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The Game Boy Thread

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#1 E. Randy Dupre

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 03:47 PM

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Iíve had trouble starting this thread, because Iíve not really known how to. My knowledge of the Game Boy software library is very limited, for a few reasons, and I don't want this to come off like I'm trying to make out that I'm some kind of expert - I'm not, I'm still very much a beginner.

Firstly, I was never all that interested originally. The machine came out during the period of time when I didnít care about videogames Ė like Iíve said before, when I hit my teenage years I enveloped myself in music and, to a lesser extent, films and books. It wasnít until quite a bit later that I figured out how to balance those obsessions against each other.

Even if I hadnít have temporarily lost interest, Nintendo never did it for me. I found their advertising embarrassing, especially in comparison with Segaís Pirate TV stuff, which absolutely hit the feel of the times on the head. Nintendoís output, too Ė Mario always looked dull and childish to me as an outsider, and I was never impressed with the technical things Ė Mode 7, SuperFX Ė that seemed to be getting everybody else excited.

I finally got a SNES in time for Yoshiís Islandís PAL release, motivated purely by the screenshots Iíd seen, It was still a few years before I got a GB and then I bought it second-hand, off a mate at work. Unboxed, with cart-only copies of Tetris and The Castlevania Adventure. Canít remember the motivating factor Ė itís likely that he just asked, out of the blue, if I wanted it. Thirty quid, iirc.

It still didnít grab me. I bought two or three more games for it, but it wasnít until the Game Boy Color that I became hooked. Everything about it Ė and the majority of games that came out for it Ė was so much more basic than the NGPC, which I already owned and loved.

When the GBC hit, though, I went for it in a big way. But thatís a different machine and probably a different thread.

Or not. Iím still not sure. While the GBC was more powerful than the regular GB, it didnít appear to provide developers with the means of creating games that had greater depth or complexity than the GB. You occasionally see something that looks a bit whizzy and flash, but itís normally just visual touches Ė improved animation, better definition of details Ė and not anything that affects gameplay.

And, of course, it was always obvious that a lot of developers made little enough effort on the original GB. Compare Linkís Awakening to 99% of other titles on the machine and it becomes blatantly obvious that it was capable of doing far more than most people asked of it. Itís possibly indicative of the similarities between the two machines that the DX version of Linkís Awakening only adds in things like Game Boy Camera support. Even the new dungeon only uses the colour abilities of the hardware to create something that couldnít have been done on the older machine.

There are also remarkably few games that were GBC-exclusive. Most GBC titles could be played, in modified form (usually just the removal of the colour from the visuals) on the original GB. The limited number of these is obvious when I think about how many clear carts I own compared to the number of black ones Ė original GB carts being grey, dual format ones black and GBC-only ones clear (with a bump at the front, for some reason).

All of which means that, on reflection, this thread will be GB- and GBC-friendly.

Youíre looking at one of two machines if you want to play these games in anything other than emulated format. If you can afford the asking price, Game Boy Light is the best variant of the original GB, because, well, Light. Iíve not got one, but Iíd quite like one. The asking prices are extortionate, though, more so given that the hardware isnít uncommon.

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Failing that, itís a GBA SP Ė the backlit version, the AGS-101, not the rubbish frontlit one. The benefit here is that youíll get GBC games running on it too, the downsides are that itís not as comfortable to use, and you canít run it off the mains and have headphones plugged into it at the same time. Annoying.

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Failing either of those options, you could plump for a standard Game Boy Color. There was never an official version of the hardware released with a lit screen, but the unlit screen is of a very high quality and can be seen clearly in most situations (other than in the dark or in direct sunlight, obvs). It's about the same as, possibly very slightly better than, the NGPC screen. It's a world away from the abysmal original GBA one.

Unfortunately, it's not possible to mod the GBC to take a backlight - the screen tech apparently means that all you get is a white screen. You can get it frontlit, but I maintain that a frontlit screen is worse than an unlit one.

Of course, you could always try and hunt down one of these.

