Game Opinion Summaries: Game Boy

This is a new name for my series of short (one to three paragraphs each) reviews of all the games I own for a system.  This one is one of my personal favorite videogame systems ever.

Note: This thread is for games compatible with the original, B&W Game Boy.  Game Boy Color only games, which require that system, will be done another time, in a GBC thread.  The Game Boy and Game Boy Color are different systems, so I will not list them together.  That will cause some repetition, but still, I think this is the right way to do things.

Nintendo’s original Game Boy was one of the most important videogame system releases ever.  It created the modern handheld gaming market, lasted 12-13 years, and was a great system along the way, too.  I actually started on a SNES Game Review Summaries thread first, but got bogged down with about 50 to go, so I dropped it for the time being (I’ll get back to it), and started on this one instead… and it went much easier, and here the thread is!

The Game Boy, in its original form, was the first console I ever owned — I got one for Christmas in 1993.  Before that we’d had a computer for a while (since early ’92; yeah, I didn’t have anything beyond a couple of LCD handhelds for video/computer games at home before I was nine), but this was my home introduction to Nintendo.  I had no chance of convincing my parents to let me get a TV console, but they finally gave in on handhelds, so I looked at the GB and Game Gear.  I was interested in both, and listed what stuff I’d want for each one of course, but ultimately ranked the Game Boy higher because it had more games I was interested in.  I ended up getting the GB, Super Mario Land, and Kirby’s Dream Land on Christmas.  I think that I made the right decision asking for the Game Boy, and I’ve liked Nintendo handhelds ever since.

As a result of this, expect a bit more personal recollection stuff in these reviews than in any of my previous threads.  I’ve had the N64 since 1999, sure, but I got a GB a good 6 1/3 years before that… the several dozen GB games that I got between 1993 and 1998, particularly, have pretty strong nostalgia value for me, good or bad.  I got a Game Boy Color for Christmas 1998, so from that point on I more played GBC games.  However, many GBC games released between 1998 and 2000 have original Game Boy compatibility, so those games will of course also be in this thread.

Oddly enough, though, I don’t have nearly as many games for the Game Boy as I do for consoles that I got much, much more recently; I have at least 150 games each for a bunch of systems I didn’t even own before 2005 or later, like the SNES, Genesis, PS1, and PS2, and also some systems I’ve had for longer but not as long as the GB, such as the N64, but still have only about 98 GB games, plus 27 more dual-mode black-cart titles, for a total of 125 games.  It’s a good-sized library, but I do have more games for a bunch of other systems now.  I’m not sure why I don’t have more, but one reason would be availability — it’s harder to find Game Boy games than it is consoles like the NES, SNES, or Playstation — and also maybe because I’ve owned the GB for longer, so I might have higher standards or something… I mean, I regularly buy not-that-great console games, but for the Game Boy? Unless it’s something I think I might actually like, I don’t get it.  So yeah, I do not have a large collection of mediocre licensed Game Boy games.  Maybe someday I’ll lower my standards for GB purchases more.  I do have some interesting, lesser-known titles, though, and look for reviews of those games here, along with the more popular stuff.  Oh, I should mention that I own all but one of the GB games that I have ever owned.  The only one I don’t have anymore is Ken Griffey Jr.’s Major League Baseball, which is one of two GB games I disliked so much that I sold it — that style of top-view baseball screen where you can’t see much of the field and have to catch balls by the minimap isn’t something I like at all.  I was quite partial to the Hardball series (on PC particularly).  The other GB game I sold is Toy Story, but I bought a $1 or $2 copy of that sometime last year, so I can review that below.

This is the original Game Boy box. I do have my original GB box, but it’s not this model; I have the later version that came with only the system and batteries, not the link cable and Tetris like this original pack did.

My favorite Game Boy and dual-mode (as played in B&W/SGB only) Games (of what I have only) – #1 is for sure, but numbers two through nine can shift around.  Numbers 3 through 6 could be in almost any order, for instance, and I’d like the list just as much…

1. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
2. Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land
3. Donkey Kong [’94]
4. Kirby’s Dream Land 2
5. Gradius: The Interstellar Assault
6. Final Fantasy Adventure
7. Kirby’s Pinball Land
8. Mega Man IV and V (tie)
9. Micro Machines
10. Hexcite (GB/GBC dualmode game)
#10 for GB-only games list: Gargoyle’s Quest

Honorable Mentions (after Gargoyle’s Quest): Mega Man in Dr. Wily’s Revenge, Mega Man III, Kirby’s Block Ball, Kirby’s Dream Land, Kirby’s Star Stacker, Super Mario Land, Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins, Quarth, R-Type DX, Wario Land II, Looney Tunes, Montezuma’s Return, Wave Race, Survival Kids, Aerostar, Quarth, Bomberman GB, Shanghai Pocket, Tetris DX, Speedy Gonzales, Looney Tunes, Taz-Mania, Daffy Duck: The Marvin Missions, Out of Gas, Amazing Penguin, Operation C, Alleyway

Worst game I own: Toy Story

Top 5 for GB/C Dual Mode (black-cart) games only

1. Hexcite
2. Montezuma’s Return
3. Survival Kids
4. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX
5. Wario Land II

Top honorable mention: R-Type DX

Worst game I own: Pokemon Pinball

Table of Contents (games are mostly in alphabetical order, but I mostly put series together, regardless of alphabet order.)

Game Boy (grey carts/B&W-only) – ~98 games

4 in 1 Funpak Vol. 1
Adventure Island II: Aliens in Paradise
Aerostar
Aladdin
Alfred Chicken
Alleyway
Amazing Penguin
Balloon Kid
Bart Simpson’s Escape from Camp Deadly
Batman
Battle Arena Toshinden
Bionic Commando (1992)
Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman!
Bomberman GB
Bonk’s Revenge
Boomer’s Adventure in Asmik World
Brain Drain
Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2, The
Castlevania Adventure, The
Cosmo Tank
Daedalian Opus
Donkey Kong [’94]
Donkey Kong Land
Donkey Kong Land 2
Donkey Kong Land 3
DuckTales 2
F-1 Race
Final Fantasy Adventure
Flipull
Gargoyle’s Quest
Gradius: The Interstellar Assault
Incredible Crash Dummies, The
Iron Man / XO Manowar in Heavy Metal
James Bond 007
Kirby’s Dream Land
Kirby’s Pinball Land
Kirby’s Dream Land 2
Kirby’s Block Ball
Kirby’s Star Stacker
Lazlo’s Leap
Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, The
Lion King, The
Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge
Mega Man II
Mega Man III
Mega Man IV
Mega Man V
Mercenary Force
Metal Masters
Metroid II: Return of Samus
Mickey Mouse: Magic Wands!
Micro Machines
Milon’s Secret Castle
Mole Mania
Monster Truck Wars
Motocross Maniacs
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
NBA Jam: Tournament Edition
Ninja Gaiden Shadow
Operation C
Out of Gas
Pokemon Red Version
Prehistorik Man
Quarth
Radar Mission
Revenge of the Gator
Rolan’s Curse
Rolan’s Curse 2
Samurai Shodown
Sneaky Snakes
Solar Striker
Speedy Gonzales
Star Wars
Street Racer
Super Chase H.Q.
Super Mario Land
Super Mario Land 2
Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3
Super Off-Road
Super R.C. Pro-Am
Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle
Taz-Mania
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Back From the Sewers
Tetris
Tetris Blast
Tiny Toon Adventures: Babs’ Big Break
Tiny Toon Adventures [2]: Montana’s Movie Madness
Torpedo Range
Toy Story
Trax
Turrican
Wave Race
Yoshi
Yoshi’s Cookie
Zen: Intergalactic Ninja

GB/GBC Dual Mode – 28 games

Asteroids
Ballistic
Conker’s Pocket Tales
Ghosts ‘N Goblins
Hexcite
Hot Wheels: Stunt Track Driver
Jeff Gordon XS Racing
Klustar
Looney Tunes
Looney Tunes: Carrot Crazy
Looney Tunes: Twouble!
Montezuma’s Return
Oddworld Adventures 2
Pocket Bomberman
Pokemon Pinball
Power Quest
Prince of Persia
Quest for Camelot
R-Type DX
Rats!
Roadsters
Shamus
Shanghai Pocket
Survival Kids
Legend of Zelda, The: Link’s Awakening DX
Tetris DX
Turok 2: Seeds of Evil
Wario Land II

Games use my standard format and list save type (if any), multiplayer (if any), and other accessories supported.  For multiplayer, I list whether the games use the Link Cable, the 4-Player Adapter, or whether they support same-system multiplayer, and whether the game is alternating or simultaneous play in multiplayer.  Games with Super Game Boy or GB Printer support also mention that in accessories.  I also list which techniques I know Super Game Boy games to be using — custom (SGB-exclusive) screen borders, enhanced sound versus a normal Game Boy, a custom color palette (the selection of four colors used on the screen), auto-changing color palettes (games which change palettes during play, so each level looks different), multiple color zones on screen (a SGB technique that allows you to have specific parts of the screen use a different palette from the rest of the screen.  These zones cannot scroll, but are useful for status bars and the like.), and multiplayer on the SGB with SNES controllers (supported in some fighting and Bomberman games) are the ones.  Only the techniques a game supports will be listed with that game.
Remember, the Game Boy Color, and GB/GBC dual-mode games as they run on the GBC, GBA, GBA SP, or GB Player, will be in a separate list; that is a different system from this one, and should be listed separately.  Also, the reviews of Game Boy/GB Color dual-mode (black cart) games in this thread are supposed to focus on how they run on the original Game Boy, GB Pocket, GB Light, and Super Game Boy, not the GB Color or beyond.  I will mention some of how they run in color too though.

At the end of each review, I mention other platforms the game is available on.  If none are listed there, it’s an exclusive.


Game Boy (Original) – 95 games


4 in 1 Funpak Vol. 1 – Two Player Alternating –  Link or Same System.  This game is a collection of board games.  It includes Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, and Reversi.  There’s no saving here, so all you can do is just play a single game of the game of your choice.  All four games do play reasonably well, but there are surely better options than this now, on newer consoles.  Still, for Chess and Reversi (aka Othello), this was worth the very low price; I like those games.  There are multiple difficulty levels too, as you would hope, and it supports two players on one system, which is great.  While that might be expected, it isn’t a given, so it’s good that it is here.  The game has very basic, early-GB graphics that aren’t too impressive, but do the job.


Adventure Island II: Aliens in Paradise – One player, password save.  I’ve never loved the Adventure Island series, and find the games too simplistic and kind of boring or frustrating, and this game does not entirely escape that.  However, it isn’t too bad.  Adventure Island II for the GB is a game inspired by Adventure Island III on the NES.  (The first GB Adventure Island is based on AI II for the NES, so this makes sense.)  It may be a little confusing (III is II…), but that’s what it is.  The game is not identical to the NES game, though; even though the area themes are the same, so this game has dinosaurs to ride on as with the NES game, which is great; the better AI games are the ones with the ridable dinosaurs.  The general game structure is the same as the NES version as well, but the level designs are, as usual on the Game Boy, new.  The levels are still very short, unfortunately — I have never liked SMB3’s super-short-levels concept that AI3-NES/II-GB takes its inspiration from — but the layouts are new, and the levels are fun while they last.  I like how the path can branch at times, and that there are hidden levels to find, too.  Considering the different screen resolution, it makes sense to redo things, and that’s what they did here.  The graphics are good, with nice detail and art design, justl ike the second and third NES games, but in monochrome.  Overall,  even if you have played the NES games, these Game Boy games are worth playing if you like the series.  And even if you usually don’t, like me, the NES and GB games are as good as Adventure Island gets.  This game is still overly simplistic and gets boring quickly, but at least this one has passwords, so you don’t have to play it all at once!  The NES games don’t have saving, but the GB games do.  Still though, even the Game Boy Adventure Island games are average at best.  I first played the first GB Adventure Island back in the early ’90s, and didn’t like it very much, and that impression of the series has stuck.  But overall, this one is alright, and is improved over the first GB game.  Remake of Adventure Island III for the NES.


Aerostar – One player.  Aerostar, or Aero Star, is a fairly unique shmup.  The game is a fairly early GB game, from 1991, but it has pretty decent graphics for the time, and not much slowdown either.  The game also has some original game design.  You see, in this game, instead of simply moving around the bottom of the screen, your vehicle here must stay over the roads.  Yeah, your craft looks like a futuristic fighter plane, but it’s landbound.  It’s kind of odd, but makes for some good gameplay.  To move between road sections, you can hit the Jump button, which makes you take to the air.  However, in the air you have a very limited flight time, as marked by the meter on the top of the screen.  If you don’t land, or at least go over road surface when the meter runs out, you will crash and lose a life.  Yeah, make sure to land on the roads!  The game is a vertical-scrolling autoscrolling shooter, so you always need to pay attention and learn the levels.  There are often multiple roads you can be on on the screen, so as you play you will learn which ones are the better paths.  The game doesn’t have any areas where the screen scrolls horizontally, so it’s always just one screen wide, but they put a lot of interesting challenges into the stages.  There are four different weapon powerups available, too, and they are all good, and different from eachother, so there’s a nice variety of weapons here as well.  Aerostar is a moderately challenging game, and I haven’t managed to finish it yet though I have gotten pretty far.  This game is cheap and highly recommended — it’s a pretty good shmup, and most people haven’t heard of it, either.  The graphics and sound are somewhat average, but are classic Game Boy stuff and look nice enough, and the gameplay holds up great.


Aladdin – One player, Super Game Boy enhanced (w/ background and single color palette).  Aladdin for the GB is in fact a port of the Genesis game of the same name.  Yes, the Genesis game has a Game Boy port.  It’s also on the GBC as well, but I don’t have those versions, only the original.  The game is somewhat cut down from the Genesis original, as you would expect — the animation isn’t as good or as smooth, there are fewer levels, and the graphics are on the small side.  This game is not anywhere remotely near as good as the all-time classic that is the Genesis original.  It’s mostly interesting in that they actually tried to port the Genesis game to the GB, and didn’t make a new game for the handheld, unlike the Game Gear game, which is entirely different.  An original title probably would have been a better idea, honestly, but this version wasn’t helped by its mediocre, cheap-handheld-games budget and development team.  The sprites have outlines around them to make them stand out; they do, but it looks kind of ugly.For Genesis Aladdin, this game sure looks average.  The Super Game Boy gives it a nice, appropriately yellow color palette and decent border.  There are nine levels in this version, so it’s not as short as some GB games, but isn’t all that long either.  Unfortunately, no saving.  This is really only a curiosity.  Also on the Genesis, Game Boy Color, and PC.


Alfred Chicken – One player.  Alfred Chicken is a European platformer for several platforms.  The game’s somewhat difficult and has no saving, so this one will be frustrating.  The gameplay is classic ’80s/early ’90s Euro-platformer stuff, so the game has good-sized levels which you have to wander around as you try to find your way through.  The levels are nonlinear, as expected, and the game is frustrating.  The graphics are extremely bland, as well; have low expectations for this one.  The game is quite short, with only five levels, but it’s not easy to finish, in part because of the puzzle elements in the level designs and the limited lives and continues, and in part because you can only get to level five if you collect a certain item (the watering can) in each one of the first four levels.  This is one of the few games where you play as a chicken, but this game isn’t really funny like, say, Mort the Chicken for PS1 is.  This really is for classic Euro-platformer fans only.  Also on NES, Amiga, and Amiga CD32.


Alleyway – One player.  Alleyway is a very early Game Boy game, and looks it.  This game is a Breakout/Arkanoid style blockbreaking game, and it’s really quite good and addictive.  I wasn’t sure if I would like this game or not when I got it a few years ago, but I most definitely do.  I want to mention the biggest drawback first, though — ball bounce angles in this game are limited.  The ball seems to only bounce at a couple of angles, and this can make hitting that one last block VERY frustrating at times.  Apart from that though, I really like the game.  It’s simple, but great.  The game is mostly like Breakout, as there are no Arkanoid-style powerups or enemies in this game, but it has some new elements to make things more interesting.  Each area in the game has a unique block layout and is made up of four stages.  The first stage has a static block pattern.  The second stage has a pattern where the blocks horizontally scroll across the screen, with each of the three block colors moving at a different screen.  Once they hit the side, they wrap around and appear on the other end.  The last main stage in each world has the blocks slowly descending down towards you.  In the first area there is only one pattern of blocks, but after that these stages always have two full sets of blocks in them.  You can’t lose if you fail to get them before they hit the bottom, though — all that will happen is that the blocks will vanish when they get too low.  This should be avoided when possible, though, because you don’t have any continues in this game, and it’s easy to lose lives, so every extra life you can get from points is precious, and you won’t get points from blocks that vanish that way.  The last stage in each area is a bonus level, where you have to try to destroy all the blocks in a Nintendo-related shape before time runs out.  As usual in such stages, the ball passes through bricks in this mode.  Overall, Alleyway is a quite challenging game, with its limited bounce angles and no-continues design, but it’s addictive and has kept me coming back again and again.  This is one of my most frequently played GB games in the last few years; I’ve probably played it more than anything other than Hexcite.  Also on 3DS Virtual Console.


Amazing Penguin – One player, password save.  Amazing Penguin is a quite good classic arcade-style game.  There’s no story ingame, but you play as a penguin, and apparently the idea is that you’re a penguin cutting away the ice blocking your access to the sea, or something.  The game has basic but functional graphics; it’s nothing special looking, but it’s good enough.  It’s the gameplay that keeps this game going, though, and this game is good enough to be well worth it.  I’d never heard of this game when I got it, but it’s a good game.  The game is a topdown game, and you move around a maze along lines.  The lines form square areas, and the game is somewhere in between Crush Roller or Zoom! on the one hand (that is, games where you win by passing over all of the territory in the level), and Pac-Man.  So, in Amazing Penguin you win by turning all of the rectangles from blank to patterened, but you don’t do it by just passing over the ground, as in that first group of games; instead, you do it by clearing the screen of these little items.  You turn each side of a rectangle by hitting a button when you pass over the item, or items, which usually are at the midpoint of each side.  Destroy all of the items around a rectangle and you kill any enemies touching it.  There are two types of items,  The black one can be kicked, with one button, or destroyed, with the other.  Destroying it will just get rid of it, but if you remember to press the other button, you’ll kick it in a straight line, which will kill any enemies it hits.  The other item, which is white, can only be destroyed; the kick button will do nothing to these.  Enemies respawn while you’re playing, so you can’t get rid of the enemies forver.  You win each level once you’ve cleared all the ice.  The game may sound basic, and at first it is, but as you progress through the game, the levels get more complex and more challenging.  You have to make tough decisions, such as when to use an item — do you knock it away right away, or keep that one in place in case you get cornered and need to defeat some enemies?  You can only destroy the enemies around a square once, after all; once all four sides are clear, the items around it won’t come back.  At first levels are only one screen in size, but later on they expand.  The game also plays great on any model of Game Boy.  I liked the game from the beginning; it’s simple, but fun.  But yes, as easy as it may seem at the beginning, it does eventually challenge.  There are 40 levels, broken up into 10 4-level worlds.  The difficulty curve is done well, overall, as is this game.  There are harder games for sure, but it’s a fun one.  It’s a classic arcade concept, altered a bit and adapted well to the Game Boy.  Plus, with passwords for each world, you don’t need to start the game over every time you play!  Good game, and it’s recommended.


Balloon Kid – Two player simultaneous – Link.  Balloon Kid is an early (1990) GB game from Nintendo where you play as a girl who has to rescue her brother, who floated away on some balloons.  Yeah, it’s a reverse of the usual game story; nice touch!  A girl saving a boy?  You can tell Miyamoto didn’t have a part in making this game. :p  Anyway, the game is essentially a sequel to Balloon Fight for the NES, and was only released in the West on the original GB; Japan had to wait ten years before they got the game on handhelds, though they did get a colorized version of it, with battery save added too.  That version was only released in Japan.  Looking at the version we did get, though, I like the game.  It may not have saving, but this game is short, so that’s not so bad; this one is not hard to finish in one sitting, once you are good enough to do so.  Getting good enough to finish it will take some effort, though, so there’s solid replay value here.  The game is a sidescrolling “platformer”, except of course you spend most of the time in the air.  There are also bonus areas to find.  This game doesn’t include the original Balloon Fight’s Joust-clone single-screen arcade mode.  There is a versus mode in that style, but that’s link cable only.  Instead, the main game is a platformer, inspired by the original game’s Balloon Trip mode, but more complex, and with a level structure and ending.  Balloon Kid has basic, small early-GB game graphics, but they’re decent enough, and if small, they have some nice detail.  The levels are made up of walls and platforms, as well as pits.  There are boss fights every couple of levels, fought on the ground.  You can walk on the ground anytime though, and even jump if you land and lose or get rid of your balloons, though playing this as a traditional platformer is impossible, as many areas require balloons to traverse.  There are times where you’ll just have to lose a life to continue, if you get stuck without balloons somewhere where you need them.  So, don’t get hit too much and lose those balloons!  You have two hits before dropping, as with the original Balloon Fight (and indeed, that you got two hits instead of one was just about Balloon Fight’s ONLY difference versus Joust, Balloon Trip mode aside…).  I never really liked Joust all that much, but in this platformer form, I think the concept works well.  It’s pretty much a flying platformer, and avoiding the obstacles and finding the bonus rooms is quite fun.  The game has some challenge to it, and you have limited lives and there are no continues, so it will take some replay to finish, but it’s more than fun enough to be well worth it.  I imagine that the import color version is pretty short; a lot of the playtime here is in the time it takes to get through it all at once, but with saving this would be a very short game.  The game also includes an endless “Balloon Trip” mode, as in the original Balloon Fight, so you can also play that and try to get better, though of course in the Western version you’ll have to write down your scores yourself, since it won’t save them.  There’s also a versus mode, which apparently is a classic versus Joust/Balloon Fight-style game, though as I have only one copy of the game, I haven’t tried it.  I’d like to get another copy eventually so that I can.  Also on NES (Japan only, reprogrammed and redrawn as “Hello Kitty World”), GBC (Japan only, as “Balloon Fight GB”) and 3DS Virtual Console (US/EU have only the Western B&W version, Japan only the Japanese color version).  Of course, the 3DS VC version has the multiplayer removed.


Bart Simpson’s Escape from Camp Deadly – One player.  This is a very difficult, mediocre Simpsons game where you play as Bart, as he has to, well, do as the title says.  The game has some pretty nice graphics, but the game really is very hard and frustrating.  You’ve got limited lives and continues, and you’ll lose them quickly, with how many obstacles there are to avoid in this game, and because of the not-the-greatest controls.  I remember this game being a popular one back in the early ’90s, because of its license, and you certainly could do worse — the visuals at least are good — but the high frustration factor drags the game down quickly.  As with most Simpsons platformers of the era, unfortunately, this game isn’t that great.  Even just playing long enough to beat the first level might take some effort — this game’s hard from the start, and I didn’t play long before quitting.  I did pay only $1, though, so it was probably worth the cost.


Batman – One player.  Batman is one of Sunsoft’s earliest Game Boy games, and you can tell — this game has tiny, simple graphics.  Fortunately though, the game plays great, even if it looks quite unimpressive visually.  The game is a horizontal platformer.  You always move to the right, and can’t move backwards either (the screen doesn’t scroll back).  Batman is tiny, and you will do a lot of breaking blocks as you go, as they hold various weapons and collectables in them.  Yeah, it’s a simpler game than the NES Batman game — there’s none of that game’s huge levels or grappling action here, this is a simple, but good, platformer.  The game is quite difficult, too, just like that game.  You do have infinite continues, but there’s no saving, so this is a tough one to beat.  I’ve gotten to the final boss, but as with the NES Batman game, The Joker’s just too tough, and I eventually gave up right at the end.  The last level before the final boss is hard as well.  Still though, Batman is a pretty good game.  You have several different weapons, including, oddly enough, a gun, and the level designs are well, if sometimes cruelly, designed.  The music is fantastic, as well; the graphics may be early-GB basic, but Sunsoft’s usual audio mastery is in full display here.  This game is worth playing for sure.


Battle Arena Toshinden – Two player simultaneous (Link or Super Game Boy req.), Super Game Boy enhanced (w/ background, two player mode with 2 SNES controllers, and auto-switching color palettes).  Toshinden for the Game Boy is a 2d handheld fighting game from Takara based on the then-popular PS1/Saturn 3d fighting game franchise.  The 3d Toshinden games are of mixed and dated quality, with early polygon graphics, some odd design decisions, and mediocre at best gameplay; they can be fun, but aren’t that good.  Toshinden for the Game Boy, though, is a better game.  Yes, this is my favorite Toshinden game overall.  It’s a very, VERY easy game, but it’s legitimately well designed, works well on the handheld, and plays great.  The basic game is a button-mashing heavy 2d fighter, but there is a unique element here in the ring-out system.  You see, once pressed against the left or right ends of the arena, you can knock out the other player if you hit them enough times.  You won’t just fly off the first time, but if you lose all of your ‘ringout protection’ marks through taking too many hits to the wall, well, then ring-out can happen.  This mechanic really makes the game different, for a 2d fighter, and I like how it works.  As for the cast, you can choose from the eight characters from the original Toshinden game, and there is a basic plot here of course.  The game looks great on the Super Game Boy, and I highly recommend using one with this game!  The border is nice, the color palettes are well chosen, the game switches palettes to fit each stage best.  The two player mode on SNES is great, too.  There’s also a higher game speed only accessible on the SGB.  There is also a link cable mode, though, and that’s quite fun as well; I do have two copies of this game and have played it in link mode.  Great fun.  On a note of the difficulty level the game IS easy, and that really is the biggest drawback here.  I beat the game on Normal the first time I played it, without losing a single match!  I may have lost a round or two, but never a whole match.  Yeah, really.  There is a difficulty level option, of course, but even on hard, this game is not challenging.  Still, it’s fun enough that the fun factor makes up for that.  Overall, this is probably the best fighting game I’ve played for the original Game Boy.  Don’t expect too much depth here, but it is fun, fast, simple, and entertaining.  (Oh yeah, I think Ellis is the best character.)


Bionic Commando (1992) – One player, password save.  Bionic Commando, from ’92, is a sequel of sorts to Capcom’s classic arcade and NES Bionic Commando titles.  This game is set in the future, and Nathan “Rad” Spencer has to save the day — as usual, Super Joe was captured, and the enemy is trying to take over the world.  This game has definite similarities to the NES game, but is an entirely new title in level designs, story, and graphical design.  Plus, they added password save in this game, which is fantastic, and makes the game much more fun than the NES game was.  As with the NES game though, you still have a world map to explore.  That map has 16 stages on it, but 5 are Neutral Areas, so there are only 11 actual levels.  As with the NES game, the Neutral Areas are short zones where you usually will not fight anyone, so they mostly exist for weapon/item collection.  They feel kind of pointless, but I guess they do tell a bit of the story.  There are also enemy vehicles on the world map, as with the NES game, but here the fights you get into if your ship runs into one of those vehicles are side-scrolling, not top-down.  So, yes, this entire game is all sidescrolling.  Otherwise the vehicle missions work as expected, though — you go through the area, beat the enemies, defeat the bosses, and pick up those vital extra lives the bosses there drop.  The controls are good.  I do think that Bionic Commando: Elite Forces has even better controls, with greater command over your bionic arm swing, but even though the controls here are a bit more restricted, they do work well, and once used to them, it’s easy to swing around, cross levels on the ceiling, and more.  I just love the freedom you get from the bionic arm, and though the arm controls are stiffer than Elite Forces, it is implemented well.  The difficulty level here is only moderate, too, for anyone who knows Bionic Commando games, so this game is definitely on the short side, unfortunately.  that really is the game’s only flaw, though; Bionic Commando for GB has great pixel art, good, classic Bionic Commando controls, the usual assortment of weapons and items you expect from the series, some challenge in the later stages, and more.  I’ve loved Bionic Commando ever since I first played the NES game, and this really is a fantastic game too.  I didn’t own it in the ’90s, unfortunately, and I do like Bionic Commando: Elite Forces for the GBC even more than I do this game, but still, GB Bionic Commando is an absolute must-have game!


Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman! – One player (on any handheld Game Boy) or four player simultaneous (on Super Game Boy), password save, Super Game Boy enhanced (with multiple borders, auto-changing color palettes, enhanced sound, and 4 player multiplayer via a SNES with Super Multitap).  This game is listed here because in Japan, its title was Bomberman GB, and it’s really a Bomberman game, so I’m keeping it together with the below game.  Wario Blast is a Bomberman game, so it plays like Bomberman.  You go around a maze, lay bombs, blow up the destructible blocks, and try to kill the other players or monsters with bomb blasts without getting hit yourself.  It’s a simple formula, but it’s as fun here as ever.  Plus, this is the only Bomberman game with Wario (or any other Nintendo character) in it.  The game has a single player mode, where you choose Wario or Bomberman and then go through a traditional Bomberman game, somewhat like the original NES game in its somewhat bland graphics and “kill all the enemies” gameplay, and a multiplayer mode on the SNES only where up to four people can blow eachother up.  The multiplayer is of course great, if you have the setup, but Bomberman GB (next) is similar, but better.  And that really is the biggest problem with the game — Wario aside, this is a pretty basic game, and feels almost entirely superseded by its sequel below.  That game has better graphics, a more unique theme, more powerups and abilities, more map variety in both single and multi player, and that hidden 1p vs CPU opponents battle mode, too.  This game has none of that.  Still, if it’s cheap, pick it up.  It’s a fine Bomberman title.  But Bomberman GB is better.


Bomberman GB – One player (on any handheld Game Boy) or four player simultaneous (on Super Game Boy), password save, Super Game Boy enhanced (with multiple borders, auto-changing color palettes, enhanced sound, and 4 player multiplayer via a SNES with Super Multitap).  Bomberman GB, released in Japan in 1994 but the West in 1998, is actually Hudson’s third Bomberman-franchise title on the Game Boy.  First came Atomic Punk (Bomber Boy, in Japan), second Wario Blast (Bomberman GB, in Japan, and sans-Wario), third this game (Bomberman GB 2, there), and last was the Japan-only Bomberman GB 3 (1996).  Bizarrely, that last one has no multiplayer at all. Yeah, I don’t know that we missed much.  Oddly enough though, Bomberman GB 3 is available on the Japanese 3DS VC, while the previous games are not anywhere.  As for this game though, it is unfortunate that the link cable mode Atomic Punk (the first GB Bomberman game) had is absent here.  The previous GB Bomberman title, Wario Blast, is like this too, but still, it’s just bizarre that this Bomberman game, which is a classic top-down action-puzzle Bomberman title, has multiplayer, or that no GB Bomberman game supports the GB’s four player adapter.  Only when played on the SNES through a Super Game Boy and Super Multitap can you play four (or even two) player.  The battle mode option won’t even appear on the screen unless you play on a SGB, though you can access it through a code, if you want to play one player versus three (comically bad AI-controlled) CPUs.  Despite how hilariously bad the AI is in single player battle mode is, though, I loved this at the time when I got this game in ’98, and played it a lot.  I can still see why, too — this is a really good game, whatever mode you play.  Overall, this is probably my favorite Bomberman game.  I’m sure that nostalgia is part of that, as this was the first full-version Bomberman game that I owned, but still, the game has that classic Bomberman design, executed well, and it’s certainly one of the better games in the franchise.  The main game has a somewhat Indiana Jones-esque theme, as you play as a Bomberman with a Indy-style hat, travelling through ruins looking for lost treasures.  Naturally, the ruins are full of monsters.  I like the theme, it makes the game more interesting than generic Bomberman games.  The game has eight worlds, with a password for each one.  The last world is a boss-rush, and it’s very difficult; I got up to that point, but always got stuck there, so I didn’t quite finish the game.  Still, it’s great, classic Bomberman fun.  You explore mazes, blowing up the destructible blocks, and hopefully the enemies as well, as you try to clear each stage by destroying all of the monsters, or the boss for boss levels.  In battle mode, you can choose a stage (there are eight, each one based on the setting for one of the eight worlds in the game) and number of players, each human or CPU controlled.  Each level doesn’t only have a different layout, but also its own unique elements.  For instance, in some you can control the bikes which let you drive over the indestructible blocks.  Others have warp squares which move you from one point to another.  Others have more powerups available — you can’t select which powerups are available in each stage, but instead it’s set so each level’s stage has more stuff than the last one.  While lots of options might be nice, I think that this design works well enough too, and there’s good variety between the stages.  Overall, Bomberman GB is a great game.  The lack of a link cable mode is a real flaw, but still, with good graphics and sound, great gameplay, and some fantastic multiplayer if you have a SNES with SGB (seriously, I like playing Bomberman GB more than Super Bomberman, for a SNES 4-player Bomberman title…), get this game!


