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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Classic Console Review: Nintendo GameBoy

With people shopping for holiday gifts, including gaming consoles, I decided to write about one of my favorite consoles, albeit a handheld one, the Nintendo GameBoy.

Released: North America - July 1989
Bits: 8

    Anyone from the 1990's will certainly remember this gem. While Nintendo was not the first company to develop and release handheld gaming devices, the GameBoy handheld console certainly capitalized on the portable console concept by releasing games from the popular game franchises found on it's already popular NES home system. Super Mario Brothers, Zelda, Castlevania, and even Donkey Kong had games that were released on the GameBoy system. In my experience, the most popular game, at least in my family, was Tetris. My family spent many hours on roadtrips passing the GameBoy around the car playing Tetris. It was actually the first version of Tetris I ever played. I don't recall playing it on the regular Nintendo, and only later played the Dr. Mario/Tetris version on the Super Nintendo.
The "Split-Pea" LCD of the original GameBoy.
 So what was it like playing a GameBoy back in the late 80's/early 90's? The original system was an 8-bit, 2.6 inch diagonal Reflective STN LCD screen that provided a colorless (unless you consider pea-green/yellowish background with black pixels a color) on-the-go gaming experience. Yes, for me, the pea-green LCD screen is the biggest memory I have from back then. I understand that Nintendo was shooting for a black and white display on these systems, and I can only guess that the technical limitations of the time prevented the LCD screen from being truely black and white, or at the very least  black with a grey/silver background. By comparison, Sega's Game Gear handheld came out in 1991, and utilized a full 32
color screen that really blew the original GameBoy out of the water.And then there was the
Atari Lynx....wait....I never knew anyone that had that one, so screw it. The point is, I loved playing on my GameBoy.
Typical Accessory Advertisement for the GameBoy
Does this mean that the GameBoy was perfect? Far from it. I already mentioned the fact that it had a "black and white" LCD screen that looked more like pea soup. Add on the fact that it was not backlit like the Game Gear was, and it limits your ability to play this thing in anything less than direct sunlight. That's right, the original system could not be played at night, in the backseat of your family sedan during a long roadtrip. To counter this problem, Nintendo designed and sold some peripherials such as a screen magnifier with a built
in light. This accessory not only magnified the screen, but provided a needed light source so you could play in dark or low light conditions. On a side note, having a screen that was not backlit did have one advantage. The few kids that did have a Game Gear system could not get away with playing games in class, as the bright screen often illuminated the player's face, tipping off the teacher. Kids with GameBoys, could usually get away with playing Super Mario Land or Tetris during long lectures, as long as they remembered to turn the sound down to zero.

    Some other accessories that I remember seeing were the GameBoy Camera, and the GameBoy Printer. I only saw them a couple of times, and never owned either of them myself, so I will not go in to much detail about how they worked or what exactly they did. All I do know about them, is that you could use them in tandem to take a digital black and white photo of yourself, and then print it off. Seems kinda cheesy by today's standards...but hey, this was the 1990's so it was pretty cool for the time. The only other accessory I remember was the Game Link cable that allowed you to connect to other GameBoys and play multi-player games. I never owned one of these either, and no one i knew had one, so I really cannot comment about it.
Yes the GameBoy was an amazing little device, and it certainly was one I have fond memories of. In my opionion it helped pave the way for the Nintendo 3DS, PSP and PS Vita of

today. The success of these handhelds owe a big thanks to the original GameBoy system.