Pacing the Cage

All about old-school video games. Reviews, lists and more.

Archive for the ‘Game Boy’ Category

The Evolution of Donkey Kong

Posted by ptcgaming on May 1, 2009

Clockwise, from top left: "Donkey Kong" (arcade, 1981); "Donkey Kong Junior" (arcade, 1982); "Donkey Kong 64" (N64, 1999); and "Donkey Kong Country" (SNES, 1994)
Clockwise, from top left: “Donkey Kong” (arcade, 1981); “Donkey Kong Junior” (arcade, 1982); “Donkey Kong 64” (N64, 1999); and “Donkey Kong Country” (SNES, 1994)


For the man responsible for such series as “The Legend of Zelda” and “Star Fox,” it all started with a carpenter, a damsel in distress and a very large ape. “Donkey Kong” (1981) was Shigeru Miyamoto’s first video game creation, one that has spawned several sequels and remains a Nintendo staple even today.
The premise of the original “Donkey Kong” was simple: Donkey Kong kidnapped a woman (now known as Pauline), and it was up to a carpenter named Jumpman (now known as a plumber named Mario) to save her. Two sequels were spun off the original: 1982’s “Donkey Kong Junior,” still to this day the only video game where Mario plays the villain, and 1983’s “Donkey Kong 3,” a game more practice for the Orkin Man than a platformer (You actually have to spray bugs with bug spray).
There was then a lull in new DK video game production until 1994, when “Donkey Kong Country” was released for the Super NES. DKC was the first game in the series not produced or directed by Miyamoto (it was developed by video game developer Rare), but was still revolutionary in its use of pre-rendered 3D graphics. Also, the series took on a new format by switching from a static-screen design to side-scrolling levels, more along the lines of the “Super Mario Bros.” series.
In 1999, Rare released “Donkey Kong 64” for the Nintendo 64, a full-3D platformer similar to “Super Mario 64.” This was the first game to require the N64’s Expansion Pak, which provided more RAM for enhanced graphics and environments.
In between DKC and DK64, several other titles in the series were released for both consoles and handhelds, including: “Donkey Kong Country 2” (1995); “Donkey Kong Land” (1995); “Donkey Kong Country 3” (1996); “Donkey Kong Land 2” (1996); “Donkey Kong Land 3” (1997); and “Diddy Kong Racing” (1997).

Posted in Arcade, Evolution, Game Boy, N64, SNES | 1 Comment »

Our Favorite Games: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Posted by ptcgaming on September 19, 2008

Platform: Nintendo Game Boy, Game Boy Color Released: 1993, 1998 (DX version)
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was one case of a game undergoing a dramatic face lift, and all for the better. Originally released in 1993 to rave reviews on the original monochrome Game Boy, its DX version was released for the Game Boy Color five years later. The DX version not only added full color to the entire game, but also added a couple new features only available when playing on a GBC. This game veered away from a few typical Zelda concepts: Link’s quest doesn’t take place in Hyrule, there is no Triforce, Ganon isn’t the main boss and, aside from one mention at the beginning of the game, Zelda isn’t included in the game at all. Instead, a shipwrecked Link wakes up on Koholint Island, and the only way off the island is to wake the Wind Fish, who is sleeping inside an egg on top of a mountain (Don’t look at me, I didn’t write the story). To wake said Wind Fish, Link must gather eight instruments, which (keeping to Zelda tradition) must be obtained by fighting his way through eight dungeons, each with a main boss at the end. There were a couple things I found strange about this game: For one, several characters from the Super Mario Bros. series make appearances in the game. Secondly, I was very disappointed in the ending to this game (but I won;t spoil it for you). Nevertheless, if you love Zelda, but get tired of having to kill Ganon all the time, give Link’s Awakening a try.

On a side note, this is the final entry for the “Our Favorite Games” series at this time. I hope you have enjoyed this look back at some of the most popular games from yesteryear. I plan to have another “Favorites” series sometime later on, so if you have any suggestions on what games you’d like to have featured then, your suggestions are always welcome. Thanks again for reading!

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Madden before the monopoly: Part II

Posted by ptcgaming on August 8, 2008

Madden 97 for the Nintendo Game Boy gave you most of the elements found in its large-console brothers, the key word being most.