#2 qazimod


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Posted 28 January 2012 - 05:49 PM

My brother and I started out with a fat Game Boy Classic. I think one of us still has the original packaging and manual somewhere, although of course it's all opened now. In hindsight we never really gave it much love because we were so wrapped up in the home consoles of the time, but we still had a few good games. Our collection ended up comprising of classics, turds and everything in-between: Tetris, F1-Race, Home Alone 2, Sneaky Snakes, Tazmania, Super Mario Land 2, Worms... yeah, we weren't very good at picking games back then. tongue.gif

We also amassed a load of useless accessories; we had the backlight and magnifier, a link cable that was pretty much useless when you only have one console, a four-way adaptor that came with F1-Race, and probably some other stuff too. I remember some other games we played that weren't in our collection, so perhaps we did swapsies with folk or borrowed titles...even so, we ended up discovering slightly better games such as Balloon Kid and Kirby's Dreamland. I actually re-purchased these two games from Gamestation's retro corner and I have them on my games shelf. smile.gif

Several generations later, when I was studying in Gloucester, my friend showed me some awesome games stores in Westgate St. that sold all sorts of retro junk and over time I ended up picking up things like Link's Awakening and a green Game Boy Pocket Colour. Annoyingly I've ditched a lot of my old handhelds now so I can't play the few GB games I still own.

Amusingly, I also found a red monochrome Pocket in some other store, and it came with one of those dodgy 32-in-1 carts. How the store managers missed that I don't know laugh.gif but the contents of the cart were pretty rubbish; half of the games were duplicates, and the only game I bothered to put any time into was Dr. Mario...

Even though I've chucked my old Game Boys I think eventually I'll re-purchase something that can play GB games (I could put an emulator on my PSP or something but it wouldn't seem right) - I sometimes visit VirtualGBX and play some of the games there, and it's a big reminder of how many games I never got around to. Plus it would mean I'd be able to play Balloon Kid again... Anyway, the games I put the most time into were probably Dr. Mario (I ignored this initially and only discovered its true genius after playing the version on Wario Ware), Tetris (I'm pretty sure I beat Level 9 High 5 eventually) and Super Mario Land 2 (to the point where entire zones could be completed within ten minutes and the game could be played from start to finish in about an hour, which I thought was impressive until I saw the times on Speed Demos Archive... sad.gif )

Edited by qazimod, 28 January 2012 - 05:53 PM.

#3 hankwang


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Posted 28 January 2012 - 07:03 PM

Bollocks, now I have to make a Vectrex thread.

#4 E. Randy Dupre

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 12:10 AM

Yes. Yes, you do.

I always think that emulation has its uses as a means of trying older games out before buying them, but it's no substitute for playing them on the original hardware. Even the GBA SP doesn't feel quite right, as the screen lacks that naturally pixelated and slightly inky quality.

At the moment, this (more or less) is how the pathetic attempt at a collection stands:

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'Scuse the crappy photo - only just noticed that my camera's run out of juice, so had to resort to a phone. No idea what's gone on with the strange cut to the top of it, but cba sorting that out right now.

There are some things missing from there. beatmania GB is one. I'm sure I've ended up with two copies of Wario Land and that I own Rockman World 4, but can't find either of them. Drifting about the house somewhere are the unboxed Tetris and Castlevania carts which I got with the first GB I owned. That machine itself is long since lost, lent out to a mate and then never seen again. Pokemon Trading Card Game currently resides within the GBC's cart slot, but I'm not sure where the box has gone. There's definitely at least one more Game & Watch Gallery game lying around here.

And I forgot to include the three Konami collections that I bought the other day wacko.gif

Still, there are things there that I'm chuffed with. Metroid II is worth a pretty penny nowadays. Kid Dracula is one of the most desirable games on the machine. The GBC Dragon Quest conversions and Mega Man Xtreme 2 are always difficult to find. Mole Mania was a late GB game and this copy is sealed (not intentionally - I bought it for about a tenner off the Amazon Marketplace and only discovered that it was unopened when it arrived). A complete set of the FF releases (none of which are actually part of the FF franchise) is dead nice to own.

I'll try and post something about each game that I currently have, if nobody else beats me to it, and also any that I get hold of in future. If anybody else wants to do the same, please feel free.

