Simply Ambitious – Shayne Warden

Wow! Killer Instinct on the Game Boy! What an ambitious port! The graphical hurdles alone would have had me thinking the powers that be were looney tunes, but having to also drop four buttons compared to the SNES game…geez!
Admittedly, I’m not a fan of this game as a game. Playing it as the August game of the month for Yokoi Kids was my first exposure to this version of Killer Instinct, and I found it a frustrating experience to try and combo; the real meat-and-potatoes of KI (could be more a ‘me problem’ and less the game, but I promise I’m good at the SNES game…promise!).
That said…
I really have to applaud this game for its graphical chops and its faithful recreation of the characters (also, those character portraits are awesome!) and to a lesser degree, its backgrounds. Beyond that, the music is equal parts fantastic and impressive; more than once, I’d get thoroughly trounced, sit at the start screen and let the audio loop. In the end, Ken Lobb and company did an impressive job bringing a game that I never thought could make a competent transition to the Game Boy a reality!–Shayne Warden

Summer’s winding down, but ‘bbq + beach = awesome’ is still very much early days here on the island! @JazzyJazzerton

September 2022: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back From the Sewers (1991)

Hiya folks, it’s me Rick and I’m here to cover for Ian this month. Not just because he’s busy, but because like most of you folks pushing forty, I really like antics of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I love most of the comic runs, the original line of toys, the extremely solid first movie (the second and fourth movies are enjoyable in a pinch), and of course, the video games. The only thing I truly despise that is TMNT related is the original cartoon series. Sure, I loved it when I was a tiny boy. But have you laid eyes on it since you were ten? The animation sucks, most of the voices are obnoxious, and it’s not funny. Of course it was the gateway to reading the original run of the comics. Which makes me baffled why they chose to turn April into a reporter who gets kidnapped all the time and Baxter Stockman into a nerdy little white guy. And okay, fine! Baxter the Fly is pretty cool. But why are dudes in my age group so matter-a-fact that the cartoon is sacred and shouldn’t be messed with? I don’t get it!

Anywho, we covered Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan a couple of years ago and it’s a game we at Yokoi Kids HQ fully endorse. Which brings us to this months game- Fall of the Foot Clan’s inferior sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Back From the Sewers!

Looks folks, there is a very little talk about this game that I can find on the internet. It’s a forgotten sequel that nobody seems to care about. And why should they? It’s ugly, it’s too hard, and the turtles stare at you. But from what I’ve played so far, it has some merits. The animations on it are pretty damn good (except for that horrendous walk animation), the voice samples are good, and you have some level variation that’s a bit different from the first. It’s worth playing for at least the month of September, eh? And hell, that Cowabunga Collection just came out and this game is on it! So when your done playing all the good games on that collection, play this one. Give it a shot and tell us all about it. –RV

Killer Instinct: Probably Good? –Peter P.

I have to admit that I was disappointed in this month’s game selection as the voting process did not go the way I was hoping (Battle Arena Toshinden). The truth is that I suck at Killer Instinct. I always have. Arcade, SNES, didn’t matter. I sucked. Other fighters, no problem. Some of them I’m legitimately good at. But for some reason, KI has been a puzzle that I can’t solve.

I had never played it on Game Boy, however, so I went into this month hopeful that narrowing down to two buttons would make the game a bit more accessible to me.

It legitimately took a full week of playing to win a single match and I only won a second match twice in the past two weeks.

Bearing that in mind, I will try and describe what I think of the game. First, the positive: the gameplay is smooth and really feels like playing Killer Instinct, which is the most important part of being a Gameboy port, though it can get button-mashy trying to find combinations since there are only two buttons. The negative is that the graphics leave something to be desired, particularly the player sprites. I understand it’s GB so it is not going to be as good as the SNES, but there are times where I legitimately could not make out the player sprites in action, particularly having a hard time distinguishing them from the background. That said, the artwork is terrific when colorized through a GBC or Super GB (though the sprites are still difficult to distinguish from the background). As for the sound, the music absolutely rocks, especially the title screen, though the sound effects are weak.

