Boy: Classic Arcade Ports
outgunned by the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear in terms of color palette, lighting,
screen size, and sheer processing power, the original Game Boy trounced the
competition in the category that mattered most to Nintendo: unit sales. The
success was driven by good marketing, a relatively long battery life, and the console’s
killer app, Tetris, as well as such ubiquitous titles as Super Mario Land, Dr. Mario, Kirby’s Dream Land, and the various Pokémon games.
The Game Boy also
benefitted from an assortment of classic arcade ports. Since I grew up in the
arcades of the late ’70s and early ’80s, I thought it would be fun to check out
some Game Boy versions of early coin-op classics. One game I left off the list
is BurgerTime Deluxe, since it adds a word to the title (it’s a great game, by
the way). Some of these games were also ported to the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance in varying forms, but I’m focusing strictly on the original Game
Arcade Classic No.
1: Asteroids/Missile Command
This combo cart includes
two solid ports that fans of the respective games will find little fault with.
Asteroids offers three levels of difficulty and the ability to play using
classic or updated graphics, the latter of which feature spinning, textured
rocks similar to those found in Blasteroids. Missile Command has two missile
silos instead of three, but it offers something new: a variety of recognizable
cities to protect, including New York and Cairo, Egypt. In terms of audio, the
games do a relatively good job of evoking the original titles, especially the
warning signal that begins each level in Missile Command and the deep
explosions found in Asteroids. Music, which was absent in the original games,
and coin-op-style borders, which appear when the games are played on the Super
Game Boy, have been added to enhance the overall experience. Missile Command
was also released separately, but without Super Game Boy enhancements.
Arcade Classic No.
You know the
drill: maneuver your firing implement along the bottom ¼ or so of the screen,
firing upward at insects, including a centipede or millipede that twists and
turns its way down a mushroom field. Of course, the Game Boy lacks a trackball
for precise, arcade-style action, but controls work pretty well using the
d-pad. Unfortunately, the games are much slower than their coin-op
counterparts. The cartridge is compatible with the Super Game Boy, which lets
you add framed backgrounds designed to resemble the original arcade cabinets.
There was also a version of Centipede sold by itself that was compatible with
the Link Cable for two-player simultaneous action.
Arcade Classic No.
action on your Game Boy, this time of the “slide-and-shoot” (an old term used
by Electronic Games magazine) variety. With both of these fixed screen
shooters, you guide your ship along the bottom of the playfield, firing away at
formations of enemies up above. Unlike Space Invaders, the enemies tend to
break apart from the pack and dive-bomb your ship. As with Centipede/Millipede,
these two games are similar to one another. Galaga is one of the most popular
arcade games of all time, and it’s ported very well here (yes, you can double
up your ships for added firepower). Galaxian is more of a forgotten classic,
but it’s also fun, if less versatile than Galaga. Play on the Super Game Boy
for added color and a more arcade-like experience.
Arcade Classic No.
Once again, two
classic arcade games are featured on a single cartridge. Both are decent ports
that offer several Game Boy-specific features, including rapid fire in Defender
and the thumb-saving (though less-than-graceful) rapid flap in Joust. Also,
both games have music (which can be turned off, thankfully), but the noisy,
grating firing sounds in Defender mask the tunes much of the time. Only Joust
offers an updated mode, which is augmented by scrolling screens and detailed
(relatively speaking) backgrounds. When played using the Super Game Boy, the
games are semi-colorful and are framed by arcade-like borders.
While I don’t like
it quite as much as Mr. Do!
, Dig Dug is one of my favorite games of all time. The
version ported to the Game Boy has a slightly scrolling playfield due to the
small screen, but it’s serviceable for the platform and certainly playable.
What’s interesting about the cartridge is that it includes a second game called
New Dig Dug. Once again, you tunnel underground, blowing up enemies with a pump
while creating your own maze pathways, but this “adventure” mode, which
features an unlimited number of enemies, has you collecting keys in order to
exit the level. It also has bombs, which is always a good thing.
The first four
screens in Donkey Kong are similar to those of the original arcade game, and the
game even features animated musical intermissions. However, beginning with
screen five, puzzle elements come into play as gamers must gather disappearing
keys to unlock doors of hidden rooms and pick up and move sections of road and
ladder for use in accessing vital sections of the playfield. At the end of each
of the game's ten stages of play (each stage containing ten puzzles), players
must throw barrels and trash cans at Donkey Kong and other enemies, while
finding clever ways to beat the bosses. Adding to the greatness of the game is
that Mario acquires new skills as he progresses, including high jumps,
handstands, and rope spins. The first cartridge to be specially designed for
the Super Game Boy, Donkey Kong is a graphically sound, brilliantly challenging
game that requires careful planning and strategy as well as dexterity for the
player to succeed. Kudos to Nintendo for not taking the easy route by simply
cranking out a remake of the original.
