Skate or Die: Bad ‘N Rad is not a game I grew up with. I wasn’t even aware of its existence until a few years ago when I found an unloved copy at a Goodwill for a few dollars. That’s one of my favorite things about the Game Boy library, there’s still lots of hidden gems for collectors to find. It’s a vast library with lots of cheap games. This particular copy was so unloved that I didn’t know it was part of the Skate or Die series for a long time because the label was worn at the top. All I could read was “Konami” and “Bad ‘N Rad”. I really enjoy a lot of Konami’s work on the Game Boy and I’m huge fan of the word “Rad” so I figured this game was a safe bet for a few bucks.
Even though I’ve owned this game for a few years, I never really played it until a few days ago. I tested it when I originally bought it, but didn’t get past the title screen. This was because it wouldn’t let me skip all of the extra copyright and legal garbage at the beginning. This is a pet peeve of mine and one of a few reasons why calling this game a “gem” might a be a stretch.
Since I had never played this game before, I decided I should first try it out on an original Game Boy. After a few minutes of game play I realized I couldn’t play it on an old Game Boy. I even tried with my ridiculous Nuby light and magnifier thing. The game was simply too fast and the Game Boy screen is, well it is what it is. I know nobody is playing GB games on old un-modded hardware. I think it does speak to the difficulty of the game though if it can’t really be played anymore on the original hardware.
I proceeded to spend the rest of my playtime with the game split between my Game Boy Advance SP and my GB Boy Colour. Now that I could actually play the game the first thing I noticed was how much it reminded me of other early Konami Game Boy games. The music is a good example. Konami new how to competently use the Game Boy sound hardware and this game shows it. Even the level select screen reminds me of TMNT: Fall of the Foot Clan.
The game itself is fun, but frustrating. The controls, graphics and sound are all fine. They’re even really good for the most part. However it seems to rely quite a bit on the video game trope of memorization after multiple plays and game overs. This kind of game play was definitely overstaying its welcome by the time this game went to market. However, I grew up playing old arcade games where this kind of mechanic started and do have an appreciation for them. I’m just glad I’m not paying quarters to play this game!
I really enjoy the first two Skate or Die games on the NES and have tons of fond memories playing them with friends. This game did manage to evoke some of those memories and I did really start to have fun with it after a few game overs. It definitely felt like a worthy Skate or Die entry on a portable system. I think what impressed me most about it was that I didn’t play this game when I was kid so “Skate or Die hype” isn’t effecting how I feel about the game. But even that far removed I still feel like I’m playing a good Skate or Die game.
Erik Pierson runs the noteworthy Retail Archaeology Youtube Channel. You should check that out!