#5 Moodmon

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 01:51 PM

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Some of my small collection, with a few of my GBA games. I own original GB, a GBC and a GBA SP (frontlit). SP is a great machine, really comfortable to hold and a great design, even if GB games poke out the bottom. Yes, that Top Gear Rally is the one with the hilarious rumble pack. It is not great.

Wario Land is though. So many secrets. I have Mario Land 2 as well somewhere which despite being short is also great. All pale to Awakening DX mind. For my money the best Zelda game.

My only problem with handhelds is I can only use them for 20 mins or so before eyes start fucking up. Some of the great games on the system deserve extended playtime which I cannot do. 20 mins is never enough. Likely the reason I have so few. I much prefer stuff like this on larger screens. Saying that haven't tried the GB emulator on my Xperia Play. Probably be a great way to play them.

#6 shadowman

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 04:59 PM

I still remember getting my first Gameboy around the same time as the original Megaman GB game was released (coinsidence!). I played the original Mario Land to death several times through and was amazed at how close it was to the console SMB game at the time. It was around the time I got a CGB that I really got into Tetris, the GBC port is still my favourite version of the game and I regularly go back to it.

It was mainly Nintendo's output that I played when I originally had the GB. I remember seeing the Wario commercial back around when SML2 was getting ready to be released and knew I had to have it! The added hidden levels, much better graphics and some great levels (outerspace biggrin.gif ) sealed the deal. Plus the final castle level is still amound my favourite Mario moments. Wario Land then managed to better it with even better graphics, even bigger levels, hidden treasures etc. plus all those endings.

My big surprise was Zelda: Links Awakening. Up until then the series hadn't really clicked with me but this changed everything. I'm still not sure what it did right but I really liked the game world, the subtle humour (nintendo cameo's, Marin and the crain game, stealing at the shop), the music etc. Its the one game in the series that I keep returning to and is in my opinion the best of the Zelda games.

These days I've been collecting Japanese GB Capcom games. I picked up the Rockman games for my collection but was intrigued by the numbering on the boxes and slowly tracking the rest down. It was a nightmare compiling a full list and locating all of the games in good condition but I managed it:

The Duck Tales and Gargoyles Quest games in particular are really good platformers and sit nicely alongside the Megaman games in Capcom's library. Street Fighter II unfortunately is quite a slow affair but I'm still impressed at the sprites and the effort at trying to get the game on a portable.
Its just such a shame that the GB version of Darkwing Duck didn't get a Japanese release, I've got the UK version and it really is just a Megaman game with DD inserted in place of the Blue Bomber.

These though are my jewels in my GB collection (unsurprisingly):

I felt that the group that did Megaman I, III-V really nailed the look, sound and feel of the series perfectly and made some of my favourite portable games of all time. The graphics in the later games almost looked as good as the NES games (except monochrome obviously), the music especially in MMIV was almost identical to the NES games and most importantly the games played just like the NES games. V still holds a special place with me as its the only one of the games to feature an all new cast of bosses (and one of the few games not to have Wily as the final boss) based on planets.
Megaman II was done by a different group and the drop in quality shows. Level design, music and difficulty were all compromised and it doesn't hold up as well as the others by comparison (I still enjoy it now and then though).


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Posted 01 February 2012 - 03:44 PM

QUOTE(shadowman @ Jan 30 2012, 04:59 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
These though are my jewels in my GB collection (unsurprisingly):

Wow thats a nice collection... also the US had a varient sticker to the PAL version of Megaman.. I got them both somewhere.. but really nice, love to see Mega Man collections smile.gif

#8 plopboy


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Posted 02 February 2012 - 10:11 AM

Here are my few bit and bobs

Nothing really exciting there and unfortunately the condition varies from great to a bit rubbish due to the evils of cardboard box collecting.

My latest is Elevator Action

which as far as I can tell is original (which is nice) and condition is average but complete. Though I didn't know that there where gatefold GBC cases

Oh and you might have notice to slightly iffy games in the first image. I got them when I had an over night stay in Hong Kong blush.gif but one cart does have over one hundred games but only a few good ones. Anyway out of interest here are the listings (a lot of megaman on one smile.gif )

Edited by plopboy, 02 February 2012 - 10:11 AM.