Bonk’s Revenge – One player, Super Game Boy enhanced (with border, auto-switching color palettes, and multiple color zones on screen).  Bonk’s Revenge is an original Bonk game for the GB.  The game may have the same title as the TurboGrafx-16 Bonk’s Revenge game (the second game in the TG16 Bonk trilogy), but it is in fact an entirely different game, and overall, it feels more like Super Bonk on the SNES than it does the game they borrowed the title from.  The first Bonk game for GB was a modified port of the original Bonk’s Adventure, but this second and final Game Boy Bonk game is new.  The game is crazy but somewhat easy fun, and anyone who enjoys Hudson platformers should definitely get this game.  I may somewhat dislike Adventure Island, but Bonk’s games are good, and this one is no exception.  Bonk’s Revenge has good, detailed graphics and art, solid level designs, decent music, and a very strange style.  The game has great Super Game Boy support, too — not only are the color palettes well-chosen (space looks dark, for instance), but the game even has separate color zones in the status bar, which is rarely seen in third party titles.  The game’s a classic, if basic and slightly slow (as always in the franchise, though it’s a little worse here; there is some slowdown), Game Boy platformer.  As always in the series, you play as Bonk the caveman.  He defeats enemies by jumping, flipping over, and then hitting them with his hard head.  As with Super Bonk, this game is set in a silly world that has a random mix of cave-people-with-dinosaurs, modern, and futuristic elements.  You may be playing as a caveman, but as in that one, this game has a wild array of crazy environments you’ll travel through, up to and including a space station.  Or at least, I think it’s a space station… it’s either that, or Bonk can breathe in a vacuum. :p  Your goal is to stop King Drool from stealing half of the moon.  No princess rescuing this time, nicely enough, just a basic, nice “save the day” story.  In this game, when you pick up meat, Bonk will start quickly flipping between three different special forms which you can change to.  Hit the button to see which one you end up with.  Each form has different powers, so one can open doors to some rooms with more point items and meats in them, another can stun all enemies on screen with an attack, etc.  Of course, you’ll lose your power if hit.  The powers are a fun aspect of the game; the way you change form is different from the TG16 games, but the results are similar and fun to see.  There are also bonus rounds, of course.  The most common one is a versus game where you have to fight a computer opponent in a best-of-three bout, with an extra life on the line.  The game is definitely on the easy side, as the enemies are somewhat sparsely laid out and are usually easy to defeat, but levels are long enough that as in the TG16 and SNES Bonk games you can be worn down by the end, and if you get game over you do start the level over.  The game’s such a weird game, and I just can’t even begin to figure out how Bonk got into space halfway through the game, but seeing the silliness is definitely part of the fun!  Bonk’s Revenge is a good game well worth playing for anyone who likes platformers.  Plus, the passwords make getting through it even easier.  Save functions always improve games.  So yeah, overall, Bonk’s Revenge is a nice looking and decently good game that I like.  SGB owners should be particularly sure to pick this one up.


Boomer’s Adventure in Asmik World – One player, password save.  Boomer’s Adventure in Asmik World, from Asmik (surprisingly enough!), is a somewhat odd top-down action/puzzle game that I find more frustrating than fun.  In the game, you have to go around small levels, slightly Pac-Man-esque, trying to look for the hidden treasures.  The problem is, these treasures are buried under the ground, so you can only find them by digging.  You’ve given a hint arrow showing you the general direction you should go in, but beyond that, have to find them by trial and error.  Really, I don’t think that the game was improved versus other classic arcade/puzzle style games by hiding your objective items; quite the opposite, it makes the game kind of annoying.  At first the game may look like some kind of adventure game, but it’s not; it’s really a maze-hunting game, where you look for those hidden treasures. There are boss fights occasionally, but other than that, you just hunt around similar-looking mazes beginning to end.  If you enjoy the basic gameplay it might be good, but I find it more annoying than anything.  There are a lot of enemies here, and I just don’t really like the hidden-objects element that is central to the game.


Brain Drain – One player, password save, Super Game Boy enhanced (with background).  Brain Drain is a difficult puzzle game from Visual Impact, and published by Activision.  It’s a somewhat odd tile-flipping game, where you beat each stage by rotating tiles until you get all of the tiles into matching squares of four.  You have a square cursor, so when you rotate, you’ll rotate all four currently selected one space each around the square.  The game takes some getting used to, but once learned, is an okay game.  The game starts simple, but quickly gets quite hard as the tiles will take a lot of flipping to get into their proper matching-squares orientations.  The game’s not great, but it’s okay to good, I think, and the concept works well.  There are two modes (the main mode, and a mode where you try to finish a set of levels as fast as possible), passwords in the main game, some powerups and negative effects which can make things harder, and over 250 puzzles, but everything is about flipping tiles into squares, so there’s no variety here.  As a result, the game really succeeds or fails based on how much you like this kind of challenging, tricky matching game; the variety of content is limited.  If you do like it it’ll take a while to get through, for sure, due to the difficulty.  I’m not great at this kind of thing… it’s okay for a while, but I start to get quite frustrated.  Still, it isn’t a bad game.  After a long convalescence, Brain Drain returned in 2010, when Visual Impact (and a new publisher, Enjoy Gaming) made WiiWare and DSiWare versions of the game.  Obviously the graphics are much better there, and it saves to the system instead of passwords, but the basic concept is the same.  I haven’t played those versions.  Oddly though, neither IGN nor NintendoLife’s reviews of either game ever mention that they’re remakes of this older title.  They obviously didn’t do any research (like, five seconds at GameFAQs would do it)… ah well.  Regardless of platform though, this is classic portable-puzzle-game fare.  This kind of thing frustrates me after a little while, but some will like it.  GB exclusive, but it has WiiWare and DSiWare remakes.


Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2, The – One player, password save.  The second game in a puzzle-platformer series from Kemco that lasted until the GBA, this game plays like all of the other ones: you explore a mazelike level with a small character, hunting for all of the doors and items.  While the first Crazy Castle game was on NES and GB, this sequel is Game Boy only; it must have sold better here than on the console.  The series has a somewhat odd history, as while it’s best known for Bugs Bunny in Japan some of the games starred Mickey Mouse instead, and the last one has Woody Woodpecker in it, but regardless of the character and platform, the game is the same: you explore the mazelike levels, find collectables and items, and figure out how to use them to defeat the enemies.  Doors transport you to other parts of the stage.  Even though you’re a rabbit, you cannot jump in this series.  Yeah, odd character choice, considering.  All you can do is find ways to drop weights on baddies, and things like that, no jumping on them!  Most paths are only just tall enough for you to stand in anyway, but even so, considering the character, it’s odd that you can’t jump.  That does make the game more strategic, though.  You will need to plan out your moves in each level in order to complete it, once it gets harder.  I think that this is an okay game.  It’s not great, but it’s alright, and figuring out the puzzle that is each level can be fun.  Level designs are good, with a nice mix of fun and frustration.  Some people may find it too hard, though; it is tough, and not all will like this game.   The graphics are well-drawn though, even if they are small.  And yes, it’s nice that the game has a password system so that you can continue from the level you left off at.  There are 28 levels.  Note that this is the only B&W-only Crazy Castle game — the first was also on NES, the third one is a dual-mode GB/GBC game, and the fourth was color only for GBC (and of course the fifth is for GBA).  It’s just as good as any of the others, though, from what I know.  Eight years passed between this game and the next one (1991 for CC2, 1999 for CC3), but the gameplay was left unaltered.  It’s one of many franchises, and publishers, which largely left the GB through the mid ’90s, as the system slowed down, only to return after Pokemon and the GBC resurrected handheld gaming.


Castlevania Adventure, The – One player.  The Castlevania Adventure is the first of three original GB Castlevania games.  As with many series, there were two early releases (’90-91), then one more in ’98 after the recovery of the handheld market.  This is probably one of the better-known early third party Game Boy games, and it’s got a mixed reputation at best.  The music is great, but the gameplay… well, there’s better.  Castlevania Adventure is an okay game, with decent if somewhat basic graphics (the characters are on the small side, and the art clearly early for the system) and very slow gameplay.  Your character, Christopher Belmont, the latest whip-weilding Belmont would-be defeater of Dracula, really trudges along in this game.  The game is short, with only five levels, but it’ll take a while to finish because as likely as not you’ll turn it off out of boredom or annoyance before the end.  There’s also a time limit, with a clock on screen, though you have more than enough time to finish; the clock isn’t a big issue.  You go back to the last checkpoint when you die, and there isn’t a checkpoint right at the boss, so a tougher boss can require some level replay.  But the biggest issue here is simply that the game isn’t as fun, or as well designed, as the NES Castlevania games.  With your slow movement speed and the quite different style of level design in this game, it’s more average than great.  The game does have some unique features though, such as how when fully powered up your whip shoots fireballs, which is cool, or how instead of those iconic Castlevania staircases that you have to hold Up to use, this game, and its sequels, instead use ropes you can climb on.  When you think of this game’s level design, the ropes, which are everywhere, are the first thing I at least think of.  I first played this game as a kid, and I thought it was okay, if a bit hard for me when I was ten, but I liked other games more.  I’d say the same thing now.  However, The Castlevania Adventure is an okay game, and is worth a try, for a cheap price.  It’s not so much bad, as it is not as great as many other titles in the franchise.  And the soundtrack at least is really good.  The game is GB exclusive, but Castlevania Adventure ReBirth for WiiWare is theoretically a remake of this game.  It’s got almost nothing in common with the original version apart from the rolling-eyeball enemies, that it has the same main character and story, and that it also has five levels, though, so if you’ve played that, don’t consider it the same game — really, it’s completely different.  That is a better game than this, but the original isn’t all bad.  It’s more fun than Castlevania II for the NES, at least…  Also available on 3DS Virtual Console.


Cosmo Tank – Two player Simultaneous – Link.  Cosmo Tank is a somewhat interesting, but flawed, topdown and first-person tank action game by Asuka Software and published by Atlus.  The game is in some ways good enough to almost be a forgotten classic, but it has some downsides dragging it down, most notably that this game is WAY too long and difficult to not have a save system.  Seriously, games like this, particularly on a handheld, this long and this tough, with no saving?  Why would you do that?  It’s awful game design.  You have infinite continues, but in a handheld game particularly, that’s not much help; you’re not going to leave a Game Boy on for days while you play a game like this, after all!  And don’t expect a level-select code in this game either — there isn’t one.  As for the actual game, though, Cosmo Tank has okay, if repetitive, visuals and design.  The graphics are fine for a 1990 release, but the early release date does show.  The game has three gameplay modes.  Some of the time, you drive around in your tank, killing the enemies and looking for where you should go next.  Levels are large and somewhat open, so there is an exploration element to this game.  There are plenty of enemies, and also recharge areas which heal you.  This part of the game is mostly fun.  Once you find a cave and enter it, though, the game switches to first person.  This is not a FPS, however — instead, it’s more like a first-person RPG, or something.  You have a static view, and can turn and move as in early first-person adventure games or dungeon crawling RPGs.  When you run across an enemy in first-person mode, you fight it from a first-person viewpoint where you can scroll the view horizontally.  The enemy, or boss since most bosses are fought in this viewpoint, appears in front of you, and you have to get it first.  If you turn so that the enemy is offscreen, they can’t hurt you — you are only vulnerable on the front, apparently.  So, you turn to avoid fire, then turn back to hit the moving target.  These fights are okay.  There is no map in the dungeons, so if you don’t want to get lost, I recommend either looking the game’s good GameFAQs guide, or drawing a map yourself; otherwise, the game will get frustrating, fast, as you get lost in the identical-looking passages.  There’s also a short shmup section at the end of each of the six worlds.  The controls are basic — you can move, fire your main turret, or fire bombs, and that’s it.  There are a couple of powerups to restore your ammo or health, but no alternate weapons.  So, overall, Cosmo Tank is a somewhat unique title, but overall it only sort of works.  The game lacks variety, both of level designs and armaments; yes, it has three different game types, but within each one, almost nothing ever changes.  The graphical variety is limited as well.  As for the other modes, there’s also a training mode, where you try to defeat as many enemies as possible in top-down action before time runs out, but it’s only moderately interesting.  As for versus mode, I only have one copy of the game so I can’t test it, but it’s probably a versus shooting game in the overhead view.  Might be okay.  Overall, Cosmo Tank is a moderately disappointing game.  I was hoping that it would be good, and at first it seems like it is, but it’s just got too many issues, and within a world or two, I had lost interest.  This would be more tolerable with saving, I think.  And a map for the dungeons.


Daedalian Opus – One player, password save.  Daetalian Opus is a puzzle game where you have to fit shapes into a larger shape.  You clear a stage once you manage to fit all of the pieces into the shape, filling the interior with no overlapping or space left empty.  So, it’s like those physical puzzles that work like this, only in a videogame.  The game may seem simple at first, but it quickly gets quite challenging.  The game has password save so that you can return to the puzzle you’re at.  Daedalian Opus is an early Game Boy game, with simple graphics and presentation, but the challenging, thinking-required gameplay carries it over.  This is a simple game, but it’s a good one.


Donkey Kong [’94] – One player, battery save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, auto-changing color palettes, enhanced sound, high-color static screens).  Donkey Kong for the GB, aka Donkey Kong ’94, was the Super Game Boy’s firs system-seller title, and it’s one of the best Super Game Boy games, too.  The game makes amazingly good use of the SGB, showing off most of the capabilities of the system.  About the only things it doesn’t do is multiplayer and having an actual SNES game on the cart… (missed opportunity to have a SNES version of arcade Donkey Kong!  Ah well.) But Donkey Kong ’94 wasn’t only popular because of the Super Game Boy, it’s also popular because of its great gameplay and game design.  While it may share a title with the early-’80s classic, this game’s quite different from the original one.  This game’s a brilliant puzzle-platformer with nearly 100 stages to play through.  It’s the best Donkey Kong game where you play as Mario, I’d say, and as with many people, it’s one of my favorites from the GB.  The game isn’t the longest game around, since even though it has a lot of levels they are short each, but if you get stuck, it can take a while.  Still, when I first played it back in the ’90s, while it took me a decent while, I did have a huge stock of lives by the end.  It’s very easy to build up enough lives to get near the 99 life cap.  That’s as much a testament to how much fun it is as it is to the moderate difficulty, though — this game’s as fun to replay as it is to play.

The game is broken up into four level blocks.  You play through three standard puzzle stages, with a goal of finding a key, picking it up, and bringing it to a door.  If you drop the key for too long, it will return to your starting location.  Mario has a lot of acrobatic moves in this game, including a handstand, spinning on wires, a triple jump, a backspring, and more — it’s the first appearance of the acrobatic Mario that would next be seen in Super Mario 64.  Mario could have used that handstand in some other games, being able to fend off things dropping on you from above is handy.  Mario here can also pick up and throw enemies, as in Mario 2 for the NES.  The fourth stage in each world is a vs. Donkey Kong stage, where you have to reach the top, next to where Pauline is, in order to yet again fail to rescue her from DK (until the end, that is, of course).  You can only save after DK stages.  The little cutscenes between worlds are funny stuff, too.  The level designs are absolutely brilliant, and almost every stage is great.  The graphics are small, but detailed, and it’s a good looking game.  The game also plays well on original Game Boys, as the somewhat limited scrolling works well on that blurry screen.  With moving platforms, wires, numerous enemy types, lots of moves, temporary platforms that you have to place, and more, the puzzles get more and more interesting, and challenging, as the game goes on.  This game really is one of the best ever in its genre.  Its sequel of sorts, Mario vs. Donkey Kong for the GBA, isn’t nearly as good.  That game’s alright, but it’s no Donkey Kong ’94.  Also available on 3DS Virtual Console, tragically in B&W only of course.  Buy the cartridge and a SGB.


Donkey Kong Land – One player, battery save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, auto-changing color palettes).  Donkey Kong Land, released in ’95, is an original title in Rare’s Donkey Kong reboot franchise.  This was the first Rare Donkey Kong game that I owned, and it’s the only one of the GB/GBC Rare DK games that I actually bought during the systems’ lives.   Maybe I should have bought some more of them, but while this was a good game, it has some issues, and I can understand why I passed on them.  The biggest issue is that the graphics, while quite good, blur horribly on an original Game Boy.  This game really was meant for the SGB, and on a standard Game Boy is very hard to play.  Unfortunately, the original GB’s all I had, at the time.  You can finish this game on the GB, and I did, but it’s far from ideal.  Detailed ACM (computer-rendered) graphics like this just weren’t meant for the original GB.  As for the gameplay itself, though, though, this game isn’t a port of Donkey Kong Country.  The story is new, and the levels are as well.  This game has four worlds, Jungle, Underwater/Temple, Snow/Ice, and City/Construction.  Yeah, it’s similar to worlds from DKC, but there are fewer of them, with more levels in each one.  You can play as either Donkey or Diddy Kongs, and switch between them with Select.  However, the other Kongs, from Cranky to Candy to Funky, do not appear in this game.  It’s just DK, Diddy, three of their animal friends (Espresso the Ostrich, Rambi the Rhino, and the swordfish) and the Kremlings.  To save, instead of going to a save hut, in this game you have to collect the K-O-N-G letters in a stage.  After getting all four in a level, you’re allowed to save.  It’s a somewhat poor design, and leads to frustration at times.  At least this means that you can save after any level as long as you got the letters, though, so it’s got that one advantage over the first two SNES DKC games, where you have to get through several levels when you first reach a world until you’re finally allowed to save.  A common tactic used is to get through a tough level, return to an easy one, and play that one to save in, since it’s much less dangerous that way if you’re low on lives.  As with the first SNES game, there are secrets to find here.  Every level has several hidden bonus areas in it to play, and you won’t get the max percent completion unless you find them all.  I did like this game enough to beat it, but not enough to find all of the hidden bonus rooms; many are, as always, in quite obscure locations, so you’d be very unlikely to get them all without a strategy guide.  Oh, as for the SGB support, it’s just barely adequate.  There’s a basic border, different color palettes in each level, and that’s it.  Nothing special.  Overall, Donkey Kong Land is an okay game.  I liked it back in the mid ’90s, but I didn’t love it, as that I didn’t buy the sequels shows.  Donkey Kong ’94 was, and is, the better game, and the SNES DKC games are better too.  Still, when played on anything other than an original Game Boy, the game is a good (not great, but good) game and is playable and fun most of the time.  It’s worth it for classic platforming and Rare fans.


Donkey Kong Land 2 – One player, battery save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, auto-changing color palettes).  DKL2 released a year after the first one, and is the least improved of the three DKL games, when you compare the GB games to their SNES counterparts.  This game doesn’t have a new story or theme; instead, it’s a conversion of the SNES game, albeit one with level designs that have been redone to fit the handheld’s resolution, but they tried to be as accurate as they could to the SNES levels here.  The other two GB DKL games at least have all-new level designs, even if the themes are similar, but not here.  So, here you play as Diddy and Dixie Kongs, who have to rescue the captured Donkey Kong and save the day from K. Rool again.  But because of the level design changes, despite that this is not a straight port, and is worth a look even if you’ve played DKC2, but still, as it’s the least new, it is somewhat less interesting than DKL1 or 3.  The game is bigger-scale than DKL1, and has all of the settings and NPC Kongs that you’ll find in the SNES game, all of the animal companions, and lots of levels, too.  The graphics are similar to the first DKL, so it has the same problems running on an original GB, but at least by the time this game came out the Game Boy Pocket was available, so there was a system able to run this better that was portable.  I never got one, and still don’t have a GBP, but it did exist.  Maybe if I had one, I might have been more interested in this game.  Overall, DKL2 is a pretty good game, with the good level designs, detailed graphics, and classic Rare DK gameplay you expect from the series.  It’s definitely not as good as the SNES game, with downscaled areas and plenty of slowdown, but it is an impressive effort at least.  Still, on originality, this is the least of the three DKL titles.  The SGB features are also not improved; there’s a new border, but it’s not any more impressive looking overall.


Donkey Kong Land 3 – One player, battery save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, auto-changing colore palettes).  DKL3 was released in 1997, and it’s one of the relative few good Game Boy titles from that low period in the system’s life.  Despite that, I didn’t get it.  I still only had the original GB, after all, and as always, the DKL games are horribly blurry.  Sure, they’re playable (I beat DKL1 on an original GB, after all!), but they’re very blurry and the enemies are hard to make out.  The GBC solved that problem, though, so these games are much more fun now than they were then; even on the SGB enemies can blend in with backgrounds sometimes, but with how the GBC can make sprites and backgrounds different colors, stuff stands out.  As for the gameplay, DKL3 is a pretty good game.  The graphics may still be blurry, but they are better than the first two games.  This game is a sequel of sorts to DKC3, at least in story; in gameplay, it’s far behind it.  The setting is similar, and you have a similar world and similarly-themed areas to explore, but the level designs themselves are all new, and the story explains how this actually is set after that game.  The game has the various bears in it to visit, and lots of stuff to collect too of course.  I liked DKC3 the best of the three SNES games, and I might like this one best of the three GB games, though not by nearly as much.  Unlike DKC3, which centered around unique elements in almost every level, this game is for the most part still a standard platformer, as the first DKC and DKL games had been.  It’s a bit more complex basic platformer than the original DKL was, but still, it’s still a standard platformer game with (slightly less) blurry graphics.  The level designs are solid and the game reasonably fun, though.  The main negatives are that the gameplay is similar to the last two games at its core, that ACM graphics just aren’t ideal for the GB, and that it’s still the most fun to play on hardware that didn’t yet exist when the game was released (the GBC, GBA, or GB Player, that is).  Still, for Rare DK fans, this is worth a look, unless you’re planning on playing it on an original GB for some reason, of course.  This probably is the best-playing DKL game, and it’s a good game.  Also on Game Boy Color, in Japan only (they did not get the B&W release, but instead got an exclusive GBC-only colorized version), as “Donkey Kong GB: Dinky Kong & Dixie Kong”.


DuckTales 2 – One player.  DuckTales 2 for the GB is a Game Boy game based on the NES title of the same name.  As with most of Capcom’s GB Disney games, even though the name, story, and level themes are the same as the NES title, the actual level designs are original, so this is not a port.  That’s almost unfortunate, since this game is cheap while DuckTales 2 for NES is pricey, but that’s how it is.  I do wish that the game had password save, but otherwise, this game is a classic, great DuckTales adventure.  As with the other DuckTales games, you play as Scrooge McDuck, and have to collect treasures, and as much money as possible, in various lost cities and the like.  As with the first game, the levels are somewhat nonlinear, as getting money and secret treasures is as much of a goal as finding the bosses is.  The game has good graphics, great gameplay, and generally is a very good game.  Perhaps partially based on nostalgia I think I like the original NES DuckTales game the best, but still, this one’s well worth playing as well.  The controls work just like the original but with a few more moves, so Scrooge can bounce on his cane like it’s a pogo stick, hit blocks with the cane, push and pull blocks with the cane, and more.  The levels are full of secrets and gems and more to find, and you can play the initial levels in the order you choose.  The game has good, detailed graphics as well.  DuckTales was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid, and I loved what I saw of the first NES game.  It’s too bad that I never got either GB game back then, but I’m sure I’d have liked them.  Regardless, this is still a great fun game to go back to.  Original title based on the NES game of the same name.


F-1 Race – Four player (with multitap and link cables), battery save.  Perhaps most famous for being packed in with the GB’s Four Player Adapter, F-1 Race is also a decently good racing game.  F-1 Race is actually the second or third F-1 Race title in Japan, but the previous ones, for the Famicom (NES) and Famicom Disk System, only released in Japan.  This one finally got a Western release.  Like the original F-1 Race for Famicom, F-1 Race for Game Boy is a behind-the-car racing game.  (The FDS F1 Race game is top-down, so the series had done both styles.)  F-1 Race is a simple but challenging racing game.  The battery save feature is a nice surprise; when this released in 1991, that was not standard in even first-party GB titles.  It’s grea that this game saves your progress, as winning the races will be quite tough.  It would be even more frustrating if you had to start the game over each time.  But you don’t, thankfully.  Still though, winning the races in this game will take skill and memorization.  The graphics are simple, but work well, and the game looks nice for an earlier GB game.  Behind-the-car racing on GB is always going to be visually limited, and for one this looks good enough.  As always in this kind of game the game has smooth curves only; this Pole Position-esque linescroll style of design requires that.  So, as always in these games, the actual course won’t be quite the same as how it looks on the map.  Still, that will tell you when curves are upcoming, which is essential — you will need to carefully manage your turbo in this game, and some turns will require the brakes too.  This is an arcadey game, but there’s definitely some skill involved.  Your turbo in each race is limited.  You can turbo quite a lot, but once that meter runs out that’s it; there’s no way to refill it during the race.  So, save it for when you need it most.  Also of course, you’ll need to learn the courses well enough to not go off the side of the track on turns if you want to win, which you’ll have to do to advance.  You need to run very good, near-perfect runs to win in this game.  As for the multiplayer, it’s like the single player, but against other humans.  It’s fun stuff, and if you have a GB multitap and cables, do try this game with them (note that there is no GB Pocket or Color Four Player Adapter, but you can use those systems with the one that came with this game if you use the Universal Game Link Cables that have a GBP/GBC plug on each end, with a GB-sized adapter for one end.  The Four Player Adapter of course has all larger GB-sized plugs, so use the adapters.).  Overall F-1 Race isn’t a great game, as the visuals are simple and repetitive and the gameplay gets frustrating after a while, but still, it’s a reasonably good game at least.


Final Fantasy Adventure (Sunsoft re-release) – One player, battery save.  Also known as Mystic Quest in Europe and Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden in Japan, FFA is Square’s one and only action-RPG for the Game Boy.  It’s also the first game in the long-running Mana series.  In the game, you play as a guy who is a gladiator slave in the villains’ empire.  The game starts in a boss fight against a monster, in fact.  You soon escape, though, and end up on a quest trying to save the world from the villains who enslaved him and want to kill the Mana Tree, the source of the world’s power and life.  The main character is a nameless boy you name.  There’s also the Girl, who also is nameless until you name her, but she travels with you some of the time; it’s not a “rescue the girl at the end” kind of game, the story has a bit more to it than that.  The writing is simple early-90s Square stuff, but it’s good for its time.  Square only released four Game Boy games, this game and thre three SaGa (Final Fantasy Legend) RPGs, and only supported the Game Boy for two years, releasing their last title for the platform in Japan in late 1991.  They would not make another handheld game until they started supporting the WonderSwan in 2000, and didn’t return to Nintendo handhelds until the GBA.  Despite this, the GB games they did make were popular, and while I haven’t played, and am not so sure I’d have much of any interest in, the FFL games, this game I love.  Final Fantasy Adventure is an amazing game, one of the best games on the Game Boy and still my favorite Mana title.  The game plays sort of like Zelda, except with RPG elements like JRPG towns, levelling, having to buy new equipment regularly, and the like.  The graphics are okay, but it looks like an early release; the game looks good enough, but the system can do better than this.  It’s really too bad that Square didn’t keep making handheld games.  The game does have a great soundtrack though; the compositions are in the top tier of GB music.  The main menu theme is simple, but it’s still my favorite track in the game… it really nails the somewhat sad tone of the game.

As the title suggests, I got this game when Sunsoft re-released it in 1998.  I was not too interested in their re-releases of the FFL games, but this one looked good, so I picked it up sometime in ’99, after getting my GB Color.  The actual contents are the same as the original version though, so you still got that thick 80-page manual.  And as for that gameplay, in the game you waner around, killing stuff, levelling, solving puzzles, getting items, and the like.  In towns you talk to people, either tocontinue the story or for clues about what to do next.  The game has some tricky puzzles, such as the infamous one with the palm trees in the desert town, but what’s wrong with some challenge?  Exploring the world and figuring out what to do is part of the fun.  Plus, the game has save anywhere, which is fantastic.  However, there are points where it’s possible to get stuck if you don’t have the right stuff.  Always carry enough keys when in dungeons!  Maybe also use both save slots, too.  Regardless, having four keys at all times is a good idea.  The game has maps in the dungeons,, and of the overworld, but they aren’t highly detailed, it just shows the squares and connections in the dungeons, and town locations in the overworld.  Still, they’re great to have.  The battle system is great and works well.  Like in Zelda, it’s just basic hack-and-slash stuff.  It’s much more fun than the annoying Secret of Mana battle system with that bizarre delay between when you attack and when the hit registers.  As in that game though you can charge up for stronger attacks, but it doesn’t affect your regular damage; either you do a regular attack, or a charged one.  Again, I think I like this better than Secret of Mana’s style.  You also have a companion with you most of the time, though you can’t choose who.  Instead, you are partnered with different people at different points in the game.  The AI ally can’t really die, and isn’t much use in a fight, but they do each have a different special ability that you can call on.  The Girl can heal you, for instance.  As for the story, Final Fantasy Adventure is pretty dark, depressing game.  There aren’t too many characters in this game, but among the small cast, the bodycount is fairly high.  Several named characters who the main characters know die right near the beginning of the game, the first time you meet them, for instance, and more die later on.  There’s one particularly cruel moment midgame, with one of your character’s friends… that the game actually forced you to control your character during the scene made it matter so much more than if it’d just been a cutscene.  The story is simple, and predictable at times, but good.  The ending has some real emotional weight, I think.  It’s perhaps over-depressing, but still, it’s good.

Overall, Final Fantasy Adventure is one of the GB’s very best games.  It’s got okay graphics and art design, great music, great gameplay, good game design, and more.  Overall it’s a fantastic, compelling game that I couldn’t stop playing until I’d finished it.  Incredible work.  The game is GB exclusive, but there is a mediocre GBA remake, Sword of Mana.  The game lets you play as the girl instead of the boy if you wish, which is great, and it has a two player link cable mode, but otherwise it is a highly disappointing, bland game.  It’s got a combat system and graphical design like the SNES games, a very linear design that gets rid of almost all of the open-world and actually challenging puzzle elements the original game has, and it changes the story, too.  There are massacres in this version, to make the villains nastier, but some characters who die in the original GB version don’t in this one, so somehow it doesn’t feel as dark, even if in other ways it’s worse.  Hopefully that makes sense.  They make many changes to the plot, and they’re definitely not for the better.  Yes, the original version has a simple script and expanding on that could be fine, but this really wasn’t the best way to do it.  Play this original version instead!


