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Vol. 2, Issue 2
November 17, 1999
Pocket Full o' Love:

GBC Love

by Jason "loonyboi" Bergman

Hi there! Welcome to Pocket Full of Love. This column is a direct result of our Put a Little Love in Your Pocket cover story from Volume 1. In that article, I looked at all the different forms of handheld gaming, and had a total blast doing it. The article was so popular, and I enjoyed it so much, that we here at loonygames decided we needed more on pocket gaming...so here we are.

The problem these days with handheld gaming, despite their overwhelming popularity, is separating the crap from the really good games (and believe it or not there are lots of great games available). Handheld games don't take too much effort to create if you don't care about the quality...so there's a ton of really bad games out there. Also, believe it or not, there is more to handheld gaming than just the GameBoy and GameBoy Color. In this week's column I'll be focusing entirely on the GBC, but next time I'll talk exclusively about the NeoGeo Pocket Color, the latest and greatest pocket system out there. In the weeks to come, I'll look at some older systems, including a whole bunch of forgotten gems out there for the Atari Lynx and Game Gear (and I'll even tell you how to get one for yourself).

But this week we're going to talk about the GameBoy Color. The GBC is basically a color version of the original GameBoy. It's backwards compatible with all the old black and white (or rather, green) games, and has some cool, if underused features like the IR port that are exclusive to the new system. There are GameBoy Color exclusive titles, but for the most part, the entire GameBoy library works on every GameBoy system. That includes the original system released a decade ago (yes, it's really been that long), the newer GameBoy Pocket, and the Super GameBoy (the adapter for the SNES that allowed you to play games on your TV. A must have for GameBoy fanatics).

If you own an older GameBoy, and are wondering if it's worth upgrading to the new edition, it's ultimately your call. Obviously, the difference between the two is the color, but also, the GameBoy Color has a remarkably long battery-life (I haven't changed mine in six months, and that's with fairly heavy playing).

But the real issue is the games, and that's what this column's for. I play a lot of different games, and I'll be reporting on several of them per issue...so let's look at a few, shall we?

First of all, there are a number of games out there that say "GameBoy Color" on the side bar of their box - try not to be fooled by this. That does not mean the game won't run on your legacy system! It's just a way of letting people know that it's enhanced for the GBC. The enhancements usually mean a native color mode, although some games, like R-Type DX have other features as well. I've noticed that several games (Pokemon Pinball being the most surprising) actually work just fine on my Super GameBoy despite having the "only for GameBoy Color" stamp on the box.

R-Type DX is interesting though. When you pop R-Type into a legacy GameBoy, you're given the option to play either R-Type 1 or R-Type 2. If you play it on your GBC, you have the option of playing either of those, but also you can play R-Type DX, a special version that takes both games and melds them into one.

R-Type DX is a good game, but it suffers from the same problem it did in every previous incarnation - it's way too hard. And I mean way too hard. I've come to the conclusion that bringing it with me on airplanes is just a bad idea...I don't need to get that frustrated when I'm trying to relax (a serious issue for me when I'm up in the air). The game, if you've never seen it, is a side-scrolling space shooter. And like all side-scrolling shooters you go through the game shooting lots of little enemies, and picking up power-up after power-up, making your weapons bigger and bigger as you go. But R-Type distinguishes itself by its "power pod".

  The "power pod" is a power up, but it's more than that. What it does is follow alongside you ship, and when you fire, you fire from both your ship and the pod simultaneously. You can call the pod back to your ship, and it will dock onto the front or rear depending on where you catch it. When you do this, you'll double your firepower, but there's also another advantage - the pod is invincible, so you can plow through enemies (so long as they don't touch you anywhere but the front...it can be very difficult to do that).

Also at your disposal is the ability to charge up your shot by holding down the fire button before firing. If the enemies are weak enough, you can kill a whole line of them simultaneously with a sufficiently charged blast.

Graphically it's beautiful, and has some of the best looking images you're likely to find on the GameBoy Color (particularly the cool looking bosses at the end of each level), and it's definitely worth a checking out, but be warned. It's a serious bitch to play.

Pokemon Pinball on the other hand, is fun, easily accessible, and pretty much a staple of mine on airplanes these days. The game has gotten a lot of press for its rumble pack feature, but don't let that be a factor in your purchasing it - you'll probably turn it off really quickly. Also, the rumble feature only works on the GameBoy Color, although the game itself can be played on any of the GB systems.

The game is a strange mix of Pokemon style gameplay and traditional tabletop pinball. The idea is weird, and it works fairly well. You play pinball like you always would, but every now and then you enter "capture mode" where you have a certain amount of time to catch a specific Pokemon. Also, once you've got the creature, you can evolve it later by hitting the right parts of the board.

The rumble feature is built into the cartridge itself (and requires its own batteries) and it'll shake every time you hit the ball. This part is pretty good, and if all it did was that, I probably would have left it turned on...but the problem is Pikachu. Yeah, Pikachu, that ultra-cute Pokemon that all the kids are crazy about. He's very prominently featured in the game, and he can catch your ball if it rolls off the side (assuming you're quick enough to get him there). When he gets your ball, everything stops, and there's a digitized, "Piiikaa!" (which is scratchy in that way that only GameBoy speech can be) and throws the ball back with an electrical charge. And the rumble pack goes nuts. I mean nuts. You can hear it going off from the opposite side of the room, so even if you're minding your own business with headphones, everyone around you is going to hear this thing. But fortunately it can be turned off, although it does jack up the price of the cartridge by a few extra bucks, meaning you're paying for a feature you probably won't use...but it's not that much extra (only about five dollars or so) and the game is really fun, so it's worth it.

My other game of choice these days is Chessmaster. Yes, Chessmaster. There isn't much to say about this game - it's chess. But, it is a fairly decent chess simulator. You can play multiplayer with two GameBoys via the link cable (an IR feature would have been great, but it's not an option) or by having both people share the same GameBoy. This would seem to be the more practical way to play it, since it is chess...it's turn based, people! It's not exactly exciting real-time gaming here.
And of course, then there's the single player game, which is good, although if you suck at chess like I do, you'll find it very challenging even on the easiest setting. There's a training mode, which teaches you the rules of chess, and you can also tell the CPU to solve it for checkmate if you're curious at any point in the game how a real chess player would handle things.

The game runs on every GameBoy system, and is pretty cheap, even for a GameBoy game (it's almost always under $20). As games for the system go, this is one of my favorites, and I'm guessing that it would make for a nice introduction to chess for someone who's never played it before. Since the game has a ton of difficulty settings, you can always make it harder as you get better (I've been playing the game for a month now, and I'm still on the easiest...guess I'm just a dolt) so it's definitely worth checking out.

Well, that's it for this week...check back next week, when I'll take a look at some games for the new NeoGeo Pocket Color system!

- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief here at loonygames.


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