Since the new Madden is game will be soon released to the public, and because I’ve reviewed the other two football games I own for the Nintendo Game Boy, I figured I’d go ahead and take a look back at Madden 97. But instead of breaking the game down by graphics, sound, etc., I’m just going to give you a “What I like/don’t like” rundown. The game was released in 1996, the same year the series made its debut on the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. Other consoles, such as the Genesis and SNES, also featured this title.

What I like: This game is all retro Madden and reminds me of my favorite Madden, John Madden Football ’93 for the Sega Genesis. From the vertical, top-down gameplay to the use of passing windows, this game is old-school. Even though this is a Game Boy title, it still features the complex offensive and defensive playbooks featured throughout the series. There are some stats available for viewing during gameplay. Cutscenes and sound bytes featuring the referees and crowd are also present. And I really like the little dances players do when the score.

What I don’t like: Notice the title of the game is “Madden 97” and not “Madden NFL 97,” meaning the game doesn’t feature actual team names (only cities, like in Tecmo Bowl) or player names (only numbers). Also, it took me quite some time to differentiate what was actually the ball (which is abnormally huge) and what was actually the shadow under the ball. Passes fly through the sky in slow-motion, and punts by the computer have a hang time in the 8-second range, as if you’re playing football on the Moon. And since it’s built on the Game Boy platform preGBA, you have to keep track of the medieval password save system to keep a season going.

If you’re going to play this one, I’d highly suggest doing so using a Super Game Boy or Game Boy Player. My Game Boy Player gives the title screens and menus a green tint and the in-game screens a blue one, unlike the screenshot above. If not, you may have trouble seeing so many players on the screen at the same time. If you don’t necessarily need Madden to get you video game football fix, then I’d suggest finding a copy of Tecmo Bowl instead.

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Retro Game Review: Tecmo Bowl

Posted by ptcgaming on August 7, 2008

Even though Tecmo Bowl for the Nintendo Game Boy was small, it was still better than no Tecmo Bowl at all!

Platform: Nintendo Game Boy
Released: 1991
Developer: Tecmo, of course!

Background: Duh, na, na, na, na, na, nadum, dum…Duh, na, na, na, na, na, na… it’s Tecmo Bowl! Yes, fans, it’s that game we all wasted many a summer afternoons playing one another, hating your best buddy because he picked L.A. and ran all over you with Bo Jackson. Your only solace was you had the Giants and blocked every kick with Lawrence Taylor. In 1991, Tecmo released this classic in portable form for the Nintendo Game Boy. The game was essentially the exact same game as the NES version released a few years earlier with a few tweaks, the most obvious being the monochrome screen, the score and clock being located under the player names instead of in between and some sound issues, which I’ll go through later. Licensing allowed Tecmo to use actual player names but team nicknames were forbidden (Punter Sean Landeta, who officially retired this year, was the last player from the original TB still playing in the NFL). The game features 12 teams based on those which made the playoffs when the original NES version was developed. Each team had four plays to choose from, and defense was played by guessing which play the offense picked. In TB, you played each of the other teams once apiece to earn the title and become TB champion. This game didn’t have a save feature, so you had to write down a password after defeating each opponent.

Note: I played this game on my Nintendo GameCube through the Game Boy Player, which automatically adds color to the game. One team is always white, and the other is always red, no matter who you are or who you’re playing. However, I’m grading visuals on what the game looked like on an original Game Boy, circa 1991, like in the screenshot above.

Graphics: 3/5
Compared to other football games for the GB I’ve reviewed (see Jackson, Bo), the graphics are above average, at least. The ball itself is still larger than life, but you can actually tell they are people playing football. Even if it’s 9-on-9, it still looks good.

Sound: 1.5/5
This is where the Game Boy version slips away from its NES counterpart. The GB version keeps the same music throughout the game from the title screen on (including during plays). However, hardware restrictions (I suppose) forced Tecmo to remove all the voices from the game. So no hearing “Hut!” 100 times, no “Touchdown!” and no “It’s good!” Instead, the voices are substituted with sound “blips” that take a little away but not enough to throw this game in the trash.

