game & Watch-style games with your face pasted on the characters. Add the Game Boy Printer and you can make little stickers out of your photos (assuming you’ve got six AA batteries handy to run the damned thing!). As simple and archaic the camera is (especially now), it’s still a lot of fun to tinker around with.

The only Pokémon game I have ever owned (besides spin-offs like Stadium and Pinball) is the Blue Version. There was a long gap of time since I bought Donkey Kong and I was looking for something new to play. I played this game to death when I got it. Everyone I knew had some version of Pokémon and I got a kick out of mercilessly beating their Pokémon into submission. But then one day, a couple years later, everyone just lost interest in the game. Everyone quit playing or moved on to the newer Gold & Silver versions. I put so much time into Pokémon Blue that I had no desire to start from scratch with a new version, and since I had nobody to fight with me and my outdated game I had to quit. And I never played Pokémon again…

Fast-forward a few years to the days when I got my Game Boy Advance and was playing Golden Sun and Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. My brother surprised me one day by handing me and old, black & white Game Boy game called Final Fantasy Adventure. He explained to me that it was a game like The Legend of Zelda and that the friend he got it from didn’t want it anymore. I was intrigued… I am a big fan of Final Fantasy and Zelda, but I was a bit skeptical since the previous owner didn’t like the game enough to keep it for himself. I tried it out and I immediately notice all the familiar graphics. “This looks just like Final Fantasy on the NES.” Then I notice a bunch of Rabites jumping around and I think to myself “Aren’t they from Secret of Mana?” The more I played it, the fonder of the game I became. It’s a fusion of some of my favorite games ever and I can’t help but love it. The guy who had it before me was foolish for discarding it.

Occasionally I lay out all of my Game Boy games in front of me and admire the various cover art. But something was missing. I didn’t have a single Mario game for my Game Boy. Wario was there to fill the void for a long time, but I eventually decided I needed something to satisfy my desire to jump on turtles’ heads. Then one day, I noticed a copy of Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins sitting way up on the top shelf of my local used game store. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was still shrink-wrapped; it had never once been played before. I asked about the price and they only wanted twenty dollars. Sold! There’s a funny story that goes along with this game. Since this game was still brand new, all the little papers advertising various Nintendo products were still inside the box, including an awesome mini-poster for Metroid II: Return of Samus. What really caught my eye was a subscription form for Nintendo Power stating “Subscribe to Nintendo Power and receive a free copy of the Game Boy Player’s Guide”. I bought this game in 2006 and I wondered if I sent in this form if they would still send me the Player’s Guide as advertised. I told my friend about it and asked what he thought and we both agreed it wasn’t likely. But, as a joke, my friend decided to fill it out and send it in just so we could laugh at whatever response he got, if any. As it turned out, Nintendo gave him the subscription to the magazine, but since the Player’s Guide he wanted was out of print, they sent him another one of his choice. It’s funny to me because I honestly thought he’d get nothing in return.

Most of my friends had Super Mario Land and I really enjoyed playing it. But, for some reason, I never bought my own copy of the game. I had to change that. It’s a pretty common game so it was pretty easy to find. Super Mario Land is odd in a lot of ways since it doesn’t keep the continuity of the series as the previous games in the series had done. Turtles explode when you jump on them? Mario’s fireballs bounce off of walls and ceilings and can pick up coins? Why am I suddenly piloting this submarine? Who the hell is Daisy and where is Princess Toadstool? Now I’m flying a plane? What the hell is going on?! Super Mario Land is special to me since it’s so bizarre and out-of-place with the other games, and I have a thing for games that are strange and unintentionally funny. The last strange bit about this game is that I bought each of the Mario Land games in the reverse order.

I have tons of fond memories of me playing my old Game Boy and playing it now makes me feel younger and reminds me of my childhood. There are literally hundreds of games for the Game Boy and I’m still discovering a lot of them for the first time. I urge those of you who still have your old Game Boy to dig it up wherever it’s hiding now and play it again for old time’s sake. That old, gray block is still as fun as it was for me years ago.

3 Responses to “Memories of the Game Boy”

  1. Charlie Goodrich Says:

    Ahhh memories

  2. Zach Patterson Says:

    mario land holds a special place in my heart. such good music too. i liked donkey kong land a lot too, mainly because i was a DKC fan. and of course I’ll defend Metroid II, still an unique game all these years later.

    i’ll probably run down some of my oddball game boy games soon. i had a really strange combination of great games and discount terrible games that i tried to play anyway.

  3. Andrew Raub Says:

    Unfortunately I was too wowed by the GameGear’s color screen to get a GameBoy. But of course, in the early 90’s you couldn’t walk 10 feet without running into someone who did own one. Sometimes I wish I had gotten more exposure to the GB and its games. There are some truly amazing games for that little system… I can’t say the same for the GG.

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