Lock 'N Chase
As with Donkey Kong, Lock 'N Chase for the
Game Boy is even better than its coin-op counterpart. It has more textured
graphics, cuter characters, an assortment of level designs, and deeper gameplay
elements, including doors that warp you to other areas of the maze. The game is
similar to Pac-Man, but instead of ghosts following you through the corridors
and alleyways, cops are on your tail, and instead of eating dots, you gather up
coins. Your ultimate goal is to steal the African Star Diamond, which you won't
reach until the end of the sixth and final level. Another difference between
this game and Pac-Man is your ability to place temporary locks in the mazes to
block enemies. Instead of power pills, there are diamonds and magic bags which
turn you invincible and freeze the cops (respectively). The screen scrolls, but
I don’t mind in this case. At the end of each stage, you can play a bonus round
slot machine. If you’ve only played the arcade game and/or the popular Intellivision
port, check this out—it’s excellent.
As many of my readers
and YouTube subscribers
know, Mr. Do! is my favorite game of all time
I love the simple, yet strategy-filled and surprisingly deep gameplay of the
tunnel digging, monster avoiding action. The playfield in the Game Boy version scrolls
to account for the small screen, making the game more frustrating and less
enjoyable than the original. Pausing the action lets players view the entire
play area, but this disrupts the flow of the game. Other variances in the
handheld rendition include moving diamonds, uglier monsters, different
playfield layouts, and an original, less memorable musical score. Thankfully,
you can still spell out EXTRA for bonus lives. Gameplay retains the basic cherry
harvesting, monster bashing (with a ball you throw) charm that made the coin-op
classic so endearing, so it is playable.
Ms. Pac-Man is one
of the most popular video games of all time. In fact, you can still find it in
bars, restaurants, and of course retro arcades. The Game Boy port features
arcade mode and hard mode, the latter of which has faster moving ghosts. The
screen scrolls to show the entire maze, but you can switch to full screen mode
to show the entire playfield at once. This makes it really small, so using the
Super Game Boy or Game Boy Player is recommended for this mode. The ghosts all
look the same since the graphics lack color, but they of course do behave
differently. Intermissions are included, and you can compete simultaneously
with a friend or alternate turns through the magic of the link cable, a cool peripheral
that was underappreciated by many Game Boy owners. The game is slower than its
coin-op counterpart, but certainly playable.
in the fall of 1980, shortly after it came out, at a convenience store
near my junior high school. I would play before and after school and sometimes
during (don’t tell my mom or my former teachers). The Game Boy port recreates
the legendary coin-op game well enough to give me nostalgic feels, right down
to the memorable music during the animated intermissions. As with Ms. Pac-Man,
the ghosts look the same since the GB lacks color, but they move in different
patterns. Also the same is the wide gray vertical bar on the side showing fruit
level indicator and your score, taking up valuable screen space. Another
similarity is that you can play with a scrolling screen or a tiny non-scrolling
maze. When I play Pac-Man
on a Nintendo console, I opt for the NES version using
the NES Advantage joystick, but if you want to play Pac-Man on the go, this
makes it doable.
As the title
implies, this game puts you in the role of a paperboy, peddling your bike down
the street, delivering newspapers. While on your route, you must dodge traffic,
tornadoes, break dancers, overhanging trees, vicious dogs, and other obstacles.
As you steer your bike along the road, your primary goal is to throw the
newspapers in the paperboxes of the subscribers. Also, you can earn extra points
by throwing the papers at enemies such as workmen and the Grim Reaper and by
breaking out the windows of nonsubscribers. At the end of each delivery
session, you enter a special bonus round called the Paperboy Training Course
wherein you toss your papers at targets while avoiding obstacles. As with Atari’s
original coin-op classic, the playfield is isometric (like Zaxxon). The
game is similar to the NES port, but the playfield has simply been cropped (as
opposed to redesigned) to fit the small Game Boy screen, making it difficult
and unenjoyable to play.
I enjoyed Q*bert
in the arcades, but I especially liked Q*bert on the PlayStation
and Q*bert 3
for the Super Nintendo
. I loved how they took the basic formula, where you
guide the title character as he hops on blocks to change them to the target
color, and added new cube formations instead of just a repeating pyramid.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered the Game Boy port also deviates from the
formula by providing Q*bert new playfields to conquer. Since the Game Boy
screen lacks color, the developers compensated by giving the cubes such designs
as checkboard, ice, cement, lidded box, and wood. There are even discs to jump
on. Voice effects, music, and new enemies add to the fun.
With its small
screen and limited audio/visual capabilities, the Game Boy is a good home for
, the ingeniously simplistic arcade game where you draw straight lines to form
shapes in order to fill in screen space. In addition to a solid port of the
original, this version of the game offers link-up capabilities in which players
take turns within the same field, trying to claim the greatest percentage of
area. One player is Mario
while the other is Luigi, though your drawing
implement remains a simple diamond shape. Turn-based Qix with Nintendo
characters? Yeah, it’s a thing. Who knew? Now that you know, go play it!
With the possible
exceptions of Tetris and Qix, Space Invaders is the ideal title to adapt to the
Game Boy. The simplicity of the gameplay and the short time it takes to play a
full round are perfectly suited for on-the-go gaming and the limitations of the
venerable handheld system. This port solidly reconstructs the 1978 coin-op
classic on the tiny Game Boy screen and even lets players go at it head-to-head
via cable linkup. However, the game doesn't truly shine until played via the
Super Game Boy, which provides an incredibly faithful arcade experience in
terms of graphics, coloring, gameplay, sound effects and borders.