The Gameboy was a platformer friendly system without a doubt. I’m guessing that was partly due to the limitations of the hardware as well as the fact that many of the software titles were based on popular Nintendo franchises that got their start on the NES, which was also a platform heavy console. I owned Kid Icarus, Mega Mans 2, 4, 5 and all 3 Castlevanias for the NES when I was a kid so I am predisposed to be attracted to the familiar names available for the Gameboy. I’m certain I picked up these 3 games shortly after purchasing my Gameboy based on the pedigree of the titles alone. Now after spending some time playing them, I’m not totally convinced the Gameboy is meant for platforming.
Platformers require split second reflexes, the ability to see everything around you and precise jumping controls. All 3 of these games are fun…..but they all suffer from the Gameboy’s blurriness and lack of backlighting. As a result, all 3 are much harder than they need to be to the point where it gets a bit frustrating. Case in point, I’m good at Mega Man games. Mega Man games for the NES are widely considered some of the most difficult titles on the system and I’ve been able to complete several of them. However, I suck big balls at Mega Man 2. I can’t complete a level. Hell, I can’t even make it to one of the bosses! I take way too much damage from the enemies scattered throughout because I have a hard time seeing them coming or else the enemies seem to take too many hits to defeat while I’m getting spanked by stupid flying enemies swooping down from above (also a complaint I have with Castlevania Adventure). Platfomers like Mega Man 2 on the Gameboy also require repetition in order to anticipate enemies and develop strategies to lengthen your life and part of the reason I am not good at this game could simply be due to lack of play time. So I’ll take my failures with a grain of salt and keep plugging away while accepting MM2 is a good but tough game.
Castlevania Adventure, an early Gameboy release from 1989, suffers some of the same issues I have with Mega Man 2 in that it is sometimes difficult to see the enemies on the screen and the cheap way the game take life away from you by putting a strong enemy on the screen while you are bombarded with bats swooping down from above. Your character, Christopher Belmont, proves the stereotype that white men can’t jump is true. The game forces you at times to jump from platform to platform with such precision while using a character with a lead footed vertical so you can see how this might be frustrating. Castlevania Adventure attempts to mirror the same gameplay as the original NES classic but in all honesty, it only succeeds part of the time. You still whip enemies, you still platform like a madman but the game sorely misses subweapons. I can’t tell you how many times I wish I had a subweapon such as an axe in order to arc my shots in the air to kill those pesky bats perched on the top of the screen. Castlevania Adventure is a decent platformer on its own but as a Castlevania game it isn’t up to par due to it’s glaring weaknesses. I know there are better Castlevanias out there for the original Gameboy, I just need to add them to my collection and play them.
Kid Icarus of Myths and Monsters is a faithful translation of the NES title, which I was a big fan of as a child (and now still). By staying close to it’s source material, Kid Icarus OMAM wins me over without doing anything really unique or better than the original. You control Pit on his quest for sacred treasure by climbing up screens, buying weapons and traversing the end level towers. It’s a whole new adventure for Pit this time and a fun one at that. I haven’t made it far enough in the game to know if Pit can still get turned into an eggplant or not but my fingers are crossed that the answer is no. I think the main reason this game was not as widely regarded might be due to the fact it was released in 1991, which was light years away from it’s original NES title release 5 years prior. By the time KI:OMAM was released, the SNES was the hot new system and games that felt stale weren’t going to be highly sought after. Gamers that passed this title up missed out in my opinion. I think Kid Icarus for the Gameboy is a worthy addition to any platformer fan’s library.
Currently in my collection:
Castlevania Adventure – game only B-
Kid Icarus of Myths and Monsters – game only B+
Mega Man 2 – game only B