Archive for the ‘GameBoy’ Category

Super Mario Bros. 3

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

A few years after the completely out-of-place Super Mario Bros. 2, we were treated to a new, proper, Mario game. One that felt more like the original game, which was already pretty good.

The story goes that somehow Bowser, the antagonist from the first game, has managed to somehow asexually produce seven kids. Each of which he sends out to a different kingdom in the Mushroom World to steal each king’s magic wand, turn him into some kind of animal, and then rule the kingdom, I guess. So the Princess Toadstool sends the Mario Bros. out to fix everything up (i.e. depose the Koopa Kids and return the wands to their owners).

They do this by utilizing their world-famous superhuman jumping abilities combined with their new powers of scrolling the screen right and left as well as up and down. Which actually becomes kind of important relatively quickly. Mostly because you get new powerups to play around with that let you do things that you could only dream about in other games.

Yeah, you have your mushrooms, your fire flowers, and your starmen, but you also have the Super Leaf that makes your Mario Brother grow an extra set of ears and a raccoon tail that lets him fly somehow. You also have at your disposal three super suits: a frog suit that lets you swim better, a Tanooki suit that lets you briefly turn into a statue, and a Hammer suit that lets you toss hammers like those crazy Hammer Bros. In short, four more kinds of awesome. There are a few more, but they range from the really lame (the anchor), to the normal lame (Jugem’s Cloud), to the kinda lame (the music box), to the almost kinda useful (the P-Wing), so I won’t bother going into them.

As you’d probably expect, the Mushroom World is a lot more expansive than the puny Mushroom Kingdom, so your view of the action is zoomed out a bit to a giant map that represents the Marios’ journey. Along the way there are, for lack of a better term, ‘points of interest’ that you have to clear. These could be your run-of-the-mill stages, power-up huts, minigames for powerups or extra lives, wandering enemies, or the like. Once you decide to take one of them on, you zoom in to a closer-up view with lots more details, and you get a finer-grained control over your Bro. It actually reminds me a lot of Zelda II’s overworld/action stage mechanic. Your goal is to clear a path to the castle to see what hilarious creature the king has been transformed into, then hop aboard the Koopa Kid’s ship, and then give the Kooplet what-for. Once you do that, it’s on to the next stage… Er, I mean Kingdom.

Once you finally clear the world of the menace that is Bowser’s Spawn, you get a stunning revelation that while you were out dealing with Bowser’s kids that he’s gone and kidnapped the unguarded princess.

The nerve!

So you have to trek through one final world to defeat Bowser, rescue the Princess, and win the day… again. It’s pretty hackneyed, I know, but that doesn’t really make it any less entertaining.

Super Mario Bros. 3 would actually be first game that I’d ever play that was an import. I remember that it wasn’t supposed to come out over here in the States for months, yet a friend of mine got the sole rental copy at the local game import shop. The cartridge, since the Japanese Famicom has a different design than the original NES, was about half as long as a US cartridge, and that meant that, even with the adapter, it was still shoved quite far into the NES, and would have been impossible to remove, had someone not had the foresight to attach a ribbon on the thing.

We played that game obsessively, and after a few days he was able to finish it, though I wasn’t around to witness it. For that, I’d have to wait until I got my hands on a copy. The problem was, though, that the game was wildly popular, and was out on rental just about everywhere I went. The odd (or sometimes very odd) friend would find it on a rental and let me play it for a few minutes, but I never really could make what you’d call ‘progress’.

That all changed when another of my friends found a copy of the game in the alley behind my house. Then the game got passed around a little bit and I finally was able to put enough time, effort, and determination into it that, several months after its domestic release, I was able to wrest victory from the gaping maw of defeat.

I think it was the waiting around and getting little tastes of the game here and there that made the final victory all the more palpable for me. And, in fact, it’s a feeling that I haven’t quite managed to attain since, which is kind of disappointing.

Pokémon Puzzle Challenge

Friday, July 11th, 2008

It’s probably become pretty apparent by now that I enjoy a good game of Puzzle League, and a good Pokémon game, so when a game comes out that’s a fusion of them both, I just kind of have to give it a try.

Pokémon Puzzle Challenge is actually more like the Tetris Attack game for the Super NES than Pokémon Puzzle League for the Nintendo 64. But what that means is that this game looks to be nearly identical to the Super NES one, but with different characters and sound effects.

So what do you do in this game? You have your steadily-rising pile of multi-colored blocks and can move them left and/or right to try and line up three or more in a row. Match more than three or set off chain reactions and your opponent loses health. When it loses all of its health, then you win!

But the thing in this version is that you have different Pokémon to choose from, each one representing a different element in the Pokémon universe. If you pick a pokémon that has a type that its opponent is weak to, then your attacks do more damage, and you’ll win quicker. Pick the wrong one, though, and you’ll have to do a lot more chains and combos to win.

I played this game a fair bit, mostly because it was an update to the old Tetris Attack game that I had nearly worn out on my Game Boy, plus it was in glorious COLOR! Which made it pretty ideal for showing off my Game Boy Color, and for practicing up on my Puzzle League skills on the go. Which I find pretty important. You never really know when an impromptu game of Puzzle League can break out, so it pays to be prepared.