Flipull – Two player simultaneous – Link.  Flipull is a puzzle game also released on the NES in Japan, but in the US on GB only.  In the game, you have to toss blocks at a field of blocks that is in the lower left part of the screen, trying to match them to clear the field.  The game has some somewhat confusing rules, and will take a little while to learn.  The game is a matching-tiles game, sort of, but instead of just breaking blocks when you hit ones of the same type, the way it works is that the matching tile(s) and the next non-matching one PAST the matching tile(s) will be destroyed, and then the piece you threw will be left behind in the field. To be clear, if there are several of the same type in a row, all of them will be destroyed, plus the next non-matching one, and in the last spot, the thrown block will now be.  Lines will collapse as blocks fall, as according gravity.  So, the game is unique.  But is it fun?  Well… for some people.  This is a complex, challenging game which takes time to get used to and definitely will not be something everyone likes.  The bland graphics don’t help either, certainly; this game looks very basic, though this is a 1990 release so that isn’t too surprising.  The music’s probably even worse than the graphics, too.  And the game gets quite hard, quickly.  I find this kind of thinking puzzle game too hard for its own good, and haven’t gotten too far into it.  The game has some unique elements, but the flaws, and limited-audience issue, are significant too.  As this is a color/shape-matching game, I’m sure it’s more fun on the NES than it is on GB, because this kind of game is the kind that most suffers from a lack of color — you have to go entirely by shape here, which is much more challenging.  Also, the graphics in this game are quite small.  In order to fit the whole field onto one screen, they shrunk everything down.  It’s easy to distinguish tiles in, say, Kirby’s Star Stacker or Yoshi, but here, with them so small, you will probably occasionally make mistakes.  But returning to the gameplay, in addition to the normal tiles of several types, there are also some special ones, like the S tile.  Also, you can toss tiles at either the left or upper sides of the block field — there’s a sloping ceiling in the game screen, and toss at that to have the block then fall vertically down onto the blocks.  You lose if you can’t play anymore because you destroyed the blocks in the wrong order, so each level is a puzzle you have to carefully work your way through by doing everything in the right order.  The concept makes me think a bit of a very hard version of Zoop, but that game’s simpler than this one, and probably more fun.  This kind of logic puzzle isn’t my favorite thing.  Still, there’s surely a market for this kind of game, and for its genre, Flipull is quite competent.  Beating all 50 levels will be very hard, though, considering that the game has limited continues and no saving.  Yeah, ouch.  Also on NES (in Japan only).  That version is better because of the color.


Gargoyle’s Quest – One player, password save.  Gargoyle’s Quest is an early GB platformer-RPG from Capcom starring Firebrand, aka Red Arremer, the gargoyle villain from Ghosts n Goblins.  The American cover is somewhat toned down, with a cartoony green gargoyle, but make no mistake, that’s really supposed to be bright-red Firebrand, and here he’s a hero saving the demon world.  The game has very nice graphics, great design, and is a popular classic.  And yes, I like it too.  I didn’t get this in the ’90s, but it was one of the first GB games I got when I started collecting GB games again in the mid ’00s.  Other than the occasional slowdown and moderate-length passwords, there isn’t really anything here to complain about.  Gargoyle’s Quest is nowhere near Ghosts n Goblins levels of hard, thankfully; this is a more fun, approachable game.  This game’s unique element is the RPG-platformer hybrid.  The game has an overworld with random battles, and JRPG-style towns, but the actual “dungeons”, and random battles, are sidescrolling-platformer fare.  You can get powerups as you progress to get more health, more abilities, and more, as expected.  The story is simple enough, but works; the inhabitants of the demon world are threatened by, well, even worse villains, and need you to save them.  Fortunately, Firebrand is up to the task: He can not only run and jump, but also hover and fly.  You can also upgrade these abilities as you progress.  Gargoyle’s Quest is one of the best looking early GB games around, too.  The graphics are large and beautiful.  This does come at something of a framerate cost, but still, it’s quite playable.  As your character is large you can’t see too far ahead, but the levels are well designed, and you can hover of course, so it works overall.  Gargoyle’s Quest isn’t especially long, unfortunately, but it’s fun while it lasts, and the game doesn’t feel too short; it’s more that it just isn’t extended out.  The length as it is is pretty good, it doesn’t need to be longer.  I was hoping to like this game when I found a copy a few years ago, and I did; it’s as good as advertised.  This game shows what the Game Boy can do, and does some interesting new things too, with how it mixes RPG elements into a platformer.  I don’t even mind the random battles here; the fights are fun, and it makes world exploration take a little longer in a game with an only moderately-sized overworld, so it works fine.  This game was successful and has two sequels, Gargoyle’s Quest II (for NES in all regions, and also on Game Boy in Japan only; I have it for NES, but would love to see the GB version sometime… I actually like the first game more than the second, comparing 1 for GB to II for NES.), and finally Demon’s Crest, a popular and expensive SNES game.  Only the first one has the overworld random battles.  Also available on 3DS Virtual Console.


Gradius: The Interstellar Assault – One player.  Interstellar Assault, also known as Nemesis II, is the second GB Gradius game.  This game was the first GB shmup that I owned, and it made a big impression on me at the time.  And as its place in my top 10 shows, I still think that this game is one of the best on the system.  Released in 1992, this game has the most complete story and setting consistency in any of the classic Gradius games; only Gradius V compares.  It’s also the only Gradius game with little level intros, showing how you got from each stage to the next.  There’s also a short cutscene at the beginning showing the enemy attack that started all this.  Yes, this game’s actually connected in a narrative, it’s not just a disconnected sequence of levels, as you almost always see in shmups.  The game starts with a chase scene, as a giant ship tries to catch you, so it starts on a high note.  The game has only five levels plus a final boss area, and for a Gradius game is on the easy side, but still, it’s an outstanding game and is one of my favorite shmups.  I’ve played the game so many times that I find most of it pretty easy now, but the level 3 boss still gives me trouble.  That guy is also the only boss in the whole game with a traditional Gradius “shoot the core” design; the other bosses are more interesting, and do things differently from the Gradius norm.  I like that this game mixes things up and isn’t just another Gradiuys game just like the others.  Gradius may be my favorite shmup franchise, but the series would be even better if more of the games took cues from this game’s good ideas, of which there are many.  The game has great graphics, good backgrounds, almost not slowdown, a wide variety of environments and enemies, and more.  The music is even better — this game’s soundtrack is Konami at its best, and every track is outstanding.  This is one of the better Gradius soundtracks.  The next handheld Gradius game after this, Gradius Gaiden for the GBA, is a much harder, longer game than this one, but its music isn’t nearly as good.  The game also has the classic, and great, Gradius powerup system.  You can only have two Options max on the Game Boy, but other than that it’s all here.  You can also choose between three different laser types, three different missile styles, and three different gun types at the beginning of the game, giving the game a good amount of customization.  I like the Ripple laser, top-and-bottom (both forward) missiles, and forward-and-diagonal-up/forward gun, myself.

As for flaws, they are minor quibbles.  I should mention them anyway, though.  Most notably, the game does have some odd level design choices.  For instance, the first level is the longest, with more segments than any of the others, and it’s also the only level with multiple screen high areas in the main level.  Why didn’t they put any more of those in?  The one in level one is great, but otherwise, the only vertical parts are when you travel straight up or down for at the beginning of a few of the later levels (going from one stage to the next; remember what I said about level transitions).  In comparsion to level 1, level two is suprisingly short.  It’s a great level full of cool design elements, enemies, and challenges, but it’s short and on the easy side.  Level three then gets tougher, but after that level four is easier again.  Then level five and the final boss section (it’s sort of a “level 6”) are tougher, but still, nowhere near console Gradius levels of challenge, even on Hard.  And none of the later levels match the first one in length.  On that note, I would recommend Hard for anyone at all used to the game; it adds things like making those falling rocks early on into things which will destroy you, and I like the challenge of having to dodge the rocks.  It’s kind of silly how in the lower difficulties they just pass through you.  Even at hard though, some bosses have blind spots where you can’t be hit.  I know several of them.  But overall, the game’s absolutely exceptional, and is one of the system’s best games.  Most highly recommended — this is my favorite handheld shmup of the ’90s.  The game was also re-released in one of the Konami GB Collection volumes (which were released in only Japan and Europe, in different forms in each region).  In Japan this series is GB/SGB only, so it’s the same except for a SGB background, but in Europe the collections are for GBC too (the SGB support was removed, but GBC support is added), so the games are all colorized.  I’d love to import those collections from Europe sometime… but still, the original B&W cartridge is pretty awesome too.


Incredible Crash Dummies, The – One player.  This game is based on a license.  Back in the early ’90s, the government tried to get people to buckle up more by having crash dummies, those dolls used in car crash tests, as marketed cartoon characters.  This game is a part of that franchise.  It’s kind of silly, but I don’t know, the idea sort of works… I mean, why not?  The Incredible Crash Dummies for GB/GG is a minigame collection, sort of.  That is, each level in this quite short game has you doing an entirely different task, with different controls and game design.  None are standard platformer levels, either.  The SNES Crash Dummies game is a generic platformer that’s average at best (and that’s being kind), but this one’s more original, and even if it’s somewhat ludicrously short, I quite like it.  This game looked interesting when I first saw it in the early ’90s.  I didn’t get the game then, but when I did a few years ago, I liked it as much as I was hoping I would.  It’s quite fun, and I like the variety and style of the different levels.  The first level is easy: you have to jump off a building, get as many points as you can on the way down (but don’t run out of time or health), and land on the target if possible.  You can get down quickly (and tear through the obstacles) if you just dive and go for the bottom, but you can slow yourself down by tilting up and bouncing on awnings, for example.  This level is short, but it’s fun, and I like the different ways you can get down.  Second, you drive a car into a wall.  Along the way there are obstacles to avoid and powerups to pick up.  There’s also a somewhat strict time limit.  The controls are okay, and the level’s again, fun.  Very short, but fun.  Third, you have to ski down a mountain without hitting anything (until you reach the bottom, of course).  You have to get a certain number of flags along the way.  This level’s harder than the last two, but it still plays well.  It is easy to lose lives here by turning the wrong way though, so some memorization will be needed here.  Once you run out of lives, it’s game over — to make up for the short length, the game has no continues.  Then, there’s level 4, which is sort of like a modified version of Tapper.  Here you have to put out bombs in a bomb factory.  You hit one button to blow out lit bombs coming down the line, and can use the hammer to hit other (non-bomb) objects and collect them.  If bombs comes off the line that line fails; a couple of misses and you lose a life, so it’s strict.  The fifth level is a sort of Lunar Lander or Sub-Terannia style gravity-flight game, where you have to navigate a test bomb horizontally through a landscape through of obstacles, without hitting anything.  You win by landing correctly on the target.  This is challenging and will take practice — touch anything and you die instantly, and the path is narrow and there are lots of obstacles that are easy to hit.  That’s the last new level, though if you want the good ending, you’ll have to play through four progressively more difficult loops of the game before it ends.  Each loop is only 7-10 minutes long, though, so this is a quite brief game.  But if you spend only a couple of dollars for it, I’d say get it; the tasks are varied and fun, and I like the controls, level designs, and gameplay.  Also on Game Gear (US/EU) and Master System (EU only); that version is pretty much the same as this, but in color.  I think this might be the original version, and those ports.


Iron Man / XO Manowar in Heavy Metal – One player, password save.  Iron Man/XO Manowar in Heavy Metal is a licensed superhero platform-action game from Acclaim that stars Iron Man and… um, that other guy probably best known for being in this game with Iron Man.  Isn’t it just a crazy cooincidence that XO Manowar was in a comic book published by Acclaim’s comic book company?  I know that they got Turok from their comics publisher too, but XO Manowar’s games weren’t nearly as successful.  This game is a GB-only title related to the Playstation and Saturn 2.5d platform-action game of the same name.  Neither game is well-liked, to say the least, but going against the standard opinion, I think that they’re okay games, and like them.  This handheld version has basic, not-so-good third-party GB graphics, so it looks quite bland and has mediocre art design.  I never liked this style of GB look that much, with small characters that have outlines around them and somewhat disproportionate body styles.  They certainly look nothing like the characters that they’re supposed to be.  Ah well, at least the gameplay is better.  The level designs are solid at least, and even if it doesn’t look great, the game plays fine.  The game has large, mazelike levels, as with the console title, so whether you have the patience to explore them will determine whether you enjoy the game or not.  I don’t mind, and think the level designs are good enough.  I should say, though, you can play as either superhero in the title, but apart from the sprites, they’re identical.  The most interesting element here is that you have a jetpack, so you can fly around.  You do have limited fuel, which refills quickly when you land, so you can’t just fly around anywhere, but still, you have limited flight!  It’s great.  The levels can be complex and mazelike at times, so exploration is important.  Fortunately, the game has password save to help you out.  You’ll need them.  This game is average overall, but it’s on the good side of average.


James Bond 007 – One player, battery save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, auto-selected color palette).  James Bond for the Game Boy is a sort of Zelda-esque from 1997.  The game was moderately successful at the time, as it was just about only action-adventure game released on the system around that time, but even compared to the other ones on the system, James Bond 007 is a good game.  I don’t think that this game is nearly as good as the GB and GBC Zelda games or Final Fantasy Adventure, but it is at least on par with stuff like the Rolan’s Curse games.  The game has fighting and puzzle elements.  The fighting is hand-to-hand, though you can also get some weapons to make your job easier.  It feels different from other games on the platform, though the fighting engine is simple and doesn’t have much depth.  The puzzles are also usually simple, though they get more complicated as you go along.  This game is linear, so you’re stuck in each area until you’ve beaten it, and then you move on to the next one.  This makes sense for a James Bond game, but don’t come in expecting a Zelda-style open world; all you get is a small open area within each level.  The game has a nice variety of items and gadgets to use, for both puzzles and fighting.  Make sure to talk to everyone and look everywhere, you’ll need everything you can find!  The game can get frustrating if you get stuck, of course.  Also, the graphics are only average; the sprites are a little small, and the game isn’t as detailed as some GB games.  I’m also not much of a James Bond fan, so the theme doesn’t mean nearly as much to me as it does to many people.  Fantasy and sci-fi settings interest me more than spies.  Still, this is a good game, so maybe give it a look.


Kirby’s Dream Land – One player.  Kirby’s Dream Land released in 1992, and the game started off one of Nintendo’s longest-running and, in Japan particularly, most successful franchises.  After Mario, Kirby is one of Nintendo’s next biggest mascot names at home, and the series is reasonably successful in the US too.  I first got this game with my Game Boy when I got it for Christmas in 1993, and my first impression (beyond the silly but charming box art) was that the game had good graphics and sound and played great, but seemed to be a bit too easy.  Well, that’s a generally accurate description not just of this game, but of the Kirby franchise in general — Kirby games are usually fun, but somewhat on the easy side.  Kirby’s Dream Course for SNES is a notable exception to this, but most other Kirby games are easy.  The first Kirby game is a platformer, and it’s a short one.  The game has no saving, but since this game has only five moderately-lengthed levels, that isn’t a problem; this game’s maybe half an hour long, if you don’t die.

However, the game has several features to keep you coming back.  First, there’s the great graphics, sound, and gameplay.  While Kirby does not yet have his most distinctive ability, the ability to get powers from enemies he swallows, in this game, he can fly and swallow enemies here, so he does have that.  Kirby has six hit points per life, and there are infinite continues from the beginning of the level if you get a game over.  The graphics and design are just so charming and lovable.  The bosses in this game are memorable, from Wispy Woods the eternal pushover of a first boss, to Lololo and Lalala, Hal character references, that balloon that shoots cannonballs at you, and Kracko, the tough cloud… not to mention, of course, the final boss, selfish King Dedede.  Also, though, this game has a hidden Extra Game.  Once you beat the game on Normal, at the end of the credits you get the code for Extra (aka Hard) mode.  This time the game is much more challenging than it was the first time.  Enemies are harder, and you see tougher enemy types earlier, too.  Getting through this will take some actual effort, and it’s more fun overall.  Once (or if) you beat the Extra Game, wait through the credits again, and you get a code for the secret options menu.  Here you get a sound and music test, and can set your starting lives and maximum health for the main game.  If you want a very steep challenge, play the Extra Game with one life at the start and a maximum health level of 1 hit… that means get hit once, and you start the whole level over.  And no, health powerups won’t increase your max level.  Yeah, even the first level’s tough if you do that.  I have beaten the Extra mode, but not with 1 hit max.  Still, Kirby’s Dream Land is a real classic.  It’s cheap, so get it.  Also on 3DS Virtual Console.


Kirby’s Pinball Land – One player, battery save. Released a year after the above game, Kirby’s Pinball Land was the second Kirby title.  The game is a video pinball game, and it’s one of the best videogame adaptations of pinball I’ve ever played.  This game still is pre-powerups, so Kirby, here a pinball of course, doesn’t have other powers here.  Also, the table themes and characters, including Wispy Woods, Kracko, and the bomber brothers, are all from the first game.  That’s quite fine, though, because this is pinball, and it plays like it should.  The game has three tables, each three screens high.  Each table also has a boss, and there are two different bonus games you can access from any table.  There’s also a final boss, if you beat the other three.  The game also has battery save, and saves your top four high scores, and your game in progress.  More than four scores would be nice, but still, it’s great that it saves some, that really helps this kind of game.

The best thing about Kirby Pinball is the table designs, though.  This is a classically videogame pinball game, in the Alien’s Crush vein, in that each screen has its own flippers.  I think that this style works great, and is better than a multiple screens high scrolling table, as some handheld pinball games try to do.  All three tables have some design similarities.  The lowest screen, where you can lose your ball, has some letters you can hit to open a warp to the table-select screen, so yes, you can leave any table for any other table if you go in the warp.  There’s also some way of putting a stopper in the bottom so you can’t lose the ball.  If you do fall down below this screen, you have a chance to save the ball, though each time it falls down the save spring gets smaller.  Eventually, you can’t get back up.  On the middle screen, there’s some way to get to the bonus stages, and also to the top screen of course.  Try to get the warp stars here if you want to go to the bonus stages and work up your score multipliers.  The bonus games, particularly the soccer/hockey-like one, are fun.  On the top screen, there’s some way of getting to the boss area.  Kirby Pinball endlessly loops, but you can “beat it” by beating all three bosses and then Dedede. Afterwards you’ll return to the stage select screen, able to start over and keep building up your score.  I like this compromise, as pinball is a score-based game, but as a videogame I like the idea of there being an ending of some kind — I generally prefer games to have endings than not.  This game has the best of both, pretty much.  I thought that Kirby Pinball was amazingly good back when I got it in 1994, as did my sister, and I still love the game; it’s one of my favorite Kirby games ever, even if I have always been frusterated in my efforts to beat that high score she set back then. :p  Also in 3DS Virtual Console.


Kirby’s Dream Land 2 – One player, battery save, Super Game Boy enhanced (special border, auto-changing color palettes, enhanced sound, multiple color zones on screen).  Kirby’s Dream Land 2 was the GB’s big game of 1995, and it’s one of the few Game Boy games that got a Nintendo Power cover, along with Link’s Awakening and few others.  This game stands as still my favorite Kirby game ever made.  I love some others too, including Kirby’s Adventure, Kirby’s Pinball Land, and Kirby’s Dream Course, but this one is my favorite.  KDL2, actually the third Kirby platformer since Kirby’s Adventure on the NES released in between the two Game Boy ones, is bigger, better, and longer than the original Dream Land.  The basic game is just like the first one, so you play as flying pink terror (to his consumed enemies that is) Kirby.  There are seven worlds this time, with multiple levels each.  Kirby’s Adventure introduced the powers system, where you can get special abilities by swallowing certain types of enemies, but this game builds on that by adding friends who you can ride in.  These friends are Kine the fish, Rick the hedgehog, and Coo the owl.  KDL2 has six base powers, spark, fire, ice, needle, etc., but four versions of each power, as each power will do something completely different with each friend.  The game doesn’t have the special one-time-use powers that abound in Kirby’s Adventure and Kirby Super Star, but instead varies things with the power/friend combination system.  Between the two styles, I definitely prefer this one.  Some of the combinations work better than others, of course, but it’s fun to experiment.  Coo’s needle attack and Kine’s spark attack are great, for instance.

Kirby 2’s graphics are similar to the first game, but it’s even better and more varied than the first one.  The game also has great SGB support, with multiple color zones on screen and more. It’s a very good looking game for the system.  It’s also ridiculously cute, of course, but it works great.  Kirby 2 also added collectables to the franchise: KDL2 also has some hidden things to find, if you want the good ending.  You need to get one star piece item in each world, if you want to face the real final boss.  The first five are easy enough to get, but the last two are trickier.  You need specific powers to break down the walls, so you’ll need to get the right power, then get to the correct place without losing it.  Getting all seven takes some effort, but it’s worth it — the final boss fight is great, and matches Kirby’s Adventure’s in epic scale.  Once you beat the real final boss, you unlock a boss-rush mode and a minigames-only mode.  The minigames mode is a fun amusement, as you play all of the six bonus games you play after completing each world, but the bosses-only mode is tougher, and is a fun challenge.  Overall, this game’s an absolute must-play, and it’s one of the Game Boy’s, and Kirby series’, best games too.  Later Kirby games are longer and harder, but this game strikes a good balance — it challenges, some, and has a bit of collecting, but it doesn’t go overboard with it like Kirby 64 would.  As with all 8-bit Kirbies, the game also keeps its pace up, avoiding the tediously-slow-gameplay pitfall that Kirby’s Dream Land 3 (for SNES) and Kirby 64 both fell into.  This game plays just the same as Kirby 1 or Kirby’s Adventure.  Also on 3DS Virtual Console, without the Super Game Boy enhancements of course.


Kirby’s Block Ball – One player, battery save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, auto-changing color palettes, multiple color zones on screen).  Kirby’s Block Ball is a Breakout/Arkanoid-style Kirby game.  The game, from ’96, is Kirby’s fourth GB title, and it’s a good one.  I got this game shortly after it came out, and liked it then.  I did think that Kirby 2 and Kirby Pinball were better games, but still, Block Ball was a great game too, and I played it until I beat everything.  The game is an interestingly unique Breakout-inspired game.  Of course, Kirby is the ball.  You can hit a button while playing to use a power, if Kirby has hit an enemy that grants one, or to inflate into larger Kirby for a stronger hit.  These powers mix up the gameplay a lot, making this more than just your standard Arkanoid clone.  Also, instead of just having a paddle on the bottom of the screen, or one you can move around, in this game, you have one paddle on each side of the screen, and you control all four at once, with up and down moving the side paddles together, and up and down moving the top and bottom paddles.  Not all stages have four paddles, though; indeed, through much of the game, you just have the standard bottom-only paddle design.  Also, instead of open space, the sides have spikes on them.  In boss fights, you will have all four sides with paddles, and the spikes can be covered with items which Kirby will bounce off of once, if you collected them during the levels within that world.  In order to have the best chance at the boss, try to get all the star panels for full coverage!  There are also four minigames this time, and as usual, they’re good.  You can unlock direct access to them if you beat the game (the real ending, that is).  Regardless, your goal in each world is to get a score above that world’s Borderline score.  Beat all the borderlines, and you’re allowed to go to the real final level.  These will take some practice though, as the game, while not really hard, does at least get more challenging as it goes along.  The game has nice SGB support too, with a good border and colorization.  Kirby’s Block Ball isn’t my favorite Game Boy Kirby game, but it is a very good game, and is one of the more original blockbreaking games around.  Also, Kirby will move at any angle, so the game avoids that frustrating angles-restriction element that made Alleyway so tough.  Progress indeed.  Also on 3DS Virtual Console.


Kirby’s Star Stacker – Two player simultaneous – Link, battery save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, auto-changingcolor palettes, multiple color zones on screen).  Kirby’s Star Stacker, from ’97, was the last B&W Kirby game.  It’s too bad that Kirby didn’t get one final platformer, as handheld gamers had to wait all the way until the GBA to get one after Kirby 2, and even then the first GBA Kirby game was a remake so only the second was actually original, but still, what we did get is a great game.  A great block-dropping puzzle game, that is.  I didn’t play Kirby’s Star Stacker back in the ’90s because I was less interested in it than the other GB Kirby games due to its genre, but I under-rated it; once I finally got a copy, I found that this is actually a fantastic puzzle game.  I may like puzzle games more now than then, but really, I think that I was just underestimating the game.  Star Stacker is a little on the easy side, as far as puzzle games go, but it’s brilliantly designed and fun.  The only real negative is that you need two copies and a link cable for multiplayer.  It’d be awesome if one of the GB puzzle games had a 2-player mode with two controllers on the SNES with SGB, but sadly, while some board, fighting, and Bomberman games have that, block-dropping games do not.  Ah well.  What you do get is great use of colorization areas to make the screen look even better than it does in B&W.  It looks very nice, though it’s great in B&W too, of course.

The core gameplay in the game is of you dropping tiles to try to destroy the blocks on screen.  There are five types of blocks: star blocks, black blocks, and Rick, Kine, and Coo blocks.  The core game is about matching Rick, Kine, or Coo blocks; if two are in a connected vertical or horizontal row, with no blocks of one of the other friend types in between, they will be destroyed.  Just destroying pairs won’t get you anywhere, though.  The real goal here is to destroy the required number of star blocks, which will be destroyed if they’re in between those pairs of animal blocks you’re destroying.  You can set off chains too, if things are set up so that once one pair and the star blocks between them are destroyed, things will fall into place to line up more.  You see, setting off a nice line will cause temporary star blocks to drop down, and set off a bigger chain if the other blocks are in place to line up one after the next.  Black blocks are double-thick star blocks, so you need to destroy an animal pair once to turn them into a regular star block, then again to destroy the star.  As with many GB and GBC puzzle games the blocks are large and the field small, so the pressure is always on here.  While the game isn’t too hard, it is easy to lose a stage if you mess up, because once you reach the later levels, you often have virtually no margin for error.  The game has a bunch of modes, but is not endless.  Instead, you play through stages, clearing each one once you hit its star-block target.  There are four difficulty levels in the main game, plus there are several other modes to play too, plus multiplayer of course if you have the setup.  I do have two copies of this now, so I’ve played it in versus; it’s as good as I thought it would be.  And of course, the battery saves your progress and high scores.  This is one of the only B&W GB block-dropping puzzle games with battery save, so it’s a great feature to have.  The game was also released on the SNES in Japan only, as Kirby no Kirakira Kids.  It’s an even better version of the game, and even has multitap support for playing with a bunch of people!  It was a 1998 release, though, so they didn’t release it elsewhere, unfortunately.  Really, the game should have had an N64 port… even had it been feature-identical to that SNES version, it’d have been much appreciated!  I really don’t know why Nintendo would release this on SNES and GB but not N64.  Back in the early ’90s they did puzzle games like Yoshi’s Cookie, Wario’s Woods, and Tetris 2 on both NES and SNES.  Why not do that again with SNES and N64?  Also on 3DS Virtual Console, without the SGB enhancements or multiplayer support as always.


Lazlo’s Leap – One player, battery save.  Lazlo’s Leap, more understandably called Solitaire in Japan (who’s Lazlo, anyway?), is a very difficult version of this classic boardgame.  Now, this isn’t the cardgame Solitaire; this is the one played on a Chinese Checkers-style board, where you jump over marbles with other marbles.  As with the Solitaire card game, the game is named as it is because it’s a one player only boardgame.  Each level has a different starting layout, so this isn’t just full-field Solitaire; instead, each puzzle has black pieces on certain spots.  You can control any piece, but can only move via jumps over other pieces.  In order to win, you must end with only one piece, that should preferably be on the center square of the board.  This is much easier said than done.  You’ll fail if there are two or more pieces on the board in places where they can’t jump anywhere.  So, you have to carefully plan out each move, as you try to figure out how you can manage to jump over every single marble on the screen, fluidly, going from one to the next.  It’s a good game, with impressive production values thanks to the battery save system and decent graphics for the time, but this is also a very difficult game.  Go into this expecting a serious challenge, and you will not be disappointed.  I liked the game at first, but eventually gave up once I hit a level that I just couldn’t figure out.  You can play the levels out of order, but still, this game gets HARD, and then even harder.  There are a lot of puzzles to challenge, 100 in all, so there’s a lot of content here.  However, with simple graphics that work perfectly in B&W and battery save, this is a perfect handheld title.  Recommended, if you want to challenge yourself.  Lazlo’s Leap may be unknown, but it shouldn’t be.


Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, The – one player, battery save.  Link’s Awakening was the first Zelda game that I owned, and it’s still my favorite 2d Zelda game.  This game isn’t the first Zelda game I ever played, as I’d played a bit of the first NES game before, but it was the first one I owned.  I loved it then, and it’s held up impeccably.  I could write a lot about LA, but I don’t know if I want to… it’s the best.  (Yes, I think I want to.)  And yes, it’s still my choice for best handheld game ever made, too.  This is my favorite version of the game, as well; I think the colorized version is fine, but the original is the best.

Link’s Awakening also has by far the best story ever in a Zelda game.  Now, that’s saying very little, because even though Zelda is my favorite console game series most Zelda games have quite poor stories, but still, it’s absolutely true.  Link’s Awakening ascends out of the mediocrity and stupid sexist rescue-the-princess-again junk that most Zelda games have as their core plot, and instead tells the story of a strange world, and the tragic tale of Link’s adventures in a place he never should have been able to reach.  The story is told through a minimum amount of text, but the brilliant writing and design maximizes the impact of that minimal text.  This game is the best example of great storytelling through simple, short writing that I’ve seen in a game.  Supposedly the guy who did the story had to sneak it in so as to not let Miyamoto know that he actually wanted to tell a decent story in a game, something Miyamoto has always opposed; he makes some of the best games ever gameplay-wise, but his idea of a good story is … bad, to say the least.  I’m thrilled that he succeeded, though really this game is the best of both — great story, AND incredible gameplay!  The cast of characters is memorable as well.  The game has not only classic Zelda enemies, a cast of original characters, including Marin and Tarin, the animal village’s inhabitants, and others, but also characters who reference other Nintendo titles, like Kirby, Goombas and Pirahna Plants, Mr. Write (from SNES SimCity), Richard (from a Japan-only GB action-adventure game tragically not released outside of Japan), and more.  The game has eight dungeons plus a final maze and boss.  The dungeons aren’t as long as the dungeons in some other Zelda games, like LttP, but all are brilliantly well designed.  There are no bad design decisions like the ones you find too often in LttP.  LA’s overworld is also vastly superior to that games’; no more boring box level designs here, this game has detailed, complex areas that are fun and challenging to explore.  LA has the best overworld design in a 2d Zelda.  I do kind of wish that the game had used that Raft Ride section for something else, and put that in a minigame or something, since that takes up a big chunk of the map, but that’s a minor issue.  The game more than makes up for it with its better art and level design; there’s no reason other than “to waste space” that trees are four times larger in LttP than they are in LA, for example.  LA is such a better game…

As for the combat, LA ditches that awful, way-too-small LttP attack animation in favor of a nice, wide one that hits almost three whole squares.  It’s just great, the LA attack animation is fantastic.  You can also change your equipment in both hands in this game.  Only the LA engine games, that is LA and the two Oracles games, have the shield and sword as equippable items; in every other Zelda game, they are auto-equipped and are hard-mapped to certain buttons.  I love LA’s design, because it lets you customize your equipment more, and because it forced them to make the shield better, too.  LA’s shield is far and away more useful than the weak shields from previous Zelda games.  You will have to regularly switch items in LA, but really, that’s not a problem; it works fine.  LA has no magic or magic system, but I’ve never missed it.  The game does have some cool item combinations like bomb-arrows, and fun parts like when you can ride on the giant chicken or when Marin is following you around, so overall, in terms of items, LA has lots of variety and originality.  I’d love to see Zelda games get back to letting you fully re-equip your character, instead of being locked to the sword on this button and the shield on that one.  Another way LA distinguishes itself is that it’s the only Zelda game where you can walk up to objects and get text descriptions of some of them.  Chests in buildings, things you can pick up with the Power Glove or break with the Pegasus Boots, and more, they all have text blocks that pop up when you touch them.  While it is slightly annoying when you’ve seen them 50 times, it’s cool that the game has them.  It adds a sort of adventure game feel that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the Zelda series.  Overall, LA is one of the best games ever made.  The game has some flaws, but they are very minor, and the strengths are legion; I only began to list them in this review.  There’s also a remake, Link’s Awakening DX, for GB/C, listed (and reviewed) below.  That version (in color only) is on 3DS Virtual Console, but not the original one, or the DX version in B&W as an option (hah, VC with options… as if!).