So, in sum, this is probably a good game but I just suck so badly at it that I can’t say for sure! –Peter P. (@dmachetto on Twitter)

August 2022: Killer Instinct (1995)

It’s August, my friends, and Killer Instinct is our new game of the month! We here in the Yokoi Kids Backroom didn’t have any game submissions lined up so we fancied a Twitter poll might be a good way to pick something. We decided to do a fighting game and the options were:

Raging Fighter

Battle Arena Toshinden

and

Killer Instinct

Voting was fierce and furious with BAT taking an early lead, only to have KI come from behind and win by a few percentage points! BAT is a sleeper hit for the Game Boy that’s been steadily going up in price over the years so it makes sense that the winner for our little group here was the cheapy. It actually seems to get decent reviews all around so I’m pretty excited to get into it and see how the mechanics transfer over to the little fella. Once was a time when I was really into the arcade game when it was new. I even went to Walden Books and bought an unauthorized guide to the game! It was full of errors! That’s what I get.

Enjoy!

-IF

July 2022 – Shadowgate Classic (1999)

Hi, Rick here. I allowed Ian to sit out for this introduction because I effin’ love Shadowgate in all its goofy and cryptic glory. It honestly still gives me chills when the song starts playing after smashing the mirror to reveal the courtyard. Shadowgate Classic is a straight-up port of the NES version. And I’m all for it. Except maybe for everything crammed in the little screen. It was picked by Edgard R., who wrote this about it:

““The Druid’s words still ring in your ears: Within the walls of the Castle Shadowgate lies your quest. If the prophecies hold true, the dreaded Warlock Lord will use his dark magic to raise the Behemoth, the deadliest of the Titans, from the depths of the earth. You are the seed of prophecy, the last of the line of kings, and only you can stop the Warlock Lord from darkening our world FOREVER. Fare thee well” is the first thing you read when you start your quest into Shadowgate.

Shadowgate Classic is a re-release of the NES game with the same title (the NES game also being a re-release of the game on the Apple Macintosh). I was given the game by a friend who wanted nothing to do with the title as it is not a traditional RPG or Platformer that were common on the console. His loss was my gain as I was instantly drawn in by the cover with it’s menacing gargoyle both beckoning and warning players to start their quest. You play as “The Last in the Line of Kings” on a quest to stop the Warlock Lord in his malevolent plans to raise the Behemoth. In your path are instant deaths, sharks, bridge trolls, cyclops, flesh-devouring ooze, were-ladies,  Sphinx, and dragons. Shadowgate takes heavy inspiration from point-and-click adventures and tabletop Dungeons and Dragons games, it rewards players for exploration & creative problem solving but solving a problem incorrectly can result in instant death. Trial and error is one of the best ways to transverse through treacherous terrain. The best features of this game are its creative aesthetics on each panel, the narration which is both comedic and cautionary, and the music which pairs great with each setting (Unless your torch is about to go out which in case the music will raise your heart palpitations). Similar to today’s Elden Rings and Demon Souls you’re aware of the realm that existed before the start of your story. Your role as a player is not only to foil the plans of the Warlock Lord but to also piece together the world as much as possible through tomes, scrolls, and books scattered throughout the game. The franchise continued with Beyond Shadowgate on the TurboGrafx CD and Shadowgate 64 on the N64. Re-imaginings of the original game can also be found on Steam. While every game has their own merits none inspire and captured the imagination more than the original game, which is captured perfectly on the Game Boy Color. I hope everybody has as much fun with this title as I do! Make sure to pack an extra torch!”

Playing Shadowgate on the NES was always an enjoyable and frustrating experience. I recall in high school calling my friend Jason Ghitgo to help me out when I got stuck. It’s always kinda nice phoning a friend when you are stuck in a game even if it annoys their parents, housemates, spouses, or prison guards. Sure, there are plenty of walkthroughs online, but fuck that! I fully encourage you to hit up the Yokoi Kids Twitter and see if a fellow dork can get you out of a tight spot. And heads up, you will probably spend your first playthrough wasting torches left and right. Restarting knowing what to do will save you lots of torch power.

The game is one of those Game Boy Color games than can be played on an OG Game Boy with no issues. It can be picked up for $10-$15 bucks or free if you emulate it. Don’t piss off the skeleton king! –Rick V.

Is This the Legacy of …Exitebike? –D’arcy Briggs

While not a launch title for the original Game Boy, Motocross Maniacs was a year-one release, and it plays like one. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s in that transition between a single-screen and score-focused experience and a more complex experience that the new hardware allowed for. Like Alleyway, it’s the kind of game that almost struggles to expand beyond what was the tradition at the time. Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Motorcross Maniacs.

