My name is Josh, and I’ve been playing video games, in some form, since I was 5 years old. I first experienced the thrill of video games at the ripe young age of 5, at a family get together. My uncle brought his Atari 2600 console, and between Pac-Man, Combat, Battlezone, and a handful of other titles, I was completely smitten with the idea of controlling some small, multi-pixel object on the screen. Every time we would get together with family, I hoped one of my uncles would bring their Atari 2600. Every time I’d visit friends, I would beg them to play video games. And eventually, I would own my own gaming platform, but more on that later.
After having been exposed to the Atari 2600 through family members, and then computer gaming through another uncle, my parents bought a family computer. Mostly, my dad wanted to be able to do productivity stuff with it, but as much time as I could spend on it, I did, playing various shareware games and games designed for the system. And while we were late to the game, owning the IBM PCjr well after its marketability had all but dried up, that little machine gave me countless hours of joy. I had adventures with King’s Quest, played hoops with One on One Basketball, destroyed property as a Paperboy, and spent hours exploring space and discovering new life forms with Starflight. Until I started buying games that didn’t really work on the PCjr, due to the limitations of RAM (and no hard drive), that computer was the perfect outlet for my early gaming curiosity.
My parents wouldn’t buy me a dedicated games console, in part, because they said I would monopolize the TV. They were right, I absolutely would have. I did have a short stint with my uncle’s 2600 when he let me borrow it during part of a summer. Sadly, the somewhat broken joysticks led me to fits of young gamer rage, which prompted my mom to pack it up and send it back to him. Once again, I was relegated to just my PCjr, and various friends’ consoles, to get my gaming fix. Thankfully, my next door neighbor had a 2600, NES, and even an original Magnavox Odyssey, and was happy to have me come by any time to play games with him.
There was light at the end of the tunnel, however. Though my parents wouldn’t allow me to own a home console, with only 1 TV set in the house, they did say I could buy a Game Boy, provided I bought it with my own money. I didn’t get that much in allowance money, but I dutifully saved my cash, rather than spending it on G.I. Joe figures, and saved up until my 13th birthday, April 1990. I bought the Game Boy, complete with Tetris cartridge, and my parents bought me Castlevania: The Adventure as my birthday gift. It was a glorious birthday, potentially one of the best ever.
What followed over the next 2 years was pure childhood gaming bliss. I bought over a dozen classic Game Boy games: Super Mario Land and its sequel, Alleyway, F-1 Race, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan, Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters, Gargoyle’s Quest, Final Fantasy Legend, Duck Tales, Dr. Mario, and several others. I poured a lot of time into my Game Boy, and every time my family went to visit my grandparents or other relatives, I had my trusty Game Boy with me. When I stayed overnight with friends, we each had our Game Boys with link cables, ready to duke it out in Tetris, Dr. Mario, or whatever other 2-player extravaganza we both had. I also spent countless hours in my bedroom, fighting and clawing to reach the end of Castlevania and Gargoyle’s Quest, and a lot of time perfecting my 4-row technique in Tetris. It was a magical time.
Sadly, that time came to an end in 1992, when I decided that I absolutely had to have a Sega Genesis. My parents were buying a new TV, so that opened up the possibility that my younger brother and I could buy their old TV, pool our money together and buy a Genesis, so we could experience the awesome power of the system. I had already played Last Battle,Golden Axe, and the awe-inspiring Sonic the Hedgehog at a classmate’s house, and I knew that was what I wanted. I still didn’t have that much money, however, so I ended up selling my Game Boy and all my games to pay for the Genesis. I don’t regret buying, owning, or playing the Genesis, because it’s still one of my favorite systems, and I have a ton of great memories of that. I just wish, in hindsight, that I hadn’t let go of my entire collection of complete-in-box Game Boy titles, especially F-1 Race, because I had the 4-player adapter with it.
Thankfully, I recognized my egregious error 2 years later, and when my best friend from school decided to sell his Game Boy, I bought it from him without a moment’s hesitation. Granted, I didn’t get back the boxes and manuals, but I did reacquire some favorites like Tetris, the original Super Mario Land, and Alleyway. I soon purchased Dr. Mario and Duck Tales again, and was reliving the fun of owning a portable system once again. I snagged Super Mario Land 2: The Six Golden Coins (still have that complete-in-box!), and loved it, as well as a handful of other games, to eventually get back nearly all the titles I enjoyed just a few short years earlier. By the time I graduated high school, however, I wasn’t gaming much, in part because all my money was going toward dating my girlfriend.