Lion King, The – One player, not actually Super Game Boy enhanced but the box and cart lie that it is (yes, really!).  I got this game back after watching the movie, because I loved the movie so the game has to be good too, right?  Well, poor 12-13 year old me, I sure learned how wrong that idea was.  The Lion King for GB, one of the many Lion King games based on the Disney movie of the same name, is not a horrible game, but it is a deeply flawed one thanks to several poor design and programming decisions.  Most importantly, the controls are not very good.  GB The Lion King requires pixel-perfect accuracy to do anything much at all.  Want to land on that ledge?  You’ve got to jump from the EXACT right spot to do so.  Otherwise you’ll hit some invisible obstacle, or drop through what looks like solid floor, or what have you.  Want to kill an enemy?  Be sure to land on them just right, or you’ll get hit instead!  Etc.  It’s aggravating, and really makes the later levels a nightmare to play, once you’re adult Simba and also have to deal with a third button, Slash, which is on Start.  Yeah, it’s not good; I never finished this game mostly because of how hard it gets in Adult Simba’s part, and the controls are part of why that is.  There’s a slight delay on the controls, too.  The game IS easier than the SNES Lion King game despite the serious control flaws, because of how much shorter this game is than that one, and because of design changes that simplify some very difficult parts of that game like the ostrich ride, but it’s still not easy, but not for any good reasons.  Poor controls, poor hit detection, and frustrating level designs (in part because of the controls and hit detection that make level navigation annoying) are not a good combination.  I’ve played worse games than this, and it definitely has a good-sized nostalgia factor, and it IS playable and sometimes fun… but still, overall, it’s a disappointing, subpar game.  This game was the first one I owned that told me that yes, licensed games sometimes weren’t good.

The game does have a good side, though.  Past the bad controls, which you DO get used to with time (watching Youtube videos of the game is painful, the people are mostly so bad…), the actual level designs are mostly not too bad.  The last few levels are frustrating, but the first three quarters of the game at least are okay.  They also did keep in the avoid-the-stampede level, as a topdown stage.  Also though, the graphics and sprite animations are very good.  The game does a much better job of looking like the SNES/Genesis game than you might expect, and really does look good.  Unfortunately they obviously were more focused on the audio-visual presentation than on the gameplay here.  Also, second, the game has an absolutely OUTSTANDING soundtrack.  The gameplay may be mediocre, but the music is top-tier stuff!  Really, it’s one of my favorite GB soundtracks, it’s that good.  The GB version’s main menu theme is just amazing stuff for the hardware, and the ingame music’s just as good.  The Game Gear Lion King game (entirely different level designs in that one, I should mention) may have even better graphics than this game, but it’s the other way around for the music; the GB version’s is powerful and strong, while the GG’s is weak.  Also, the GB version has a simple level-skip cheatcode, so the lack of a save system isn’t too bad, while the GG version has not only no codes, but doesn’t even give you one single continue!  Other Lion King games were on many platforms, and they all share some basic design similarities, but this game is different from any of the others in the details.  For versions, there’s a SNES/Genesis version, a GG version, a GB version, and a EU-only NES version.  All focus too much on graphics above gameplay, unfortunately.


Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge – One player, password save.  Also known as Mega Man I, Mega Man in Dr. Wily’s Revenge is a good Mega Man platformer.  I first got this game when I borrowed it from a friend in the mid ’90s.  He never returned the game he borrowed from me (despite my repeated requests for him to give it back…), so I never returned this.  Well, at least it’s a pretty good game; I remember he also had Adventure Island (1, for GB).  I sure chose well in picking this one over that.  The game is probably the fourth best of the five GB classic Mega Man games, but that still leaves it as a good game overall.  Mega Man I is a short but tough game.  The game has only six full-sized stages, but the fifth level has five bosses in it, so there are as many bosses here as in any other Mega Man title.  Still, it does feel cheap that the second set of four bosses, the ones from Mega Man 2 (NES), don’t have their own levels, but instead are just fought from a set of teleporters.  The later GB Mega Man games all have a level for each boss.  Also the last password is, of course, from before the first of the two boss levels.  Beating both boss levels in one sitting’s definitely not easy; this may be one of the shortest Mega Man games, but it’s certainly not one of the easiest!  (That would be Mega Man II…)  Mega Man I has classic Mega Man action-platformer gameplay, for the levels it has, though.  The new-here GB Mega Man engine zooms in significantly versus the NES games, so that you can’t see as far, but everything is designed for the small screen, so there are no blind jumps here.  Level designs are impeccable.  The music is good, but visually you can tell that this is an early GB game, as it has way too much flicker and slowdown, and they would improve significantly on both of those things in the later games.  Minus the number of levels, this game set the standards that the next three GB Mega Man games would be based on: the game reuses bosses from the NES games, but designs all-new levels for those bosses, and the bosses are fought in a different order from in the NES games, too.  Also it uses four bosses from one game (MM1, here), and four from the next (MM2).  Each of the next three would copy that.  And before Dr. Wily, there is one new boss, from the Mega Man Killer series.  The fifth GB game brings back all four past Mega Man Killers, for a nice reference to the past titles.  And the tough challenge in this game is something that really kept me coming back for a long time.  The controls are near-perfect too, of course.  Still, the rougher graphics, the flicker, and the skimpy level count are real negatives here.  Mega Man I is a decent to good game, but it’s not a great one.  Regardless, play it.  Also on 3DS Virtual Console.


Mega Man II – One player, password save.  Mega Man II is a seriously disappointing game.  Indeed, when you compare expectations to results, this is one of the Game Boy’s worst, and most disappointing, releases.  I didn’t own MMII until recently, but first played it back in the ’90s, when I played my cousins’ copy… and I finished it less than two hours later, the very first time I picked it up.  Yes, this game is ludicrously easy.  It’s probably the easiest Mega Man platformer ever made, in fact.  It’s strange that it is so easy, because the other four GB Mega Man games are quite difficult, but it is, that’s for sure.  And it’s not only easy, it also has horrible music for a Mega Man game, and it’s got some bugs as well.  Yeah, this game was a shoddy effort all around.  The controls are of course great, tje graphics are decently well done, and I like the stages on a conceptual and visual level, but for a Mega Man game, there’s not much else good to say about this one, unfortunately.  With that crazy-low difficulty level and awful music, this game’s poor and one that should be skipped.  Unfortunately, of course, the Million Seller line late ’90s re-releases of GB Mega Man titles ended with this game, so this game is cheap and common, while the vastly superior later titles are much pricier, IV and V particularly.  Sad.


Mega Man III – One player, password save.  Mega Man III is something of a forgotten classic.  That is, while the game is brilliant, and one of the GB’s best platformers, it doesn’t get much respect because it comes before Mega Man IV and Mega Man V, two of the few games that are even better.  I didn’t play this one in the ’90s, so I under-rated it then too, but when I found a cheap copy a few years ago and played the game, I realized that I really had missed something great.  Mega Man III does not have the original features of MMIV or V — that is, no shop, no P-chips, no Tango or Arm Buster, etc — but it does have great design, great music and graphics, and very challenging gameplay.  It all adds up to a compelling quest that really is a must-play game for all those people who probably have passed over it, looking more at its two sequels.  This might be the hardest of the five GB Mega Man games, but don’t give up just because of how frustratingly difficult it is; keep playing, it’s worth it!  It really is amazing when you compare MMII to MMIII, this game is incredibly much improved in every category.  Plus, since the game is half MM4 as well as half MM3, this game has the charge shot in it, which is great; I prefer MM games with the charge shot to the oens that don’t have it.  The engine is the same as ever, only it’s been mastered now.  The art is the best it’s been yet, and the slowdown and flicker are pretty much gone.  The level designers really pulled out all the stops with some of these levels, but the game is beatable with effort; I finished it, after all.  I haven’t finished most of the other super-hard Mega Man games, like MM Zero, MM & Bass, or MM X6, but I did beat this one.  So yeah, it’s a great game.  Not quite as great as its sequels, but great all the same, and it’s a whole lot cheaper than either of them, too!


Mega Man IV – One player, password save.  Mega Man IV was the first Mega Man game that I owned for the Game Boy.  It was the first one released after I got my GB, so I was understandably interested, and I ended up getting it.  Before this the only Mega Man game I actually owned was the “Mega Man 3” for the PC… I don’t actually hate it, but yeah, that game’s not Mega Man at all.  This game not only is, but it’s one of the greats.  First, the graphcis and sound are, of course, outstanding.  This is top-level work for the Game Boy.  The game is challenging, but probably isn’t quite as hard as the previous game.  That’s probably a good thing; MMIV’s balance is just right.  The game’s as fun as anything in the franchise, and should be on the short list of the great Mega Man games.  Mega Man IV still has recycled bosses, from MM4 and 5 on the NES, but this time there are some important new features.  Most notably, the game is the first ever Mega Man game with an ingame shop where you can buy items for money that you get in the levels.  It’s a good mechanic that works well and adds something to the game.   Beyond that this game goes by the formula, but the level designs, from the deserts of Pharaoh Man to Wily’s final fortress, are so well designed and great that that really doesn’t matter at all.  Of course, as always the levels and boss orders themselves are all-new.  Mega Man IV really is Game Boy Mega Man perfected.  It’s got none of the graphical and length issues of the first game, none of the flaws of the second game, and a slightly less cruel difficulty level than the third game.  Really, MMIV has it all.  The only thing it’s missing is a cheap price online, or a re-release… this game’s price is very high now.  Hopefully we will finally see that on 3DS Virtual Console.  Here’s hoping!  It’s outstanding.


Mega Man V – One player, password save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, auto-changing color palettes).  Mega Man V was the last GB Mega Man game.  The next GB Mega Man-related title, Mega Man Xtreme for GB/GBC dual-mode, wouldn’t release until 2000, and even then, the game was just a collection of straight ports of SNES levels; it’s not an original title like the GB Mega Man games are, and that’s the main reason why I don’t own it.  This game is the least common and most expensive of the Game Boy Mega Man games, and it’s one of the most pricey US Game Boy releases, too.  I was very lucky though, and found a cart-only copy for $3 last year.  I even mentioned that the game was rare, but the price for the game ($3 for anything in that box of GB games) was the price. I didn’t think I’d actually own this game because of its value, but now I do… and yes, it’s outstanding!  The game is the only Mega Man game with Super Game Boy enhancements, too.  I unfortunately didn’t get this game when it came out, probably because I was still busy with MMIV and MMI, but I should have, because the price rose to $50-plus for cart-only copies later that decade.

Anyway though, in the actual game, MMV does some interesting things.  First, this game is the only GB Mega Man game with all-new bosses.  No rehashed settings or boss sprites and attacks here, it’s all new.  The bosses are all themed after planets, and the different theme is great.  The final boss is even new; this game doesn’t have Wily in it, crazily enough.  The game does reuse the usual GB Mega Man engine, with the addition of that Super Game Boy support.  The graphics are about as good as MMIII or MMIV.  The border and colorization look nice; that’s the best way to play the game, probably.  The basic gameplay uses the standard GB Mega Man system too, so it is familiar in that respect.  The shop from MMIV makes a reappearance as well.  There are two major gameplay additions, though.  First, you have the new, and MMV-exclusive I believe, Mega Arm, which is a new animation for your full-power shot which shoots out Mega Man’s fist like a boomerang.  You an also do stuff like grab items with super shots now.  However, full-power shots knock you back a little. Getting used to the new charge shot takes a while, but once you do, it’s an interesting change that works.  Second, the game has one new companion, Tango the cat.  Sadly Tango is only moderately useful, and only shows up in one other Mega Man game — Tango’s only other appearance is in the obscure, Japan-only, and apparently not any good Rockman & Forte game for (B&W) Wonderswan.  That game also has some appearances from other GB Mega Man series characters, so it’s too bad that it wasn’t good; it wasn’t made by Capcom, and the team making it just wasn’t good enough.  This game was internal, though, and it shows.  As with MMIV, this game is of the absolute highest quality, and MMV is equal to MMIV in greatness.  I probably mostly gave that game the edge for nostalgia reasons.  Mega Man V is a truly great game.  It’s too bad that Capcom stopped publishing handheld Mega Mans for six years after releasing this game; another victim of the GB’s weak mid-decade period, I assume.  It’s even more unfortunate that once they finally did return, it was with games that, in my opinion, are nowhere near as good as the better GB Mega Man games.  I mean, I loved Mega Man X, but Xtreme 1 and 2?  Yeah… they’re okay, but are not my favorite Mega Man games.  This game, though, would be on that list.


Mercenary Force – One player.  Mercenary Force is, though the name may not sound like it, a horizontal shmup set in premodern Japan.  Instead of controlling a plane or tank or mech or something though, in this game you play as a team of four people, walking on the ground.  You have five different characters to choose from, each with a different attack pattern, and can choose any layout of characters you wish.  And yes, you can use multiples of the same one; you’re not required to use one of each.  Each character has a different strength (health) level, and costs a different amount of money.  Part of the strategy of the game is in picking the attack pattern layout that you like the most.  The game has okay but not great graphics and sound; it looks and sounds fine, but the system can do better.  You’ll get game over if all of your characters die, but if you get far enough to reach a store point, you can buy new mercenaries with the money you’ve gotten from enemies in order to fill up your party again.  There are also some shops, such as teashops, where you can pay to refill some health.  It’s kind of a funny game, as you’re playing as this group of four characters all controlled together, and all attacking with different types of attackes each time you hit the button.  Oh, and there are no continues here; if you have no characters left, that’s it.  The games’ fantasy classical Japanese theme is great; you’ve got ninjas, samurai, fighting priestesses, etc.  Most enemies are humans, samurai, ninjas, thieves, and such, but there are also monsters to fight.  Overall, Mercenary Force isn’t one of the Game Boy’s best shmups, but it is a decently good one that genre fans should definitely check out.


Metal Masters – Two player simultaneous – Link.  Metal Masters is a not very good fighting game.  Most GB fighting games are on the weak side, it seems, and this game is no exception.  The game is a very simplistic fighting game where you choose from one of a variety of robots (hence the title) and beat up other robots.  On the good side, the music’s alright.  It doesn’t play during matches, though, naturally (I mean, can’t have too many good thigns here!).  Also, there are two planes, so you can step in or out in the arena.  Also your robot has health stats in four different areas (body, armor, arms, legs), and you can upgrade your robot between matches with your winnings.  Decent mechanic.  However, with bland graphics, unfair difficulty (the AI cheats…), and no extra lives or continues at all, this game isn’t much fun.  Yes, it’s a fighting game where you get one and only one chance; lose a match and you start the whole game over.  There’s not much strategy here, either… just mash your buttons to hit the enemy, try to corner the enemy, and hope you win.  This is one of the few GB games that I wish I hadn’t gotten; it was cheap, but isn’t really worth playing at all.  The game is adapted from a European Amiga/Atari ST game.


Metroid II: Return of Samus – One player, battery save.  Metroid II is a classic side-scrolling action-platform game where you, sci-fi female bounty hunter Samus, wander around a large world, killing enemies, collecting powerups, and trying to figure out where you should be going next.  In Metroid II, you continue the story of Samus in what is, by the series chronology, one of the last games in the Metroid series.  Here, Samus exterminates the remaining Metroids from their homeworld of SR-388.  The graphics, sound, controls, and gameplay are all very good and are similar to the original game, only this time you have to defeat all of the Metroids, so  there is an ingame counter of how many are left.  Also, many areas of the game only open up once you’ve beaten enough Metroids to unlock them.  The game has good graphics for its time and plays well, but REALLY needs an ingame map; use a printed map or something with this one if you’re going to play it.  Metroid II is a popular classic, but it’s not something I played more than a couple minutes of during the system’s life.  And I was hesitant about going back to it, too; Metroid II, after all, like the first game, still doesn’t have an ingame map, and in a game like this that’s a serious flaw.  I think that Metroid 1 (NES) is kind of fun, but really requires a printed map or walkthrough (or hand-drawn map) if you want to actually play it because of how large and mazelike the world is, and because of how much backtracking is required in your quest.  Metroid II is kind of in between on that.  On the one hand, the game does have a large world and no map, and there aren’t even color differences to help you out since it’s in B&W, so everything looks the same.  On the other hand, the game locks off areas until you’ve killed enough Metroids, so the game is more linear than the first one… but you still need to wander around and figure out exactly which one of the many walls was taken down each time you kill enough Metroids to progress, so it’s really not much better.  Still, the game has a bit less random wandering wandering at least, which is good.  Still, I would much rather play the GBA Metroid games (either one of them) than this one.  Ingame maps really do wonders for this kind of game.  Overall it’s okay, but there’s better.  Also on 3DS Virtual Console.


Mickey Mouse: Magic Wands! – One player, password save.  Mickey Mouse: Magic Wands! was an early midlife (1993) Game Boy release in Japan, but the graphics and sound look even more dated than that.  By the time the game finally released in the West though, oddly enough only under the Million Seller line (no, there are no Western non-Million Seller copies of this game), it was even more dated.  It is somewhat notable as it’s the only one of the five Kemco Mickey Mouse games that actually released in the US starring Mickey Mouse (more on that later), but other than that, it’s bland.  The game is an okay at best puzzle-platformer.  As Mickey Mouse, you have to explore around levels, find all of the crystals, and use your magic wand on them to reveal the picture piece or item hidden inside.  You complete each level once you complete that level’s picture.  The controls are basic, with one button for jump and the other for wand.  The first two levels are very simple, but the game does start to get more complex, and puzzley, as you progress.  Returning to the series though, the first two Mickey Mouse games were released here as the first two Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle games (#1 for NES and GB, #2 for GB; #2 was released in Europe as Mickey Mouse though (no number, as the first one had released there as Bugs Bunny), and also had a later Europe-only version redone as Hugo).  The third one was released here as Kid Klown for the NES.  The fourth was released here as The Real Ghostbusters, and was released in Europe as Garfield Labyrinth.  Only this, the fifth and last one, actually released everywhere as a Mickey game.  (Oh, once Kemco restarted the Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle series in ’00, they just used the name “Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 3” in all regions.)  Anyway though, even though it’s a series of sorts, the third, fourth, and fifth games all have different gameplay, so it’s really a series in name only past #2.  This game is a puzzle-platformer like Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle 2, but the actual gameplay is quite different.  That’s probably a better game, overall.


Micro Machines – Two player simultaneous – Single System, Four player simultaneous – Link w/ Four Player Adapter.  Micro Machines is a top-down racing game from Codemasters.  The game uses the mini toy car brand license in the title, but this is no average licensed game!  Indeed, Micro Machines was a great game, and it spawned a long-running series.  There hasn’t been a new Micro Machines game in a few years, but the last one, V4, was on the PS2, PC, and DS, for instance.  The original Game Boy has ports of the first two games.  And yes, this is a port of the console great — the game, and course, designs are exactly the same here as they are on any other platform.  So, it’s a top-down racing game where you drive on courses formed out of real environments, like breakfast tables, beaches, and the like.  The roadways are marked by lines of objects, but you don’t have to stay in the road, and can drive around the table.  It’s best to stay on the road though, as pitfalls and objects will stop you if you go off track.  It’s a challenging game until you learn it, but it’s well worth the effort.  The developers did a fantastic job bringing the game over to the small screen, and this game is outstanding and is easily my favorite racing game for the B&W GB.  The graphics are good, and the gameplay even better.  I loved this game back when I first got it in ’98 or so, and it’s still a fantastic game.  At the start, you choose a racer.  Three are better than the rest of the field, and three worse, so you can handicap yourself, or get an advantage, if you wish.  Spider is the best racer, if you want the best chance of winning.  In the single player game, you have to race through a several dozen track long circuit.  In order to move on, finish 1st or 2nd on each race, out of four cars.  Lose and you lose a life; run out of lives, and it’s game over (no continues here).  The game’s tough, but it is beatable, and I eventually finished it back then.  Micro Machines 1 is fast, but not too fast for the system.  Memorization will be required for sure, but this game’s managable.  You can see what’s coming at you.  Micro Machines 2 really is too fast for screens this size; I have it for GBC in the Micro Machines 1&2 collection, and it’s really not fun in how far ahead of time you often have to turn, due to the increased speed.  That game really is a pure memorizer.  It may have more content than the first game, but it’s not as good on the portable.  Also of course, MM2 for original GB was only released in Europe, and that GBC collection isn’t very good.  I would unhesitatingly recommend this original GB version of Micro Machines over the MM 1&2 collection if you want to play Micro Machines 1, because this is a better, more fully featured game.  The color choices are not well chosen and that adds nothing, and the GBC version cuts out the link cable mode!  It’s quite sad.  (MMV3 for GBC is good, though; still no link support, but the gameplay’s great.)

On that note, one of the most important elements of Micro Machines has always been its multiplayer support.  This version has four player multiplayer support via link cables and a four player adapter, which is pretty awesome.  I only have two copies myself, but the two player link game is still great fun.  The game also has an interesting two-players-on-one-system mode, where the cars automatically accelerate, and one player uses Up and Down to turn and Left to brake, and the other uses A and B to turn and Start to brake.  It works better than you might think.  There are two different multiplayer modes.  First, there’s the traditional Micro Machines mode, where all cars are on one single screen.  When a car gets a full screen ahead of the others, they get a point on a meter.  Your goal is to fill the meter with your color, or failing that, to have the most spots on the meter after three laps.  All Micro Machines games have this mode, and it’s great fun.  But exclusive to several of the older handheld Micro Machines games is a more standard multi-screen mode, where each racer races on their own system, and can be at any point in the track.  Here, your goal is simply to be the first one to finish.  Sadly there are no AI racers, but still, it’s fantastic to have, and this is one of the only Micro Machines games with this kind of mode in it.  Remember, the GBC games don’t have it, even this game’s remake!  The only downside to the multiplayer mode is that only a very limited selection of the single player game’s tracks are available in multiplayer, but this annoying restriction is present in every version of the original game.  You need to play the second game to get every track in multiplayer (and yes, that EU-only GB version of MM2 does have link cable support), but again, at its speed, it’s a much harder game.  Overall though, this is a very good game.  Also available on PC, SNES, Genesis, Game Gear, CD-i, and more.


Milon’s Secret Castle – One player, password save.  Milon’s Secret Castle is a platform-adventure game where you play as the wizard Milon who has to explore a castle in a generic rescue-the-princess-etc. videogame quest.  For a weapon, Milon has a bubble-shooting wand.  The game has the same name as the NES classic, and the same story and basic execution, but while the concept may be the same, the actual level designs here are often different.  Really, it’s more of a remake than anything.  Most of the level maps are new, the difficulty level is lower, and there’s password save this time, so you can save your progress.  In a game this confusing, that’s great to have.  As with the original though, the game is a very obtuse game where your goal is to explore each area, find hidden stuff, and figure out where to go next.  Nothing is obvious, and a LOT of trial and error, and random guessing as to whether stuff is somewhere, will be required.  I’ve never liked that kind of thing; I know it’s somewhat common in older (NES-era) games, but I don’t like it.  I want there to be some kind of hint about what I should do, but this game doesn’t have that.  You just need to go around randomly attacking every brick you can find in search of money and items, and such.  Still, if you have the patience to wander around, do everything you can pretty much everywhere, and such, this can be a pretty good game.  There’s also a shop where you can buy things with the money you’ve found.  The graphics are average, but decent, and the music’s about the same.  This is a decent game, well worth playing for exploration fans.  The passwords and lower difficulty make it more accessible than the original is.


Mole Mania – Two player simultaneous – Link, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom background, auto-selecting color palettes, multiple color zones on screen).  Mole Mania was one of the best Game Boy games released during its darkest period, those years from mid 1995 (or maybe even several years earlier, though this was the worst period) until early 1998 when it didn’t seem like either Nintendo, or much of anybody else, still cared about the system.  Sure, the Game Boy Pocket released in 1996, but the new release lists stayed incredibly thin.  It wasn’t until Pokemon took off in the West in ’98, and then the GBC rleeased later that year, that Nintendo handheld games finally got going again.  Nintendo’s focus from mid ’95 to early ’96 on the Virtual Boy definitely didn’t help it (note: I actually like the VB, but it’s not a handheld.), but even after that, things did not improve for years.  Anyway though, in addition to Wario Land II and a few Kirby spinoffs (Block Ball, Star Stacker), Mole Mania was one of the next biggest games released in this period.  Even so, it’s more of a cult classic thian anything, and not enough people know about how great it is.  The game is a brilliant puzzle game from Hal.  The game is essentially a modernized, improved remix of the classic Adventures of Lolo top-down puzzle-action series, except this time, you play as a cartoony mole named Muddy, who has to save his wife and seven children from the farmer Jinbei who, angry at how they keep taking his crops, has kidnapped them all.  The graphics in this game are great and quite cute, and the game is very likeable.  The SGB colorization looks fantastic as well.  This game really shows off what the SGB can do, and the tricks used to show multiple color palettes on the world-select screen (along the lines of Kirby 2, which does something similar) looks great.  The puzzles themselves are every bit as good as the graphics, sound, and presentation, too.  While it had been a while since Hal made a Lolo game, they obviously hadn’t forgotten how to make a great topdown puzzle title.  And Mole Mania isn’t only good, it’s probably Hal’s best game ever in this genre.  The key mechanic here is that since you are a mole, you can dig under the ground.  This means that there are two planes on each screen, the above-ground plane, and the underground.  You can peek your head above ground, but if you want to surface, you must dig a hole.  However, your goal in each screen is to push the heavy metal ball into the rock blocking the door.  The ball will fall into holes, you see.  The only way to get it across holes is to push barrels into the holes, but those barrels will then block off that square in the underground layer.  There are also enemies to deal with above ground (though there are none under the surface), walls aboveground, pipes underground blocking off some paths, and more.  Each screen’s puzzle will require a specific set of moves to clear, and figuring out all of this is great fun.  If you fail, you can reset screens as much as you like.  You do need to watch your health and lives, but screen resets cost nothing.  There’s also a boss fight at the end of each world, and they get interesting as you get farther.  Also, at several points in each world, you will find old grandpa mole, who has some health, and advice, to give you.  Be careful if you try to talk to him too many times without leaving the screen, though… :p  There are also some other items, and cabbages, to find in each world, for hints and for completion percentage purposes.  The game has eight worlds, so there’s a decent amount of content here, though it’s a testament to how good the game is that when I finish it, I always feel like I wish there was more.  How about a sequel, Nintendo?  It’d only be perfect on the DS or 3DS.  Ah well.  There is a multiplayer mode via link cable, where one player plays as Jinbei and the other as Muddy Mole.  Each player is trying to defeat the other, boss-fight style.  It’s fun, though it’s only a minor diversion compared to the main puzzle game.  Overall, Mole Mania is a fun, moderately challenging puzzle game that’s the best in its genre on the system.  Definite must-play game.  Also available on 3DS Virtual Console, with no SGB or multiplayer support naturally.


Monster Truck Wars – One player.  Monster Truck Wars is a short, simple top-down racing game.  The game seriously lacks in variety, as there is only one environment to drive in.  The game’s also on the easy side for sure, and isn’t very hard at all to finish.  Replay value is also poor.  The controls are fine though, and graphics are okay if always the same.  The game’s fun enough to play, for the short time it lasts — drive around, go through the tracks, and win.  You have to qualify for each race before you can race on it, and some qualifying times are tight, but still, this game is very easy.  The gameplay all works fine, and the game has no glaring flaws, apart from the above stuff that is.  The controls are decently good, you can see far enough ahead given the slow-ish speeds you drive at, etc.  But really, don’t pay more than a couple of dollars for this game, if you get it at all.  There’s almost nothing to it.  This is only for top-down racing fans who really want to play something different.  I moderately enjoyed it, but it’s just so short and lacking in replayability that it’s very hard to recommend.  And it doesn’t even have multiplayer!  Play the better games that this copies, like Micro Machines, Super R.C. Pro-Am, and Super Off-Road, instead.  Also on Game Gear.


Motocross Maniacs – Two player simultaneous – Link.  Motocross Maniacs is a side-scrolling motorcycle racing game.  It’s sort of like Excitebike, but with tracks full of loops, platforms in the air, and more.  The game is an early title for the GB from Konami, and the graphics and sound are simple.  The gameplay holds up better than the graphics, though.  The game has three modes, timed, vs. CPU, and 2-player link.  Motocross Maniacs starts out easy, but gets quite difficult as you go along.  Some later tracks require near-perfection throughout the race in order to succeed.  The game has a turbo system, and the many powerups, which are usually in jumps, loops, and the like, are essential.  You’ll need many to beat your opponent or complete each race in the time required.  So, memorization is key in this game.  The game doesn’t save, so instead you can simply start from any level when you turn on the game from a level-select menu.  It works.  The game’s fun, as driving through the tracks, zooming around loops and over jumps, and the rest is all pretty well thought out.  There’s also multiplayer, though I don’t have two copies so I haven’t tried it myself, I’m sure it’s fun.  The only real flaws here are the lack of saving, the frustration on some of the harder races, and the very simplistic graphics.  The game was successful enough to get a sequel, though it came much later, and is a GBC-only title.  I don’t have it, unfortunately, but I do have the third and last game, Motocross Maniacs Advance for the GBA.  It’s too short and is a lot easier than this game, but is quite fun while it lasts, and I like it a lot.  This one’s good enough to be worth playing if it’s cheap, though.


Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon – One player, password save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom background, preselected color palette).  This game was the second Goemon GB game in Japan, though it released seven years after the first one so there’s a big gap in between (1991 to 1998).  Unfortunately, the game is also pretty poor, and is easily the worst Goemon game with a Western release.  The first GB Goemon’s simple (it’s a side-view-isometric action game pretty much, walk to the right and hit things), but it’s a lot better than this thing; import that European GB Collection volume that includes that game, instead of wasting your time and money on this disappointment.  The game has nice cover art, but that’s where the good side of the game stops.  This game is a top-down action-adventure game.  You play as Goemon, Sasuke, or Ebisumaru, and have to resue Yae, who was kidnapped.  Yeah, so it’s off to a bad start; why isn’t Yae playable, and instead is reduced to must-rescue-girl status?  She was playable in the third and fourth SNES games, and is in the first N64 game, but not this one.  That’s not good.  And once you get into the game, thigns don’t get better.  This may have been a 1998 release, but it looks dated visually.  The Game Boy can do much, much better than this, and did years before this game was released.  The art design is bland and subpar as well.  And as for the gameplay, it’s just as flawed.  In this game, you go through five large, somewhat nonlinear levels.  If you die (and you get one life per game) or use a password, you start you from the beginning of the level again, so you’ll have to beat each one in one try.  The game isn’t easy, so that can be frustrating when you again and again have to start over levels that you’ve gotten almost to the end of.  In each stage, you have to explore around, find the required items and get money from chests, and eventually make your way to the boss room.  In each screen, you fight enemies.  Combat is basic; you’ve got your main weapon, a throwing weapon, and that’s pretty much it.  Enemies don’t drop money, so you can only get that from chests, and fights feel pointless.  There is an ingame map, but even so wandering around the levels looking for the items and the end isn’t much fun, and quickly gets tedious and boring, too.  Really, there’s nothing good about this game.  I only got it because it’s a Goemon game, and I don’t entirely regret doing so because I like the franchise, but really… don’t.  Oh, the SGB support’s decent.  Nice border and such.  Doesn’t improve the game though.  Also on 3DS Virtual Console, minus the SGB support.


