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

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

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

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

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!
::::SCREEEEEEEE:::: 

::pops wheelie, crashes::

April 2022: Pokemon Trading Card Game (2000)

New month, new game! 

We’re playing Pokemon

Haha, April Fool’s, right? NO! This month we’re playing the Pokemon Trading Card Game for Game Boy! Here’s Yokoi Kids’ own Johnny Ketchum to tell us why:

“When I was a young Johnson Ketchum I loved Pokémon. I loved it so much I consumed every medium I could. So what I’m saying is I was a regular-ass grade school child with an obsession. I was walking around K-Mart with my mom and immediately ran to the electronics section to look at vidiya gamez, and there it was. A new Pokémon game?! Indeed it was, a Game Boy game based on the hit trading card game Pokémon. So yeah, I’m choosing this because I remember really enjoying this game, and it’s been a while since I’ve actually sat with a Game Boy game.”

I didn’t play this one as a kid, but got really into it in my mid-twenties. It’s a great snapshot of the card game in it’s earliest form and you can have all the fun without emptying your bank account on booster packs! I really hope people take the time to get into this one this month and enjoy it. The best part is, this cartridge seems pretty unphased by all the skyrocketing prices and only just recently crept up to twenty bucks. This means with a little hunting most should still be able to get this for around $15, our first affordable cart in a while. It’s also available on the eShop, so if you want it that way get it quick!–IF

March 2022: Mole Mania (1997)

My friends, it is March! What’s the saying? In like a lion, out like a lamb? As a kid growing up in Buffalo I always thought that was a bunch of hooey. We didn’t get any lambs until at least April, sometimes May! We’re changing all of that this year, though. March is for moles. In like a mole, out like a mole. Be a mole all month long with Josh Nickerson’s choicest of choices, Mole Mania! Here’s what our guy had to say:

“A late-era Game Boy release (1996, two years before the juggernaut known
as Pokemon would hit North America and revive the stagnant handheld
market), Mole Mania is a fun action puzzler that asks the question “What
if Lolo could dig?” It plays very similarly to HAL’s Adventure of Lolo
series, with the player taking the role of Muddy, a mole on a quest to
rescue his family from an evil farmer, having to rely on his wits to
avoid enemies and solve puzzles.

How does Muddy solve these puzzles? By digging, of course! As long as
he’s standing on soft earth, Muddy can dig underground. The screen swaps
to an underground view, which more often than not has its own layout and
hazards. The key to solving each screen is to figure out how best to
maneuver using both the above-ground and underground areas. There are
also gadgets such as weights and huge iron balls to toss at enemies as
well. The game presents it all with a cute visual style and a peppy
soundtrack.

Famously one of Shigeru Miyamoto’s least-known creations (famously
un-famous, you could say), one has to wonder if he thought of the idea
while tending the same garden he would dream up with Pikmin a few years
later. It’s too bad it never turned into a series, a DS entry would have
been a no brainer, with Muddy zipping between the two screens… sadly
that never came to be.

A side note: I had no idea how expensive the game had gotten over the
years! Fortunately, it’s available in the 3DS eShop for a mere three
bucks.
You won’t get the sweet Super Game Boy enhancements, but you can
use the suspend/resume feature for the game’s trickier bits. No matter
which way you play it, you’ll have a good time!”
———-
I once had two copies of Mole Mania, but I gave one to a person who ended up being a jerk. Even worse, I thought I had given them the one with the dead battery (they said they were happy to replace it), but it turned out I gave them the good copy! This gives me the swift kick in the cheeks I need to fix my copy and finally finish the dang game!
–IF

February 2022: Wizards & Warriors X: Fortress of Fear (1990)

January is over?! One down, eleven to go! Grinding out 2022 already! I’m of course back to offer you all another game to check out and this month it’s going to be Wizards & Warriors X: Fortress of Fear. Here’s our kid on the scene Rick V. to explain:

“I thought I would be selfish this time around and pick a game. Even though it gets a lot of flak, Wizards & Warriors on the NES is one of
my favorite games. The sequels…are fine. When I found out as an adult
there was a Wizards & Warriors game I had to play it. At first, I was
impressed. The sprites looked nice, the music was pretty good and Kuros’
sword is actually useful. Then it got difficult with it’s cheap enemies,
crappy layout, and poor mechanics.

This Game Boy game gets a lot of hate that it  probably deserves. But it
plays so much better than a lot of crappier Game Boy titles.  February
is a short month, indulge me by playing this game for at least an hour.
It should at least be a good subject for some contributions.”

I’m actually pretty excited to have an opportunity to look at this one a little deeper. I’ve owned it for a while and remember not liking it much, but there’s something that draws me to the Wizards & Warriors games. They have halfway decent music and a very iconic art style. As a kid I always felt like these games had an air of mystery, that there were lots of things to discover. This pulls me in every few years and each time I realize that they’re pretty bad games with an above-average coat of paint and style. I’m looking forward to seeing if there are any positives to this entry and wringing some sort of enjoyment out of it. ADVENTURE FORTH! 
(There are no Wizards & Warriors games IV – VIII, just in case you were wondering about that) 
IF

January 2022 – Gargoyle’s Quest (1990)

Jeepers, folks! It’s 2022! I’m reclining in the guest room at my parents’ house in Buffalo, NY typing at you after a crazy holiday. I came home, caught COVID, ordered in a bunch of local fare, and played a whole heap of Game Boy. I went and checked out a local mall during one of the healthy days early in my trip and discovered that the whole thing had more or less been converted into independent and mom & pop shops. There were pierogi kiosks, antique shops, records… even a whole place dedicated to handmade pet treats! It was like the mall caught a flea market virus that took over the whole organism. It was super neat. While there I found a really nice copy of Gargoyle’s Quest for twenty-five bux and I couldn’t resist. I played it through or close to through in my youth, but it’s been a while so I’m very excited to revisit it because it’s the game of the month! Picked by… me! 
Let’s see what me has to say –
Gargoyle’s Quest is a great looking hybrid of RPG and platforming goodness by Capcom starring Red Arremer/Firebrand of Ghosts n Goblins fame. The game is super challenging, but rewarding, and the control scheme allows for some flying and hovering that leads to interesting level design and enemy placements. You’ll learn how to maneuver quickly or perish infinitely! The game has some old school RPG trappings that can make progress a bit difficult at times, so don’t feel bad if you pull up an FAQ so you can get back to the fun stuff. If you enjoy it, definitely check out the sequel on the NES or the absolutely gorgeous Demon’s Crest on SNES. I would LOVE to see this game series come back in some form.”
Heck yeah, me! I agree with everything you said!
The cart is about 50 bucks these days so by all means emulate away. You can also get it on the 3DS eShop for… $3.99 US, I think? CHEEP! 
Happy New Years, all! Enjoy the game!