This Konami developed and published game, under Ultra here in North America, plays heavily into elements used in Excitebike on the NES. Players take control over a motorbike and can tilt the front wheel up and down. They also have the ability to use a speedboost, letting them launch off ramps and into loops, or make up for lost ground during a crash. The goal is to complete the level within the time limit. There are power-ups to give more boost or time, but losing a level doesn’t give you that ‘one more time’ itch that a good game should, just a sense that you will repeat a section in what can sometimes be a bit of a slog.

There are a few game modes, including one that takes advantage of the Game Boy link cable for head-to-head action. Generally speaking, it’s a pretty simple game where the idea is to just replay levels to beat your established score. The music and graphics are simple but serviceable, something that adds to this game’s almost stoic structure.. You do have the ability to do flips for combos and take alternate routes, but this is largely a game where the amount of fun you have is directly proportional to how much you enjoy high-score racers.

Like a lot of the early-release Game Boy games that have been covered on Yokoi, they’re fun but leave something to be desired. Motorcross Maniacs doesn’t necessarily feel like something is missing, but that what’s offered feels more like an appetizer. It’s a nice bite, but really only serves to open your Game Boy appetite to more substantial offerings.

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

Motocross Maniacs: Excitebike with Power-Ups –Pete P.

I was thrilled when asked to choose this month’s game. Being my first selection, I wanted it to be a game that was personal to me because it was something that I owned or borrowed as a kid. After comparing my list to the back issues of Yokoi Kids I was down to two choices, one of which was Motocross Maniacs. I played each game for a bit and then I heard something that made me choose Motocross Maniacs, which I’ll get to in a bit.

This was a very early title. It was the first of the Ultra Games for Game Boy and only the second post-launch title release overall in North America. It was also one of the games that my parents got my brother and I when we first got our Game Boys. The racing has lots of jumps and there are different power ups, including the hidden jet pack that can only be found by doing a flip in certain locations. There are also mini maniacs that can be found this way that follow you around but don’t actually do anything. You can play two players via link, race against the computer, or race alone. Ultimately, you’re just racing against the clock, as you will get a game over if time runs out and it doesn’t matter if you lose to the computer (something I did not realize as a kid). There are ten tracks that repeat across three difficulty settings (i.e., you start with less time to complete the race). Ultimately, management of your nitros and mapping out the course to make sure you get power-ups, especially time boosts, without losing too much time is the key to winning in the later stages.

Short, simple, repeatable, and very difficult as you start with less and less time. Good music and satisfying sound effects help round out the otherwise limited game. I give this game a B. If you normally play via emulator or 3DS shop because of cost, this is one that you can get physically. A loose copy of the physical cartridge itself can be had for less than $10.

Now, as I said earlier, I heard something in this game that made me select it. While racing on Motocross Maniacs track 4, I heard something that sounded extremely familiar.

Recently, I have been listening to a lot of NES OSTs while working. One series that is frequently in my rotation is the Mega Man series. To me, the stage 4 music sounds exactly like the intro to Gravity Man’s stage in Mega Man 5. I know Capcom is never shy about “borrowing” music, names, likenesses, etc., but to do it from their rivals at Konami!? As far as I can tell from my brief Google searching, I might be the first person to notice, or, more importantly, to care about this. Anyway, hope you enjoy. –Pete (@dmachetto on Twitter)

June 2022: Motocross Maniacs (1990)

VROOOOOOOM, SUCKAS! We’re out here in June just dreading the upcoming heat which turns your boy into something resembling a red, bumpy fruit. The heat is not for me! If the sun and heat aren’t your pals either then this is an exceptionally good time to pick up that Game Boy (or whatever you use to play) and get on Motocross Maniacs (picked by Peter P.)our game for June! I’ve only played this briefly, but it’s sort of similar to the auto-scrolling levels found in another of Konami’s Game Boy entries from the time, Skate or Die: Bad n’ Rad, mixed with the Nintendo classic Excitebike. Trial and error will be key here, but I certainly don’t mind a bit of that. It can be very rewarding to learn your way through a course or level in many games. With a month dedicated to it I wonder how many of us will be able to beat it? It’s only eight levels!

This one isn’t available on the 3DS Virtual Console (which is closing soon anyway), but a physical copy should be really reasonable. Or emulate! Have fun!
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::pops wheelie, crashes::