NBA Jam: Tournament Edition – One player, password save.  NBA Jam was of course one of the most popular arcade games of the early to mid ’90s.  I liked the arcade game, but with how you had to put money in every quarter, I didn’t play it all that often.  So, once I got a Game Boy and this game was released for it, I wanted the home version, and picked it up.  NBA Jam TE for the Game Boy is a port of this second version of Midway’s great arcade classic, and TE is still my favorite game in the franchise for several reasons.  The game does have solid graphics and gameplay.  The scaling is fake, of course, but it’s okay for the system, and the game plays well.  However, while this version is pretty fun, the Game Boy and Game Gear NBA Jam games all have one serious flaw: no multiplayer!  I have no idea why none of them even have link cable support, but they don’t.  It’s a very unfortunate omission, considering how multiplayer-centric the original game, and console versions, all are.  All handheld versions also have password save systems instead of batteries or save files.  The passwords are short enough that it’s not too bad.  What this game does have, though, is decently good graphics, all of the teams and players from the console game, and pretty decent gameplay.  The game also has all of the features TE introduced, like being able to switch players every quarter, the damage ratings that affect your player’s performance as you get hurt, and those special options that make TE so great and better than the other games in the franchise, including the 2x through 4x turbo-speed modes that make the game crazy fast, the hot-spots which have circles appear randomly on the court where you can score up to 8 points if you make a shot from them, and the power-ups which let you get abilities like instant fire or knocking down the other players.  I love these features, and have never understood why almost all of this stuff was reverted, removed, or made not as good in the next games, namely NBA Hangtime and NBA Showtime.  Sure, the create-a-player modes in those games are cool, but they’re not as good as TE because of all the stuff they’re missing.  However, since this version is single player only, I really can’t recommend it.  If you really want to play a ’90s handheld version of NBA Jam, though, this version’s as good as any, and better than some.


Ninja Gaiden Shadow – One player.  Ninja Gaiden Shadow, actually by the people who made Shadow of the Ninja, not Ninja Gaiden, is a short and mostly easy platformer where you play as, well, “Ryu”, who has to save the day again.  This game’s great fun, but the extremely short length and low difficulty are important problems.  There are no difficulty levels here to make it harder, either.  There are only five levels here, and none are particularly long or difficult until the end, and even that final level is only moderately challenging.  Also, don’t expect a story worth mentioning in this game.  There are not cutscenes between levels, and the plot is quite basic.  Still, Ninja Gaiden Shadow does have good graphics, good gameplay, a fine soundtrack, and a high fun factor while it lasts.  Sort of like in Shadow of the Ninja, you can grab on to some ceilings in this game with a grappling hook you have.  You also have super attacks with ninja magic, and six health points (refillable with items of course).  The graphics are fine Game Boy stuff, and the music’s decent.  Enemies are present, but generally can be avoided or defeated without too much trouble.  There’s some decent variety though, and plenty of fun sections. But really, even for a GB game, this game is way too short and easy.  It’s pretty fun while it lasts, but it’s over FAR too soon.


Operation C – One player.  Operation C is the first of two Contra games for the Game Boy.  So, the game is a side-scrolling and top-down run and gun action shooting game.  From ’91, this is an earlier release for the system, but Konami did a great job here — the graphics and sound are all high-quality stuff.  This game looks and sounds great, and the gameplay is just as good.  Operation C is a somewhat easier game than the NES Contra games, with fewer enemies on screen than that version would have.  I’m quite fine with this, though; I find the NES Contra very difficult and it’s not my favorite thing, but this game I like a lot more.  Operation C is actually one of the better Contra games, I think, in my opinion.  The game may have fewer enemies and less frustration, but there’s still plenty of challenge here.  The game has three side-scrolling levels, and two vertical-scrolling (and top-down) levels.  I think the vertical levels might be the tougher ones, but in general, the difficulty level slowly ramps up as you go.  The game may seem easy at first, but it won’t be quite so easy to actually beat, since you don’t get many lives or continues before you’re starting the game over.  There are some cheat codes, but if you don’t cheat, the game provides plenty of challenge.  The game keeps me coming back, though, even if I’m not that good at it and keep dying in level 2 or 3.  The graphics and weapons may be classic Contra, but the action’s also very much Game Boy stuff, and I mean that as praise.  The graphics really do look quite nice as well.  Because of my mixed feelings for the Contra franchise as a whole (basically, I think that Metal Slug blows Contra away, and the only Contra game I really liked was Contra: Hard Corps for Genesis) I went into this game not sure if I’d like it, but I quickly found that I did.  Operation C is great running, jumping, and shooting fun.


Out of Gas – One player, password save.  Out of Gas is an interesting futuristic “racing” game that’s really as much of an action-puzzle game as it is racing.  In the game, you play as a guy in a spaceship who’s running out of gas, so you’re off to fill up.  However, that’s much easier said than done, and you end up in this game, instead of just a space gas station.  Poor guy, you won’t get stranded (on purpose) with your girlfriend so easily, she brought a gas can… (Yes, spaceships run on gasoline.  Who knew?)  So, in the game, in each level you have to shoot all of the target icons in the correct order, before time runs out and presumably you run out of fuel.  Then, it’s off to the next level.  How shooting targets refills your fuel I have no idea, but apparently it does.  Yeah, the story and gameplay don’t really have much in common, but hey, at least the story is amusing, and the gameplay good!  The concept is simple, but the levels get larger and more complex as you progress, and you will often have to wander around, remember where the various goal points are, and then go back and hit the min the correct order.  So, the game has more than a bit of puzzle game in it as well.  There are enemies to deal with, slightly skiddy controls to get used to (though they are good once you get used to them), and bullets to avoid, but the biggest challenge is getting to all of the targets, in order, within the time limit.  As you go along you will also have to deal with things like one-way paths.  The game’s good, and is fun to play too.  I like the challenge the game presents, and even though the graphics are on the basic side, it does the job well enough.  The game has 8 worlds, each made up of 8 levels, so there’s plenty of content here too.  You get a password after beating each world, which you’ll need, because the game gets tough as you get farther in.   Overall, it’s a good, simple game.


Pokemon Red Version – Two player simultaneous – Link, battery save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, auto-selecting color palettes).  While I technically own this game now, I’ve played it for under an hour total, so I really can’t review it.  This game was originally my sisters’, and she played it a lot, but while my sister and two younger cousins loved Pokemon, I thought it looked stupid from the beginning, and had next to no interest in actually playing the game.  “Collect them all” just doesn’t interest me, and the nearly nonexistent story and uninteresting JRPG battle system sure didn’t catch my interest either.  I like JRPGs more now than I did back then, for sure, but still, I haven’t tried to actually play this game, and doubt I will.  I will say that the Super Game Boy support is nice, though.  For a final note, in more recent years all three people who used to like this game now admit that they have no idea why they ever liked the thing.  So yeah, I was right all along… :p There’s a remake of Pokemon Red on the GBA.


Prehistorik Man – One player.  Prehistorik Man for Game Boy, from Titus, is a downscaled, redesigned adaptation of the computer game Prehistorik 2.  The plot is the same as any game in this series (such as the SNES/GBA game also released in the US), though: As Sam the Caveman, get the food back from the badguys who have taken it from you.  The game has some nice graphical effects in it.  The game’s yet another platformer, but the ingame graphics are pretty good.  However, the most impressive thing are the scrolling text segments before levels.  These are done from a third-person “3d” perspective, as the text smoothly scrolls into the screen.  It’s a very cool look.  It is a bit annoying once you’ve seen it, because the text scrolls quite slowly, but still, it looks great.  As for the game, it’s a fairly simple platformer.  You wander around the levels, trying to find your way to the exit.  Enemies appear at points where arrows pop up, so they’re not on the screen all the time.  Instead, they only appear when you’re about to run into the arrow, so be on your guard and ready with the attack button.  You can take several hits before dying, but this game gets frustratingly hard after a while, and you have limited lives and continues, and no saving.  The only real respite is that there are some codes, including a level-skip code.  I’d recommend using them.  Also, the levels are large, but somewhat empty.  Unless you care about points, lots of the exploration isn’t really worth it, as often that’s all you get (apparently on the PC, you got a completion percentage after each stage.  No such thing here.)  Overall, Prehistorik Man is a pretty decent game for a Titus release, but it’s not above average by normal standards, and might be slightly below that.  Nice visuals though.  The game is original, but is based off of Prehistorik 2, available (in Europe) on the PC and Amstrad CPC.  Prehistorik Man for SNES/GBA/iOS/DSiWare also has the same concept.


Quarth – Two player simultaneous – Link.  Quarth is another early GB game from Konami.  It’s a unique shmup/puzzle game.  The graphics and sound are somewhat bland, but the game more than makes up for that with great, original gameplay.  As in a vertical shmup, in Quarth you are always flying up the screen in a spaceship (you can choose from several, but they’re just visually different).  However, instead of shooting enemies, you shoot out blocks, at a field of blocks that come down the screen towards you.  Once blocks have formed into squares or rectangles because of your shots filling in spaces in the pattern, those squares or rectangles will be destroyed, clearing that space.  Your goal is to beat the levels by not letting any blocks reach the bottom of the screen.  The gameplay is simple, but compelling, and I quickly became addicted to this game while playing it.  It’s a fantastic concept, and it’s executed very well, too.  You get more points for making larger rectangles, and there is strategy here in how you deal with the blocks. Sometimes shapes that may look like you have to deal with them piece by piece actually can be dealt with in one large block if you fill in the right spaces.  About the only real complaint I have is in the lack of saving.  As with some other early Konami GB games there is a level select, but you can’t start from any level, only some of the earlier ones, so if you want to see the end, you’ll have to play a good-sized part of the game without turning off the system.  Also, the graphics and sound could be better.  It’s too bad that this game never got a sequel, it deserved one!  The game also has link cable multiplayer.  I do have two copies, so I’ve played it multiplayer a little.  The multiplayer mode works well, as both players compete to be the first to get through a level.  There is a handicap if one player is better.  Good stuff.  Overall, this game is highly recommended!  Also on 3DS Virtual Console, with multiplayer removed.


Radar Mission – Two player simultaneous – Link.  Radar Mission, an early GB game from Nintendo, is really two games in one.  Game A is a Battleship knockoff, and plays pretty much identically to the real thing.  If you don’t know that board game… look it up.  You and a computer, or human via link cable (though I only have one copy so I haven’t tried it), take turns shooting at the other player’s fleet by choosing which square on a grid you want to shoot at.  There are various sized ships to hit.  It’s a fine version of Battleship, but it’s not too exciting as a videogame, I think.  Game B is something different, however: the B-game is a shooter of sorts.  Here, you play as a submarine.  You can move left and right on your side of an ocean, and shoot at the enemy ships, which pass by you in the distance.  You’ll have to judge their speed correctly in order to hit them.  There’s also an enemy sub, again controlled by either a human (via link) or computer, shooting at your fleet.  The winner is the first one to destroy the other side.  Radar Mission doesn’t really have any kind of lasting campaign mode; instead, it’s just single-game stuff.  However, the B-game particularly is both fun and challenging, and for a very low price, the game is probably worth it.  It’s perhaps interesting to mention that part of Nintendo’s game Steel Diver for the 3DS is slightly reminiscent of Radar Mission’s B-game.  Also on 3DS Virtual Console, with multiplayer removed (seriously, I’m not sure if it’s worthwhile with no chance for multiplayer… that’s a big part of the game.).


Revenge of the Gator – One player.  Revenge of the Gator is Nintendo’s first pinball game for the Game Boy.  This game has one three-screens-high table, and is quite fun, but became completely eclipsed once Kirby’s Pinball Land released.  I know this game has fans, and after playing it I can see why they like it as it’s a quite good videogame pinball table.  The game also has separate paddles on each screen, as in Alien Crush, Kirby Pinball, and some other videogame pinball tables.  I think this design works as well here as ever, you really do need to be able to see the whole table for pinball to work well, and if each screen is a separate “table”, you can.  Revenge of the Gator’s table is well-designed and great fun to play on.  However, with only one table and no battery for high-score save, there’s a lot less content here than there is in Kirby’s Pinball, or many other pinball games.  A pinball game with only one table can be great, but multiple great tables is even better.  Still though, I do enjoy playing this game, and it’s a good game.  I’d pick this one over Pokemon Pinball any day… yeah, I don’t like that game very much (see below for how bad that game is).


Rolan’s Curse – One player, password save.  The Rolan’s Curse games are, along with Final Fantasy Adventure, James Bond 007, Zelda LA, and a few others I don’t have, some of the few action-RPGs, or Zelda-style action-adventure games, on the Game Boy.  These games are much lesser-known than those I listed above, but are worth a look.  As with all of th games listed, the Rolan’s Curse games are top-down, and have a world of connected areas to explore.  Here the game does scroll, so it’s not all single screens, but each area is separated with screen breaks.  The first Rolan’s Curse is a very simple action-adventure game.  Since you level up by collecting items, as in Zelda, instead of by experience, it’s not really an RPG.  In the game, you play as a generic warrior hero guy who’s off to save the land from the evil of Rolan’s Curse, naturally.  The game has some towns where you can talk to villagers, but you spend most of your time in this somewhat short game exploring around the areas, finding stuff and fighting enemies.  As I said though, this is a simplified action-RPG, so there’s not much depth here at all.  Inventory and strategy here are kept to a bare minimum; instead, it’s mostly just about fighting and exploration.  There are a few new weapons to find along the way, though, and you can also collect health and mana upgrad items, new armor, and healing potions.  Some items are temporary, others permanent, so you’re always looking around for more.  Rolan’s Curse is a somewhat early release, and the graphics are somewhat bland, but they look fine.  Everything looks like what it is supposed to represent.  The combat is simple but fun, as you go around whacking the various different types of enemies and seeing if they dropped anything.  The game IS short (it’s got only four bosses in the whole thing!) and simplistic, but still, it’s certainly good enough to be worth playing.  Simple but fun game.


Rolan’s Curse 2 – One player, battery save.  Rolan’s Curse II is similar to the first game, but is on a somewhat bigger scale.  This game is longer, with more dungeons, characters, and enemies than the first game, and battery save was added too.  Visually the game looks somewhat similar to the first game, only better all around.  The graphics are more varied and more detailed, and look nice.  It’s no Link’s Awakening, but it looks fine.  The music is alright to good as well.  Rolan’s Curse 2 is set long after the first game, so your hero is a new generic warrior guy.  This time he’s not your only player character, though — in Rolan’s Curse 2, as you play you will slowly amass more characters in your party.  There are eight possible party members in the game, and you can have a maximum of four at any time.  You can switch between characters on the fly while adventuring, and this is vital because each one has their own separate health and magic bars, and restoration items can be scarce.  As with the first game, you level up by collecting items.  These items appear in chests, oddly enough, so yes, you level up from treasure chests.  Each character levels up when you collect the item that looks like their face, so you can’t really control who gets the most levels, it just depends on what you find.  Generally they’re all reasonable, though, and it keeps all of your characters leveled up even if you’re using them less, which is a good thing once your other characters run low on health.  I like how you keep getting new party members.  First you find an elf boy who can drop bombs (this is more a mischevious little elf than a Lord of the Rings one), then a healer-mage girl, then a zombie warrior, and more.  Though like the first game this is a simplified game, there are also some other items to find, such as healing items, armor or weapon upgrades, and such.  In towns, about all there is to do is to talk to people (one of whom will have a quest for your newest party member, if you chose to add them), resurrect any dead characteres at the priests’, and that’s about it.  No, you can’t heal there or buy anything (as with the first game, there’s no money system in this game), you’ll need healer characters (or items) to heal your health, and level-ups (or items) to heal your magic.  Rolan’s Curse 2 is still a somewhat short game, though there are eight chapters (and bosses) this time instead of four.  Each chapter’s dungeon looks unique, so there’s some good variety.  Even so, the overworld explorable areas are on the small side, and the dungeons only a bit larger, so this isn’t all that long of a game.  It does gradually get more challenging as you go along though, and it’s quite fun while it lasts, so that’s okay.  And it is longer than the first game for sure, by a good margin.  Do make sure to fight the boss once you reach the end of each dungeon, though.  The boss warps look like a skull face icon on the ground, and you have to walk around on the icon until you warp to the boss’ chamber.  The first time I played a dungeon I walked on it but the warp didn’t trigger, so I just went on, but later realized that I really did have to go back and fight that boss… the problem was that I guess it only warps on the right side, or something.  However, since I’d leveled some, when I did fight that boss, it was pretty easy.  Heh.  The game does have an overworld map, but that just shows how the various explorable areas, towns, and dungeon areas all connect.  There are no maps of the areas or dungeons themselves, that you’ll just have to figure out on your own.  However, the maps don’t get that complex, so maps aren’t generally needed.  It’s not too hard to find your way around.  Overall, Rolan’s Curse 2 is a fun action-adventure game, and I like it.  The game is uncommon and a little pricey (cart-only costs are $12 at least), but it’s well worth it.


Samurai Shodown – Two player simultaneous – Link or Super Game Boy (with two SNES controllers), Super Game Boy enhanced (auto-changing color palettes, multiple color zones on screen).  Samurai Shodown is one of Takara’s earlier Neo-Geo-to-home-system ports.  This Game Boy version is not nearly as good as the major-console releases, as you would expect, but it’s okay.  The game has a somewhat slow pace, as with the arcade game, and it’s got all of the content from the original, too.  Yes, unlike the Genesis and Sega CD versions, Earthquake (the character) is in this game.  However, the gameplay really does suffer in the translation to Game Boy.  While I like Samurai Shodown, this GB version feels a bit slow and boring.  The graphics are only average, too, and the music somewhat bland.  Takara would do a better job with its later GB fighting games, and if you want a great classic handheld Samurai Shodown game, the Neo-Geo Pocket and Pocket Color games are much better than this.  The game is good on its own, though, even if it’s no match for the other versions of the game.  For a fighting game on the Game Boy, a quite weak platform for the genere in general, this one’s above average.  All the characters and moves are here, the superdeformed-style sprites look okay though not great, the backgrounds are nice looking, and it does have multiplayer either via link or SGB.  The graphics and colorization here are not as good as some of their GB later games would have.  The game doesn’t even have a custom border, just the usual one.  Still, the two players on two controllers mode is great to have, though of course you could just play SNES Samurai Shodown.  Overall, GB Samurai Shodown is okay, but has some issues.  This version is GB-exclusive, but other versions of the game are also on many other platforms.


Sneaky Snakes – One player.  This game is a 2d platformer from Rare based on their NES (and Genesis in Europe only) game Snake Rattle ‘n Roll.  This game is sidescrolling, instead of being isometric 3d like that game, but it’s even less interesting of a game overall.  I don’t particularly love Snake Rattle ‘n Roll, but it is at least better than this game is.  Yeah, this one disappointed me.  The graphics are okay for 1991, but don’t look particularly good.  Audio is no better.  The gameplay is somewhat like Snake Rattle ‘n Roll, in that your goal is, as one of the snakes from the original game, to eat enough food to grow your body long enough to weigh down the goal enough so that you’ll be allowed to move on to the next level.  As it’s side-scrolling instead of isometric, though, this task is even less fun here than it is on the NES.  There is plenty of platform jumping to do of course, though with this game’s somewhat mediocre collision detection that can be annoying, but the ultimate goal is always to eat the required amount of food and grow your snake.  This game has little variety indeed, but the task won’t be easy, as getting large enough without falling in a pit or getting hit gets tough, but it’s not any fun either.  Playing this game makes me want to stop playing almost immediately, not keep trying to get better and actually accomplish much.  Not recommended at all, except to diehard Snake Rattle ‘n Roll fans who really want to try the other game starring those characters.


Solar Striker – One player.  Solar Striker, another one of Nintendo’s first wave of Game Boy games, is their only ever attempt at a traditional shmup.  The game has very basic graphics, controls, weapons, and design, but it’s playable and decently fun.  The game has fans, but I think that the game’s a bit too simplistic; there’s almost no depth here.  Games like Aerostar are much better than this one.  Still, Solar Striker is an okay game.  You just move left and right, shoot the enemy spaceships as they come towards you, and try hard not to die because when you do you lose a lot of weapon power, making getting much farther much more difficult.  And as with many first-gen Nintendo games for the system, the game has no saving or continues.  It’s not very long, but finishing it will require good play.  I do like how your ship gets more powerful as yuo go if you do manage to stay alive, though, and the simplistic graphics and decent music keep it going.  But this is an unexciting, generic game, and it’s really not all that interesting.  Playable, certainly, but interesting or unique, no.  Overall, slightly below average.


Speedy Gonzales – One player, password save.  Speedy Gonzales is Sunsoft’s first game starring this classic Looney Tunes Mexican mouse character.  The game is, as you might expect from a character known for running fast, a fast-paced platformer where you play as a somewhat small character character, zipping through worlds on your quest to do whatever it is.  It probably involves cheese.  The game is fast and fun, and the passwords save your progress after each level.  As in most of Sunsoft’s GB and GBC Looney Tunes games, it’s a fairly short game with few levels, but the game presents a decent challenge and is a lot of fun to play.  You have momentum in this game, Sonic-style, though the platform layouts are their own thing and are not Sonic-like for the most part, though there are some sloping platforms or loops that are reminiscent of that series.  This is a challenging game, and each level will take some doing.  Fortunately there are checkpoints in the levels to help you out.  Instead of rings Speedy collects cheese, though they don’t work at health like in Sonic.  The graphics and music are good, as expected from Sunsoft, and the game is pretty good.  The levels are interesting and challenges are varied, with bouncing pads, moving platforms, angled wall areas to find your way out of, and more.  It’s good stuff for sure!  Many years later, after the handheld market’s recovery, Sunsoft did a second Speedy game, for GB/GBC dual mode.  I haven’t played that one, but it looks similar to this original game, so I’d like to get it.  Speedy’s SNES game is good too (unlike some of the Sunsoft SNES Looney Tunes platformers), and is longer than this one, but this game might be even better.


Star Wars – One player.  Originally made for the NES, Star Wars is a multiplatform platformer published by JVC.  As you expect, you mostly play as Luke, but later in the game you can play as Leia or Han too, though only in limited capacity (they have many fewer lives each).  The game’s somewhat mediocre, but was popular because of the license.  I was interested in the game back during the GB’s life, but didn’t get it… and playing it now, that was probably a good decision.  The GB Star Wars game I did get, Super Return of the Jedi (below), is a lot better than this game, that’s for sure.  As for this game though, it’s a difficult, and somewhat average, platformer.  The first half of the game is on Tattooine.  Here, you drive around in your landspeeder, and can play these levels in any order.  There is a best order, but you have to find it.  Some areas are unnecessary, too.  The Game Gear version streamlines this, and is a linear game with a bit more level variety (so there are some simple desert levels, instead of so many caves), and I think I like that design more.  Plus, that one starts with a level where you play as Leia on the ship before she got captured, which is cool.  From the midpoint, though, the two games are very similar: after a somewhat frustrating flying level where you have to dodge or shoot rocks in the Falcon, the second half of the game in both is a sequence of mazelike levels on the Death Star.  I’ve gotten partway through the Death Star levels, but not to the end of the game; you do have limited continues and no saving here, and it’s not an easy game.  Also the play control is average at best, and the graphics and music somewhat bland, particularly here on the GB (the GG looks a bit better).  Even on the GG though, this game is average at best.  I love Star Wars, but there are much better Star Wars platformers than this.  Overall, the Star Wars name is the best thing this game has going for it.  With it it’s a borderline okay game maybe worth trying, but if this didn’t have the license, it wouldn’t be all that interesting.  Also on NES and Game Gear, and also Master System (Europe only; it’s a GG port).


Street Racer – Two player simultaneous – Link, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, auto-selecting color palettes).  Street Racer on the Super Nintendo is a somewhat little-known, but really good, Mario Kart style game that uses Mode 7.  I actually think it’s better than Super Mario Kart.  The controls are better than SMK, and the game is more fun to play.  Plus, it had four player splitscreen support!  The game was successful and later got Playstation and Saturn ports, though the Saturn version (better than PS1) wasn’t released in the US.  But then they made a Game Boy version.  Now, obviously the Game Boy cannot to Mode 7.  So, the GB game is your standard behind-the-car GB racing game, with the same alternating-color-bars fake-3d, and pretty much the same gameplay, as anything else like it on the platform.  That is, all turns are smooth curves due to the nature of the technology.  You can ram the other karts, to make things slightly interesting, but really, this game is very unexciting.  And even for a GB behind-the-car racer, this game’s not one of the better ones.  There are a few modes: the championship mode, where you choose a championship to try to win, single race mode, multiplayer (I only have one copy, so I haven’t tried it), and Rumble mode.   Then, you choose one of the various characters (the whole cast from the SNES game is here), and then pick a circuit.  The graphics are okay, and they do try to at least hint at the SNES game’s visual style here.  The track designs don’t vary very much, though.  Just turn as the courses do, learn the tracks, and try to place well at the end.  Rumble mode is the same, except here the goal is to push all of the other cars off of the track.  Yeah, you do still push people off in Rumble, but otherwise it’s nothing like the SNES game’s battle arena-style Rumble mode, and it’s nowhere near as good either.  Soccer mode is missing, too; that would obviously be impossible here.  Overall it’s a simple game, and it’s not all that fun to play.  You can definitely do worse tha n this for a Game Boy behind-the-vehicle racer, but you can do better too; though the visuals are better, this isn’t as good as F-1 Race in gameplay.  It’s more like Jeff Gordon XS Racing in quality.


Super Chase H.Q. – One player.  This game is a Game Boy edition in this popular classic arcade game franchise.  Chase H.Q. is a  behind-the-car driving/action game where you play as a policeman who has to catch criminals.  Each level is made up of two parts.  First, you play a traditional driving level, where the goal is to get to the end of a stage (to catch up to the crook you’re chasing) as fast as you can, in order to have as much time as possible left on the clock.  Once you reach the end, you will catch up to the lawbreaker’s car, and have to batter them into submission.  You’ve got a tight time limit, though, and the game’s kind of annoying in how many hits these cars take to take down.  I know many people liked these games, but I have this game and the SNES Chase H.Q. game, and I don’t like either one very much.  The driving sections are okay but generic, but the boss fights are frustrating, and I don’t really have fun.  It’s not rewarding, either; you hit the other car, it zooms ahead, you catch up, rinse and repeat.  The only variations are if you hit them from the side, or if you use a turbo, in which case you can bash them more.  The game is somewhat tough, and it isn’t bad, I guess, but I definitely don’t like it that much.  Since this came is third-person, instead of first-person-only like the SNES game, I might actually like this more than that one, but that’s not saying very much.


Super Mario Land – One player, battery save.  Super Mario Land was Nintendo’s first platformer for the Game Boy, and it was one of my first games for the system too.  Made by Nintendo’s primary handheld studio, R&D1, the game is a very unique Mario game, and you really can tell that Miyamoto’s EAD didn’t work on this game.  Super Mario Land has small, but detailed, graphics; you can tell that it’s first-gen, and at first it may look ugly compared to the visually impressive styles of later GB platformers from Nintendo, but the detail does show, and I think that Mario Land actually looks nice.  I like how original the visual design is; this is not your standard Mario.  This is a game that I kind of liked at first, then turned against, but over time came to appreciate more again.  I do like Wario Land the most, of the Mario/Wario platformers for the GB, but still, Mario Land 1 is a great game.  The game has only 12 levels, so it’s not that long, but it does have limited continues; you don’t have any, unless you earn them (100,000 points per continue).  That makes it much more difficult, and even though this was one of the very first GB games I got back in 1993, it was quite a few years until I managed to finish it.  Two of the levels are shmup stages, one with a sub and the other with a plane, and the other ten platforming.  So, there’s variety here — nowhere else does a Mario 2d platformer have shmup levels.  The game starts out in a traditional Mario setting, but the later levels go to Egypt, Easter Island, China, and more.  Some of these settings are unique to this game, unfortunately; it’d be great to see the giant Easter Island heads again in a Mario game.  Yes, this game has some great level designs.  Another unique element is Mario’s powerup in the platformer levels, the superball.  Instead of a fireballa, Mario here throws a superball.  It’s similar, but won’t bounce along the ground like a fireball; instead, it bounces once at an angle, then goes up into the sky, unless of course there’s a block up there for it to bounce off of, in which case it will bounce around.  The superball also can collect coins, interestingly enough.  I don’t know if it’s as good as the fireball, but it’s great to see something different.  Also of course, here Mario needs to rescue Princess Daisy, instead of Toadstool (Peach).  I guess Daisy’s smarter than Peach or something, because she only got kidnapped once, not scores of times like Peach does… and even this one time, it was to an alien in a UFO, not just to that same somewhat-hard-to-take-seriously-now giant turtle.  On the negative side, once you are good enough to ge through it Super Mario Land is a somewhat short game, and also the coin rooms screens repeat — there are only a small number of them, so you’ll see each one many times through the game.  Apart from that though, Super Mario Land is a great game.  It’s about as good as it is different.  Also on 3DS Virtual Console.


Super Mario Land 2 – One player, battery save.  The second Mario Land game released several years after the first one, and it’s got much better, bigger graphics, more levels, battery save, another assortment of unique area concepts to travel through, and the first appearance of Mario’s money-loving rival Wario, too.  However, the game’s also a bit too easy; this game isn’t hard to finish, that’s for sure.  The game has six worlds, each with 3-5 levels, a long and reasonably challenging final level, along with two additional stages on the world map, a simple bonus game, and 5-6 secret hidden levels to find.  Those secret levels add some replay value, but that’s about it.  The game has two difficulty levels, Normal and Easy, but there isn’t a harder one.  Still though, while it lasts, Mario Land 2 is a great game.  The levels have all kinds of interesting settings, including inside a tree, in a giant Mario statue, shrunken and tiny inside a house, outer space, under the sea, and in a giant halloween-style pumpkin.  The area themes are nothing like Mario Land 1’s, but the game certainly has variety, and the level designs are good too.  I’m not sure if they’re quite as good as Mario Land 1’s are, on the whole, but they are pretty good.  The game has an original powerup, too.  This game has Mario’s standard fireball, but the other one is some bunny ears which give Mario a higher jump and the ability to hover.  It’s a great, really powerful powerup.  I particularly like levels like the outer space level, the one inside the tree with the sap in it, and the final level.  And the three-phase final boss fight is great.  Wario’s tough here, and big too.  But overall, I’m honestly not sure whether I like Mario Land 1 or Mario Land 2 more.  When I first got it back in the mid ’90s I preferred this game, but over time the first one has grown on me more, and this one has gone the other way… but still, it’s certainly a great, must-play game.  Also on 3DS Virtual Console.


Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 – One player, battery save.  Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 was R&D1’s third attempt at a Mario-style platformer, only this time they finally got to make one with their own character, instead of having to use Miyamoto’s Mario.  Freed completely from the restrictions of Mario, Wario Land has a style all its own, and a quality above either of its predecessors.   So, in this game, Wario, kicked out of Mario Land in the end of the above title, has decided to go make a fortune on his own.  So, off to find treasure, he goes to where the Brown Sugar Pirates reside because he’s heard that they have a great treasure.  Wario can jump on enemies like Mario, but also has a shoulder charge to bash them.  If Wario hits an enemy on a non-spiky side, he can knock them unconcious, then pick them up and throw the poor enemy at other enemies or obstacles.  He can also slam the ground with one of the powerups, the bull horns hat.  The other hat powerups are a fire-dragon one which gives you a flamethrower attack, and the eagle hat which gives you limited flight, like the bunny ears in Mario Land 2, but even better.  Enemies can be attacked on any side that they don’t have spikes protecting them, so each enemy type must be approached a different way.  Unlike Mario, Wario won’t take damage when he just touches enemies; he’ll have to touch spikes, or spiky sides of enemies, for that to happen.  This gives the game a very different feel from a Mario game.  Wario feels tougher.  He’s also bigger on the screen, but the whole game is designed for this very large sprite, so it works perfectly.  It’s interesting, because in terms of scale, it’s sort of the other end of the spectrum from Mario Land 1, but the results stand for themselves.  There are also bosses at the end of each world of course, and about 15 hidden treasures scattered around the game.  To find these you must first find a key (probably hidden), then must find the door that it goes in, which is also probably hidden.  This adds an exploration and replayablity element to the game which is important, and it’s done well.  Plus some levels change as you progress through the game, too.  The first level feels quite different after the tide comes in later in the game, for example.

