Monday, April 21, 2014

Game Boy Turns 25: Our Favorite Games

Today, April 21, 2014, Nintendo's successful Game Boy originally released. Since then, the Game Boy line has sold over 200 million units in total, and has single-handily built Nintendo's portable empire, beating every competitor that tried to dethrone the handheld king (even more technologically advanced hardware). Since the Game Boy is now 25, does this mean that the Game Boy should be referred to as the Game Man? Holy cow, that joke was terrible.

Anyway, the staff here at SuperPhillip Central would like to take this special date and anniversary to look back at some of our favorite titles for Nintendo's handheld wonder, sometimes sharing some of our personal memories of these games. If you have any titles from the original Game Boy that you have fond memories of, please share with the community in the comments below.

- Super Mario Land
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

The first Super Mario Land game is rather strange. There's an absence of recurring Mario enemies, and even Bowser and his perpetual prisoner Princess Peach are nowhere to be found. Instead, Mario ventures outside the borders of the Mushroom Kingdom to Sarasaland in hopes of saving Princess Daisy, in her debut game. It's also the only mainline Mario game to include her in the cast. Super Mario Land featured capable platforming, bizarre vehicle segments (but they were by no means bad), and a challenging enough difficulty to keep new Game Boy systems owners a lot to come back to.

- Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

While Super Mario Land introduced Tatanga as the one time villain of the series, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins introduced the world to Wario. Not only that, but 6 Golden Coins featured a nonlinear game progression, quite unlike Super Mario Land. After the initial opening stage, Mario could visit one of six zones surrounding his shanghaied castle in any order. Once all of the bosses of each zone surrendered their given golden coin to Mario, the portly plumber could enter the castle, participate in a crazy difficulty jump of a level, and retake his home from Wario. Super Mario Land 2 improved the visuals immensely in comparison to its predecessor, and the results were nothing less than spectacular.

- Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

It wasn't enough that Wario had to steal Mario's castle from him. In 1994 he went ahead and stole his rival's own series from him! Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 was the first game of the Wario Land series, and obviously it starred everyone's eventual favorite nose-picking, butt-scratching, fart-unleashing, garlic-eating plumber in an entirely new platforming adventure. Wario Land featured a new means of attacking: ground pounds, charges, chucking foes into other enemies, and more. Of the Super Mario Land games, the third installment unquestionably had the most replay value, with its secret levels, hidden treasures, and different ending castles for Wario that depend on how much coinage players gathered. Wario's debut starring role was a force to be reckoned with... just like one of his farts.

- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes (The DX version)

There was nothing quite like getting an expansive world to explore like The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening's Koholint Island. The fact that you had a Zelda game with the same echelon of content as a Super Nintendo title, A Link to the Past, was mind-blowing to many. Sure, we take this for granted nowadays, as handhelds have improved exponentially over the years, but Link's Awakening is one of a prestigious group of Game Boy games that simply stand the test of time. Its unique combination of items, side quests, and areas like towns and dungeons to explore allowed players to become fully consumed by Koholint Island and its many wonders.

- Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow
On 3DS Virtual Console: No

I remember reading about something called "Pocket Monsters" in an issue of Nintendo Power. The two page or so article showed the series of games launching in Japan and the ensuing ruckus that followed. A year later, I received a video tape in the mail from the magazine, all about Pokemon. When the games hit North America, I was in middle school, and I was completely immersed into the series. I played the games like an addict, I watched the anime, I collected the playing cards, and I even drew my own comic books based on the franchise. 15 years later and the Pokemon series is still going strong. I might not have anywhere near the amount of attachment to the series as I once had, but I can't fathom ever disliking it.

- Tetris
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

Before Wii Sports, there was a game that introduced plenty of non-gamers to the gaming side for just a brief moment. It was a bona fide system seller for many, and once players of all ages got their hands on it, minutes turned to hours in quick fashion. This Russian-made concept was simple: falling blocks of seven different shapes (five, if you don't count mirrored shapes) fell slowly from the top of the screen to the bottom. The goal was to piece blocks together to form a complete line, thus eliminating those blocks and giving the player points. Tetris has since had multiple ports and iterations on essentially every platform under the sun, and has gone on to sell over 170 million copies, most of which are digital. To say that Tetris is the most prolific puzzle game around would be no understatement whatsoever.

