Little Boy, Big Ghost – Nolen Tabner

I started this near the end of November, hoping to create something that was closer to the aesthetic of the Link’s Awakening remake. Little did I know that I’d be sucked into jury duty for the entire month of December and wouldn’t return to finish this until the end of January. It didn’t turn out exactly how I would have liked, but I’m just happy it’s complete!

You can find Nolen at Nolentabner.com

February 2023: Metroid II: Return of Samus (1991)

It’s February! Are you all sticking to any resolutions? My initial resolution, to read more frequently, was interrupted by my attention span. However, I’ve actually been using my synthesizers a lot! I consider it an even trade. I’m going to try another resolution, a February resolution – I’m resolving to play this month’s game! I love Metroid and despite my considerate amount of Game Boy playing I’ve just never gotten around to playing Metroid II! That changes this month!

Peter is our contributor this month and it’s his second time! He’s got a whole lot to say so I’m just going to shut up now and go toast a bagel.
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“Peter II: The Return of Metroid II: The Return of Samus

First, thanks to Rick for allowing me to choose this month’s game, my second selection since becoming a member of this fine community. Just as with my last selection (Motocross Maniacs), I wanted to choose a game with which I had actual experience as a child. Unlike Motocross Maniacs, I did not own Metroid II. I borrowed it from my friend Tim. Tim’s family (or maybe just his father) made somewhat frequent trips to Hong Kong and so he always had a bunch of cool stuff and was always kind enough to share.

Its funny the things that you can remember from your childhood and the varying levels of detail around those memories. Metroid II is one of those funny things for me. I first played it while at my friend Tim’s house for his birthday party. It stands out in my head despite being a relatively non-descript party. I remember that I was late, though I cannot remember why. I remember when I got there I had Domino’s Pizza for the first time (which I am still surprised about because I’m from Staten Island and you just don’t eat Domino’s here). Tim showed me his Gameboy 400 in 1 cart that he had gotten from Hong Kong. There was a little rubber button on the back you would push to switch games. It was cool, but something else had caught my eye – Metroid II: Return of Samus.

I loved Metroid for the NES. I had made my own maps and would explore that game for hours and hours looking for new hidden items or new pathways to make the game easier/more difficult to explore. I had to try Metroid II. I fired it up and was hooked. Tim was kind enough to let me borrow it. I remember struggling with the final boss until I beat it one morning on the car ride to church. I returned the game to Tim. Since then, I have only played it 1.5 other times.

Tim’s family used to live near the coastline. When Sandy hit in 2012, I went down to help with the cleanup efforts. I went to his block and started cleaning up around his house when Tim came up to also help by his old home. I hadn’t spoken to him in at least 10 years, but it was good to see my old friend. It made me think of this game (among others) and I played through it one more time, the only other time I had played through the game. I say I had played it 1.5 times because I did also play the (very good, IMO) 3DS remake.

Enough strolling down memory lane. Let’s talk about the game itself. Much like the first Metroid, you start off with no real direction; you just go places you can reach until you encounter your first Metroid… except it’s not like a regular Metroid. It comes out of a Metroid shell and is attacking you rather than trying to suck out your energy. A few missiles and boom, it’s gone and the little Metroid counter on your screen goes down by one. And just like that, you know what the goal of the game is: kill all of the Metroids. You reach certain parts where you cannot go lower because of lava until you kill a certain number of Metroids. Then there is an earthquake and the lava level lowers allowing you to progress. The Metroids themselves also become more difficult until you reach the final boss, which is one of my favorite boss fights in all of Metroid. You then encounter the last Metroid in one of the best storytelling moments of any game in the series, all without any words. Just an absolute masterpiece of a game, one of my favorites from the entire series.

Given the hardware constraints, it’s unsurprisingly the most linear of any entry in the Metroid series (but not too far behind Fusion), though you can still find yourself getting turned around a fair bit if you are not careful. The sound effects are good, though the music is a bit disappointing. Not only does it lack that true banger that most Metroid games have (sometimes more than one), there are long periods of silence and other periods of just noise. The graphics are among the best that the console has to offer. The sprites are a good size and well detailed, especially Samus, most notably with the Varia suit. The story and pacing are excellent. Controls are tight, though sometimes maintaining the Space Jump is difficult. The new weapons created new styles of puzzles that didn’t exist in the original and many of the items and innovations in this game were carried forward into future entries in the series.

The game has a special color palette built into the GBC hardware. I’ve never played it in color before so for my third full play through, I will be taking advantage of that color palette. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.”
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It was cinnamon raisin with cream cheese and maple veggie sausage. –IF

January 2023: Jeep Jamboree (1992)

Happy New Year! I’m eating a bagel sandwich and resolving to eat more of them in 2023. We’re back to member submissions and this month we’ve got Jeep Jamboree picked by D’arcy Briggs! They wrote up a bit about it so tell you what… I’m going to extend my holiday vacation and let them take over:

“I’m a big fan of racing games, but rarely am I any good at them. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the racing game that I’ve sunk a sizable amount of time into, but otherwise my most played racers are likely Horizon Chase Turbo and Episode I Racer. You may notice, these racers are all from the mid-90s forward. The 8-bit generation of consoles aren’t known for their racing games, and the pool of above average to excellent ones shrinks even more when we move over to the monochromatic Game Boy. Let’s shrink the pool even more and get official licensing in the mix.