On that note, you start on the island’s beach, and from here each world is set on one part of the island, as you cross ice, fire, water, and more on your quest for the great treasure.  One of the areas is optional, the others required.  Wario Land is a little bit on the easy side again, but even so is an outstanding, incredibly good platformer, and it’s both one of my favorite platformers on the Game Boy, and it’s my favorite Wario game ever, too.  It’s also a nostalgic classic for me; I was promised a game if I could do well at Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing (whichever version we had for DOS, that is).  I did just barely well enough (and chose some easy stages, too), and got this game as the reward.  Even if I chose some easy challenges though, Mavis Beacon really did help teach me how to type correctly and well, and I kept playing it after getting this game too.  But anyway, Wario Land was a good choice.  I played this game over and over, and eventually got just about every one of the endings.  You see, depending on how much money you have at the end, you’ll get a different reward.  The rewards go everywhere from a hole in the ground to your own mansion, and beyond.  The mansion may be the canon ending (as Wario Land 2 shows), but I like the best ending, myself… fun stuff. 🙂  I won’t spoil this game’s surprise at the end.  Yes, anyone who’s played Wario Land 2 or Wario Land: Shake It already knows, but for anyone who hasn’t… just play this game, and see!  (Mario you jerk…)  Overall, Wario Land 1 is a little on the easy side, and I wish it was longer (there are plenty of levels, but not all take a long time to get through), but it’s one of the best handheld platformers ever, and it certainly has replay value.  Exceptional game.  Also on 3DS Virtual Console.


Super Off-Road – One player.  Super Off-Road is a port of the great arcade racing game classic, “Ironman” Ivan Stewart’s Super Off-Road.  Almost all home versions (NES aside) don’t have the license, but the game is the same.  The arcade game is one of my favorite arcade racing games ever, and for the most part this is a good version of the game.  However, there’s no multiplayer, which is a pretty big drawback considering that the arcade game was a three-player game, and that all of the console releases have multiplayer for at least two people as well.  The NES version even has a great four player mode.  This might be the only single player videogame system release of Super Off-Road, too — the Game Gear has a two player link mode, and the Lynx supports four players via link.  But the GB?  One player only.  Ugh.  Other than that though, the actual gameplay is good.  The game is zoomed in, so you only see part of the track on screen.  The arcade game had each track on a single screen, but on a small screen, scrolling works better.  This puts it above the Lynx version, where they tried to fit each whole track on a single screen, and resulted in really tiny graphics.  The GB version has larger graphics than the GG version too.  You can see far enough ahead to know where you’re going, though, and of course any fan of the game probably knows the tracks by now already.

As for the gameplay, Super Off-Road is a slightly isometric top-down truck racing game where you race around dirt tracks against three opponents.  You have turbo boosts, and can buy more between races.  There are also pickups on the track for money or turbos.  You can upgrade your truck between races with the money you win.  Each home version of the game seems to have a slightly different selection of tracks, interestingly enough.  This version has seven tracks: Blaster, Big Dukes, Fandango, Sidewinder, Huevos Grande, Wipeout, and Cliff Hanger.  The 16-bit versions seem to have ~16 tracks, but 7-8 is about what you get for the 8-bit editions.  In this version, you can keep going as long as you don’t finish in last, but you do have multiple lives if you lose a race.  Super Off-Road has always had a somewhat odd difficulty curve — the harder parts are earlier on.  Once you max out your cars’ stats, it gets easier.  From that point on the game can be a bit easy, but the challenge does slowly increase.  Still, with a little practice it’s not hard to have very long sessions with the game.   Fortunately, it always stays fun.  The tracks are all just as they should be, and the physics here are fairly good as well.  This version of the game is endless, as many versions are — you can play this forever if you want to.  Even the versions that do end just end at something arbitrary like 99 races, though; SUper Off-Road is meant to be a game you play until you either lose or get bored.  I wish the game did have a defined ending, but still, it’s too much fun for me to mind this much.  I generally just try to see all of the tracks, which will take a while because the game slowly adds more tracks each time you get through all of them.  And the good graphics help too; color aside, the track designs and graphics are probably better here than on the NES.  However, it is hard to ignore the fact that they left out any multiplayer support, as that really is a big part of the game.  Still, this version does play well, and that counts for a lot.  Overall, get it for cheap.


Super R.C. Pro-Am – Four player simultaneous – Link (with Four Player Adapter; two player max without it).  Super R.C. Pro-Am is a racing game from Rare.  I think it’s an okay game, but it’s too short.  Releasing between the two NES games, the game’s the second of the three R.C. Pro-Am titles, and in features and design, it indeed feels like a game in between those two games.  The game plays simply: you just have to not finish in last, of the four cars, to move on to the next race.  On each track are some weapons (mines or missiles, you can have one type at a time), powerups (to make your RC car better, or to get you letters towards the bonus; there is one of each of those on each track), maybe some boost strips or slick areas to avoid, and a curving, top-view course.  The game has okay but simple graphics and sound.  It looks fine for its 1991 release date, but is certainly not impressive.  I found this game fun, but I can see how it’d bore some people.  As with the other games in the series, you can’t leave the course in this top-down racing game; if you hit a wall, you just bounce back towards the track.  So, while the perspective and small-vehicles theme may be similar to Micro Machines, in gameplay, this is a much simpler game.  That simplicity extends to the difficulty level, too — Super R.C. Pro-Am is nowhere remotely as difficult as even the first Micro Machines game, much less any of the sequels.  Yes, unlike the first NES game, this game does have an end; after a couple dozen races, the game is over.  I beat this game in a week at most when I first bought it, and I think it didn’t even take that long.  And with no options or difficulty levels, there’s not much to bring you back to this game unless you get a couple of copies and a link cable and play the game in multiplayer.  The good news is, the multiplayer mode is pretty cool; this is one of the games I have two copies of, and it’s a great multiplayer game.  The 2-4 player mode (I’ve only played with two, but 3-4 player is surely the same, and it’s cool that the game has 4-player adapter support!) is a co-op campaign, you see.  You start from track 1, and go through the whole game together.  It may make the game even easier, but it’s great fun.  R.C. Pro-Am II for NES does also have four player, but there all four players must be on the same screen at all times, so if you fall behind, you just keep getting bumped forwards.  There’s no points system like in Micro Machines, or “it’s really hard to catch up” compensation like Moto Roader, so this makes maintaining a lead difficult, as it’s easy to fall back.  In this game, however, each player can be in their own part of the track, so it’s a much better multiplayer mode.  Overall though, as a single player game, Super R.C. Pro-Am is worth a few bucks, but expect a short ride.


Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – One player, password save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border only).  Published by THQ’s Black Pearl division, this downscaled handheld edition of the SNES game is pretty decent.  I got this one back after it was released, and thought it was an okay game.  It certainly is not Nintendo-quality, but it is quite okay for a licensed Game Boy game.  When compared to the SNES original this game has fewer stages, a much lower difficulty level, fewer characters to choose from in each stage, and no force powers, but still, it is a good game.  There are 10 levels, three of which are special, and the rest are platforming.  The platformer levels are average or slightly above average in both graphics and gameplay.  The graphics are okay and the music does a decent job of sounding like the classic John Williams themes.  The spritework’s very average GB third-party stuff, but it’s not too bad.  It’s better looking than the previous GB Star Wars games at least, even if the graphics are only okay.  There’s also a Super Game Boy border, though that’s it — there are no color palettes at all, just the default.  Disappointing!  The special levels are one Endor Biker level, played from behind-the-bike as you dodge the trees coming at you and shoot the Imperial troopers on their speeders, and the last two levels, which are two-plane, top-down shmup levels.  As for the platformer levels, you start on Tattooine, then move on to Endor and the Death Star.  You can choose from several playable characters in most levels; the only level with only one choice is level 5, where you play as Wicket the Ewok.  Luke is playable in levels 1-4, 7, and 8, Leia in 1-4 only, Han in level 6 only (that Shield Generator level), Chewie is in 1-3 and 6 only, and 9-10 of course have you controlling the Millenium Falcon in the second Death Star, and thus it’s Lando and Nien Nunb there.  Yeah, there are a lot fewer levels, and fewer levels where you can play as each character, in this game versus the original.  It’s certainly easier, too.  Each platformer level is fairly similar to the SNES originals, though, and it’s a fun game to play.  Some later stages, the Shield Generator particularly, are challenging, too, and there are multiple difficulty levels, though unlike the SNES the passwords don’t save this, so the same passwords work for any difficulty (selected from the options menu).  The platformer levels are simple but fun, though, and I like those shmup levels at the end.  Here you’ve got two planes, an upper and a lower, and have to dodge things on one by switching to the other at the correct times.  Also, defeat the TIEs as they come at you.  It’s somewhat easy, but fun, and it’s a whole lot better than those horrendously choppy, awful-looking first-person-Mode 7 final two levels in the SNES game… ugh, Mode 7 can be cool, but that was NOT a good use for it.  Still though, this obviously is not as good a game as the original, being so cut down in content.  But even so it’s okay, and it’s certainly worth a try if you’re a Star Wars fan.  It’s easily the best of the three Star Wars games on the GB, too.  Also on Game Gear.


Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle – One player.  I should begin by saying that I completely rewrote this review after playing it again; it’s better than I gave it credit for.  Tarzan is a platformer made by Eurocom and published by Titus.  It’s not a great game, and many people will hate it, but ultimately I actually kind of like it, oddly enough.  It’s probably mediocre overall, but I did enjoy it, and finished the game recently.  Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle is a collection, and exploration, focused platformer.  In each of the games’ six levels, first you, as Tarzan, have to wander around the stage and find what is usually 16 items of some kind.  There’s a timer ticking down as you go.  The item type varies from level to level, but this is always your first objective.  Then, with all items in hand, you have to go to the boss and beat them.  Sometimes there is a third step, such as how in the first level first you have to go to the witch doctor (upper right) to get the potion before you go back to the boss (upper left), but that’s the general formula.  If you stay alive enemies you have killed stay dead, thankfully, but if you die, they all respawn.  At least the timer resets when you die, though.  If you get a game over, you start the whole level over from the beginning.  Thankfully, the enemies are forgiving and instant death pits rare, so the search is a bigger threat than the enemies.  I did get a few game overs before beating the game, but it wasn’t a serious problem.  Keeping going through the frustration was the bigger issue, but it was ultimately fun overall.  The game doesn’t allow saving, so you have to play it all in one sitting.  This really is the game’s biggest flaw, because the game can be frustrating and levels can take a long time.  There may only be six moderate-sized levels, but this game will take several hours to get through, and that’s if you don’t give up.  The graphics are okay; the art design is average, but I like the spritework and animation.  The music’s not that good, and repeats CONSTANTLY.  Seriously, the music gets maddening, and levels don’t even all have their own music.  Expect to listen to the same songs loop over and over.  Between that and the frustration factor of having little time left to find that one last item that you just can’t find anywhere, the game can be annoying… but that latter part, at least, is the challenge.  Once I finally did manage to find all of the items in a level, it was felt pretty good.  But I did have to leave my GBA SP plugged into the wall overnight to beat the game — it was too much to play in one day.  With a password system this game would have been much better.

Level design in Tarzan is okay.  As I said, instant-death pits are rare.  There are none at all in the first two levels, though they do start showing up from level 3 on.  That’s good — you can usually jump around without much fear of instant death.  That is very important in a game like this where you are absolutely required to take constant leaps of faith as you explore around the levels in search for those elusive items.  Most levels are taller than they are long, so jumping, searching trees, and looking around numerous layers of platforms up on the trees is central to the game.  There are also caves, though, and the last level is in a temple.  Each level has a different story.  Make sure to read these, as they will tell you what you should be doing in the level.  There are, of course, also many vines in the levels, as you would expect from a Tarzan game.  You can swing on vines; make sure to drop to the bottom of the vine (you can’t fall off) before swinging, if you want to get to the next one.  You can also climb up vines, if you let the vine stop and then press up.  This is very frequently required.  Also be on the lookout for cracks in the walls!  In levels 2 and 5 particularly, and maybe also 4, you will need to find some secret passages through cracks in walls if you want to find all the items.  This had me stuck the first time I played the game, and I gave up at level 2, but this time I tried pressing Up at one of the openings, and it was a door!  Don’t miss them.  Of course, there are also enemies to fight.  Most aren’t very hard to beat, as I said, but there are a nice variety of them. Your default weapon is throwing knives, but you can collect other weapons from the enemies.  There’s a gun, a throwing spear, a bow, and more.  Each one of the collectable weapons has its own ammo and weapon power.  You can attack diagonally up, and straight up, so make use of it!  Unfortunately you can’t attack downwards, but otherwise your attacks are good in this game.  The default weapon is usually fine, but the others are good particularly for bosses.  Overall, Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle is a decent, quintesentially Western platformer.  It’s a collection-centric exploration game, and it definitely can be frustrating, but I enjoyed it enough to play through the game recently, and liked it overall.  This game is definitely not for everyone, and it’s not well known, but it is an okay game, provided you’re interested in this kind of thing.


Taz-Mania – One player, password save.  Taz-Mania is another one of Sunsoft’s Looney Tunes games.  This one is, as you might expect, a platformer starring Taz.  The game has nice big graphics, a surprisingly hard level of difficulty, and pretty good gameplay.  It’s a standard platformer, as you have to traverse platforms, cross pits, and kill enemies by jumping on them or via Taz’s spin attack.  The graphics are nice and detailed too, so the game looks and plays quite well.  This game isn’t as original as the other three original GB Looney Tunes games, but still it’s a pretty good game.  And yes, do expect to be challenged; even getting through the first level took some effort.  As usual from Sunsoft GB Looney Tunes games the game is short, with 5 or 6 levels, and it does have a password system so that you won’t have to replay completed levels, but the levels are long and just challenging enough that this game will last a decent amount of time for an older handheld platformer.  And it’s definitely fun along the way.  Note that while there is a “Taz-Mania 2” for Game Boy, that’s from a different developer and publisher, and isn’t nearly as good of a game.  Sunsoft did return with a GB/C Taz-Mania game, but that one’s an outsourced, top-down collect-the-food action game, and is fairly average.  This is probably the best handheld Taz game; Sega’s games on the GG are average at best, I would say.  This game’s a little better than that.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan – One player.  TMNT: Fall of the Foot Clan was the first handheld Ninja Turtles game.  I didn’t actually get this game in the ’90s, though I did play it some since my cousins had it.  Stupidly enough, though I loved the Ninja Turtles, and played the arcade games whenever I could, the only classic TMNT game I actually bought was the PC version of that not-very-good first NES game.  Yeah, great choice there me… as for this one though, it’s okay, but not great.  On the good side, you can play as any of the four turtles, you have a good-sized health bar, the game is sometimes fun to play while it lasts, and the between-levels minigame is okay.  However, this game is flawed.  The main problem with the game is that it’s just so short and easy.  The game is a side-scrolling platformer/beat ’em up.  Basically, you walk to the right, kill the enemies as they appear, jump over pits and platforms on occasion, and then beat the bosses at the end of each level.  It’s simple stuff.  The graphics are big, which makes for nice pictures, but simplifies the gameplay because of how large the characters are, and how slowly the game plays.  The difficulty level is way too low, too, and this game can be easily beaten in an hour.  The game doesn’t have continues, but after a minimum of practice, they won’t be needed.  Honestly, passing on this was a resonable decision.  Still, for the short time it lasts it is a fun game, so I do consider it well worth the few bucks I spent for it a few years ago… but had that been $20 or $30, I doubt I’d still be saying that.  I know handheld games were often short, but there’s a limit, and this game toes that line.  The game also suffers badly in comparison to the amazing Ninja Turtles arcade games.  It’s kind of hard to go to this after playing those.  Still, with okay graphics and sound and competent if simplistic game design, Fall of the Foot Clan is somewhat mediocre, but is alright.  Get it if it’s under $5 and you like the Ninja Turtles, but don’t otherwise.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Back From the Sewers – One player.  TMNT 2 for the Game Boy is one I missed back in the ’90s, but that’s unfortunate — while in screenshots this game may look similar to the first one, and it is still a platformer/beat ’em up, really, this is a hugely improved game.  The third game is probably even better, and I wanted that one when it came out, but sadly I didn’t get it, and I still don’t have that game… I really need to buy that sometime, that was one of my most-wanted GB games that I didn’t get.  Anyway though, this second game’s good too.  The game is still on the short side, and obviously runs on an improved version of the same engine as the first game, but it’s got a lot more variety this time, and more challenge too.  There are also some side-view isometric segments, which is pretty cool.  I really like these, and kind of wish that we’d seen an all-isometric TMNT game on the GB.  Those parts are probably the most fun parts of this game.   The graphics here are good too.  The backgrounds are more detailed than the first games’ are, among other things, and those isometric parts look good as well.  Coming from the not-that-great first game my hopes weren’t that high with this game, but it surprised me, and really is a good game.  It’s bigger, longer (not long enough, but longer), and better than the first one.  The music here is better as well.  This game isn’t really hard, but won’t be easily beaten, unlike the first game.  You can also do a minigame between levels to rescue a captured Turtle, if you’ve lost a character.  Try not to lose multiple turtles in a level though of course, or to fail the minigame.  But yeah, overall, this is a decently good game worth getting.  It’s not as good as the classic full-scale Turtles beat ’em ups, but it is better than most of the other sidescrollers.


Tetris – Two player simultaneous – Link.  Tetris is one of the great puzzle games, and its megahit success created the block-dropping puzzle game genre.  You have to drop blocks of various shapes in order to make lines, which will then disappear and give you points.  Tetris was the original Game Boy pack-in game, but I didn’t own it until a few years ago, because when I got my GB in ’93, it was the basic set and didn’t come with a game, and I never ended up getting this one then.  I have played Tetris though of course, on the PC and more recently on various consoles.  This version is a good one, and it’s far better than the NES version Nintendo later published.  In most ways the later Tetris DX edition is better than this one — it’s similar, but has more content and battery save — but I do like the music better here; GB Tetris’ classic Russian music is fantastic.  As for the gameplay though, you’ve got standard endless Tetris, versus mode via link cable (it’s as good as expected), and that’s about it.  The depth here is in how addictive most people find Tetris to be, not in any wealth of options.  I like Tetris, but I don’t love it; Tetris is not one of my favorite puzzle games, though it is a good one, and I will admit that it can be addictive.  Also, I do like having more options, as in Tetris DX, but I can’t deny that the core block-dropping puzzle action is done very well, without any of the exploits like the infinite spin you can go in the DX version.  Plus, as one of the most common GB games, this is incredibly cheap.  Still though, there are huge numbers of versions of Tetris out there, and most of the ones on newer platforms will save your scores, too, which is great in a game like this.  Also on almost everything, in many different renditions, but this edition is GB-only (the NES version is similar, but has no multiplayer).


Tetris Blast – Two player simultaneous – Link, password save, Super Game Boy enhanced (multiple custom borders, auto-selecting color palettes).  Tetris Blast is actually a Bombliss game, and it’s the only Bombliss game to be released outside of Japan; the various SNES editions all stayed there, unfortunately.  Bombliss is a modified version of Tetris where instead of destroying blocks by completing lines, your goal is to clear a screen by blowing the blocks up with bombs.  The pieces fall from the top, though the pieces have new shapes not seen in Tetris, and are made up of both regular and bomb tiles.  When you complete a line, any bombs in that line will detonate.  Small bombs will blow up the next couple of blocks to their left and right, while large bombs, formed by putting four bomb tiles together, will destroy a large area of the screen.  The game is fun and challenging, and I like this game a lot.  I really like that the main game mode does have an ending; as I’ve said before, I like it when games have endings, and this one does.  The game has several different borders on the Super Game Boy, too, which is pretty cool.  Tetris Blast has a good amount of content, too.  There are three different single player modes: Contest, which is the main level-based game with password save where you try to clear each screen, Training, which is an endless mode, and and Fight, where you compete against an AI opponent.  The enemy is actually walking around on the screen in the field, which is amusing.  There are two ways to win: either hit the enemy with enough bomb blasts or dropped blocks to reduce their health to zero, or trap them in a giant explosion and take them out.  There are eight opponents in Fight mode, and no passwords, so this you do have to play in one sitting.  There are several difficulty levels though, and you can play them in any order so you can “continue” that way once you’ve beaten each one.  There’s also link cable play; though I haven’t tried it myself I’m sure it’s good.  Overall, Tetris Blast is great.  More Bombliss games should have released in the US for sure.  Other Bombliss titles released in Japan for the NES, SNES, and GBC, but all are Japan exclusive.


Tiny Toon Adventures: Babs’ Big Break – One player.  The first of two Tiny Toon Adventures platformers on the system from Konami, this game is the easier one to find.  Both games play pretty much the same, though, so if you like one, the other is more of the same.  The GB Tiny Toon Adventures games are decent platformers with nice graphics, okay music, and plenty of fun, traditional platforming.  They are on the easy side and are not very long either (flaws too common in GB platformers), but it will take a little while to get through the game, and it’s a bit bland, so I haven’t finished it because it’s not fun enough to play through in one sitting.  I know that happened in the early GB days, and throughout the Game Gear’s life on that system, but I’ve never liked it, and that these gaems don’t have password systems really is a negative for me.  They are on the short side overall, so once you spend some time with them they won’t be hard to get through, but still, that should not be required.  The actual gameplay is good, but very standard; there’s nothing original or unique at all here.  You just walk to the right (or explore, in the few open-area levels), find the hidden areas, collect carrots, and jump on or throw stuff at the enemies to beat them.  At the end of each level you can play a simple bonus game.  Very standard stuff, though like most Konami GB platformers, the pace is a bit slow compared to games from other publishers.  That is a factor in why I get bored of the game after a few levels, I think.  You can play as Buster, Hampton, or Plucky, but not Babs; naturally the female character is the goal (you’re chasing her to stop her from continuing her quest to be a movie star), not a playable character.  Sigh.  At least she wasn’t kidnapped.  As for Hampton and Plucky, really, Buster is the best character, so only fans of those characters will choose them much.  This really is a very standard game, though.  The graphics are nice, and the gameplay is good, though, so sure, I do like the game.  It’s a little above average, anyway.


Tiny Toon Adventures [2]: Montana’s Movie Madness – One player.  Montana’s Movie Madness is pretty much exactly like the first game, except with new levels this time, and only one playable character: this time you can only play as Buster, no one else.  Other than that though, the two games are nearly identical.  There still isn’t a password system, it’s still slow, and it’s still an extremely conventional platformer that is playable and moderately fun, but won’t amaze.  The plot is that the villain, Montana Max, has made some movies where Buster is the villain, so you have to go in and change them so that people won’t think that you are a badguy.  Therea re four movies, so four worlds each with a different theme.  As with the first game, you can occasionally play a minigame, though there are more this time, 12 in all.  So, overall, this game is okay. It’s a decent game with nice graphics and competent gameplay.  However, it’s about as unoriginal as they come — they changed almost nothing from the first game.  I know it’s fairly short, but come on, add a save system!  Still, it’s fun.


Torpedo Range – One player, battery save.  Torpedo Range is a somewhat obscure, and interesting, game where you control a submarine.  The game is sort of an action minigame collection, I guess; that’s the best I can do.  You choose which one of six (real-world) countries you want to play as, and your task is to conquer the world by subduing the other five.  The sub-game concept is a little like Radar Mission, so they may have been inspired by that game, but this game isn’t Battleship, it’s something completely different.  The game released in Japan in ’91 but the West in ’96, but you can tell that it was originally an earlier release, as the graphics are simple.  The music is simple too, but it is catchy and addictive, so I like it.  In the game, you sail around in your submarine on a map.  At various different points on the map, you can do a mission.  There are five mission, and thus minigame, types.  Some types do scroll a little, but the usually it’s just a single screen.  The game is pretty tough at first, though thankfully you can save at any time on the overworld map.  You will have to learn each of the game types in order to progress, and each one is different.  You get points by beating missions, and can then choose which stat you want to improve once you get enough points to do so.  It’s nice that you get a choice.  So yeah, there are RPG elements here.  You have shields to protect from damage, and your shields recover after you win battles.  If you lose, you lose points.  The first minigame type is battles against cruisers.  This plays similarly to the B-game in Radar Mission: shoot the targets, which are at varying distances from your sub, while avoiding the shots they shoot back at you.  You need to get them all if possible.  The second game type is against a carrier.  This is a static-screen side-scrolling game where you move your sub around in the water, dodge incoming fire from ships and planes, and try to take out all of the attackers with your missiles that shoot straight up.  There are some classic arcade games like this, and this uses the concept.  Fourth is a side-view, and again single-screen, underwater battle between you and several enemy subs.  Here you shoot straight torpedos, and have to try to take them all out without dying yourself.  The fourth and fifth types are close-up attacks, viewed third-person behind your sub, against either a battleship or an enemy city in front of you.  You can move left and right across the target.  Here you have to try to take out all of the targets on the enemy ship or city while avoiding enemy fire, missiles, and such.  It’s easier said than done, particularly for the battles against cities.  Those are tough.  Overall, Torpedo Range is a simple game with basic graphics, but the battery save system, save anywhere design, and reasonably fun action make it definitely worth a look.  The game does lack variety, as these five things are all you do throught the game, and there are no new minigames introduced later, but still, for what it is, it’s a good game.  It could have more variety and better graphics, but as it is, it’s worth checking out.


Toy Story – One player, Super Game Boy enhanced (enhanced sound only).  Toy Story for the GB is a downscaled version of the SNES/Genesis Toy Story game.  The basic concept is the same, but it’s on the handheld, and has a lot of problems.  This game was the worst game that I actually bought for a videogame system in the ’90s, hands down, and I disliked it so much tha I actually sold the game (I bought a very cheap cart copy last year, so that’s why it’s still on the list).  The game has a horribly bad framerate, serious control lag between when you press the button and when anything happens, sometimes confusing objectives, poor collision detection that makes actually accomplishing some of your objectives quite difficult, and more.  The game has graphics that look great in screenshots, but once it actually starts moving, you can tell that they pushed the hardware way too hard here, and the results are unacceptably slow.  The game also has limited continues and no saving, and no level-skip codes either.  I remember getting almost to the end of the game despite this, to the last level I think, but I don’t think I won… oh well.  Anyway, the game is of course a side-scrolling platformer, where you play as Woody from the great Disney movie.  The game loosely follows the film’s plot, though many of the objectives here are made up for the game.  The game isn’t usually just a go-to-the-right game; instead, you often have to do objectives, like freeing certain characters from walled areas, in addition to some levels where you do just have to go to the right.  But with the horrifically slow speed at which this game plays, it’s not even remotely worth it.  Woody can use his pullstring like a lasso, so you can swing over gaps, which might be fun if the controls and gameplay were actually decent, but they’re not of course.  Otherwise, you just have to either get to the right fast enough, or wander around the level looking for whatever your objective is (it’s often not obvioust all), depending on what stage you’re in.  Ugh.  This game was one of the early Disney games from after Sega and Capcom lost their Disney licenses and Disney started licensing it out themselves, and the results are terrible.  This game finished off the last shreds of faith I had in movie licensed games.


Trax – Two player simultaneous – Link.  Trax is a shmup from Hal where you take control of a tank and have to go defeat the badguys in it.  The tank is a somewhat cute, round thing with a spherical body and four spheres as wheels, but the enemies are deadly.  The game is an earlier GB game, and is quite short.  Trax has good if early-gen graphics and some pretty good music, so the presentation is good.  There are three modes: the main single player game, vs. CPU in the multiplayer arenas, and link cable play.  The game is mostly good, but has one significant issue: short length.  There are only five levels, and unfortunately, there are no difficulty level options to make the game harder.  The actual gameplay is great and the game is really fun to play.  You can shoot and rotate the turret each with a button, so it is possible to shoot in one direction and move in another.  In a game with a  tank, that’s great to see; not all games had it.  There are also several powerups to collect which give you different types of special weapons.  You can blast away at the buildings, walls, and more, so it’s possible to destroy a lot of your environment.  It’s great fun.  The game is strictly vertical scrolling — there are no horizontal areas.  You can move around though of course, and will have to to navigate the stages.  Plenty of enemies come at you, in many different types.  They can’t really match your firepower when upgraded, though, so I found most of the game quite easy.  Lots of fun, but quite easy.  Each boss is different and requires a compeltely different strategy to fight, which is cool.  The last level, and remember that there are only five or so in the game, is much tougher, though — it’s got a tough boss rush in it, and I probably spent almost as much time, or as much time, in the last level as I did in the whole rest of the game up to that point.  Unfortunately the last level’s music is one of my least favorite in the game… oh well.  That boss rush is nasty, though, and if you get a game over, you start it over from the beginning.  You have infinite continues in this game so victory is only a matter of time, unless you give up of course, but still, the last level won’t be anywhere near as easy as the rest of it.  First you fight each of the previous bosses, then the three-stage final boss.  The last fight is reasonably epic, with each form getting more intresting than the last one, too.  The last level took a good amount of time to beat, and it was satisfying when I finally won, too.  Overall, though, this game is too short.  I wish that there were more and harder other levels, then maybe a bit less at the end, to balance it out better.  I don’t have two copies so I can’t play the link mode, but this game does have a somewhat uncommon (for the system) vs. CPU mode where you can play against three AI opponents in any of the 12 battle arenas.  The game keeps track of your wins and losses, but there is no lasting game here (or difficulty level options, naturally), just single battles.  Still, the battles as they are are pretty fun.  Each of the 12 arenas comes from a different environment style you saw in the main game, and they’re well-designed and fun to fight in.  Good stuff.  Overall, Trax is a good but short game that I absolutely recommend purchasing.  I only wish that it had gotten a sequel that added to the content.  Unfortunately for Trax, Hal made Kirby next instead…


Turrican – One player.  Turrican is a port of the computer and console game of the same name.  Like the TG16 version, this is a stripped-down version of the game with fewer levels than the original release — there are only 12 here, of the original 16.  The Genesis version does have all of the levels, but as all versions have a high challenge level, limited continues, and no saving, they’re all extremely hard.  But this game has much bigger problems than that. The biggest issue here is that this game was designed for a big screen, and the tiny graphics make this an even more difficult version of the game to play than it already was.  And I know that some C64 and Amiga fans seem to like this game, but while I think the rest of the franchise, including Turrican 2/Universal Solider (Genesis) and the great Super/Mega Turrican games from Factor 5, are fantastic, this first one is rough, and not nearly as good as the rest of them.  Turrican 1’s biggest problem is that you just can’t see far enough ahead.  In this game, you will have to frequently make leaps of faith in areas full of bottomless pits.  Yeah, it is NOT fun.  If I could just see far enough ahead to know where I was going, or if the level designs were better, this might have been a great game, but as it is, it’s just not.  Turrican 2/Universal Soldier, even though visually it looks similar to the first game, almost entirely gets rid of this issue — in that one, you can see where you’re going, and don’t have to constantly jump into space, just hoping that you land on something.  And on top of that, again, the graphics here really are tiny, and don’t look that great either.  This game just wasn’t designed for a handheld.  The controls are somewhat complex too, with lots of functions mapped to just a couple of buttons — you have your main gun, the multi-way gun that you can aim in any direction, the Samus-esque ball form, and several types of screen-clearing superbombs, too.  There are also several different types of main guns, though you can only have one at a time, as always in the series.  Turrican has huge levels, an extremely high difficulty level, and a lot of game to get through, and as a Turrican series fan I don’t regret getting this when I saw it for a few bucks, but this is probably the worst released Turrican game you can find.  There’s also a GB version of Universal Soldier, though it’s mostly only better than this one because Turrican 2 is better than the first game.  Overall, probably pass on this unless you love Turrican as I do.  Also on Amiga, Commodore 64, Genesis, and TurboGrafx-16.