Super Mario Bros.

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Super Mario Bros. is the game that put millions of NES systems into homes and really made the Mario brothers household names. I understand that the game has sold somewhere in the neighborhood of forty million copies. Forty million! If I got one copy of the game per second, it’d take me just over 463 days to get that many. Not to mention the pile of cartridges in my back yard might be visible from space.

But do I really need to talk about a game with the kind of ubiquity that Super Mario Bros. enjoys? Absolutely!

Super Mario Bros. set the story for most of the Mario games to come after it. The princess is kidnapped by Bowser and the Mario brothers have to go rescue her. They do this by running (and sometimes swimming) to the right and utilizing their now world-famous jumping ability, and any powerups they can find along the way.

I’m going to assume that you’re familiar enough with this game, so I’m not going to feel any great need to go into too much detail about it.

But a lot of people regard this game as somewhat of a classic. You can hum a few bars of the main theme song and lots of people will immediately know what you’re singing, and probably sing along. Or they’ll tell you about how much fun that they had with the game. But if this game was released today, would it have the same status that it holds now? Would people have fawned over it and held it in such high regard.

I don’t think so.

But it was a very important game, and I think it’s aged pretty well. The gameplay still holds up. If you’ve never played the game before, it’s tough, but beatable. And, in fact, most times that your progress is impeded you can see where you screwed up, and are that much wiser for the next go ’round. Which means that when you start from the beginning of the game each time you get just a little further and a little further until you finish the game! Only to find out that there’s a bonus mode waiting for you where the game’s tougher and the enemies move faster, which is still fiendishly clever. And you don’t really get anything for clearing the harder mode other than the sense of accomplishment that you did it, but what do you want from an over-20-year-old game?

I think it’s probably out of cookies by now.


Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

I was a paperboy in my neighborhood for the better part of a year, and while I certainly weathered my fair share of hazards, there was nothing that quite compared to what I saw in the video game adaptation of my boyhood profession.

In the video game version of Paperboy you took control of some paperboy riding his bike on his route, and you have to deliver papers to your customers. And his route is just a straight, couple-of-blocks long street. Sounds pretty easy, right.

You don’t know how wrong you are.

Somehow this neighborhood is full of people, animals, and the occasional lawn mower all bent on keeping you from delivering the papers to your customers. Colliding with anything that’s not a bundle of papers (more on that in a second) and you’ll lose one of your chances. But you’re not completely defenseless, you can use your arsenal of tightly-rolled papers as weapons, refilling as you find paper bundles inexplicably strewn all over your street. Just make sure that you keep enough for your customers, they each need a paper on their doorstep, too. It’s actually a whole lot to think about.

You can also use your papers to break the windows and cause general destruction in the yards of the non-subscribers (hey, they’re not your customers, screw ‘em). If you do well, and you get papers to all your customers, then some of the non-subscribers will subscribe to the paper, but if you miss a few, you might lose a few customers, which means you get more windows to break. Kind of a win-win, really.

Of course, you also get to do this ‘training course’ at the end of each day’s route that’s, I guess, there to help you to hone your skills when you’re out doing your deliveries, but I just found that it was a way to liberate me from my quarters.

So, in short: this game is harder than a real paper route, and a little less lucrative.

Pokémon Sapphire

Friday, June 6th, 2008

With two Pokémon games under my belt that were fairly similar, why in the world would I want to play the next game in the series? Because I have some kind of compulsion to catch wild animals and make them fight for my amusement, I guess.

Pokémon Sapphire is a whole lot like the other games in the series so far. You take control of some kid that travels the world and tries to be the best Pokémon trainer in the world, oh, and possibly stop the machinations of a power-hungry group bent on world domination. The main differences being that you have a new landmass to explore, lots of new creatures to catch, you can play the game as a boy or a girl, and it’s on a new-fangled system, so it looks a lot prettier.

Yeah, the game’s a lot like the older games in the series, just refined a little more. There are a few additions here and there, like making berries, tag-team battles, and refinements to the breeding system, but it’s largely the same game. Which is fine by me, mostly because the concept was solid to start with, and each iteration just kind of polishes it up a little more.

Now does that explain how I’ve managed to while away over 120 hours at this game so far? Probably not, but that’s OK.

Castlevania: The Adventure

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

I’ve really liked most of the games in the Castlevania series, with the odd exception. So when I found out that the series was making its way to the Game Boy, my then pet gaming system, I immediately wanted it. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually have anything resembling an income at the time, so I had to wait until it made its way to my local used video game store, and then get it there for a pittance.

I don’t really know much about the story, other than Dracula has once again gone from being dead to not being dead, and you have to take the Belmont du jour to go and try to kill him again.

I’ve grown accustomed to Belmonts not being the most nimble folks in the world, but the Belmont in this game just seems, I don’t know, more plodding than most. He can barely run and jump, which is kind of a problem since there are several gigantic enemies that you have to try and avoid. And you’ll be able to, but only just, and only with pinpoint timing.