Jeep Jamboree: Off Road Adventure is a 1992 release from Gremlin Interactive. The game is… incredibly average. The graphics are totally acceptable, but the frame-rate is about what you would expect for a 1st-person racer on the handheld (though it’s certainly not the worst frame-rate for this style of game). The controls are a little wonky, but there’s also a good number of things to like about the game. 

The races themselves are pretty short, perfect for racing on the go. There’s also a decent amount of variations and options in the game itself, from full seasons with a variety of difficulties to practices and 2 player sessions.

To some degree, these sorts of games are perfect for Yokoi Kids. There’s plenty of hidden gems and plenty of garbage, but the Game Boy thrives on those games that made up our collection as kids- those games that were completely fine, but we kept playing because they were what we had. Aside from birthdays or gifts of the holiday season, we needed to cling to the games that made up our small collections.”

Thanks D’arcy! I’m looking forward to this. I like simple racing games a lot. For instance, I genuinely enjoy F-1 Race on the Game Boy as well.   OK folks! ZOOM ZOOM IN THE NEW YEAR. -IF

December 2022: Tiny Toon Adventures: Babs’ Big Break (1992)

HO HO HO! I’m imitating a Santaman because it is December! The year is over! What did we do besides play Game Boy? Well, I made homemade pizza yesterday, so there’s that.

This month’s game is Tiny Toon Adventures: Babs’ Big Break

“Wow, that’s neat! A game about Babs!” You say?

WRONG. Well, sorta. It’s about Babs, but you NEVER GET TO PLAY AS HER. 

That said, it’s a Tiny Toon Adventures game and I have a real soft spot for most of them. I’m not even a huge fan of the show. I watched it as a kid and I thought it looked nice, but I didn’t think it was very funny and mostly watched it because it was on after school. However, I do like the designs. And I really, really liked the NES game. The SNES game and Genesis game furthered my love of the cartoon as a video game series. Most of the Tiny Toon games have a nice level of polish in the visuals department and this Game Boy excursion is no different. I remember it being fun, having multiple playable characters not named Babs, and helpers as well. I’m excited to play it again and see if I still find it as breezily enjoyable as I once did.

Without looking I’m going to guess this cart is in the 10-15 dollar range, so it should be pretty inexpensive to pick up. You can always emulate! Emulation is great, too!

Enjoy your holidays! 

-IF

Dexter’s Imagination – Rick V.


If you read the Dexterity manual it says something about how the entire game is made up from Dexter Doolittle’s imagination. Why would this kid put himself and these cute little creatures through so many punishing puzzles? Dexter has issues.

Rick V. helps keep Yokoi Kids afloat and does punk thing. itsmerickv.com

Double Bubble – Shayne Warden

Shayne here, and this time, with something completely different!

This month – and for Halloween – I decided to try my hand at carving a picture into a pumpkin for the first time. Just like the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, I thought, “How perfect would it be to carve Bubble Ghost onto a pumpkin…so long as I don’t goof it up!?” and so, here it is, my first pumpkin picture:

I took the photo in the game room ’cause it was far too windy outside tonight. 

I feel like Halloween is a season, a season I wish were longer. Doesn’t it just feel right to play Rondo of Blood in October? @JazzyJazzerton

November 2022: Dexterity (2022)

Gobble gobble, turkeys! It’s November and it’s time for a new game! It’s late, I know, but we were busy recovering from our Halloween candy comas. It’s Dexterity! Published by SNK!

None of us seem to have a lot of experience with this one. It’s a top-down action puzzler that at least *seems* to have some similarities to the eternally slept-on NES gem, Mendel Palace. Are we right about this? Wrong? I guess we’ll find out this month. 

The release date is vague, but it appears to have come out in the summer of 1990. It’s the only game published by SNK for the Game Boy, at least in the US, as their other miniaturized games were published here by Takara. Trivia tidbit!

Ok, folks. Get out there and do whatever it is Dexterity wants you to do!

-IF

You’re a Ghost with Bubbles. That’s it. That’s the Game. – D’Arcy Briggs

It’s weird how collectible games for the Switch feel (hang on, we’re getting to Bubble Ghost). I’ve never been a big collector of current-gen platforms. Heck, the PS3 is the ‘newest’ console I collect for and that’s partly because of how dirt cheap most of the games are. The Switch is different. Sure, the games are all priced like current gen and many are reliant on a lot of things we’ve grown to hate like patches and memory space, but I love these little carts. This is largely the same way I feel about Game Boy games: the shape, the tiny art, and the promise of adventure and excitement. All in all, Nintendo may have been looking at what made their handhelds so special when carrying over that same magic to the Switch. For me, Bubble Ghost is a GB title that really sums this all up. It’s a simple concept with fantastic execution and delivers on the promise of fun for all, anywhere and anytime.

The original computer versions of Bubble Ghost are terrifying. It’s a combination of the available graphics and general aesthetics of the time. The Gameboy on the other hand, well, that got a Nintendo coat of paint. Now we have a cute Kirby-esque character interacting with a charming environment with single-screen puzzles. Get your bubble from point A to point B… because? I only have this game as a cart, so maybe the manual fills you in more.

The controls aren’t the best, but certainly serviceable and allow you to do most any maneuver you want. The music, while not varied, is really fun and adds to the excitement as well. I think what drives this game home is the simple yet enjoyable concept, and a style that feels like the team really pushed to make it unique and charming on the platform.

Looking for some tips? Pause right at the start of each level. You might not notice a burning candle or a fan in operation right when you start to explore. Pause, take your time, and plan out how you want to approach each room. Also, you will fail. A lot. It’s just gonna happen, but a generous life and continue count keep that from getting to be too much.

It’s one of those ‘just one more’ games. You will fail fairly consistently early on while you get used to the controls and obstacles, but you never feel like it wasn’t your fault. It’s the kind of thing that just fits what the GB was about, and I think why the Switch has seen some of the success it has. Bubble Ghost is, like many reviewed with Yokoi Kids, a ‘perfect’ Game Boy game.

D’Arcy is an educator and gamer from BC, Canada. He’s been gaming his entire life and enjoys both new and retro games. His consoles of choice are Game Boy, PS3, and Switch.You can follow his gaming online @darcyska_gaming

October 2022: Bubble Ghost (1990)

BOO!

It’s October, folks! A swell time to be alive. The air is crisp, hoodies are back in season, spooky movies are in vogue, and everyone’s favorite flavor is back on the menu! 

That’s right, maple!

What were you expecting?

The boys in the back room wanted a Halloweeny title and we settled on Bubble Ghost! In all honesty I kinda demanded it. It’s been on the short list before, but never chosen.I love this little game and think it fits the Game Boy nicely. It’s a port of a 1987 computer game in which you help a ghost blow a bubble through various halls of a castle. Why is our little buddy doing this? Boredom? Plans got cancelled? No matter, just help them avoid walls, candles, fans, and other traps that could pop the bubble. It’s a little tricky getting used to moving them around with the D-pad, but once you get the hang of it I hope you’ll find it to be the charming little time waster I’ve always enjoyed. Happy Halloween! Stay safe! -IF

We Shoulda Stayed in the Sewers – Rick V.

Origin of The Last Ronin?

(The comic is a sequel to the comic I did for Fall of the Foot Clan four years ago.)

I refused to play Back From the Sewers because I hated how the turtle sprites looked. I especially hated how they stared at you on the player select screen. And the weird tippy toe way they walk threw me off too. But when I decided to finally look past the artwork (funfact: I refused to read The Watchmen for years because I hated the artwork. I was a fool), I figured how bad could it be?

Well, it’s not terrible. The animation is nice and the music is not annoying. I like how the Foot Clan soldiers look like scarecrows. Hell! The second level you are riding on a skateboard! I owed the game an apology for treating it like ugly little sibling of the first Game Boy game.

The game decided to get back at me by ramping up the difficulty toward the end of the second level. The bosses in this game are so hard. They move way too fast for your slow moving little turtle. I eventually figured out the patterns and with the helpful rewind button (Thanks, Cowabunga Collection) , I was able to get a little further.

The underground level with the big-ass spikes coming out of the ground is infuriating and from this point on, the game is no longer fun. Just a horrible chore. There are some obstacles where a one of the big-ass spikes comes up while a Foot soldier if shooting a missiles at you. There is a only a very slim chance you aren’t going to take damage on this part. The Cowabunga Collection features a little guide on how to get past these parts but it’s tricky to get it right.

And speaking of the Cowabunga Collection guide, there is a video you can watch to properly beat the giant Robo Cop to rescue one of your “captured” turtles. I tried it and failed multiple times. It’s pretty dang hard and I would just let that mechanical man kill me so I could just get to the next level.

Mousers and little flying robots re-spawn like crazy and are hard to avoid. On some stages Foot Soldiers race right at you causing unavoidable damage. And the lasers in the Technodrome make you want to throw your Switch/Game Boy/Eddie’s Emulator across the room. The wildest bit about this game is that The Shredder is extremely easy to beat and avoid, and the last boss, Krang can be beat without getting a scratch. Maybe that was on purpose?

Anywho, I’m glad I played it but never plan on playing it every again…this week.
–Rick V.

Rick V. doodles comics and does punk things. itsmerickv.com