Wave Race – Four player simultaneous (with Four Player Adapter, two without), battery save.  Wave Race was Nintendo’s second major racing game for the Game Boy.  As with the later N64 game, you race (unlicensed, here) jetskis on the water.  Somehow, though, back in the ’90s I always passed on this, and never really gave it a first look.  It is true that the game has dated graphics compared to later games like Micro Machines, but still, the game looks okay, and plays better.    Once I finally played the game, I realized that that was wrong of me — Wave Race is a great game, and I’d surely have loved this game as a kid.  Wave Race is a top-down racing game, as are most of the better GB racing games like Micro Machines, Super Off-Road, or Super R.C. Pro-Am.  And it has battery save too, something those other games do not.  Wave Race has three main modes: Circuit, which is the main championship, Slalom, and the versus (link cable) mode.  I haven’t played it in multiplayer, but with how good Micro Machines and Super RC Pro-Am are, I’m sure it’s fun.  All races, single or multi player, have four boats (well, jetski knockoffs) in the race.  For the single player modes, each mode has six series, made up of two different sets (National and World) of three championships each (three speed classes).  Circuit mode is a standard points-championship mode.  You win if you have the required number of points at the end, and finish in first.  It gets difficult quickly — this is a hard game.  There are eight different tracks in total in this mode, with later series getting longer than the early ones.  The other single player mode is Slalom mode, a somewhat unique mode where you have to try to be the person to go through the most checkpoints first.  As with the circuit mode, there are eight areas to race in in this mode.  These are new: each mode has its own tracks.  This is not a point-to-point race, however.  Instead, the four boats can fan out across the race, and each racer gets a point if they’re the first one to travel through one of the checkpoints on the map.  The race’s winner is the person with the most points at the end.  As a result, memorization matters here even more than in the circuit mode — you NEED to learn the best paths, or you will not win.  It’s an interesting mode though, and is fun to challenge.  It’s great having something different, that isn’t just standard racing.  Learn how to use the controls well — you only turn at 22.5 degree angles, so make sure to point yourself correctly considering the angle and the water, and any jumps of course.  Strategy matters in this game.  Overall, Wave Race is a good, but challenging, game.  The game can get frustrating, even early on, as it can be hard to win championships — the AI in this game is tough.  Still though, it’s a very good game well worth getting.  And yeah, it’s cool that it’s another four player compatible game.

Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman – See in the “B” section, above Bomberman GB.

Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 – See in the “S” section, below Super Mario Land 2.


Yoshi – Two player simultaneous – Link.  Yoshi is a simple puzzle game from Nintendo.  The game was the only puzzle game we owned for the Game Boy back in the ’90s, so I played the game a good amount, but honestly, it’s not all that great of a game.  Yoshi is just too simple and repetitive to be a great game.  I may not love Tetris, but yes, it’s far better than this.  In Yoshi, you play as Mario, and are controlling four stacks of tiles.  You hold two at a time, and can flip the stacks by pressing a button, and change which stacks you are currently holding with left and right.  A constant stream of tiles fall from above.  The normal ones look like Mario-universe enemies — Bloobers, Pirahna Plants, Goombas, and such.  You can make pairs of them disappear by having two of the same type touch (vertically within a stack only; no horizontal rows in this game), or you can stack by putting different types together.  The reason to do this is because of Yoshi eggshells.  There are two Yoshi eggshell parts, the top and the bottom.  If a bottom eggshell is in a stack, and then a top eggshell lands anywhere above it in the stack, both eggshell parts, and all tiles in between them, will be destroyed, and you’ll get a bonus.  There’s a different little animation for each number of blocks you get between the eggshells.  Top eggshells that land somewhere not on a bottom one will just break on landing.  The game is decent, and eventually gets moderately hard, but gameplay depth is very limited, and there’s no help from the game’s featureset; there just isn’t much here — there’s endless play or versus, with no other options other than difficulty and music.  And no saving, of course.  The (lack of) options is just like the first version of Tetris, and with a game that is so much less compelling, I don’t really like this game all that much.  There are much worse games out there for sure, and it can be fun for a while, but Yoshi is really bland, and most of Nintendo’s other GB puzzle games are better.  The NES version is on 3DS Virtual Console, but not the GB version.  I presume it has no multiplayer (I mean, the NES version has splitscreen, but where’ would the other controller be?).


Yoshi’s Cookie – Four player simultaneous – Link (with Four Player Adapter; two player without it).  Yoshi’s Cookie, also on SNES, is a puzzle game where you have to clear a field of cookies on the screen.  In order to clear a line, you have to make all cookies in a row of two or more be the same type of cookie.  At that point that row will be cleared, and the other remaining cookies will move together, to the left side of the field, to reform into one block.  You can control a cursor that will move any block either horizontally or vertically.  When you move it, it will shift all other blocks in that row or column one space over as well.  Over time more rows of cookies will slowly be added to the field, but if you clear all of the cookies in the main part of the puzzle, you clear it.  Once you clear a puzzle, you go to the next one.  The game has 100 puzzles in the main mode, breaking down into 10 rounds of 10 puzzles each.  The game has no saving for scores, but does have a round select, so that you can start from any of the 10 rounds.  You play as a character on the right side of the screen, and can choose either Mario, Yoshi, the Princess, or Bowser, though your choice really doesn’t matter — you’ll spend almost all of your time looking at the field of cookies, not the characters and “how many cookies have you cleared in this stage” info on the right.  As with most of the earlier Nintendo puzzle games, the game has a minimum of modes.  All you can do is choose the round you want to start on, your speed, music, and go — nothing else, other than multiplayer. It took Nintendo way too long to start offering more full-featured featuresets in their puzzle games… stuff like Tetris DX or Kirby’s Star Stacker are lightyears ahead of these earlier ones (Tetris, Tetris 2, Yoshi, Yoshi’s Cookie) in features.  It is pretty cool that the game has a four player mode with the 4 player adapter, though.  This is one of the only puzzle games that supports it, and it’s great that there is at least one puzzle game that supports it, even if it’s surely quite rarely used because of all the hardware required.  The game itself is good, too.  Yoshi’s Cookie has average graphics, but the cookie-flipping puzzles are fun.  Overall, this is a good, but not great, game.  It has potential, and it’s too bad that the only updated version of Yoshi’s Cookie, other than the similarly thin-featureset NES and SNES versions, was the Japan-only-released version in the Nintendo Puzzle Collection for Gamecube.  GB-exclusive version of a game also on NES and SNES (though two player only on both of them).


Zen: Intergalactic Ninja – One player, password save.  Zen Intergalactic Ninja is a slow-paced platformer-beat ’em up from Konami that runs in the same engine as the first two GB Ninja Turtles games.  The graphics and design here are very similar, particularly to the first TMNT game, Fall of the Foot Clan.  This game released after the second GB TMNT game, but this game returns to the short, exclusively side-view style of the first game.  As for the gameplay, in Zen you play as the cartoon character of the same name.  This is one of those ’90s environmental-themed cartoons, so the villains are all trying to pollute, and you need to stop them to save the environment.  I don’t remember ever watching the show, but my cousins had this game, and while it’s sort and simple, I liked it then, and still do now.  Zen has a staff for a weapon, and can shoot with it too if you charge up your attack.  You can play the first four levels in any order, and then there’s only one more level and it’s over.  The passwords help make this game even easier, but they are welcome; I always like to see save systems.  The level designs here are good — while the game has the same slow pace as the TMNT games, the level designs are better than Fall of the Foot Clans’, and there are some more interesting challenges to face.  The grahical detail and music are well done as well, and the diffrent bonus stages are nice.  Overall, I’d put this game in between the two TMNT games in quality.  It’s not as good as the second one, but is definitely better than the first.  It may be very short, but it’s fun while it lasts.


GB/GBC Dual Mode – 28 games


Asteroids – One player, password save, Game Boy Printer support.  Asteroids for the GBC isn’t just a port of the original arcade game.  Instead, it’s a new game published by Activision, along the lines of their PS1, PC, and N64 Asteroids game released in the late ’90s, but designed for the small screen.  The gameplay, as with the console version, is classic Asteroids action, as you shoot rocks in a single-screen-per-level design, watch them break apart as you shoot them, then shoot the pieces so as to try to keep them from hitting you.  Of course the game also has the original thrust-style controls, where you press a button to move forward, and your momentum will keep you going until you spin around and thrust the other way, or hit something and die.  Apart frm the “stuff warps around the sides of the screen” thing, it’s accurate outer-space physics!  Heh.  Anyway, occasionally enemy UFOs will show up too, and this game has levels and an ending, so the game does get harder, and the backgrounds will change, as you progress.  I really like that they put the game in a proper game structure this time.  Sure, endless games can be fun, but I do prefer games to have endings.  The backgrounds look great on the GBC too, though this plays fine in B&W as well, and still has nice art.  After you beat each set of 10 or so levels, you get a password to save your progress.  Asteroids for GB/G is a simple game, but it’s a good one.  It can take a little while to get used to Asteroids’ controls, but once you do, the game plays well, and looks nice too.  Recommended.


Ballistic – Two player simultaneous – Link.  Ballistic is a version of Mitchell’s ball-shooting puzzle game that probably is better known thanks to PopCap’s blatant ripoff title, Zuma, than it is in its original incarnation.  Despite that, Mitchell did originally come up with the idea, and Ballistic versions are available on various consoles.  It’s a great, classic puzzle game, where you control a central shooting point which shoots colored balls at a line of balls moving along a track. If you hit two or more balls with one of the same color, they are destroyed.  Simple concept, good execution.  However, this is far from the best version of Ballistic to get. If you want a great handheld version of the game, I highly recommend Magnetica for the Nintendo DS — it’s an evolved version of this game, is amazing, and blows away this barebones release!  First, the graphics are basic.  This only barely looks like Ballistic, and the ball movement and shooting doesn’t look very good.  It looks even worse in B&W, of course, which this version of the review is for.  Good luck telling the colors apart, you need to go just by the shapes in each ball, like in the GB Bust-A-Move games (which I don’t have, for a reason!).  Ugh, color-matching games in B&W doesn’t work at all!  And the music’s poor as well.  But the biggest problem here is that because the game doesn’t have a battery, there’s nothing here to save your progress through the mission mode, or your scores in the game in general.  And without that, it just feels like a game without a point.  I know that most early GB puzzle games don’t save, but this game is much newer, and came from a time when a lot more games did save.  That it doesn’t have it at all really is a problem.  Scores is one thing, but it’s particularly annoying that there’s no way to save your progress in the puzzle mode.  You’ll just have to remember, and start over each time.  There are several modes, but not too many — endless, puzzle, versus (link), that’s about it.  This is a good game, but play a better version of it.  Other versions of Ballistic are available on the PC, Mac, Nuon, and PS1.  Any of those are better than this version.  Magnetica for the Nintendo DS is a sequel of sorts (and is awesome).


Conker’s Pocket Tales – One player, Super Game Boy enhanced (with custom background, auto-changing color palettes).  Conker’s Pocket Tales is an interesting game — it’s the only game which is completely different between a B&W (or SGB) system and a color (GBC/A/Player) system.  Yes, there are two different games on this cartridge, one for each system.  Unfortunately, the game only allows you to have save files for one version on the cart at a time, so you must finish one before putting the cart in the other kind of system and playing the other game.  Make sure not to accidentally lose your file because of this!  As for the games, both are top-down action-platformer titles.  You wander around, finding items, looking for where to go next, and avoiding, or defeating, enemies.  You can dive under the ground at points, and collect stuff like acorns.  The level designs and some game design elements are different between the two versions of the game, though.  As I said, this cart is two games in one.  In this B&W version, you have save points where you must save at (the color game has save anywhere).  Despite the more limited saving, though, I like the level designs in the B&W version better than the color game, so this is the better game overall.  Buildings are a little bit smaller, but I think that change is good, and the overworld maps are better designed as well.  The game does have nice SGB support, too, so I would recommend playing the game in that.  Conker’s Pocket Tales is a bit like Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge for the GBA, except earlier.  The two games definitely feel similar, though, which makes sense since both are topdown platformer games from Rare.  This game has a bit more of an adventure game feel than that one, though, and I think I like it a bit more than that game.  This game is of course extremely cute and lighthearted; this is from before Conker’s dark turn.  As such it’s somewhat interesting to see, because of how drastically different it is from the Conker of Conker’s BFD.  The gameplay is the best thing here, though.  This is not a great game — I don’t love top-view or top-view isometric platforming most of the time, it’s very hard to do well in my opinion — but for a topdown platformer, this is at least better than most, and it’s at least moderately fun.  And yes, I do like the B&W/SGB game more than the color one.  It’s just more fun to play.  And yes, it looks good in a SGB.  This was Rare’s last B&W, and SGB, compatible game, and it’s one of their nicer efforts.


Ghosts ‘N Goblins – One player, password save.  Ghosts ‘n Goblins is a port of the NES classic of the same name.  The game is a pretty good port of the classic, with all the difficulty and frustration of the original, except with a password save system this time to help make things a little bit less frustrating.  I very much like that addition, and it makes this the better version of the game, I think… in color.  However, this is supposed to be a review of the B&W version, and it’s just not as good as the color version is.  The game is still playable, but it’s hard to make out the enemies from the backgrounds here, as with Donkey Kong Land for instance, and the game blurs too much to be at all playable on an original GB.  In B&W mode the gmae uses a black sky with white sprites, so the colors are reversed from most Game Boy games, and it looks odd and is hard to get used to.  On a Super Game Boy or GB Pocket it’s playable, but still the enemies blend in with the backgrounds some.  It can be more frustrating than it is fun, even beyond the level of the original game.  For those who don’t know the game, Ghosts n Goblins is a classic, and very difficult, Capcom platform-action game.  You play as the knight Arthur, who has to rescue his perennially kidnapped, nearly impossible to save girlfriend Princess Prinprin from the evil forces of demons who keep taking her.  All GnG games have two quests, so after “beating” the game, you have to play it through again, at a higher difficulty level, in order to see the real ending.  Here that password system really helps out, for sure.  The game’s hard, but fair, and everything can be memorized.  You’ll sure need it, to get anywhere in B&W!  This game probably should just have been made color only, but Capcom wanted it to work on older systems, so they did, even if the results aren’t that great looking.  Still, though this game is quite unplayable on an original GB, at least on a GBP or SGB you can play it, even if it isn’t as good as it is in color.  GB-exclusive port of a NES classic.  The NES and arcade original versions are on other platforms too (arcade collections, etc.), but not this one.


Hexcite – Two player alternating – single system or Link, battery save, Super Game Boy enhanced (with background, different color palettes, and two player multiplayer with SNES controllers).  I did a thread for Hexcite a while back.  It got no attention, but it should — this is one of the GB/C’s very best games, and it’s in my top ten list for a reason.  Hexcite is a conversion of the little-known board game of the same name.  A bunch of systems got Hexcite games in Japan, but in the US, there’s only this, and a PC version only available on Bigfishgames.com.  Both versions are good, but while the PC ersion has better graphics and harder AI, for features, this one wins hands-down.  See my thread for the full list of features, and detailed information on how the game works, but Hexcite is a great, complex, and challenging strategic tile-placing boardgame.  In the game, you place tiles into a hexagonal board. There’s only one board in this version, but that’s all that is needed.  The board is broken down into seven smaller hexes, each of which is made up of small triangular spaces.  Those triangles are the spaces you play on.  Each different type of playing piece has a different size, from one triangle to a half-hexagon, and the challenge is to play as many pieces as you can, and outscore your opponent.  Solitaire puzzle mode aside, it’s a two player game always, versus a computer or human.  There are several game modes, including a single game match where you set the rules and play, a main challenge mode where you create a file and gradually level up and face harder and harder competition as you gain experience by winning matches in this mode, a solitaire puzzle mode where you have to use certain pieces to solve the puzzle put before you, and versus mode.  This is a very full-featured production with some of the highest production values and volume of content I’ve seen in a B&W-compatible, or even GBC, board or puzzle game.  The game even has a nine different music tracks to choose from, lots of different board color sets, and different sets of colors for the Super Game Boy and Game Boy Color.  Impressive.

The most challenging rule is that you can only place a piece if its whole side lines up with a side.  That is, you cannot overlap a piece, and have it partially match up with the side of the piece you’re playing against, and partially be out into empty space.  That’s not allowed.  Because of this, larger pieces can be blocked off from being played anywhere once the game has progressed a while.  You lose points for any piece left in your hand at the end of a round (loss being based on the number of sides the piece has, not its size), so be sure to try to place as many points of your pieces as possible!  This challenge is the core of the game, and it’s a gripping, compelling challenge.  The AI is somewhat exploitable even at the highest setting (which has to be unlocked; see how on GameFAQs), but it’s tough regardless, and beating this game will take quite some time.  Hexcite for the GB/C is a very impressive effort, with great SGB support, multiplayer any way possible (single system alternating, via link cable, on SNES SGB with two controllers… any is fine), it has battery backup to save your stats and progress in the main challenge, your settings, and your progress in the solitaire puzzle mode, too.  Overall this is an absolutely exceptional production, and there’s a good reason why I played it almost every day in 2011, until I finally had beaten everything I could in the game.  The only real negative about it is that it can take time for the AI to play its turns.  I recommend doing something else while playing this, like watching TV or something, because if you’re focusing only on the game, sometimes it can get boring while you wait for the computer to play.  Don’t let you keep you from getting this game, though!  Get it, now.  Must have.


Hot Wheels: Stunt Track Driver – One player, password save.  Hot Wheels: Stunt Track Driver is a mediocre side-view racing game.  The GB and GBC has a lot of very average racing games, and this is one of them.  The side-view perspective, which plays at a slightly isometric angle and has a little bit of depth, is different, but that doesn’t make it better, really.  This is a quite mediocre game.  However, it could be worse… at least it’s easy.  That makes it a whole lot more fun to play than the PC game of the same name, I think.  For a review of that see my PC racing game thread, but this game does do a decent job of feeling like a simpler version of that same concept: you’re driving Hot Wheels cars around narrow Hot Wheels tracks that are laid out around rooms in a normal house.  So, the backgrounds show the room the track is set in.  It’s not as impressive as the FMV backdrops in the PC game, but it’s fine for the GB.  The biggest reason for that low difficulty level, though, is that unlike the PC game, turns are not a factor here.  Remember, the game is side-view isometric; you can move up and down the track, but other than trying to hit boost strips, you can mostly just play it like a sidescroller.  And of course, you cannot move around while in the air, which you will be a lot.  There are lots of jumps in this game, after all; see the name, “Stunt Track Driver”.  Stunts mean flips and spins in the air.  I’ve always liked flipping cars around in the air, so the stunts are quite fun.  The game is quite forgiving on your landings, so you don’t need to land at the correct angle, really.  Being off is okay.  That makes it easy and fun to zip through the levels, but it is one of the main factors in that low difficulty level, along with the complete lack of any turns, which could be tough to get around correctly, in the PC game.  In that game the time limit on each track is a steep challenge; in this one, it’s barely relevant.  After each race you get the 5-character password for the next track, and there aren’t that many races in the game.  So yeah, this game’s easy but entertaining.  Don’t expect it to last, at all.  As for color versus B&W, the gameplay is the same, and the graphics are similar too, considering how bland this game looks.  It will be harder to play on an original GB, though, of course; the game may be forgiving with its landings, but not so much that you’ll do fine on the blurry screen of an original GB.  Use a GB Pocket at least.


Jeff Gordon XS Racing – Two player simultaneous – Link, password save.  Jeff Gordon’s XS Racing is a futuristic behind-the-car racing game licensed by Jeff Gordon, famous NASCAR driver.  See my review of the demo of the PC version in my PC Racing Games thread for more on that version of the game.  This is the only console Jeff Gordon’s XS Racing game released; the PS1 and N64 versions of the PC game were both cancelled.  Looking at this game, I can see that the developers were trying to make something that is at least slightly like the PC game of the same name.  So, you have the same cars to choose from, and tracks with the same names as the PC tracks.  Plus Jeff Gordon himself gives you some hints here and there, though none are particularly useful.  Of course you can’t do a 3d futuristic racing game on the GB, though, so instead you get a generic behind-the-car GB racer.  The game has bland but okay visuals, perfectly average controls, a low difficulty level, and tracks that only incidentally resemble the tracks from the PC game.  Your car looks similar, and it still has wings in the jumps, but you don’t have much control in the air here.  The tracks are totally different in feel, too.  While in the PC game laps are very short, as they are in NASCAR, in this game, they are long, easily a minute per lap.  You only do three laps per race, too, quite unlike the PC game.  And there’s a very poor sense of speed here; with how slowly the dashes on the road scroll by, 100 MPH feels more like 20 or something.  It sure doesn’t feel like you’re going 300+ miles per hour here.  There are also only five cars in each race.  The basic strategy is to take the lead, then get in front of the other cars to bump them back when they try to pass you.  This will get you far.  Even if you finish second, that’s probably okay because the game uses a points system.  You don’t need to win every race, just come out on top overall.  The game gives you a password after every race, too, though they’re an annoyingly long 18 characters each.  As far as options go, there are just a few: championship, single race, or link cable multiplayer.  That’s it.  Still, the game is okay.  It’s fun enough to play, and the game plays perfectly in B&W.  You’ll lose those colorful backgrounds, but the game plays quite nicely on, say, a Super Game Boy.  It’s even playable on the original GB.  Overall, this game is straight down the middle average at best, slightly below average at worst.  I don’t have two copies, so I haven’t tried it in multiplayer.


Klustar – One player.  Klustar is a puzzle game, but it’s more Tetris than anything, so it does work fine in B&W.  This game is sort of like a version of Tetris with larger pieces and a design where pieces fall towards the center of the screen, instead of to the bottom.  You control a single block at the start, and when you touch one of the pieces as the cross the screen, it attaches to your central point.  So, as you go, your shape you are moving gets larger and larger.  The goal is to make squares of blocks.  When you make a square, those blocks will be destroyed.  The game is okay, but gets repetitive; this game has little variety.  The game doesn’t save scores or anything either, and has few modes.  It’s mostly just an endless survival game.  The game is somewhat addictive, as you try to survive longer, but overall, I’d rather play something else.


Looney Tunes – One player.  Looney Tunes for GB/C is a colorized remake of Sunsoft’s first handheld Looney Tunes title, originally released back in the early ’90s.  I first played this game back before I even owned my own Game Boy, and loved it because, well, it was a Looney Tunes game, and I loved the cartoons, and the game was good too.  This game is short, but fun, and it’s a quite fun game with great graphics and sound and good gameplay.  The challenge level is perfect for kids; adults might find it a bit easy, but the fun factor holds up, if you like the Looney Tunes at least of course.  It’s got Sunsoft’s usual good graphics and sound too.  In this game, you play as one a bunch of Looney Tunes characters for one level each.  The first level stars Daffy Duck.  This stage is a sidescrolling platformer, and you can attack with a frisbee.  The level is long, and there are some underwater parts too.  In level 2 you play as Tweety, and have to avoid Sylvester as he chases you.  This level is somewhat short and easy, but it is fun.  The third level is a shmup stage starring Porky Pig in a plane.  Good stuff.  Next, there’s the somewhat bonus level-esque Taz level, where you tear through blocks collecting food.  You can’t really lose in this level.  Next comes Speedy Gonzales; this level is fast, as you’d expect, and plays like a precursor to Speedy’s own Game Boy game that released later on.  It’s pretty good, but tougher than the last few stages.  Next is Road Runner.  This is another sidescrolling running level, and you have to outrun Wile E. Coyote.  It’s basically just a boss fight, as you avoid Wile E.’s attacks and then hit him.  The stage has some nice software parallax.  In the last level, you play as Bugs Bunny.  The controls are the same as Daffy’s, but it’s fun to have a second traditional platformer level.  This color version is exactly the same as the original, except when played in a GBC it’s in color.  B&W or color, though, this game’s quite fun and is well worth playing if you get it cheap.


Looney Tunes: Carrot Crazy – One player, password save.  Looney Tunes: Carrot Crazy is one of Infogrames’ first Looney Tunes games after they got the license around 1998.  Sunsoft did also release a couple of GB/C Looney Tunes games (though they sadly seem to be less common than the Infogrames ones, apart from the GB/C Looney Tunes remake above), so it can be confusing, but this game and the game below have nothing to do with the pretty good Sunsoft titles.  Carrot Crazy isn’t Sunsoft quality, but it is an okay game, anyway.  This game is a platformer where you play as Bugs and Lola Bunnies, trying to get all the carrots for some reason.  You play as both games in this game, and can switch between the two characters by pressing Select.  Bugs can push boxes and dig through specific areas to get under some platforms, while Lola can float with an umbrella.  Yeah, that’s a gender-based distinction there for sure.  There are some random jumps, marked with umbrella icons, where you must float down; try to jump down, and you’ll die instantly for no apparent reason (there aren’t spikes or anything).  The game has falling damage when you fall too far, apparently.  The two characters share health, and there are passwords for each level.  Overall, this is a quite average game.  It’s kind of fun, but come in with low expectations.  The game isn’t really any different between B&W and color; this is an early GB/C game, and you can tell.  There is color, but it doesn’t make great use of it.


Looney Tunes: Twouble! – One player, password save.  This game is another one of Infogrames’ mediocre Looney Tunes games.  In this one, you play as Sylvester, and have to try to catch Tweety Bird.  This game is a hybrid title.  It’s one part isometric 3d platform-adventure game, and one part side-scrolling running platformer.  The latter parts are short and very easy, while the former parts are long and make up the bulk of the game.  Unfortunately, it’s not much fun.  The running-platformer parts are way too short and simplistic to be fun; you don’t really need to use any thought here, and have so much health that you’ll finish these stages just fine even on an original GB.  The graphics are nice on the GBC in these levels, and they are more immediately fun than the main part of this game, but that’s all good that can be said about them.  The bulk of the game is an isometric 3d adventure game, though.  As with other games in this category, like Solstice (NES) or Altered Space (GB) but not quite as good as those games, you need to deal with a hard-to-get-used-to angled perspective as you slooowly walk around, pick up items (you can hold two at a time), combine them (and it’s key that you figure out how to do this, or you will get nowhere; I was stuck right at the start when I first played since I don’t have the manual and it’s somewhat unintuitive, but you can combine items in the items menu.), and use them in the right places.  The enemies here, such as Granny and the dog, are to be avoided; Sylvester’s no match for them.  The puzzles aren’t too hard once you get used to how the game plays, but it’s never fun.  Also, the isometric portions of this game are incredibly visually bland, and often look like there aren’t many more than four colors on screen.  I’d guess that this game was originally designed as B&W-only title… and its late 1998 release date, early in the GBC’s life, does make that possible.  Of course, in a B&W system it looks fine, and since these parts don’t scroll, they are playable on the original GB, though the slightly small graphics do make seeing details a little tricky on the original screen.  Regardless of which system you use though, this game really isn’t worth playing, I think.


Montezuma’s Return – One player, password save.  Montezuma’s Return is one of two games which brought back the classic early ’80s game Montezuma’s Revenge.  The original game is a quite difficult platform/puzzle game where you explore tombs, find items and keys, and find your way through the pyramid you are in.  The game doesn’t scroll; instead, each screen is a separate trap and enemy-filled challenge.  The levels all connect together in a mazelike layout.  The game required pixel-perfect jumps and movement; this game is as much about precision as it is about exploration.  For instance, when you jump, you go a specific distance in the direction you jumped in.  You can’t control yourself in the air.  Each obstacle type has its own specific properties to learn.  Falling more than a couple of body lengths kills you.  It’s a demanding game, but brilliant, and this newer GB/C game is just like it, but might be even better.  The best console version of the original game is the (US-only released!) Sega Master System release, though it’s sadly rare.  It’s also on several 2nd/2.5 gen systems.  There was also an iOS release of the original game in 2012.  Of the new games though, this one, on the GBC, is a great, classic platform/puzzle game very much like the original Montezuma’s Revenge, except redesigned, with new level designs, new puzzles, rooms that are larger than a screen (though it’s still a large network of interconnected rooms), and passwords to save your progress.  The other game, on the PC, is a 3d, first-person platformer where you explore the pyramid.  That game’s alright, but the first-person viewpoint is a quite odd one for a game where platforming is central, and it didn’t do as well as the developers were hoping, so potential followups were cancelled.  That’s unfortunate, but honestly, between the two new games, this is the better one.  The PC game’s an interesting effort, but this one holds up better as a game, and what a great game it is!  The game well earned its place in my black-cart-games top 5, and only just barely missed the overall B&W GB top 10.  Montezuma’s Return is a very, very difficult game, but it’s oh so much worth it… really, this is a forgotten classic, and should be remembered!

Montezuma’s Return for GB/C is enough like the original game that it’s as much of a reimagining as it is an all-new game, but still, this is a new pyramid that you are exploring.  It may look similar, and some rooms are quite similar to rooms from the original game, but most of the game is all-new, and there are new traps and enemies as well.  You collect items as you go, and hold them in an inventory on the bottom of the screen.  Keys open similarly-shaped doors.  If you have a knife, you will kill an enemy if you touch it, though each knife is single-use; if you don’t have any, touching any enemy kills you.  The original game had items, but you can hold more now for tougher puzzles.  There’s also a map screen, so you can see where you are and which rooms you have visited so far.  The best new feature though are the passwords.  They are infrequent, and it will take some serious effort, and level memorization, until you even get far enough to figure out where the first one is, but they’re invaluable.  The game is brtually difficult even with them, so they’re quite welcome.  You see, you have only a handful of lives here, and once they run out, it’s game over, and unless you have a password, you’re back to the beginning.  This is an unforgiving game, and it’s easy to lose a lot of lives in a hurry.  When you die you just start from the room you’re in, but again, those lives will run out fast.  The key is to learn more of the dungeon each time you play, and try to get farther the next time.  Many games will be lost until you figure out where you’re supposed to be going next, and how to get through the next area, but that’s all just part of the challenge.  There are 150 rooms in the game, so there’s a lot here.  And no, the game has no walkthroughs I know of online; you’ll have to figure it out.  The game also looks great in either B&W or in color, and plays just as well either way.  The game was first released in Europe only as a B&W-only game on a grey cart, but this dual-mode game, which released shortly afterwards, released in both regions.  The music is great too, and is quite addictive.  Montezuma’s Return is a brilliant game, and really is a must-have classic.  It’s rock-hard, but great!  Also on GB, in Europe only.


Oddworld Adventures 2 – One player, password save.  Oddworld Adventures 2 is the second handheld Oddworld game from Saffire.  The first one was a B&W-only game, but this one has color too.  These two games have original stories, but the gameplay is straight out of the first two side-scrolling Oddworld games for PC/PS1 — it’s a platformer from the Flashback or Blackthorne vein where you have to use a simplified version of “Gamespeak” to order around other Mudokons, creatures like your hero Abe, as you try to save them from their imprisonment in the latest factory designed for their demises.  The game has decent graphics with some nice detail for the system, and familiar gameplay for this subgenre.  Unfortunately sometimes telling walls from background objects can be tricky, though; some trial and error will likely be involved.  In this game you have four commands, Hello, Follow Me, Work (at the spot you are standing), and Wait Here.  There are actual voice samples for each command, which is uncommon for the original GB (and yes, it’s exactly the same in B&W).  Nice.  The first GB game apparently had fewer Gamespeak actions, and they were only sounds, not actual voice samples like this game has, so this one improves there.  Each one works exactly as it sounds, and ordering them around, having them follow you, activate things for you with Work commands, and then freeing them by holding Select in the right places to open a portal, work just like in the original game.  There is also a stealth component, of course, where you sneak around in order to avoid guards.  As usual in the franchise Abe can also possess enemies sometimes.  The first level acts like a tutorial, which is good — it’s needed, this game is more complex than your average GB platformer.  Passwords save your progress between levels, and the game is longer than the first Oddworld Adventures too.  People who like the original two games should definitely try this one.  It’s probably not as good as the console games, but it is a similar game in the same style, so try it.  I’ve never loved the games either on PC, PS1, or GB/C, though, so it’s hard for me to judge this objectively; I get frustrated quickly by the controls, Gamespeak, and puzzles, and just have never enjoyed the games enough to get anywhere.  It’s a very slow paced game that centers around stealth and getting Mudokons to do things, and neither one of those things are the kinds of things I love to do in games.  But that doesn’t mean that this is a bad game, just that it’s not really for me.  There was one last handheld Oddworld game after this one, a top-down Munch’s Oddsey title for the GBA.  I haven’t played it though.


