Chocolate bunnies are nice and all, but the Gameboy also turned 30 this Easter. While I believe Nintendo tends to get a lot more credit than it often deserves, even I can’t understate the importance of this handheld. It was a monumental leap forward for portable gaming, and while it wasn’t the first to feature stand-alone cartridges, it was arguably the first handheld to bring a console-like experience on the road. Since I was spoiled rotten…I had the luxury of playing Gameboy on the big screen thanks to the Gamecube’s Gameboy Player adapter and because they were considerably cheaper than GBA or DS games…I wound up with plenty of games for the system. Here are some of my favorites:
Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land
I’ve always believed the Wario games to be far more entertaining than most of the standard Mario offerings, be it on Game-Boy or somewhere else. There is considerably more incentive to replay this one in particular due to the multiple endings and 20 or so hidden treasures to discover. The gameplay may be slower paced, but there is simply more to do on a first run as well as repeat playthroughs.
Donkey Kong ’94
Perhaps one of my favorite “got’cha” moments in gaming is when this spiritual successor to the arcade classic tricks you into thinking you’re simply going to be playing a straight port. Instead, you’re going on an 8 world long quest to rescue Mario’s other girlfriend that he doesn’t tell Peach about. This puzzle/platformer expands on the arcade game’s formula with throw-able items a la Super Mario Bros.2, keys, levers, timed platforms and ledges you need to place strategically and much more. You still die in one hit, but fortunately Mario’s learned to survive plunges that are greater than 1 CM from the ground. The game teaches you these mechanics not only with its level-design, but also during the short animations that play in between “boss” levels which was a nice touch.
Ever wanted to be that smug bastard that flies around erratically and sends knights packing? Gargoyle’s Quest allows you to be one of gaming’s most notorious enemies- none other than the red devil from the Ghosts n Goblins franchise. Half RPG, half side-scrolling action/platformer, this game sees you taking control of Firebrand as he takes on an army that’s invading the Ghoul Realm. Once you run him off a cliff as payback for all the hell he may have caused you in the canon games, you’ll find that this one is really ambitious and while the overhead sections are a bit basic with all the Engrish and random battles, the side-scrolling sections are quite solid and worth sticking around for. There thankfully isn’t a “where the hell do I go?” situation to be had in this game thanks to how simple they kept the RPG elements and lack of overly-cryptic hints, which I like.
It seems like the Game Boy software library has a knack for quality spin-offs if the previous entries are of any indication, and that pattern continued with Kid Dracula– a spin off of the Castlevania series. This is actually a sequel to a Famicom-only game of the same name and sees you playing as a young Alucard as he attempts to re-learn all of the spells he’s forgotten since his last adventure and dispatch a monster known as Garamoth. The game itself plays similar to Mega-Man sans the stage-select mechanic and does a good job of being a sort of lite-version of those titles. It’s cute and a bit on the easy side but well worth checking out. The cartridge itself is quite expensive these days, so emulation will most likely be your best bet if you’re not a hardcore collector. In addition, it’s worth noting that the original (Famicom) Kid Dracula will be making its way onto the Castlevania Anniversary Collection on May 16.
Quite frankly, I hope we’ll see a third entry in this smaller series. If handled by a developer like Wayforward (who’s known for putting cute monsters in their games at this point), I think a Kid Dracula 3 could be something special.