You know Donkey Kong, right? Classic Nintendo arcade game, origin of Mario? Sure you do.
Donkey Kong is a classic with good reason: it’s solid arcade fare. Its mechanics are simple and straightforward to understand, it’s friendly to quick play sessions, it’s enormously addictive and it consistently challenges its players with just minor, progressively more difficult variations on the same four levels.
The 1994 Game Boy version surely can’t be anything particularly special, right? Or could it? Well, it came out thirteen years after the arcade original, so either someone at Nintendo was really confident in the staying power of its early arcade games — actually not all that unreasonable an assumption — or something interesting was going on.
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With the latest installment in the Mario Tennis series coming soon to Nintendo Switch at the time of writing, I thought it would be a good opportunity to revisit one of my favourite versions.
It’s not often that a handheld version of a game can honestly claim to be superior to its counterpart on TV-based consoles — and this was something that occurred even less frequently back in the days where the 8-bit Game Boy Color and the 64-bit Nintendo 64 coexisted happily alongside one another. But 2000’s Mario Tennis pulled it off with a spectacularly ambitious, interesting and ballsy handheld version that, for solo play at least, ran rings around its big brother.
It achieved this primarily by not even attempting to be a “port” of the rather multiplayer-centric N64 version — not that this would have been possible given the disparity in technological capabilities between the two platforms — but instead providing a unique, solo-focused experience. One that is still worth playing today — and which Mario Tennis Aces’ single-player Adventure Mode has undoubtedly taken some inspiration from.
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Nintendo has always been good at handheld games — even long before its Game Boy and subsequent platforms were a thing.
Those of you as old as me will doubtless remember the Game & Watch series, a range of 60 handheld electronic LCD games created by Nintendo and released between 1980 and 1991. These dinky little devices perfectly encapsulated what makes a “good handheld game” — something that is easy to learn but tough to master, and which you can either while away a few minutes with or engross yourself in for several hours thanks to their inherently addictive, rewarding quality.
The Game & Watch series was designed by Gunpei Yokoi, who later went on to design 1989’s astronomically popular Game Boy. It’s only appropriate, then, that a number of the games that really kickstarted Nintendo’s efforts in the handheld space went on to get their own adaptations on that platform, beginning with the Europe-only release of Game Boy Gallery in 1995.
Continue reading Game Boy Essentials: Game Boy Gallery