I heard a rumour in the playground that someone had brought in their Gameboy to school. I scoured the landscape like a meerkat in the desert or a submarine periscope out at sea.
Article by Andy Foster Follow him on twitter here: @andyfostermusic
There was no sign of my target through the games of conkers, marbles, girls pretending they were unicorns and kids playing 5 a side with a huge roll of socks (footballs were banned on the concrete due to previous unfortunate playtime accidents.)
Then suddenly, an angelic light shone down from parted clouds around a boy and a small group of my peers; harps were playing and winged Koopas hovered above. Chiptune sonics whirled around the playground in crystal clear 3D and dot matrix sprites flew out of a tiny white box like the containment unit shut-down in Ghostbusters when all the ghosts escaped. Well, maybe I’ve embellished that memory, either way, his name was Matt Baker and he was now the most important lad on Earth.
I joined the huddle to and tried to get my head in the right place relative to the sunlight to see the green dot matrix screen. Eventually my turn came and I put the impeccably designed block of late 80’s technology into my young hands. I loved everything about it: the blue font, the blue and red lines at the top of the grey border and the chunky red buttons (slightly rounded with a satisfying springy feel when pressed).
The surface was slightly textured and one corner by the speaker being slightly rounded felt good and looked even better. It was a perfect design and still to this day (I have my original!) I think it’s such a perfect and iconic piece of design. It may be big and cumbersome now but although I do like the DS, it doesn’t even come close to the original in terms of aesthetics.
There was something mythical about Nintendo back then, the way they presented themselves was so coherent and concise. After playing Super Mario Brothers on the iconic NES I was obsessed with Nintendo products and bought heavily into the Mario franchise even without owning anything that could run it. I had a Mario 3 watch, the blue Mario Game & Watch game and much various merchandise. When the GameBoy was released I fell in love with it instantly. I craved one even though I loved my C64C, I wanted portable power and to be part of the Nintendo world.
I kept seeing it on telly, those two iconic ads… the ‘Now you’re playing with portable power’ and the perfect collage collection of pop art style nuttiness that was full of culture references. Genius marketing that helped to make the system the most desirable piece of kit. The games I remember from my first encounter with Nintendo’s GameBoy are Nintendo World Cup, Tetris (obviously!) and Super Mario Land but this was just the beginning of my journey through the system.
The box art was incredible for the games and being a sucker for graphic design and presentation I loved the cardboard boxes with the GameBoy logo on a metallic background as a standard. Continuity through everything is paramount in marketing and, of course, this was no exception.
I could go on forever about the games but that’s for another time as it gives me endless opportunity to write about the machine, so for now, my two favourites: Zelda Links Awakening and Super Mario Land 2 6 Golden Coins. Zelda Links Awakening is in my opinion the best Zelda game… ) a collective “Ooooooo!” is heard across the gaming world, I’m being controversial, I know!) and I remember when Super Mario Land 2 6 Golden Coins came out and buzzed my school!
Huge sprites filled the screen with SNES-like animation and imaginative enemies, worlds, level design, handling and its kooky psychedelic feel all make it captivating to me and I still play it every other month.
We all know there were drawbacks… you often couldn’t see the screen in the slightest of light changes and the contrast wheel rarely compensated. The add-ons for the machine made it look like the International Space Station and made it even less portable… almost like a dog trying to get through a doorway with a piece of wood bigger than the door frame! You really needed a carry case or a good pair of combat trousers as it’s maybe not Atari Lynx big but, it definitely wasn’t Nokia 3210 small!
The GameBoy’s legacy in the industry is one that will never fade, it was genius. Executed perfectly by a company who pioneered gaming on the move. The cynic would say it sparked times of kids putting down their marbles and conkers and watching screens, but what fun it was delving into those dot matrix worlds! Is there anything that sparks nostalgia better than those two Nintendo notes that ping out when you switch it on?!
Review by Andy Foster Follow him on twitter here: @andyfostermusic
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