Category Archives: Game Boy

Battle Unit Zeoth [Game Boy] – Review

Lacking the box and manual, I can only assume this game is about saving the Earth.
Lacking the box and manual, I can only assume this game is about saving the Earth.

With Kirby’s Dream Land beaten and SolarStriker finished, I turned my attention to Battle Unit Zeoth, another Game Boy game, and like the latter, another shoot ‘em up. I purchased it with SolarStriker, and didn’t really play it until this week. It was developed and published by Jaleco in 1991 and perhaps thanks to this later release, Battle Unit Zeoth is a little more progressive than SolarStriker. I say this primarily due to its level design and it’s usage of infinite continues.

Piloting the mech felt good. It could fly around, or just walk on the ground or platforms.
Piloting the mech felt good. It could fly around, or just walk on the ground or platforms.

The game is composed of five stages. The three odd-numbered stages are traditional side-scrolling affairs, with the screen auto scrolling horizontally. The two even-numbered stages however scrolled vertically with my movements, but required a lot of platform navigation. I thought these were pretty unique stages for this type of game. Shoot, even the traditional horizontally scrolling stages featured a notable amount of verticality to them. My control of the mech seemed pretty progressive too, as I was able to shoot in all four directions, and with enemies coming from all sides, I often had to.

That being said, the game was made easier than SolarStriker thanks to the infinite continues. Instead of having a reserve of lives that would increase with my score, I only had access to one life. But, when I died I could continue from the beginning of the stage I died on, albeit, without the upgrades I had collected. That was an important loss too, as the upgraded weaponry had a much larger impact than it did in SolarStriker.

If you play this game, you'll see this screen often.
If you play this game, you’ll see this screen often.

Between the two, I think Battle Unit Zeoth is the more interesting shooter, design-wise. But, it’s also the easier shooter, which may rub some the wrong way. Still, being able to complete a game is nice, and games in this genre are very replayable. So, I think I’m done writing about Game Boy games for the moment. I am playing something on the platform currently, although I’m not sure an article will come to fruition as a result.

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SolarStriker [Game Boy] – Review

I've got that boom boom pow!
I’ve got that boom boom pow!

So after completing Kirby’s Dream Land, I figured I’d make a kick out of this “playing Game Boy games” idea and keep the concept going. I acquired SolarStriker and another Game Boy shoot ‘em up at the famous (infamous?) Admiral Flea Market for a few bucks many weeks ago and barely played it then. It was released in 1990 by Nintendo and developed by Nintendo R&D 1 and Minakuchi Engineering. The copy I have is loose and there are no indications of a narrative in-game, although I can tell from a little research (Wikipedia) that there is some mumbo jumbo about saving the Earth. A story isn’t crucial though, as is usually the case with this type of game. What matters is the gameplay.

These are a couple of the first enemies, and the stages never got much tougher than this.
These are a couple of the first enemies, and the stages never got much tougher than this.

All of the game’s six stages had me piloting an X-Wing looking spacecraft vertically towards the top of the screen. The enemies remained basic throughout my sessions with the game. They always entered from the top of the screen, and maybe even the sides; always in waves though, but never shooting profusely in a bullet hell way. The game did grow challenging, although I was able to make it the final stage within a half-dozen attempts. The bosses were the most challenging foes (duh) and I thought the fourth one especially was a life-sucker; there were bullets coming from all directions! In my favor was a simplistic power-up system, although my weaponry never deviated from shooting straight ahead.

That is, excluding boss fights of course. They could be challenging, at least from the fourth one on.
That is, excluding boss fights of course. They could be challenging, at least from the fourth one on.

When I began playing SolarStriker, I thought that I wouldn’t get close to the end. But after a little bit of time and determination, I was able to routinely make it. So, it’s a challenging game, but not devilishly so, however… the naturally dark color palette of the game was an issue. I had to adjust the color palette on the Game Boy itself to a negative version of the default to stand a chance. There was something about the black background of each stage obscuring the enemy fire that I couldn’t get my head around. Like Kirby’s Dream Land, this was a simple iteration of the genre it’s portraying, but a fun one that didn’t consume a lot of time.

Kirby’s Dream Land [Game Boy] – Review

Wait a minute... isn't Kirby pink?
Wait a minute… isn’t Kirby pink?

Released for the Game Boy in 1992, Kirby’s Dream Land marked the debut of the eponymous character that sucks and blows. What’s more, it also marked the beginning of Masahiro Sakurai’s entry into game development (in a directorial position, at least) and the growing relationship between the game’s developer – HAL Laboratory – and its publisher – Nintendo. But, instead of honing in on those aspects, I’m just going to talk briefly about the game itself. In short, it’s a basic platformer that was intended to be an entry-point for young video game players.

Kirby's flight was unlimited, unlike in later games, I believe.
Kirby’s flight was unlimited, unlike in later games, I believe.

And short it is! After finding a complete copy at a local Goodwill for a couple dollars, I plugged it into my GBA SP late that night and wound up beating it there and then. After getting through the first two stages trouble-free, I looked online to see just how many stages were in the game. After reading there was five, I trucked on and completed the game, only having to continue once. After the credits, the game extolled a harder difficulty, but that’s not usually my scene.

One notable aspect of this game – while Kirby can suck up enemies, consuming them or shooting them back out, he doesn’t have his copy ability. This, being the ability to swallow an enemy and gain its attacks, wasn’t introduced until the next game, Kirby’s Adventure for the NES. Lacking this, the game felt a little empty taking my experiences with later Kirby games into account. Still, I was surprised to find that a few of the stages had a degree of openness to them, similar to the Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog games.

Many of the bosses will be familiar if you've played a Kirby game.
Many of the bosses will be familiar if you’ve played a Kirby game.

So, my biggest takeaway from Kirby’s Dream Land is its brevity. That’s not to say it’s a bad game, in fact, I think it’s very solid. Kirby controls great, and even lacking his copy ability, he still has many differentiating qualities. The boss fights that capped off each stage were fun too. And, I’d be remiss to not mention the jubilant soundtrack as well. It’s a high point for this game and indicative of the tunes the series would be known for. It’s a fun little game worth a half-hour of your time if you’re into platformers.

Mario’s Picross – Review

Mario really doesn't need to be present; Nintendo probably thought he'd sell a few copies though.

Nintendo’s two Picross games for the Nintendo DS (Picross DS and Picross 3D) easily top the list of great timewasters. In them, players use logic and a hint of math to fill in empty grids that then yield an image. They can take anywhere from a few seconds to a half hour depending on the size of the grid, and each game contains hundreds of puzzles. The ease of playing them and the sense of accomplishment fuels their drive to consume any of my free time.

Mario’s Picross was the original Picross game from Nintendo and it was released on the Game Boy in 1995. It’s also available as a downloadable on the Nintendo 3DS via its Virtual Console storefront. I recently picked it up, and as is always the case when I play one, it consumed my time and had me staying up late saying to myself “just one more” over and over.

Picross puzzles are grids of blank squares that need to be filled in. Beside each row and column are numbers designating how many squares are to be filled, and in what order. For example, imagine a 15 x 15 puzzle with a row that has the numbers 7 and 7 beside it. Because the row is 15 squares long, I know that the first 7 squares are going to get filled in, there’ll be a space, and the last 7 squares will be filled in. That’s an easy example because the numbers indicating how many squares to fill in total 15; 7+1 (blank space)+7=15. It gets trickier when a row or column has only a few filled in squares. In situations like that, players really have to examine other rows and columns and view puzzles in their entirety.

Notice the Egyptian-like pictures; it's as though Mario was an archaeologist.

In the Nintendo DS games, when I’d fill in squares, their corresponding numbers beside the row or column would become grayed out, making it easier for me to keep track of what I hadn’t done yet. This feature isn’t present in Mario’s Picross and it made solving puzzles not necessarily tougher, just a little more annoying. Another facet that hinders my play sessions is the size of the screen. If you don’t remember, the screen on the original Game Boy was tiny; it’s probably the reason I wear glasses today. I tended not to play Mario’s Picross for extended sessions to avoid eye strain. The screen is enlarged on the 3DS, I just wish you could distort the perspective to make it fit the handheld’s screen entirely. Still, Mario’s Picross is a great timewaster and a great game for just a couple of bucks.