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The Nintendo Game Boy is 30 years old today, and still as fun as ever...

Discussion in 'Computers, Science & Technology' started by AGXStarseed, Apr 21, 2019.

  1. AGXStarseed

    AGXStarseed Well-Known Member

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    (Not written by me. Due to the length of this article, click the link at the bottom of the page to read it in full.)

    Three "generations" of Engadget Editors recount how it changed their gaming world.

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    Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Game Boy's release in Japan. Three decades ago, the portable gaming landscape would change forever. Whether you owned a Game Boy or not, it's likely something you're familiar with. The legacy reaches far beyond a retro gaming handheld. Three Engadget editors share their personal favorite version, and why it matters to them.

    James Trew
    I remember like it was yesterday. It was 1991, and I had my nose pressed up against the glass outside a branch of Dixons, on Park Street in Bristol (England). I was staring at a revolutionary new handheld console that would change gaming as we know it: the Atari Lynx II. At least, that's what I thought at the time. History would prove me wrong. So very, very wrong. 30 years ago, the real pioneer of gaming handhelds -- Nintendo's Game Boy, of course -- was released in Japan. It had even been around in the UK a while before my uninformed beak was smudging up windows of big box electronics stores. (The Game Boy came to the UK in 1990.)

    Despite choosing the Lynx, I almost instantly knew I'd made a mistake. All the other kids in my class, bar one, made the right choice (Dave Galloway, the other Lynx owner, and I soon became close friends). The playground soon changed from scrappy games of football to pockets of kids gathered around someone playing Tetris, or maybe two people playing Tetris against each other. Dave and I were elsewhere playing two-player California Games (which is amazing, FWIW).

    I loved the Lynx, but it was hard not to envy the endless stream of new and exciting titles for the Game Boy. Or its impressive battery life and actual pocket-friendly size. Atari went after superlatives (first color portable! 16-bit graphics!) and tried to squeeze an (80s) arcade into a small box. Nintendo took a totally different approach, knowing that handhelds required boiling things down to the basics, and focusing on the gameplay. Atari's portable had all the graphical power, on paper at least, but somehow, the worlds created on Nintendo's green dot-matrix baby looked more inviting and skillfully drawn for the limited display. Not shoehorned down from an arcade machine.

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    Thirty years later (for this story), I righted that wrong, and bought an original Game Boy on eBay. It cost me about $40, and came with Mortal Kombat. It's in surprisingly good condition for something older than some of my colleagues here at Engadget. It works just fine, and the two-tone bootup chime still stirs a tinge of jealousy, even though this one belongs to me.

    But nostalgia is always rosy. The moment Mortal Kombat loaded up, I was instantly reminded of the Game Boy's Achilles heel: that small, fuzzy, squint-inducing display. Even in the middle of the day, I found myself struggling to focus on the gray-and-green image before me, occasionally finding myself focusing on my reflection and not the game. I thumbed for the contrast wheel, hoping that I could gently roll the image into clarity, but it basically seesaws between all black, all green and usable. How did we tolerate this? Because it was 1990, and nothing beat the satisfaction of slamming a much-needed "straight" into the perfect gap for a Tetris.

    As much as I struggled with that display -- hardly surprising after 30 years of LCD and OLED development -- one thing remains true: the games are still pretty cracking. I wanted to enjoy the true Game Boy experience so I also shelled out for a copy of Super Mario Land (and Star Wars, for no reason other than it was a deal). Both of these games somehow seem to have more depth than their nearest rivals on the Lynx. Game Boy titles draw you in with simple graphics, clever gameplay and cute, creative worlds. The Lynx was more about high scores or button-mashing (not entirely, but given there are only about 70 games, there's not a massive variety).

    As much as I am enjoying the Game Boy, I realize (in hindsight) one clear benefit of the Lynx, at least if you're a collector type like me. The small library is pretty easy to pick up, and there's enough rare stuff to keep things interesting once you do. The Game Boy, with its vast library (and Japan-only releases) and cacophony of accessories and special editions would be maddening to collect. Of course, these are small consolations and a long time coming. For the last three decades, it's always been the most fun to play overall, and that's what really counts.


    Full Article: Nintendo Game Boy at 30: As fun as it ever was

    Related: https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/18/18311740/game-boy-emulation-new-life-old-technology
     
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  2. Isadoorian

    Isadoorian Well Known Chat Member, Welcomer of Newcomers V.I.P Member

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    And they're tough as nails :)

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  3. Yeshuasdaughter

    Yeshuasdaughter Active Member

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    I remember when they first came out, they were like $200 (which is about $500 in today's money) and only the rich kids owned one. My only chance to even touch one was the display model at Toys R Us that was pre loaded with a demo of Super Mario and Tetris.
     
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  4. AGXStarseed

    AGXStarseed Well-Known Member

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    One of the things that's always amazed me about the Game Boy (and its successors, the Game Boy Color, the Game Boy Advance and the Game Boy Advance SP) is the amount of extra stuff you could buy for it - which ranged from useful to outright crazy.

    Outside of the usual stuff you'd expect (such as linking cables/wireless adapters for multiplayer, lights for playing in the dark/low light, sound boosters, cheating devices, ways to connect it to other consoles like the SNES and Gamecube, etc.), there were the following:
    Cameras, a printer, an FM Radio, a barcode scanner, a keyboard to turn your Game Boy into a mini computer, an e-reader, a modem (The Game Boy KISS Link) to connect your Game Boy to the internet, a mobile phone adapter, TV tuners, a pocket sonar for when you went fishing and even a sewing machine!

    However, the most crazy of all - which never got released - was the PediSedate.
    [​IMG]
    This was to be used in hospitals for children about to undergo surgery. The PediSedate would connect to the Gameboy and, while kids were playing a game and getting de-stressed, the Doctors would turn on the sleeping gas and knock the child unconscious before taking them in for surgery.
    So, this is the only Game Boy Accessory (and arguably the only gaming accessory in the world) that gasses you!
    Can you imagine been sedated while playing on a Game Boy?
     
  5. Butterfly88

    Butterfly88 Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Wow, Happy Birthday to the Nintendo Game Boy! I still have a Game Boy Color somewhere.
     
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  6. Butterfly88

    Butterfly88 Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Wow, that's nuts. It would probably help the kids relax though.
     
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  7. tlc

    tlc The Mackinac Bridge and U.P. is my happy place.

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    I wanted one for awhile. I also wanted one of those handheld TVs. In 1989 I was 13.

    These days, I enjoy playing handheld games I find at resales. I've got a collection of probably about 30. I have a lighted Tetris with a green screen similar to the Game Boy.
     
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  8. AGXStarseed

    AGXStarseed Well-Known Member

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    I've also found out that one of the accessories you could buy for the Game Boy was a Solar Powered Charger.
    You'd leave it out in the sun for 8 hours to get a full charge before plugging it into your Game Boy to charge it. James Rolfe (AVGN) tested it, and it actually worked.

    Very impressive to have an eco-friendly solution to a technology problem. :D