One of the things that’s kind of hard to convey in videos and screenshots is that the original GBA had a really smeary screen, which isn’t really that big of a problem until you have reasonably-detailed backgrounds like you do in this game. Then it becomes a big problem when you start to scroll the screen to the left and to the right and all of the backgrounds begin to blur so bad that they obscure absolutely everything on the screen, goodies, enemies, platforms, and everything. Then it gets real hard to figure out where you are, where the enemies are, and where the edges of bottomless pits are. Combine all three of those things and you have the makings of a fairly frustrating game. And, as a result of that, I never really made it much past stage 2 (out of 4!) before I decided to take it right back to the store I got it from.

Pokémon Silver

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

The original Pokémon game that I played was pretty fun, and I guess a few million people agreed with me. And what do you do when you have a wildly popular game? Why, make sequels of course!

Pokémon Silver (and Gold) is, essentially, the same as Pokémon Blue (and Red) with a couple of minor changes: it takes place in a new region to explore, the battle mechanics have been tweaked, there are several more creatures to fawn over, which can now breed somehow, and the landmass from the original game is included to go and explore.

The story is basically the same as the previous generation. You decide to set out in the world to become a Pokémon trainer, and along the way you cross paths with Team Rocket (still the bad guys) and foil whatever nefarious plans they concoct. But, ultimately, this game is largely the same as the older one. You still go around and have to find, capture, train, and fight your ultimate team of beasties and try to be the best.

I spent far too long with this game. The first one was really fun, and this one, being basically the same game but refined a little bit was just as fun. And since they put the people and places from the first game in this game, it just added icing to the cake. And the breeding thing? That was just weird, and you better believe that I spent hours upon hours mixing and matching Pokémon to create the ultimate team. Which I never was able to do, but I sure had fun trying.

Tetris DX

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

I was actually an owner of a Game Gear for a time, but its battery life of about fifteen minutes made its viability as a portable system kind of suffer. But a few years later I felt that hendheld color video game consoles had made enough progress that I could give it another shot, so I picked up a Game Boy Color. And even though the Game Boy Color could play all of my classic Game Boy games, I still wanted to get something to bask in the more-than-four-shades-of-greenish-grey screen. So I picked up a version of the old standby, Tetris, incarnated as Tetris DX.

This game is really just the same as the pack-in Tetris game I got with my original gigantic Game Boy in ‘89, but with little splashes of color everywhere and some slightly tweaked gameplay mechanics.

But I guess, as the saying goes, it wasn’t broken, so there was nothing to fix. You can still play endless mode until your brain and fingers just can’t keep up, or you can play “B Mode” where the playfield is drastically shortened. Or, if you were lucky enough to know someone with a Game Boy Color and this game and had the forethought to bring your link cable along, then some head-to-head action could be had.

It’s weird, every few years a new system will come out and eventually there will be a version of Tetris for it. Then I’ll inevitably pick it up and realize that I haven’t played the game in quite some time, which will lead to me losing far too many hours to it until the next system comes along and I pick up its version of Tetris.

I do sometimes wonder, though, how many times Nintendo can sell me the same game.

Dong Dong

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Dong Dong is the name of one of one of the unlockable games in the first Wario Ware game. Shockingly, there’s nothing pornographic about it or in it. What a waste of a name.

Dong Dong is played with two players on one system. You have these straw-things that move up and down and you have to try and nudge rocks out of the center column to crush your opposition while simultaneously nudging the rocks your opponent is nudging back in his direction. It’s all about timing.

There’s really not much more to it than that. You just have to have better timing than your opponent and then you win! Though I suppose it’s kind of nice that you can play two players with the same Game Boy, but you’re going to get a little cramped doing it if you go too long.

I played this game a couple of times and it was kind of fun for a while, but I really just wanted to bring up the game because the title sounds so… naughty.


Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

After Mario gets done saving the various lands scattered around his world, I guess he retires to his own land, Mario Land. Unfortunately for him, though, Wario, Mario’s long-time rival that nobody knew about, has taken over Mario’s castle and has hidden the six coins needed to open the castle’s door in the far reaches of Mario Land. So, in other words, it’s the same old song and dance, just without the princess to be saved.

But unlike the last Mario game, which was hardly like a Mario game at all, this one actually looks like it takes place in the Mario universe, which is a step forward, I guess.

So it’s typical Mario stuff, so if you like that kind of thing, and I certainly do, there’s plenty to like here. Even though Mario gets a set of rabbit ears that he can flap to allow him to kind of glide around. Which is kind of cute, I’ll grant, but a little strange.

The first time I played this game a friend and I tag-teamed it during a marathon gaming session. We managed to collect all the gold coins and unearth all of the secret stages in the game, but we never managed to make it through the final level. You might notice that this is a recurring theme of sorts around here. But this one was different!

This game I actually felt compelled to go out and purchase. Even though I had, in the space of one long evening, managed to unearth all of its secrets. Maybe I was lured in by the thought of being able to control Bunny Mario, or hopping into a bubble blown by a hippo on the beach to take me out to space, or the thought that I could finally topple Wario after getting so close and then being denied.

Any of those would be plausible.