Welcome to the second volume of Flashback, a column in which we pay tribute to the games of yesteryear with original artwork and retrospectives. This edition is all about the Game Boy and Game Boy Color. Nintendo’s original handheld and its color-enhanced counterpart saw a slew of great titles, and we have both chosen two of our favorites. They may not necessarily be the absolute best games on the system, but they are the ones that shaped our childhood and further solidified us as gamers. Enjoy!
Jose’s Pick: Kirby’s Dream Land
The very first Game Boy game that I ever played, Kirby’s Dream Land, left a very big impression on me. I would play this game for hours and hours until I was either forced to stop or the battery died. Simply put, there was nothing that I did not like about this game. The music was very catchy (to this day, some of the tunes still top my lists of favorite video game tracks), and the simple design of the characters made them instantly likable. The game itself may have been in the shorter end, but that was something that I liked about it. Whenever I wanted to experience the whole game again, I could do so in about an hour and not get tired of it.
Kirby’s Dream Land felt like platforming taken to another level. In the Super Mario series, there was running and jumping on enemies as the core mechanic. In Kirby’s world, you flew and used enemies as the projectiles for attacking other enemies. It was fresh and most of all, fun! If the game was not challenging enough for you, beating the game would unlock a harder version that satisfied that difficulty itch. Thanks to this game, I have followed Kirby through just about all of his amazing adventures and will keep doing so until this puffball is all out of air.
Jose’s Pick: Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble
Out of all of Nintendo’s franchises, Kirby is definitely used most to experiment with new gameplay ideas. From the moment that I first saw the commercial for Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble, I knew that I had to own it. How could you not want a game where you control Kirby like he was a marble resting atop your Game Boy Color? The game delivered as advertised and did not disappoint one bit. Even the cartridge looked great with its pink translucent casing and slightly bigger top. If there is one thing I learned the hard way about this game, it’s that you should not play it in a car. The game already provides enough challenging gameplay as it is, so external interferences should be avoided at all costs.
Something about tilting the Game Boy Color and watching Kirby roll all over the place was very satisfying to watch. Besides tilting, the only other control was quickly lifting the handheld towards you to make Kirby jump. This jumping control only helped to further immerse me in a game where control over the character already felt more direct than simply pressing buttons. Plus, the music was great and the visuals were vibrant and clear. I would really like to see a remake or modern sequel to Tilt ‘n’ Tumble, potentially for 3DS. Or better yet, bring it to Wii U. If Nintendo Land’s Donkey Kong’s Crash Course has taught me anything, it’s that the Wii U GamePad offers the best gyro controls to date, making it a perfect fit for this motion-controlled Kirby spinoff.
Jason’s Pick: Pokemon Silver Version
You’re hyped for the first major sequel in the Pokemon franchise. There are three days to go before launch and you’re counting down not by day, but by hour. The phone rings. It’s Software Etc. and your eagerly anticipated, fully paid-off preorder of Pokemon Silver Version not only arrived early, but is already ready for pick up. You race over to the store right after school, pick up your game, and next thing you know, you entered the world of Johto a full 72 hours before the rest of North America. This was my experience and arguably one of the most exciting moments of my childhood. Not just because I got the game early, but because it turned out to become one of my favorite Game Boy games ever.
Pokemon Silver (and its Gold sibling) improved on the original Red and Blue in every possible way. There were new Pokemon to capture, a new world to explore, and new gameplay mechanics that put a fresh spin on the series. The real-time clock made me play the game at all hours of the day and night in hopes of catching specific Pokemon. The enhanced Pokegear item helped me chase down legendary Pokemon like Raikou when I wasn’t being pestered by Trainer Joey’s cellphone calls about his Rattata. The introduction of Steel and Dark types, the ability for Pokemon to hold items, and the ability to breed Pokemon all led to new strategies and team formations. Throw in the full-color graphics (a first for the franchise) and you’ve got a Pokemon game that not only met the expectations of this Pokemon fan, but exceeded them. Yes, it was that good.
Jason’s Pick: Pokemon Puzzle Challenge
The Game Boy Color was a bit of a Pokemon spinoff machine. It was home to the digital version of the Pokemon Trading Card Game aptly called Pokemon Trading Card Game, the pinball take on Pokemon aptly called Pokemon Pinball, and the Pokemon puzzle game aptly called Pokemon Puzzle Challenge. Unoriginal naming aside, all of these games were top notch, but a particular favorite of mine was Pokemon Puzzle Challenge. Much like Pokemon Gold and Silver, the game sent players on a quest to defeat all eight Johto gym leaders. This time, however, the battles played out through the match-three puzzle gameplay found in Nintendo’s Panel de Pon franchise.
Pokemon Puzzle Challenge was released alongside Pokemon Puzzle League for the Nintendo 64, which infused that same match-three gameplay with the imagery and sounds of the Pokemon TV show. Puzzle Challenge, on the other hand, went in an entirely different direction with a unique art style, six different gameplay modes, and a focus on the Pokemon of Gold and Silver. The single-player mode followed players as they battled other trainers, which essentially meant wiping out the opponent’s health bar by completing block combos and clearing garbage pieces that would appear whenever the opponent made a combo. The further you got in the game, the more Pokemon you would unlock to represent you as you out-puzzled opponents. It was a fun take on the typical match-three game that featured plenty of personality. Plus, you know it was good since Intelligent Systems was the developer. Now that they’re done with Fire Emblem Awakening for 3DS, it’s time to convince them to make a sequel to Pokemon Puzzle Challenge!
Want more Flashback? Check out Vol. 1 – Super NES and stay tuned for more to come!