I rediscovered gaming again in 1998 when my wife and I took a trip to another uncle’s house for a big family get together weekend, and my younger cousin had his PlayStation there. We spent the better part of that weekend pouring over Tekken 2, and my wife decided at that point that we needed a PlayStation. We bought one, got Tekken 2 and Tekken 3, and I also picked up a couple shmups and a copy of Final Fantasy VII. Once again, I immersed myself in gaming, and though my Game Boy laid largely dormant during that period, I was still cultivating my love for gaming, and the memories of that earlier time were still part of what propelled me to continue to invest in games. I spent a lot of time with that system, and it’s still one of my favorites to this day.
In 2000, I got the itch to get back into portable gaming again, so I picked up an Atomic Purple model of the Game Boy Color. I could go back and play my existing Game Boy library, and then also some new games I picked up, like Bionic Commando Elite Forces, Project S-11, R-Type DX,Frogger, and even the goofy game The Smurfs’ Nightmare. Once again, I immersed myself in portable gaming, taking the unit with me on trips and to various places when I had the chance. The screen was better, it only used 2 batteries instead of 4, was more truly portable, and I could plug in one of those ingenious “snake light” peripherals to give light to the screen without a giant, bulky attachment. Suddenly, my original Game Boy library came alive again, some titles with a reasonable amount of color, and on a much improved display.
I missed out on the Game Boy Advance immediately, because I was concentrating on mostly console and PC gaming throughout much of the mid-2000’s. I didn’t pick up a GBA until years later, sometime in 2008 or 2009, when I found a GBA SP very reasonably priced at a used game store. Within a short period of time, once again, I found myself enjoying old Game Boy games, picking up more original Game Boy and Game Boy Color games I hadn’t owned before, and also buying new Game Boy Advance games that had come out years before. The advent of the backlit display was a huge bonus, and the GBA SP is still my handheld of choice for playing any of my Game Boy library. My portable gaming life is now split between my GBA SP (and library of Game Boy family of games), and my Sony PSP, which my wife bought me for Christmas in 2005. I occasionally cross over, playing some GB, GBC, or GBA titles on the PSP (via custom firmware and emulation, of course), in part, due to save states, and additional color options, but sometimes strictly out of convenience.
So now we come to the genesis (sorry, pun intended) of this project! There are a number of folks who have endeavored to do full system reviews, which are game-by-game analysis of every title for the respective console(s) they’ve chosen. You have Nintendo Legend, and Dylan Cornelius’ Questicle project to review every North American NES title, and his subsequent descent into all things Sega with his Sega Does website and podcast. You also have HuCard Heaven, for TurboGrafx and PC Engine games, and Sega Galactico, aka The Sega Legend, working his way through the Sega Genesis library. Tom Hall, (now formerly) of the Breaking Bits Podcast, calls himself (or used to) the N64 Connoisseur, and is (was) attempting to review every North American N64 release. Not every system has a “Legend” working on the game library, but it’s becoming more prevalent. In the Game Boy space, there’s GameBoyle, a fantastic YouTube series and Twitter account of a great resource for all things Game Boy. There’s also Game Boy World, a great resource of GB game reviews and information.
So why does the world need a Game Boy Guru? I’m not sure it does, but as my conversation with Dylan Cornelius went (great dude, go follow him on Twitter right now!), the more people exploring the entire game libraries of each console, the better. The more people that are uncovering the lesser known titles, milling through the shovelware, and truly highlighting the best games of a platform, the better off the retro gaming community will be. My opinion may be just one in a sea of opinions, but I want to express it just the same. This will be an outlet for me, but also a learning experience, since the vast majority of the Game Boy library remains undiscovered by me. As much as I’ve enjoyed my Game Boy systems over the years, I’d love to play through a lot of the library. I’ve been actively buying Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games when I find them inexpensively, and have built a small, respectable library that will be a great place for me to start.
I hope to build a near-complete collection of North American Game Boy releases, as well as eventually getting close to that with both the GB Color and GB Advance. I will cover Japanese and European games if and when I can, based on when I can acquire them. If the project gets good feedback and people are asking for content faster than I can acquire games, I may look into Patreon or some way folks can help me continue to acquire games for review. I may also look into a YouTube channel, though my existing channel has been quite neglected of late. Either way, I want to bring you my thoughts on the Game Boy family of handhelds, and I felt like now was the right time to start doing that. Game on!
Originally posted on the official Game Boy Guru blog: