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Note this review covers only the black and white Gameboy, now superceded by the Gameboy Advance system, but I think you'll learn a lot about the Gameboy itself and why it became so popular in the 1990's.
The Nintendo Gameboy originally came out several years before it's 1989 us debut and Japanese debut in the same year. There were many portable games and console before the gameboy.
Sega of Japan (not the US Sega) actually released a couple of portable consoles before the game gear came out. Then later of course came, those cheap, but mildly entertaining Tiger games that cost like $10 at the supermarket.
However, those consoles were mainly designed for 7yr olds not mature gamers who expect more from their games, than just a couple of dots on the screen.
One of the great features of the Gameboy (which is also available on the Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance) is it's link feature which allows to play with or against a friend. This is very popular among the Pokemon games, where you choose among man characters. Nowadays, the multiplayer aspect of games is just as important as single player aspect as you can see.
Also to contrary belief, there were different variations of the Gameboy sold. A couple of versions had a special light feature, which allowed to play games while in the dark. Other versions came with earphones (although the sound for most games weren't stereo quality). Furthermore, some versions of the Gameboy included The popular Tetris game (which has also seen many incarnations). However, other versions came with the popular game, like Dr. Mario for one.
It used double A batteries, and optional battery pack. The console though wasn't designed with productivity in mind and so you had to buy batteries every 2 weeks or month to play youre favorite games (what a nag).
The control of the Console itself, did copy many Tiger games which used a diagnal d pad to move around, along with 2 buttons and a start and select buttons.
Graphic and Sound Capabilities
Now here's the biggest con of the console, and even to this day, just looking at the console itself is embarrassing.
You remember the first tv that were sold back in the 50s? Those old black and white sets ( Gasp what an ugly thought).
The people who bought these sets, thought they were really cool....until color tv came in, and everyone who bought a black and tv sold it back, too embarrased to keep it. The same philosophy applies to the Gameboy.
It's basically like a monochrome display panel that is incapable of displaying color. There was very little graphics too use in most games and it made playing these games a bit of a bummer. It basically was a poor designed graphic model. Why Nintendo didn't spend good money to include True Color Graphics on this portable system is anyone's guess.
The best excuse that Nintendo has it that they were still making games for the Nes system and it's upcoming SNES system (to steal competition and profit from Sega) that they weren't really commited to it. I am pretty sure the executive who had the bright idea of having a black and white portable game console was fired.
For the most part many games used more cartoonish looking fat characters in order to make them easier on the eyes and to supplement the limited graphics.
The sound was ok. In some cases, just hearing the sound intro for some of thes games was enough for gamers. However, no stereo or fm quality and you can forget about CD quality.
Games -The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Depending on whether you had a US or Japanese gameboy system, meant all the difference between playing a sucky game or a good game. Also not knowing about the large varieties of games limited your gaming pleasure.
Any good gamer will tell you that a large majority of quality games are made in Japan or Asia (anyone who tells you differently is a liar).
There were many ok games released in the US, however, their were even better games released in Japan. Unfortunately, the gameboy was incapable of playing import games.
However, seeing as their are a couple of good games that were made for the gameboy, I shall list them.
Tetris: One of the first games released for both the US and Japanese gameboy.
Nintendo claims the credit for Tetris, but actually there were many like Tetris games before it became the household name on the Gameboy.
A couple of the games, were made for a mature audience while others were made for kids.
Tetris for those of you who haven't played ( I can't blame it's an old game) is a puzzle game where you have to put a bunch of blocks together.
In Japan , Tetris was popular but it wasn't the sole success of the Gameboy as some people will tell you (those people don't do their homework).
Super Mario Land series: The Nintendo, Snes and Playstation, Nintedo 64 are much better than the gameboy versions. However, I would recommend the gameboy versions as well. I also love those Warioland games, they are hysterically funny.
Final Fantasy series: The original Final Fantasy series on the old gameboy featured the most ugly graphics I have ever seen. The characters look like midgets in the game, and the sound is utterly terrible. However it took a cartoonish like quality that appealed to gamers so give it a look.
In fact, if you played this game right now, you would have no idea that it's made by a great company (SquareSoft). In fact, you would make the guess that the company who made this series went out of business. Luckily SquareSoft,would literally remake the series on the Nes, Snes, Playstation and Playstation 2, with the Playstation versions being the best.
I have mixed emotions when it comes to Pokemon. Pokemon actually started out as a cartoon in Asia, before it made it's made it's US debut. Bad critics say that Pokemon is overrated, but it's not. In fact, copy cat games have been made that use elements of Pokemon (Digimon, YUGI-OH). The story behind Pokemon is really simple, yet this story has gathered the attention of many young gamers. Pokemon like Harry Potter is one of the hottest games around. New Characters have been introduced and added, so if you want to see how the whole thing started (gamewise) play this version. One last comment on Pokemon. There are many people who blast Pokemon for several reasons, yet those same idiotic critics are simply jealous of the success of it.The creators of it have literally laughed all the way to the bank with it. I myself have several Pokemon memorabilia that I have sold at a very good price to diehard fans. It has become one of the most popular role playing games around. It has a huge fan following.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Just like the Pokemon games, the creator of the Turtles has laughed all the way to the bank with this series. The TMNT series is one of a few series that has looked good across all platforms. From the Arcade, to the Nes, to the Genesis and SuperNes, and Gameboy versions, these games should give the kids plenty of hours of fun.
Mega Man series -The Gameboy versions of MegaMan aint that bad definitely a collectible if your into the series.
Zelda series - Like the Final Fantasy series the graphics for the Gameboy weren't that great but for nostalgic rpg purposes give it a look.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, the old Gameboy is not entirely out of date, there are some great games out there that bring back great memories.You can probably pick up a Gameboy from Ebay or an old used store for $10 way cheap considering the $90 price tag it had when it was first released.
There are some decent games for it, and it led to the widely popular Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance system, so give it a try I think you might like the system and what it has to offer.