- Metroid II: Return of Samus
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

Samus Aran made her second appearance in Metroid II: Return of Samus. Her objective this time around was to eliminate every specie of Metroid on a harsh planet. Along the way Samus would uncover upgrades and abilities to increase the number of areas she could traverse in. While it's true that like the original Metroid before it, making a map is certainly helpful due to all of the identical-looking corridors and rooms, Metroid II: Return of Samus was still a fantastic first portable entry for Nintendo's femme fatale.

- Donkey Kong Land I-III
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes (Japan Only, save for III)

You might scoff and sneer at the visuals of the Donkey Kong Land series today, but back then the trilogy wowed Game Boy owners with its impressive graphics. The original Donkey Kong Land implemented nearly everything concept-wise from the Super Nintendo's Donkey Kong Country. However, the levels and worlds were entirely different. Even new enemies showed up that were exclusive to that game. The sequels of Donkey Kong Land would utilize similar stories to their SNES counterparts, but the levels would be designed differently, despite sharing the same names. While the games haven't aged as gracefully as many of the other games on this list, we still hold a fondness for Rare's portable Donkey Kong Land trilogy.

- Donkey Kong
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

Not a straight up port of the popular arcade game but an entirely new challenging puzzle platformer, Donkey Kong released on the original Game Boy in 1994. While its first four levels were modeled after the four levels of the arcade game, once those were completed, the game showed its stuff. Levels consisted of Mario jumping, climbing, and hanging through obstacle-laden courses, with the goal of finding and carrying a key to a locked door somewhere in the level. The amount of new gameplay concepts constantly kept this 1994 version of Donkey Kong from becoming stale. The Game Boy Donkey Kong remains one of the best puzzle platformers ever devised, and if you're looking for a more recent take on the genre (but only after you've played this Game Boy game, of course), check out the Game Boy Advance's Mario vs. Donkey Kong.

- Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

Pit returned to gaming with the Game Boy's Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters. The game was a marked improvement over its NES predecessor. For one, the challenge was more reasonable and fair. Climbing up the vertical levels and accidentally falling did not usually mean a lost life. Going off the screen at the bottom didn't kill you. Instead, the screen scrolled with you like a typical platformer. Of Myths and Monsters contained multi-room dungeons set up like labyrinths to keep players engaged and exploring. It was a shame that we didn't get to see the Kid Icarus franchise return to the public eye until decades later with Pit's appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and his first starring role in 20 years with the 3DS' Kid Icarus: Uprising (great game, by the way).

- Kirby's Dream Land 2 
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

One of the hardest classic Kirby games is right here-- Kirby Dream Land 2. The game was a much longer game than what Game Boy owners had previously seen of the Kirby franchise. It implemented multiple animal pals to help Kirby in his adventure, and offered optional collectibles to unlock an alternate ending to the game. The real challenge came from keeping the necessary ability to unlock the way to said optional collectibles. Kirby's Dream Land 2 was a terrific title to give players who mock the difficulty of the Kirby series.

- Mole Mania
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes

Shigeru Miyamoto was the brainchild behind this puzzle game. Mole Mania had players controlling (if it wasn't already obvious) a mole, as they played through eight worlds, venturing between the surface and burrowing underground in order to solve puzzles and make progress through the game. Mole Mania was deceptively simple at first, but even then, the concept was recognizably clever right from the start. Later worlds introduced harder puzzles, new mechanics, and plenty of head-scratching gameplay for all players of all skill levels to enjoy. It's about time we see a return to this game. You listening, Nintendo?!

- Final Fantasy Legend series
On 3DS Virtual Console: No

The Final Fantasy Legend series gave players an RPG adventure that was as meaty as a Behemoth. An embarrassment of class, equipment, and ability riches were available for players to outfit their characters in a myriad of means to best suit their play style. Although the three games of the series were obviously a little watered down compared to their console brethren, Final Fantasy Legend was an incredibly capable and competent RPG to engrossed in either on the go or at home.

- Mega Man V
On 3DS Virtual Console: Yes (Japan Only)

The wholly original Mega Man game for the Game Boy was Mega Man V. It had all original levels and Robot Masters to contend with, each based on a planet of the Solar System. The fifth and final Game Boy installment also showcased a new means of attack for Mega Man, the Mega Arm. Throughout the game, Mega Man could return to Dr. Light's laboratory to purchase items with special chips that were sprinkled about the game's eight initial levels. Also new was the ability to select from all eight stages upon the beginning of the game instead of just four at first (and then once those were completed, the other four opened up). Mega Man V may be only available on Japan's Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console service, but next month Capcom is releasing a slew of Mega Man games, including Mega Man V, for the service here in North America.

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