May 5th, 2009
Game Boy Color Era
Compared to the original, black-and-white Game Boy, the Game Boy Color had a rather short life-span of about 3 years. As a sharp blow to my love of the portable, I never actually owned a GBC, despite the large number of titles that caught my attention. I don’t believe that I could afford it at the time. As I said in my previous musings on the system, the GBC in it’s short life span arguably had a line up better than the past decade of Game Boy titles, which made missing out all the more painful. I did make up for my absence due to the backwards compatible titles, and later playing catch up on the GBA.
The most standout title of the GBC years would undoubtedly be the Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Ages duo. Originally planned as a trilogy (completing the Din, Nayru, Farore arrangement), Seasons and Ages linked together two games, similar in structure, varying in mechanics. I played this title alongside my brother and a friend so that the three of us could unlock the whole experience. Ages was the more seasoned game, tougher puzzles being a key contributor but both games provided similarly high quality experiences. Capcom took the reigns of these title and did solid justice of the Zelda series, delivering a title to appease more hardened fans of the series.
During the GBC years I use to salvage titles that allowed B&W play, one of these titles was Pokemon Trading Card Game. Sure, it’s a Pokemon spin-off, but it was a bloody good card game too. My brother and I first rented this title (we didn’t rent games that often, mind you) and finished the title as a pair, only to buy the title a few weeks later and finish it individually. I personally detest trading card games, they’re stupid, money-spinning time-wasters, yet TCG I liked, really liked. Even though the game is built around a deck of cards, I never mentally put the two together, which probably explains why I enjoyed it so much. There was no fat to it, go to gym, battle moochers until you reach the gym leader, beat him, go to next gym – it was all about the card battles. I also remember the music being really intense, particularly in important battles, when the bass is rolling and cards are being shuffled, you know this game means business.
Polished in almost every way, the Mario sports series (Mario Tennis and Mario Golf) are both excellent examples of wholesome gaming experiences. Both titles thoughtfully translate these sports into digital equivalents, layer it with content and combine the package in an RPG shell. Golf uses a two-touch bar system where one first lines up a moving power bar, to then again line up the retraction for accuracy. It’s a simple system that works to great effect. The polish is what makes it shine though, smart course designs, a range of clubs and additional spin mechanics vary the experience. Tennis is more or less basic tennis, with effects added to the ball dependent on which buttons pressed. There’s a slight strategy involved in managing the three types of shots, four if you include volleys. The RPG contexts flesh out a storyline and give the game a sense of progression, and something to do outside of the sport itself. They’re a hub to access the gracious amounts of additional training courses and challenges. The Game Boy Advance versions are also well worth a look, even if they are remakes/highly derivative.
Pokemon Gold/Silver still maintained my interest, although by that stage I found myself enjoying the adventure less, it lacked the sense of familiarity that the previous games had. I often found myself unsure on how to progress and which Pokemon I ought to adopt into my party. The series had become too ahead of itself. The Donkey Kong Country port to the GBC was impressive, although hardly worth playing over SNES original, the mini-games and additional content were slick but felt too attached to DK 64 which we won’t discuss. In the past year I also picked up Perfect Dark and enjoyed that quite a bit. It’s a string of interesting set pieces, the standard action was a little clumsy due to the low resolution tightening the amount of visual lead way, but overall it was a very solid, sophisticated little brother to the N64 game.