Pocket Bomberman – One player, password save, Super Game Boy enhanced (multiple custom borders, auto-selecting color palettes).  Pocket Bomberman is an easy but fun side-scrolling platformer that stars Bomberman.  In each of the games’ 25 or so levels, you have to kill all of the enemies to advance.  As usual with Bomberman, you attack with bombs.  Some platforms can’t be destroyed, but blocks that can have items in them are scattered around to blow up.  There is a time-bomb item, which is quite useful, but is one of the reasons why this game is easy.  Since this is a sidescroller though, you can also use bombs as (dangerous) objects to jump from, and will have to be clever with how you place your bombs in order to kill the enemies moving around each level without also blowing yourself up.  Pocket Bomberman was the first game I got for the Game Boy Color, and while the game is a bit short and is too easy beginning to end, it’s a fun game that I quite enjoyed.  There are no difficulty levels unfortunately, but it’s fun while it lasts.  In addition to the main game mode, there’s also the Jump mode.  In Jump mode, you choose one of three different stages, and then play.  Here Bomberman constantly jumps, at all times, and your goal is to get to the top of a several-part level, and kill the bosses on the way.  The screen has a field of classic Bomberman blocks on it, some breakable and others not, plus crystals that spawn enemies.  Jump mode is a lot of fun, and is a quite different challenge because of the bouncing character.  It’s a bit short and is no replacement for this games’ sad lack of multiplayer, but it’s something at least.  There are also powerups in both modes, of course.  Pocket Bomberman also has some nice SGB support, with a different border for each mode and good palette choices.  This game is worth seeing in both GBC and SGB.  I wish that the game was longer and was actually challenging, and had multiplayer too, but still, this experiment in a Bomberman 2d sidescrolling platformer worked.  It’s too bad that they never made another one.  Also on the original Game Boy, in Japan only.


Pokemon Pinball – One player, battery save, Rumble cart (requires one AAA battery to vibrate), Super Game Boy enhanced (multiple custom borders, auto-changing color palettes), supports Game Boy Printer.  Pokemon Pinball was Nintendo’s first Game Boy pinball game since Kirby’s Pinball Land.  As such, I was interested.  However, on the other hand, it was a Pokemon game, so I didn’t get it because of the license.  Finally, a year or two ago I got a cheap copy… and found that it is, unfortunately, awful.  The graphics are good, and the rumble feature great, but the gameplay?  Awful!  One interesting feature is that when playing on a Super Game Boy, the rumble is automatically disabled.  Nice touch, you wouldn’t want your SNES shaking.  The borders are nice though, and match the tables (so there are two).  Seriously, this game isn’t any good at all.  If you want a good GB pinball game play Kirby Pinball (I won’t repeat how amazing that game is, just see my review above), or if you want a good GBC one, play Sierra’s 3D Ultra Pinball Thrillride.  Unless you’re a serious Pokemon fan, though, don’t bother with this thing.  Pokemon Pinball has two tables, each two screens high at max; I think it’s actually less than that.  That is oen table less than Kirby Pinball has, and one screen (or more) less per table, too.  Also instead of having each screen be a separate table section, this game has each table as one single table, with scrolling.  It may make it look more Pinballey, but it’s not for the better of the actual game.  The biggest problem here, though, is that the table designs are incredibly boring, and that there’s almost nothing to do.  Both tables have the same very bland basic layout, with some kind of thing in the middle, some stuff down below, and a loop outside the edge.  Sure, the three Kirby Pinball tables had similar themes, but it’s much, much worse here, and with so much less content, that’s a real issue.  Except for the center stuff and, on a SGB or GBC and beyond, the color, it’s easy to mistake one table for the other.  There aren’t many targets or ramps in this game either.  About all there is to do is repetitively hit the targets that can cause a Pokemon to appear, then hit the things that try to capture that Pokemon, and then repeat that procedure over and over and over and over again until you catch them all, or get a high score, or both.  And that’s it, there’s really nothing else. I don’t care about catching them all, and the tables just don’t have any depth, complexity, or interesting elements!  They have so few targets each, it’s disappointing.  The rumble feature is cool, but 3D Ultra Thrillride has that too, and that table is like fifty times better than these two combined… that game has only one table, also about two screens high, but it’s actually well-designed, full of stuff to do, and packed with content too (the game has like 10 minigames!).  This game may be well-regarded, and that one forgotten, but seriously, don’t waste your time with Pokemon Pinball, the tables are NOT worth it.  I don’t just dislike this because it’s Pokemon, as I do like Pokemon Puzzle League/Puzzle Challenge — that is, the Pokemon versions of Tetris Attack/Puzzle League.  Those are great.  Pokemon Pinball is just a bad game, period.  Pinball tables worse than these would be hard to find.


Power Quest – Two player simultaneous – Link or Super Game BOy (with two SNES controllers), password save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, auto-changing color palettes, two player multiplayer with SNES controllers).  Power Quest is a fighting game/RPG from Sunsoft.  It’s okay and is somewhat unique, but the controls hold it back.  In the game, you play as a boy who builds a fighting robot, and then you go around fighting other people’s robots with your robot.  You can choose from five different robots at the beginning of the game, each with different looks and stats.  As you progress and build your robot stronger, you will be able to take on tougher opponents.  In the game, you can wander around and talk to people, and of course choose to fight some of them.  You’ll need to fight people in order to get enough money to upgrade your robot, but the parts cost a lot of money, so be prepared to have to do a lot of fights to get anywhere.  You will also need to slowly move up through the different classes of opponents, as higher-value fights will require parts you don’t have at the start.  Eventually you get enough money and parts to take part in the national tournament.  You can get a password at any time on the city map if you want to save; they’re 12 characters long, so it’s not too bad.  The controls and fighting engine are only average, too.  You have two attacks (only two buttons, after all) and some special moves that you do with a direction press and then a button.  The controls are simple, and work, but aren’t great.  This game isn’t one of the system’s best fighting games, though for the GB, it could be a lot worse; the GB just isn’t powerful enough to make great fighting games.  Sunsoft tried here, and this is probably above average for a GB or GBC fighting game, but it’s nothing beyond that.  Now, this game also has Super Game Boy support.  Of course there are fewer colors this way, but the palette choices are good, and most importantly, this game does have two player play on the SNES, with SNES cotnrollers, so you can play this game in versus mode without having to have two copies, two systems, and a link cable.  That’s just great, and it’s a fantastic feature to have.  Overall, Power Quest is decent enough to be worth a try sometime, for cheap.


Prince of Persia – One player, password save.  Prince of Persia for GB/C is a colorized remake of the original Game Boy version of Prince of Persia from years earlier.  From what I’ve seen online, this version looks identical to the original on B&W systems, and only adds color, so it’s in the same category as Looney Tunes’ colorized re-release is.  In either form, Prince of Persia for GB is a port of the classic computer game where you play as an ancient Persian prince on a quest to rescue the princess from the evil Vizier who is going to kill her, and you.  Yeah, the story defines generic.  Even though the game is a popular classic, though, I didn’t play either one of the PoP games as a kid, so I have no nostalgia for this game.  I remember playing PoP2 (PC version I think) in a store demo once for a few minutes and liking it, but that’s the extent of my experience with the Prince of Persia games then.  And while I do own some PoP games now, I still haven’t played them all that much, though I do like the Dreamcast one and liked the movie.  Sands of Time… eh, it’s alright I guess.  As for the original game, though, Prince of Persia is a platformer with a timer.  You have one hour to get through 12 levels, and the game has levels with many dead ends too.  The game is absolutely packed with traps, and finding your way through the game requires a great deal of trial and error.  PoP’s controls were the inspiration for later games like Oddworld, Flashback, Blackthorne, and such, and like those games, your character has a lot of animation, and every action you can do does a specific thing.  You can jump up, jump forward, walk slowly, run, and such, and will need to do the exact right thing at each moment to stay alive.  The controls in this version are apparently a little odd, going by reviews, but I haven’t really played other versions, so I can’t say.  It is true that the combat has some hit detection issues, though.  The animation is great, as expected from PoP as it is one of the game’s hallmarks, but the fact is, you need to go slowly and carefully to find, and find your way around, the traps, but also need to hurry because of that timer.  It’s a frustrating combination.  I hate timers in games!  They’re okay in racing games, but in a game like this, it’s NOT good design.  In this version, as in the GB original, there is a password system to help you out, though it does save your time, so the time still counts, annoyingly enough.  Still, that’s much better than nothing.  Even so, this genre of platformers has never been one that I like enough to actually play much.  As with all the rest of them — Blackthorne, Flashback, Oddworld, etc — I haven’t gotten far into this game, and I don’t know if I will.  Still, this is a quality version of the game, and it can be fun to try to figure out my way through the dungeon.  Prince of Persia has been released on over 20 platforms over the years, so I’m not going to list them all.  This version is a colorized remake of the original GB version.  Also available on 3DS Virtual Console, in GBC mode only of course.


Quest for Camelot – One player, battery save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, auto-selecting color palettes), supports Game Boy Printer.  Quest for Camelot is a top-down action-RPG from Titus based on the okay animated movie of the same name.  This was the only game based on the film, and it interested me at the time even though I hadn’t seen the movie because it promised to be something like Zelda.  I didn’t end up getting the game, and that was in part because it got mixed reviews, but playing it later, this really is an okay game.  It’s nowhere near Zelda quality, of course, but this is an okay action-RPG.  The game has some issues for sure, but really, it’s not bad.  In Quest for Camelot, you play as Kayley, a girl who wants to be a knight in the mythical time of King Arthur.  Despite her gender, she is destined to succeed.  You also need to stop a villain, of course.  So, you wander around, following the story, killing monsters, and more, with a sword as your main weapon.  There are also more items to collect as you progress.  The game has some reasonably nice graphics, in either color or original (and yes, the SGB support is good).  The gameplay is average, as you explore around, do simple quests, and defeat enemies, but it’s fun.  There are some quests which require you to find things, and others which are more about fighting; it’s standard stuff, but there is a little variety.  You can save when you want to, too, though it costs money if not saving just between chapters.  There’s also a map screen and some optional stuff to collect.  I think I would have liked this game just enough back then to probably make it worth getting.  As for now, it’s something to play if you’ve played the other GB and GBC action-adventure games.  Try it, it can be fun.


R-Type DX – One player, battery save (GBC only).  R-Type DX is an amazing game, and collection, of some classic shmups… on the Game Boy Color.  When played on an original Game Boy, though, this is a much less impressive collection.  On the GBC, this game lets you play eiother the original B&W GB versions of R-Type and R-Type II, complete with the original graphics and the original three continue limit in R-Type 1 for GB (though the second one at least has infinite continues), colorized versions of both of the same that enhance the graphics greatly, or the DX mode, which pastes both games together into one 11-stage game.  It’s a pretty great collection of these very difficult, but very good, classics.  However, there are three major issues: First, R-Type 1 for GB had two levels cut of the original eight, and R-Type II had one level cut of the original six.  So, three levels are missing.  They were not added in in this version, even in the colorized or DX versions — those levels are still gone.  Disappointing!  I really wish that they had put the rest of the games in to this release, they really should have.  And second, the flicker and slowdown get pretty bad.  In color both games look great, but it comes at a serious flicker cost.  This problem seems common in versions of R-Type — the TG16 version of the first game also had lots of flicker, for instance — but it’s even worse here.  Plus, after beating DX mode, you unlock this silly little bonus thing, the artificial life sim program De Souza.  It’s very simple — just make dots, and watch them go around and eat eachother — but amusing for a few minutes.  The cart also saves the levels you have reached in the color (I or II) and DX games, so you can start from any level you have reached, and your high scores.  R-Type and R-TYpe II are such hard games that by the time you finish them you might not want to play them again for a long time, because the games are pretty much pure memorizers and require the player to perfect every motion through every level to not die, but at least (outside of the first game in B&W) you have infinite tries, and level select.  It’s a great, must have collection for the GB Color.

However, on a B&W system (GB, GB Pocket, Super Game Boy), this collection’s nowhere remotely near as interesting.  You see,all you can do on an original system is play the two original B&W modes.  That the color modes would be missing makes sense, but why couldn’t they at least have bothered to include high score save and level select here?  It’s just cruel that the cart has a battery in it to save those things, but in an original GB that battery serves no purpose.  This makes R-Type I incredibly hard to finish as well, as with only three continues you will need to get VERY good at memorizing those levels.  And of course, R-Type I’s graphics particularly don’t look that great in B&W; they enhanced them significantly in the second game, and then even more in the color remakes, but in the first game, on a B&W/SGB system, you’re stuck.  So yeah, for an original GB, this is just a collection of the two original grey-cart releases. It’s okay, but it’s not what people get R-Type DX for.  That’s why it’s only the honorable mention on the list at the top of the thread, primarily.  R-Type and R-Type II are also on quite a few other systems, but these versions are exclusives only found on the GB (for the two original versions) and GBC (for this collection.  Other versions of the game are on the arcade, TG16, SMS, PS1, X360, and more.


Rats! – One player, password save.  Rats! is a puzzle-platformer from the same studio as Montezuma’s Revenge (above), except this one isn’t a classic remake, and isn’t as good.  Montezuma’s Revenge is probably Tarantula’s best game ever, though, so that’s not surprising.  What this is, however, is a decently good game.  The basic look is a bit like Montezuma’s Revenge, in that the characters are a bit small on the screen, but here your tasks and goals are much simpler.  Playing as a rat with a gun, you go around killing enemies, jumping on platforms, and making your way to the door to the next stage.  Passwords save your progress.  The game does have puzzle elements though, and exploration as you search around looking for all the items in each stage, but stages are often only a few screens in size, so each one won’t take too long.  The game has a lot of levels though, 75-85 in total, so there’s a good amount of content here.  The graphics are decent, and the color work on a GBC looks okay.  The details also look nice in B&W, though, so it’s good either way.  The art design is a bit odd (look at some of that character art to see what I mean), but the actual ingame graphics are more normal.  Enemies take quite a few shots to kill, so this does earn that puzzle aspect.  Overall, this is an okay game.  It’s fairly standard stuff, but it’s good, and the gameplay and level designs are solid.  There is also an uncommon, and European-only, B&W grey cart release (under its European title, Reservoir Rat).


Roadsters – One player, password save, supports Game Boy Printer.  Roadsters is a behind-the-car style racing game from Titus.  Apart from that it is a racing game, the game is nothing like the N64/DC Roadsters game that I actually kind of like on N64.  Instead, the game plays sort of like a followup to Lamborghini American Challenge for the SNES, in that it has similar gameplay, and even has a betting system before races where you can choose to put money in a pot that the person who finishes in first will win.  You can use your winnings to buy car upgrades, as in LAC.  Roadsters is a lot shorter than that game, but while it lasts, it plays similarly.  Races also take place on roads full of traffic that you and the other racers have to avoid; I know that this is very common, but the specific style here, with lots of traffic and the seven cars in the actual race, is quite similar to LAC.  The race ends when you reach the required distance, as shown on the gauge on screen.  The gameplay, just like LAC, is bland, generic, and not all that fun.  It’s playable, but that’s about it.  Yeah, it’s another extremely average game from Titus here.  Unsurprising.  The game does have one interesting thing about it, but it’s not the races, it’s the FMV.  You see, when you play the game on a GBC (and only in a GBC), before each race, there’s this FMV clip that looks like it either comes from real life, or maybe from a CG render.  There’s no sound here, and it’s just this video of a camera zooming down a road, but it looks impressive.  And then you hit a button, the actual race starts… and it’s yet another very bland alternating-colored-lines, smooth-curves-only 8-bit third person racing game.  There aren’t even any hills in this one.  Most of these games at least manage that. Sigh.  And yeah, the actual gameplay is just as good on a B&W system as it is on color.  But aws I mentioned earlier, Roadsters is a short game.  There are only 12 tracks, and the difficulty level is on the low side, too.  There are also passwords after each track, so this game will be over quickly.  At least LAC lasted, even if it was far too bland.  Not recommended.


Shamus – One player, password save.  Shamus for the GBC is a somewhat obscure game, but some people will like it.  The game is a remake of the ’80s computer (first Atari 8-bit, then numerous other early ’80s computers) game of the same name.  This is the only console Shamus game ever, though; the ’80s games were computers-only.  I’ve never played the original, but this game is kind of good.  The game is a top-down action-exploration game where you have to make your way through a maze, Berzerk-style but with an ending, adventure elements (items, keys), and a preset maze.  You’re playing as this good robot, and have to take down your evil counterpart.  The controls are simple — you can move, fire in the direction you’re facing, and that’s about it.  The game has simple graphics, a very high difficulty level, and more.  Shamus for GB/C still looks like an early ’80s game.  The graphics are a little better than shots of the original look, but still, this is a very visually simple game.  The electric walls look like something out of Berzerk, and the sprites are basic Game Boy stuff.  In the game, you wander around a large maze made up of rooms, looking for keys, killing enemies, and getting lost.  Each room is a little bigger than a screen.  Each of the four levels is quite large, and getting through one without running out of lives and getting game over is very challenging.  This game really needs a map.  If you do manage to beat a level you do get a password to start from the next one, which is great, but still, this game will require memorization, as the levels have many areas you don’t need to go in, and repetition, as enemies respawn pretty much as soon as you leave a room.  That gets frustrating fast, but still, the game is fun to play.  Overall, I like Shamus.  I wish that it was a little more forgiving, or had an ingame map, but even as it is, it’s worth playing.  This remake is GBC exclusive, but the original game is on C64 and, more recently, iOS.  There is also a C64, A8, and iOS-only sequel.


Shanghai Pocket – Two player simultaneous – Link, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, preselected color palette).  Shanghai Pocket, from Sunsoft, is a handheld version of Activision’s classic Shanghai, or Mahjong Tiles, game.  As with all versions of this game, the game is a solitaire (ie single-player) matching game using mahjong tiles.  The tiles are all laid out in a pattern on the screen, and you have to match pairs of identical tiles.  However, you can’t just select any tiles.  Instead, you can only select tiles which are open (not touching another tile) on either the right or left.  Also the tiles are stacked, so sometimes you will doom your chances of successfully clearing a puzzle without knowing it because some piece you need is underneath one, but you used the only other usable pair for that top piece somewhere else.  Despite this frustration, though, I like Shanghai/Mahjong Tiles.  I first played a version of this game on the PC back in the late ’90s, and it’s a fun, challenging solitaire boardgame.  This version has three game modes.  The main game, Shanghai, has twelve main puzzles in the main game, where you try to solve twelve puzzles, one for each animal of the Zodiac.  By default each puzzle has a time limit, and that time limit is strict!  If you want a real challenge, play the game with the time limit enabled.  I actually did manage to beat the game with the default time limit, but it wasn’t easy; you can’t move a cursor with a gamepad as fast or as accurately as you could with a mouse, so things take a little more time.  In order to finish the game, you’ll need to beat all twelve puzzles in one sitting, because there’s no saving or passwords here.  I did that through the Super Game Boy and leaving the system on for a while.  The SGB background is good too, and playing it on a TV expands the size of the tiles, which is good; the game is playable on a GB, but those tiles are really small as they have to fit the whole field onto the screen.  They did a good job making it as visible as it could be, and you can choose several different block sets if you want something simpler than the classic Mahjong tiles, though, so there are some nice options here.  The music is great as well, nice addictive stuff.  The other two modes don’t have campaigns, and instead are single-level games.  The second game mode is Kong Kong.  This is a versus mode, against a computer or human, where the goal is to be the first one to clear your block field.  You can send blocks to the other player if you clear certain types of tiles, so in this game you’ll be sending blocks back and forth as you both try to clear your field first.  Your block field takes up part of the screen, and an image showing your oponents’ proress takes up another part.  The final mode is Gold Rush, and it’s also multiplayer (or vs. CPU).  This is a timed mode with a small block field, and the challenge is to try to uncover the gold block as quickly as possible.  The first player to uncover the block wins.  It’s simple but fun.  Overall, Shanghai Pocket is a great game.  I’d love to get another copy for multiplayer, but even with one copy, with a main game and two vs. CPU modes, this is a great version of Shanghai.  The only real flaws are that with only twelve puzzles you will beat it more quickly than some Shanghai games, and that you can’t save your progress.  Still, for the interesting versus games, and for the main game’s fun challenge while it lasts, this is absolutely recommended!  The game was released on the GB/C only in the West, but in Japan was released only on the original Game Boy, and also on the WonderSwan.  The WS version is mostly the same, but has one additional mode, a boardgame challenge.


Survival Kids – One player, battery save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, auto-changing color palettes).  Survival Kids is a fantastic action-adventure game from Konami.  The game is a top-down survival adventure game where you play as either a young boy or young girl who has been stranded on a remote jungle island after a shipwreck.  The game is exactly the same for either gender, quite unlike this games’ vastly inferior descendants in the Lost in Blue series.  Your mission is simply to survive, and hopefully also to be rescued.  Apart from a monkey companion you find along the way, you are all alone in this game.  The game looks somewhat like Zelda in terms of graphics, and like LA DX, supports both the GBC and the SGB.  Both look great, though I probably do like it more in color.  The game plays a little like Zelda too, though this is more of an adventure game than even Link’s Awakening.  In the game you will need to find items, combine items with other items to make useful items or tools beyond the basic knife you start with, try to find enough edible food to stay alive, build a shelter, and explore the island.  It’s quite satisfying how you start out with nothing, but eventually build a fire, learn which foods are edible and which make you sick, make a bow, kill some animals, and more.  It does a good job making it feel like you are learning how to survive here, and over time you will be able to travel farther around the island than you could at the start.  This is a videogame of course, and many areas are walled off until you get the right item, but still, it’s brilliantly done.  The atmosphere and puzzles in this game are great.  There are some tricky parts, but as you progress, find more items and tools, and explore, you will gradually be able to get to more and more of the island.  The game has fantastic presentation and production values, and you really feel alone in a wild place.  I also like how as you progress you start finding some strange things on the island. I won’t spoil anything, but there are some odd ruins to explore later in the game.  Survival Kids has seven different endings, depending on how you get off (or don’t get off) the island.  There are also a couple of minigames to find, including one where you play as the monkey, collecting coconuts from trees.  Fun stuff.  I got several endings in this game, but not all of them, unfortunately.  Overall though, SUrvival Kids is an absolutely exceptional experience unlike anything else I’ve played.

The game did have a sequel (on GBC) that was released only in Japan, but after that the series died for a while.  When it finally returned, as Lost in Blue on the DS, and then in that games’ two DS and one Wii sequels, unfortunately a lot of the magic had been lost.  The Lost in Blue games all have two characters (or four, for the Wii one) paired together, so the isolation aspect is gone.  They also have gender-based distributions of labor in most games, which is unfortunate.  And they’re full of minigames too.  Where the original game has you simply building a fire, on the DS you need to do a touch-based minigame to do that.  I love the DS and its touchscreen, but this kind of thing is kind of annoying.  It’s also easier to miss things on the DS games, because it’s not nearly as easy to see what you can interact with in these 3d games as it is in the 2d originals.  The worst problem, though, is simply that the LiB games are obviously done at a much lower level of production values than the original game.  It’s obvious that the games were not given the same kind of care, attention, and budget relative to what is needed on their platform  as the original was, and that’s unfortunate.  I do kind of enjoy Lost in Blue 2, but it’s nowhere remotely as good as the original Survival Kids, not even close.  Play the first game.  It’s outstanding.


Legend of Zelda, The: Link’s Awakening DX – One player, battery save, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom border, auto-changing color palette), supports Game Boy Printer.  Link’s Awakening DX is a colorized version of the original GB Link’s Awakening game, which I had gotten back in the early ’90s and, as I said in my long review above, absolutely loved.  However, when I first saw this color version, I was not impressed; I didn’t like the color choices, and hearing that this version was easier than the original was not welcome either.  So, I didn’t buy it.  I did get both of the GBC Zelda Oracles games, and loved them, but it wasn’t until recent years that I finally got LA DX.  So, what do I think?  Well, it’s good, but I do prefer the original version.  There are several important differences between the DX version and the original.  First, there’s the color, of course.  Second, there is a new, color-only dungeon.  Third, the game adds Super Game Boy support, though of course you can’t play the color dungeon there (the SGB is after all only fakely “colored”, and really is B&W to the games).  Fourth, the game adds twelve photos you can find (and print, if you have the GB Printer), and a camera to take them with.  These images are worth finding, and are fun to see.  There’s also a camera store added, replacing one mostly empty screen with a camera house.  And last, the DX version does indeed make the game easier.  There are two ways that it does this.  First, the color dungeon has, as its reward, blue or red tunics.  These tunics essentially give you permanent versions of the booster items, so you will either take half damage, or do extra damage.  Yeah, with those, the game gets a lot easier.  I know that LA is a challenging game, but still, was that really needed?  The other way is that now each dungeon has several hints, instead of just one.  In the original game, each dungeon has one Stone Tablet with a hint on it if you find the tablet shard.  In the DX version, the tablets are replaced with Owl Statues, and each statue has a different hint on it.  This definitely makes some dungeons easier.  Some of those hints are useful, but still, it wasn’t necessary.  And as for the choices of colors, LA DX is a perhaps garishly bright game; the colors are a bit overdone, I still do think this.  Sure, the game looks good enough, but still… I like the B&W look better.  So, overall, LA DX is a great, great game, but it’s not quite as great as the original version.  Also available on 3DS Virtual Console, in GBC mode only.


Tetris DX – Two player simultaneous – Link, Super Game Boy enhanced (custom borders, preselected color palette, special border for the JP-only SGB 2).  Tetris DX was one of the first Game Boy Color games released, but it is still backwards compatible with the original GB, as most early GBC games were.  Tetrix DX is an enhanced version of the original Tetris, with more modes, battery save, and more.  Some Tetris fans seem to still prefer the original version, because this version introduces some modern Tetris rules like the infinite spin that the original does not have, but I think that the otherwise vastly improved featureset of the game more than makes up for that.  In this game, you can save your name, and the game will keep track of the best scores for each person on the cartridge, as long as the battery lasts that is of course.  There are several modes, too.  First, there is the usual endless Marathon mode, where you can choose your speed and music and play.  This is somewhat diffrent from the original version, as it levels off at a lower difficulty than the GB Tetris game, but it’s certainly hard, and with score and stat save, there’s more content here than the original version.  The other two single player modes are the new ones, 40 Lines and Ultra.  Both of these are time or line-limited modes, so your goal here is either to get as many points as you can quickly (Ultra), or see how quickly you can clear 40 lines (40 Lines).  I really like that they added some new modes, the game needed it.  There’s also of course the usual link cable mode, and Super Game Boy support, though it’s pretty average.  The SGB1 border is really bland, and the SGB2 was only released in Japan.  Still, if you want a version of Tetris with lots of modes, newer versions have more, and also have the same rules (pretty much) as this one.  Is there any real reason to play this version over, say, Tetris DX, for example?  I can’t think of any.  Also, the original Russian music is gone, and the new stuff is blander.  So, overall, Tetris DX is a good handheld version of Tetris, but there isn’t much reason to play it over some newer versions of the game, I don’t think.


Turok 2: Seeds of Evil – One player, password save.  Turok 2 is the second of four handheld Turok games.  The first two, the original GB Turok game and this one, are side-scrollers.  The next two were top-down action games.  This is the only one of them that I’ve played, though.  Turok 2 for GB isn’t the same as the console game, of course.  The graphics are bland, and this is obviously a very early GBC game.  For the original GB though, it’s decently good.  The story has a passing similarity to the N64 games’ story, but that’s about it.  In fact, this game starts on Earth, with you, as Turok, having to get through most of the first level without a weapon.  The first level is somewhat frustrating until you FINALLY get that weapon, as you have to sneak past and avoid all of the enemies.  It’s tough.  Once I finally got the weapon, though, the game changed into a more standard action-platformer, and got more fun.  At least the game is different, I guess.  The game has large levels, and as seen in the first level, there is variety.  Not only is there stuff like that opening stealth segment, but also there are some third-person parts (8-bit style of course) where you have to dodge stuff coming at you, like in the Endor biker level in Super RotJ on GB, for example.  But the majority of the game is about exploring levels, looking for stuff, and figuring out where to go next.  In that way this does feel like a handheld version of a Turok game, though it’s its own thing as well, as that opening level shows.  Overall, however, this is a fairly average platformer in terms of design.  It has a few nice ideas, but for the most part this is standard stuff.  It’s a good standard, though, so overall, I think it’s a moderately good game.  The game has some flaws, but I mostly like it.


Wario Land II – One player, battery save, Super Game Boy enhanced (multiple custom borders, auto-changing color palettes, multiple color palettes on screen).  Wario Land 2 may be the last game on the list, but it is far from the least.  Wario is back, and this time the Brown Sugar Pirates want revenge.  So, they attack Wario’s castle, and steal his treasure.  Your goal is to get it all back, and more.  This game is a platformer, but it’s a very different platformer from those which game before it.  WL2 was one of the earlier games I bought for the GBC, and I thought that it was good but frustrating.  The key game mechanic in WL2 is that Wario cannot die, but you can be set back, as many areas will send you back to the start of the sequence if you mess up.  The game also has many puzzles and tricky sections where you need to use precision, and memorization, toget through.  This time Wario has new powers, though they don’t come from hats like the first two WL games had (WL:SML3 and VBWL, that is).  Now, Wario gets powers by being affected by the environment.  So, get squashed by a large block and you become flat Wario and can float.  Get hit by a zombie and you become zombie Wario, who can fall through thin floors.  Etc, there are more forms.  The puzzles are inventive, and the challenge of figuring out what to do to progress is interesting.  WL2 also is a nonlinear game with numerous different paths, depending on what you do at certain points in the game.  If you find all of the regular endings, there’s a Real Final Level to unlock, and it’s naturally the hardest and most frustrating level in the game.  Some of the alterate paths are interesting, particularly in how you find them.  Each set of levels has a different theme, too.  The game has a good length, and is much harder than either previous Wario Land game.  The graphics are decent as well, though standard for the platform.

Wario Land 2 has some real downsides, though.  First of course is the frustration factor, as I’ve referenced above.  As you cannot die, the main challenge in this game comes from forcing you to redo sections over and over until you can do them better, or until you figure out the secret to the puzzle.  This game is often as annoying as it is fun, as a result.  And second, the graphics and sound in this game are mostly rehashed.  The first Wario Land looked great, but this game isn’t only similar looking, it’s basically the same, at least as far as the character sprites go.  Most characters, and enemies, are ripped straight out of that game, unchanged, and dropped in this one.  SUre, the story explains why this is, but it feels a bit lazy, particularly with how this game released a full two years after the previous Wario Land title, the VB one.  That game was wildly original, in terms of enemies and settings.  This one’s just not, the originality is all in the gameplay.  I liked seeing the pirates again, but still, it was somewhat disappointing.

Finally, I want to discuss the GB/SGB and color versions.  WL2 allows for only one save file on each cartridge, and the game is one of those few GB/C games which have separate save files for the original and color versions.  Unlike Conker’s Pocket Tales, though, there’s no apparent reason for this — I’ve beaten both versions, and they both look, play, and feel identically.  The only difference is the color.  Why is the game locked out between versions, then?  This matters because WL2 isn’t only a decently good looking, if early, GBC game, it’s also an impressive SGB game.  WL2 has many different borders, a new one for each world, and has great color palette choices too.  I’ve beaten WL2 twice, once each on GBC and SGB, and it was well worth beating twice.  However, I’ve never managed to get myself to play much of Wario Land 3.  I liked this game, overall, but that game also has a no-die design, and I just couldn’t stomach another game of this.  I did finally get WL3 a few years ago, and it seems okay, but still I’ve barely made progress in it.  Still, though, Wario Land II, at least, is well worth playing.  I do like the classic (first two) Wario Land games better, but still, this is a very good platformer, and it’s one of the better handheld platformers around.  Also available on 3DS Virtual Console, in GBC mode only.

And that is all for now.

About Brian

Computer and video game lover
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