Retro reflections by Matt S.
A couple of years ago my brother gave me the ultimate retro Christmas present: a Super Nintendo. To make a long story brief, back in my youth my brothers and I did the crazy thing of trading in our Super Nintendo and a dozen or more games to get a new Nintendo 64 and Hexen. We didn’t play games as much for the first six months after doing that, while we started to accumulate games again…
Anyway, point being that for years I was pining after my lost Super Nintendo. What a console it still is. Since my brother’s amazing gift I’ve been rebuilding a small library of SNES games, and I love being able to switch between that console and the newer ones that I have sitting under my TV.
The second part of this little story involves my annual trips to Japan. Each year when I go back I make a trip to a couple of used game shops (yes, including the infamous – but not the best – Super Potato), and pick up a handful of Game Boy games. I love the Game Boy with a passion – that nostalgic grey aesthetic takes me right back to my childhood, and the ridiculous simplicity of those games I now find to be quaint and charming; a nice foil to the often overcomplicated games of today.
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My problem is that I’ve forgotten how to play the Game Boy. I know that sounds ridiculous, but on the Game Boy Color units, the lack of backlighting and the tiny, tiny screens means that I find it quite impossible to actually get myself into a position where I can comfortably play it. I don’t remember how I did it as a kid... Regardless, the point is that while I’ve been dutifully buying up classic Game Boy games, they’ve been more in the interest of collecting them than actually playing them.
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But I finally got around to buying a Super Game Boy for my Super Nintendo this week (thank you, eBay!), and now I’m having a great time getting stuck right back into my classic Game Boy collection.
For those that don’t know what a Super Game Boy is, back in the day it was quite the phenomenon. You’d plug this large cartridge into your Super Nintendo, and then stick your Game Boy game into the cartridge. Then you’d switch the Super Nintendo on, and like magic your Game Boy game would be on the big screen in all its glory. Yep, all those rumours of the Nintendo NX being a handheld console that streams to the big screen when you’re at home, if they pan out to be true, make the new console not even slightly innovative; Nintendo was doing this from its very first handheld, and second home console.
As an added bonus, certain Game Boy games would be enhanced when played through the Super Game Boy. A standard Game Boy game would remain monochrome on the big screen, and, in order to keep the screen ratios right, would be bordered on the big screen by a representation of the top half of the original Game Boy. But compatible Game Boy games would feature a limited number of colours when played on the Super Game Boy, and would feature special borders to help set the scene.
Of the Japanese Game Boy games, my favourite would have to be the Game Boy version of Atelier Elie. Having only got into the Atelier series with Rorona on the PlayStation 3, I have really loved going back to the most primitive of all the series. On the Super Game Boy the colours are simple and the sprites are basic, but the charm of the series is definitely present, and on the Super Game Boy, this is one of the games that has a special border; in this case there’s an adorably cute Elie and some punis – the series’ classic enemy.
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Sadly, Game Boy Color games are not compatible with the Super Game Boy, which means a couple of my favourite games are not compatible with my new toy; the Game Boy Color ports of Cannon Fodder, Heroes of Might & Magic 2, and Wizardry Empires, for example. On the plus side, Wizardry 2, which I also picked up in Japan, is a Game Boy game and is compatible. Classic Wizardry on the TV screen really is something special – and this game feels quite relevant to this day, because the dungeon crawler genre that Wizardry pioneered hasn’t veered too far from the original series’ formula.
I also have some classic arcade games. There’s a really good version of vanilla Space Invaders on the Game Boy, and it’s timeless fun on the big screen. A little more niche is Snow Bros. Jr. Have you heard of this one? No? Well, you’re really missing out. The best way to describe Snow Bros. Jr. is as a kind of Bubble Bobble clone, only instead of breathing bubbles to “capture” enemies, you’re tossing snow at them until they’re turned into giant snowballs. I was intensely addicted to this game as a kid… right up to the point that the cartridge died. I actually cried that day. In a miracle I found a copy of it in Japan this year, and now it’s on the big screen.
Of course, the Game Boy has aged, and aside from a very, very few games (the Super Mario and Pokemon titles, principally) there is limited appeal to these games for new players. But for me, owning a Super Game Boy again is a real rush of nostalgia, and I’m now planning on buying up copies of older Game Boy games that I’ve lost over the years and which were never released on the 3DS’s Virtual Console. The Final Fantasy Legend trilogy principal among them.
For retro gamers, I can’t recommend the Super Game Boy enough. Not only will it allow you to play most Game Boy games without needing to strain your neck to get your Game Boy at a viewable angle, but on the Super Nintendo, many of these games are actually improved. Amusingly enough, I finally got around to getting the Super Game Boy the same week that I got the future of gaming – my PlayStation VR unit. Old and new; it has been a truly great week to be into games.
- Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld