Saturday, October 14, 2017

If Nintendo put me in charge of a GameBoy Classic Edition, here are the 30 games it would include

Word on the street is Nintendo may be prepping a GameBoy Classic Edition--or "GameBoy mini," as many on the Internet like to call it--to complement its recent NES and SNES plug-and-play consoles.

Given the success the company found with those miniaturized systems, a similarly compact re-envisioning of its first handheld wouldn't exactly be a surprise.

What would be a surprise (or at least it would be to me): if Nintendo filled the memory of this as-of-now-imaginary GameBoy Classic Edition with worthwhile games.

After all, while the NES-inspired product featured a number of veritable classics, it also included some head-scratchers like Pac-Man. More surprising were the titles its omitted, like the first Dragon Quest (or Dragon Warrior, for old folks like me), Duck Tales and Bionic Commando.

Would I do a better job of cramming a GameBoy Classic Edition or GameBoy mini full of must-play games? I'd like to think so.

Admittedly, the brass at Nintendo probably would put the kibosh on a number of the carts I'd push for, but I won't let that keep me from discussing them in this post.

Alleyway--Most people pooh-pooh this "launch window" release as an antiquated bore, but I've always enjoyed it. Plus, even with its issues, I think it would be a perfect pick-up-and-play-when-you-only-have-a-few-spare-minutes title for a product like this.

Amazing Penguin--I have to imagine a lot of folks who owned a GameBoy in the late 1980s and early 1990s aren't aware of this game's existence. That's too bad, as Amazing Penguin's gameplay--equal portions Pac-ManPengo and Qix--sets it apart from all the humdrum puzzlers and platformers that flooded store shelves during the system's reign.

Balloon Kid--This Balloon Fight spinoff is a tough cookie and a painfully short experience, but it deserves a spot here due to its unique gameplay (it's a side-scrolling platformer in which its main character is nearly always floating beneath a balloon) and its female protagonist.

Bubble Bobble Part 2--None of Taito's handheld Bubble Bobble titles hold a candle to the arcade original, but that doesn't mean they're all stinkers. Part 2 (Bubble Bobble Junior in Japan) is the best of the bunch by far, with adorable sprites and sprawling stages.

BurgerTime Deluxe--I've long loved the original BurgerTime game, but there's no question it's often brutal. Thankfully, this GameBoy sequel is miles more accessible. It also looks great and features a surprisingly ear-pleasing soundtrack. Bonus: the Japanese BurgerTime Deluxe packaging and instruction manual are splendid, too.

Catrap--Yet another often-overlooked game that really should be played by everyone who comes within a foot of a GameBoy system. Not only are its cat-eared protagonists (you can switch between the girl or boy at the beginning of every stage) cute as can be, but the time-bending, brain-melting, puzzler-platformer action at its core is completely brilliant, too.

Dig Dug--You just know that should a GameBoy Classic Edition ever be made, Nintendo's more likely to include Namco's portable, black-and-white Pac-Man port instead of this one. Which would be a shame, as the puzzle-heavy "New Dig Dug" mode included here (and not found anywhere else) is a breath of fresh air.

Donkey Kong--This may well be the best game ever made for Nintendo's first portable console. If you've never played it, it takes the arcade original's straightforward barrel-jumping action and transforms it into the puzzler-platformer to beat all puzzler-platformers--and that includes the many Mario vs. Donkey Kong titles that followed in this 1994 release's footsteps.

Dr. Mario--Truth be told, I've never been a huge Dr. Mario fan. I know a lot of folks like it, though, so that's why I'm including it here. I also think it's a good counterpoint to the far less flashy Tetris.

Final Fantasy Adventure--It would be easy to give this game's slot to another thanks to the presence of Link's Awakening (see below), but I'd campaign against that tactic for a couple of reasons. For starters, not everyone loves Link or Zelda. Also, Final Fantasy Adventure's ARPG gameplay is different enough from its aforementioned competitor's to be worth a go even if you're a Zelda veteran.

Final Fantasy Legend II--Purists probably would prefer to include the first Final Fantasy Legend title here, but I think its sequel is the better, more interesting, game. Either title should be seen as a welcome addition to this line-up, though, as it's decidedly lacking in traditional RPGs.

Gargoyle's Quest--This was one of my most-cherished cartridges back when I first owned a GameBoy thanks to how it combines exploring an RPG-ish overworld with conquering side-scrolling action stages. And it was among the hardest to let go of when I stupidly sold my system and collection of GameBoy cartridges a number of years after I bought them.

Golf--Of the three Nintendo-pubished sports titles that hit store shelves right around the GameBoy's launch, this is the most impressive and the most full-featured. (Don't even talk to me about Baseball.) It's also the most enjoyable, although I wouldn't argue with anyone who says they're just as fond of Tennis.

Great Greed--I have a feeling most GameBoy Classic Edition buyers would find this Namco-made RPG a bit rough around the edges, but it's such a weirdly wonderful offering that I feel it would be a shame to ignore it in a situation like this. (For more on why I like this game as much as I do, read these posts I've published about Great Greed.)

Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru--OK, so Nintendo would have to localize this curious (what with its hands-free battles) RPG before it could be pre-loaded on this product's Western iterations, but let's assume that's a possibility. In such a case, I can't think of a better "lost gem" to offer to the millions of people outside of Japan who'd pick up a GameBoy mini.

Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters--I stupidly passed on this game back in the day because it lacked the colorful backdrops of its predecessor. I have a feeling a lot of other GameBoy owners at the time did the same. That's too bad, as it's a worthy successor to the NES classic even with its black-and-green palette.

Kirby's Dream Land--This is another GameBoy gem I ignored until recently. I have to imagine I'm in the minority this time around, though, as many consider Kirby's Dream Land an unquestionable classic. Now that I've played through it--and enjoyed its pleasantly meandering gameplay--a few times, I have to agree.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening--Considering many see Link's Awakening as one of the best Zelda games ever made, it's as deserving as any GameBoy cart of being one of the 30 games that would be pre-installed on a so-called GameBoy mini.

Mario's Picross--To be completely honest, I've never played Mario's Picross. Everybody seems to love Picross, though, and this one stars everyone's favorite (former) plumber, so it should be a shoo-in here--even if I have to imagine playing this version is a bit more aggravating than playing later nonogram titles released for, say, the Nintendo DS or 3DS.

Metroid II: Return of Samus--I could see the powers that be at Nintendo taking a pass on this game since a remake of it just hit the 3DS, but I think it should be included here anyway. Plus, I'm guessing a good chunk of Metroid fans prefer the aesthetics and even gameplay of the original version of Return of Samus to those of its more modern counterpart.

Mole Mania--Like many GameBoy owners, this Nintendo-published cart (called Mogurānya in Japan) completely bypassed my radar when it hit store shelves back in 1997. Don't worry, I'm still beating myself up over it, as the action-puzzle gameplay on offer here is beyond charming. Even better: it holds up well today--to the point that I almost can't believe Nintendo failed to produce a sequel for the DS or 3DS.

Pokémon Red (or Blue)--As was the case with Tetris, this world-conquering RPG has to be included on any kind of GameBoy re-release. The question is: should both Red and Blue be playable via this particular product, or would just a single version suffice? I'd be fine with one or the other myself, but I'm far from a Pokémon lifer.

Revenge of the 'Gator--Of all the third-party GameBoy releases mentioned so far, this one that excites me the least. Still, it's a fun little pinball game and it was developed by the folks at HAL Laboratory (of Kirby fame), so I doubt many would complain if Nintendo made room for it in the GameBoy mini's memory.

Super Mario Land--Can Super Mario Land be enjoyed if it isn't accompanied by a substantial dose of nostalgia? I'm not sure--and this is taking into consideration its deliciously odd locales and shoot 'em up levels. Even if it can't, though, I think some who've never experienced it may want to give it a try thanks to its pedigree alone.

Super Mario Land 2--It feels kind of strange to offer up two Mario games with a product such as this, but it would feel similarly strange to ignore this one, which is by nearly all accounts (mine included) a preferable platforming experience to its predecessor. All that said, part of me would like to include the first Wario Land here instead. But it would be weird to offer Super Mario Land 3 and not 2, right?

Tetris--If Nintendo isn't willing to pay to make this iteration of Tetris available to people who buy a GameBoy Classic Edition, it shouldn't even bother with the device. Pretty much everyone who purchases one will want to play this game above all others--and with good reason.

Top Rank Tennis--The Nintendo-made tennis game that launched alongside the GameBoy is merely OK. It certainly looks nice, and it controls well, too. There isn't much to it, though--something that can't be said about this Pax Softonica-developed follow-up.

Trip World--One reason to put this Sunsoft title onto this as-of-now-imaginary product: it's a beautiful, Kirby-esque side-scroller. Another reason: besides its recent-ish 3DS Virtual Console release, physical copies of the game (even loose cartridges) command ridiculously high prices these days.

Trax--Another HAL Laboratory product, this action game that stars a cartoonish tank would pleasantly surprise a lot of GameBoy mini buyers, I think. It's a bit short, but it's also so breezy and fun that its brevity shouldn't bother many who give it a chance. (Learn more about the Japanese version of this game, Totsugeki! Ponkotsu Tank.)

X--If Nintendo wants to impress people who pick up a GameBoy Classic Edition (should one be produced, of course), the best way to accomplish that, in my mind, would be to present them with this three-dimensional, mission-based shooter, which was made with the assistance of Argonaut Software (of Star Fox fame).

I know what some of you are thinking after reading through this post: how could you leave out Castlevania: The Adventure or Castlevania II? And where are the Mega Man games? Or Operation C and Contra: The Alien Wars? What about the GameBoy ports of Gradius, Parodius Da! and TwinBee Da!!Believe me, I considering naming all of them here. In the end, though, I went with the games discussed above for a whole host of reasons.

As always, feel free to tell me (in the comments section below) which games you'd toss onto a GameBoy Classic Edition or GameBoy mini if given the chance.

See also: 'In honor of the 28th anniversary of GameBoy's Japanese release, here are a handful of my all-time favorite GB games'

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