#9 E. Randy Dupre

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 06:08 PM

Hang about, what's Pokemon Stadium, plop? It's listed on the first of those bootleg multi-game jobbies. Those things are nearly always made up of B&W GB games, but that one stands out as an oddity.

#10 plopboy


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Posted 02 February 2012 - 06:15 PM

I will check it out in a bit

#11 plopboy


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Posted 02 February 2012 - 08:17 PM

It is very odd, it seems to be some sort of Chinese knock off. It started in a village with three pokemon squaring off and then went to the battle screen but it is odd as there is a moving bar at the bottom that you have to stop to do damage, but the battle went on and on and I couldn't see what to do.


#12 E. Randy Dupre

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 08:46 PM

Big post incoming!

I’ve been trying to work out how to explain the appeal of handheld games systems, the pull that I feel towards them, but it’s kind of difficult – it’s just something that’s always been there, from the day that my cousin let me play her Donkey Kong (iirc) Game & Watch. Portability is a big draw for me, not necessarily because it means that I can have the games to hand wherever I am, but more because of the simple benefit of comfort. Handheld gaming means that you can be sat anywhere in your own house – lying on yr bed, curled up in a big chair, sitting on the bog. You don’t get that with regular console gaming, not without having to lug everything around. The introduction of motion control to console games, meanwhile, has turned that experience into something even more formal and, ironically, physically restrictive.

There’s also just something enormously appealing about the physicality of the medium. I’d still take a cartridge-based console over a disc-based one any day of the week (and as for download-only machines, fergetabahtit). They’re infinitely more reliable and the medium itself is far more robust, but you also get the satisfaction of plugging the cart in. This is an action that’s taken on almost mystical qualities – it feels like performing a rite, in a way, And this isn’t just me being a bit dreamy about things, as the intro to any episode of Game Centre CX makes clear – it’s a shared memory, a moment that has its own cultural magic.

Something else that handheld game carts bring is the idea that you’re carrying a little world around in your pocket. This is the premise that Pokťmon thrives on – you’re not just collecting data or opening up pre-existing data, you’ve got a gateway to an entire reality. Those creatures live in that cartridge constantly, not just when it’s turned on. And so it is with all carts – those that save high scores are a personal and permanent record of your achievements, those that host RPGs are a storybook half-ready, or a favourite that you re-read regularly.

Finally, there’s the old thing about designers working with limited resources. Brilliant GB games seem more brilliant, because they’re contained in such a tiny bit of kit, created on such an archaic and basic piece of hardware. They show how much you can do with so little, and that’s an example that modern game developers desperately need to learn from. You look at something like, say, Crazy Bikers as a casual observer and you think it’s cute enough game hidden behind the blandest name possible, but without any great depth or staying power, but when you play it you come to realise that it’s as infinitely rewarding as the best of today’s console or PC games. And all on a tiny cart,, with barely any colours on the screen, with a tiny resolution, and only two control buttons and a d-pad. And that’s when you have to acknowledge that its developers displayed more skill, intelligence and artistry than any of yr Infinity Wards or Bethesdas.

Anyway, like I say, the first games I played on the thing were Tetris and The Castlevania Adventure.


Do we really need to talk about Tetris? The game that sold the machine, the game that’s synonymous with the machine – I can’t think of any other software/hardware combo that’s quite as inseparable as this one. This version retains the purity that subsequent iterations sacrificed. No ‘next piece’ queue. No ‘Easy Spin’. No T-Spins? Not sure about that one, need to double check. Mr Sands pointed out the apparent strangeness of Nintendo’s decision to release GB Tetris on the 3DS Virtual Console instead of GBC Tetris DX. I don’t know why they went with the less attractive game with fewer features, but there’s a school of thought that considers the B&W game to be a better game in general – Tetris DX had a lower difficulty, for one thing.

The Castlevania Adventure

The Castlevania Adventure has gained a small amount of infamy for being rubbish and also for being developed by some of the people who would later abandon Konami to form Treasure, including founding member and president Maegawa. Personally, I don’t think it’s irredeemably awful – there’s a game here and you can play it. It’s just that it’s surprisingly old-fashioned, compared to other platformers released around the same time. Pixel-perfect jumps, enemy placement and spawns that feel as though they’re trolling the player, a main character with wooden and awkward movement.

I grew up on games like Manic Miner, Hunchback and Dynamite Dan, and, in some ways, this feels like a throwback to those days, albeit with the addition of scrolling levels. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s a particularly good game, but it’s possible to enjoy it if you find yourself with a copy.

James Bond 007

Before I got the GB, I’d read a fairly glowing review in C+VG of James Bond 007, which had released around the same time as Goldeneye, but had nothing at all to do with the N64 game, the close proximity of the release dates being a coincidence. As a result, it was one of the first that I purposefully bought for the machine.

The dialogue – what little of it there is – is cheeky and knowing, which helps provide the game with an entertainingly cheesy atmosphere. At times, it gives the impression of being a parody of the franchise. Whether that's intentional or not, it's still a hugely playable game.

Metroid II: Return of Samus

Barely touched this, despite owning it for almost as long as the machine itself. It’s the lack of a map that kills it for me – without that, you need to play through in one or two sittings, so that you don’t forget where you are and what you’re doing. Trufax: I’ve still never completed Super Metroid, because if I leave it for a few days I can never figure out where to go (thanks to the map not showing anything other things like the type of doors or hidden areas that you’ve uncovered but not yet visited), so I end up having to start it over again. If I have to do that when there is an in-game map, you can see why I have problems with the lack of one.

I bought mine for something like a fiver when Toys ‘r’ Us were clearing all their GB stock. The European release of this is now considered rare and I'd imagine that the same is true of the US and JPN ones, too. I guess most of the appeal comes from the fact that it sets up the premise for some of the other entries in the series.

Kirby's Pinball Land

One of the best videogame pinballs ever, even now. A number of multi-screen tables with moving obstacles, hidden areas and boss battles, this runs on the same engine as Revenge of the Gator. I’ve always suspected that this engine also forms the basis for the first Pokťmon Pinball game- the style of the visuals, and the proportions of the table and the ball are remarkably similar. Table design, too – the two games share a feel.

The physics aren’t entirely believable and it’s fairly obvious that the flippers have fewer points of contact than they appear to, but they are at least consistent. It’s a bit weird initially, especially if you’re used to modern simulations, but once you get used to it you accept it as it is.

The one thing that always surprises me about this game, every time I plug it back in, is that it’s got battery back-up, saving scores and allowing you to switch the GB off mid-game and return to it from the same point later on. That shows an understanding of why people play that you often don’t get in other cartridge-based games from the period.

Hyper Lode Runner

If you’re desperate to play something that feels like you’re being repeatedly kicked in the nads, this is the game to go for. Lode Runner’s punishing at the best of times, but this version takes it to the extreme, right from the first level.

To a large extent, though, that’s the appeal of Lode Runner – the need for decent reflexes and special awareness that comes with any action puzzle game, with a demand that the player formulate a planned route through the levels. In the planning and the way that failure to think things through can leave you trapped, with no way out other than to suicide and try again, it reminds me of an old childhood favourite, Repton.

Definitely not the best starting point for a newcomer to the series – the ‘Hyper’ in the title must relate to the difficulty – but not without appeal if you’ve got a masochistic side.


Puzzle game based on the concept of getting through turnstiles. Better than that description makes it sound. This made a reappearance a few years back as a minigame in Shin Megami Tensei 3, which added pressure to the formula by asking you to complete levels within a certain number of steps.

Clever concept and a puzzle game that contains genuine puzzles. Perfect GB material. There’s a sequel, the US version of which – Amazing Tater – is one of the rarest GB games around.

The Final Fantasy Legend

This is the first game in the SaGa series, rebranded as a FF title for the overseas markets.

The SaGa franchise is properly contentious, following designs that have little to nothing in common with the more common JRPG template. There are all kinds of weird touches. You level certain types of character by feeding them the dead bodies of your vanquished foes. Gaining levels sees skills change at random and can often see you being robbed of a useful skill, having it replaced by one that apparently serves no purpose. Notoriously, you can reach the end boss of the first game and discover that he’s impossible to beat, as you missed out on your one chance to find the only weapon that’ll injure him earlier on.

They can also be hugely confusing. You’re given very little direction as to where you should be going or even how you should be playing. In certain respects, SaGa shares more in common with the open, freeform nature of western RPGs than its closer geographical relatives – “Here’s the world, this is you, now be on your way”. It only gets stranger as the series goes on, with the PS2’s Unlimited SaGa being perhaps the most infamous – in battle, you don’t get direct selection over how you attack, you instead have to stop a spinning wheel of skills and hope for the best.

To date, I’ve only played a little of the first FFL/SaGa release, but what I played I thought was great. Once I’d adjusted to its very particular and peculiar way of thinking, that is. It’s always refreshing to play a game that thinks differently and I found that the element of randomness kept things interesting and exciting. The series definitely isn’t for everybody, but I do think every RPG player should at least try it out.

The series’ producer was also responsible for Final Fantasy II, which famously has its own idiosyncrasies (including skills improving the more you use them, which is another element that’s more familiar from western RPGs than Japanese ones)..

Final Fantasy Adventure

Another rebrand. In Japan this is, Seiken Densetsu, the prequel to the game that western audiences know as Secret of Mana. According to Wikipedia, it was released in Europe as Mystic Quest, which is even more confusing as the SNES game that we received under that title is something different again.

I can’t help feeling that there must have been an easier way of going about this. Maybe the guy who made the localisation decisions for Square filled the same role at Capcom’s fighting game division…

It’s an action RPG in the same vein as Zelda, with a more epic storyline and scale (although the game itself is smaller), a greater linearity to proceedings and a slightly glitchier engine. Which certainly isn’t to do it down – it’s still a game that keeps your attention throughout and that provides real entertainment. The puzzle elements feel a bit more obscure and, unlike Nintendo’s series, your hero levels up with experience, providing it with the feeling of character growth that, in Zelda, is limited to your inventory.

Interestingly, the inventory items that you acquire here serve as both tool and weapon – it’s difficult to explain why, but something about the way this works here feels different to other action JRPGs. Again, the similarities with turn-based RPGs could be something to do with it, as they carry through to the inventory, to an extent.

#13 qazimod


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Posted 08 January 2017 - 05:53 PM

So around the end of last year / start of this year I embarked upon a blind playthrough of Gargoyle's Quest, using emulation and capture software to record my ineptitude. I picked GQ in particular because I had heard about one of the later games (I think it was Demon's Crest) but at the time I didn't know it was part of a series, so I thought it'd be fun to record my unguided progress. This proved kind of tricky at first, because I didn't know that it involved gaining abilities to facilitate access to different areas, but most of the time I managed to make progress (the only bit that could have proved a chore was the hunt for one wing upgrade on the overhead map - I don't know if the location is hinted at in dialogue but I was checking everywhere for that.) So exploring the map and gaining abilities was fun, but I enjoyed the side-scrolling bits more than anything. It kind of feels like Zelda II's exploration with G 'n' G's harshness - without upgrades you begin with about two pips of life, and later enemies deplete multiple pips with one blow. Thankfully you gain extra weapons, more flight time, more life and unique abilities and keys. Conversations and mini questlines kind of guide you around the map - someone will say there's something worth checking out "to the east" for instance - and it's always satisfying to uncover a new area or a new piece of story dialogue.


One unexpected side effect of recording my video progress was that I had a visual history of everywhere I explored, so I would occasionally see bits in my own footage that I'd consider checking out next time around :D - this made tracking my progress more straightforward than it would otherwise be. The final stretch was an enormous sidescroller sequence with a boss that was pretty similar to a previous boss, and the game length itself was fine - there was plenty to do but it never felt like it dragged on. I'm guessing I should look at GQ2 next, but in the meantime my gameplay can be seen here :)

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