Controls: 4/5
Tecmo Bowl certainly isn’t known for its complex control scheme. If you can press the D-pad up and down diagonally, you can pretty much run the ball without any trouble. Passing is nothing more than choosing your receiver with one button while pushing the other to throw. How hard is that?

Gameplay: 4/5
Other than the voices being nonexistent, my only gameplay complaint is that the players on the screen flicker insanely when everyone is on the screen doing something at once. And it’s not the same during every play, either, which can be even more annoying. But based on what football video games were like back in 1991, I can give it a pass for this. Otherwise, it’s nearly flawless fun, especially with two players.

Overall: 3.125/5
Before Tecmo Bowl, football video games were, in two words, pretty bad. After Tecmo Bowl, they grew into complex affairs that casual gamers can be turned off by. And while I sometimes like to delve into the more complex Madden franchise, there are other times a good pick-up game of Tecmo Bowl is all I really need to get my fix. If you find a GB or NES copy of Tecmo Bowl anywhere, pick it up and play it!

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Retro Game Review: Bo Jackson’s Hit and Run

Posted by ptcgaming on June 20, 2008

Screenshots taken from Gamespot GameFAQs
To bring back a little nostalgia, I’ll be spending some time reviewing some of my all-time favorite (and not-so-favorite) video games from before the fifth-generation consoles came out (the original Sony PlayStation/Nintendo 64). Those of you who grew up in the 80s and 90s should remember playing several of these. The first title in this series is “Bo Jackson’s Hit and Run! Baseball and Football.”
Year released: 1991
Developer: THQ
Platform: Nintendo Game Boy
Background: Starting in the late 1980s, Bo Jackson was the superstar athlete. And who could argue? Apparently, he knew everything (I still remember the commercial like it was yesterday). So in 1991, the two-sport athlete got a shot at his own release for the original Game Boy. That same year, Bo Jackson Baseball was released for the NES. However, “Hit and Run!” was a combination of both Bo sports, adding a football game to the mix.
Note: Since the baseball and football games are glaringly different, I’ll be breaking down each one separately.
Graphics: 1/5
Even for an original Game Boy title, the graphics on the football side of “Hit and Run!” are pretty bad. There are only two teams (East and West), and they are simply black or white. When the players are running, their arms and legs barely flicker, and it always seems one leg is shorter than the other. The playing field looks simple, yet decent, but it’s hard to tell which dark spot on the field is the football and which one is the shadow of the ball!
Sound: 1/5
The fact the game has this ear-piercing music that plays while a play is going on can kill the entire football experience. The other sounds are simplistic and bad at best.
Controls: 2/5
Controlling players is easy. Tackling players, well, not so much, which can probably be attributed to the bad graphics. Passing is easy except for the fact you have no idea who you’re throwing to until the pass is thrown. Switching between players can also be a chore when the function works properly.
Gameplay: 3/5
This rating is enhanced more by the game’s features than the game itself. Plays develop and move along slowly, but this game features several enhancements that are standard in football games today. Aside from the coin toss, the game features formation/coverage/blitz choices on both sides of the ball, time outs, penalties and a create-a-play option. You can also select the length of each quarter.
Overall: 1.75/5
Easy control while carrying the football and some ahead-of-its-time features saves this game from being a complete bust.
Graphics: 3/5
While the field view when a ball is in play is about as good as the football game’s in-play screen, the pitching/batting view is about as good as you’re going to get on the original GB. The shading on this screen adds quite a bit to the game’s look and feel. The scoreboard screen looks impressive, too.
Sound: 1/5
About as good as football without the annoying in-play music.
Controls: 3/5
Hitting, pitching and throwing are relatively easy to do. However, guessing which fielder the game is letting you chase the ball down with makes you want to throw the game out the door.
Gameplay: 3/5
The fielding problem affects this rating, too. However, just like football, this game was ahead of its time in many ways. You can choose what kind of pitch you want to throw (Ex: instead of having to make a pitch curve manually), move the pitcher side-to-side on the mound and the batter all around the batter’s box. You can also bean the batter. A lack of team choices (but still more than two) also brings gameplay down a little.
Overall: 2.5/5
Other than bad sound and confusing player control in the field, this is actually a really good baseball game built for the GB.
A mediocre football game takes some of the luster from a reasonably good baseball game.

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