Sometimes you get tired of the flashy graphics and convenient save points of modern games. Sometimes you yearn for 16 bit goodness and the lack of a backlight. Sometimes you need to revisit a simpler time in gaming.
I wanted to highlight two lesser known Gameboy Color (GBC) games that I played until the internal battery wore out (but luckily both titles are available on the Nintendo eShop). The first is Mario Golf and the second is Pokemon TCG.
- Mario Golf GBC
Mario Golf for GBC was an RPG/Sports hybrid that I sunk countless hours into (with a shared save file with my brothers). The game was created by Camelot (of Shining Force and Golden Sun fame) and incorporated enough RPG elements to keep the single player story mode interesting.
The game required the player to compete in 4 main golf tournaments, each progressively more difficult and each having a unique landscape (dunes, palm/beach, links etc). For each golf course, there is a club champion that must also be defeated in a skins match. The variety of the courses and the progressive difficulty of the champions required some trait and skill planning. In order to gain experience, the player would compete in the aforementioned tournaments, but could also explore the club grounds and enter mini-games. The mini games included tasks such as closest to the pin, putting, chipping and stranger objectives such as knocking a bird off the flag pin.
There are plenty of secrets that come along with the exploring. Players can stumble upon 1-ups typical of the Mario series, but also specialized golf clubs, as well as new tournaments. Eventually, the Mario franchise characters enter the mix and Mario himself is one skilled golfer.
What helped make the game so addicting was ability to cater your character into the mold you wanted. I went with a power hitter, relying on my experience and skill to make chip shots work. My brother decided to completely neglect his ball flight control in favor of distance. Despite the shortness of the game, the skills could really change how a playthrough was undertaken. The game even connected via the Transfer Pak to its N64 companion, and you could use your character on the big screen. At the time this was a big deal – only Pokemon Stadium could really boast a similar perk.
If you haven’t tried Mario Golf for GBC I suggest you take the risk and download it on Virtual Console. Its cheap but can get addicting quick. While the game does have skill building, there is an element of skill in performing the shots, making it satisfying in the later stages when difficult holes and shots are presented.
2. Pokemon TCG
After grinding Mt Silver in Gold Version for entire vacations, I needed a little something different. Being a fan of the actual cardboard game, the Pokemon TCG for GBC was perfect. The game blended the card game with a generic quest to find the “legendary” cards. Cheesy but pretty spot on for the expectations of a Pokemon card game adaptation.
The game begins with a terribly slow tutorial put on by Professor Oak, I mean, Dr. Mason in his Pokemon card lab. After the grueling demonstration you are rewarded with a Squirtle, Charmander, or Bulbasaur-based deck. From there, you must defeat the various gyms and acquire booster packs to build a collection to ultimately challenge the Elite Four of Pokemon cards. And yes, there is a rival by the name of Ronald who spits weak insults and challenges you at various times. The formula worked great for the main Pokemon series, and it shines again here.
The game includes the three sets out at the time (Basic, Jungle, Fossil) but also incorporates GBC-only cards that had effects not possible in the cardboard version (ie. random targeting). The gyms were based on certain types, therefore allowing players to deckbuild against that types weakness. However, the gym leaders would often cover their weaknesses and have strong synergy in their decks compared to the other gym members. The final cardmasters had some very challenging decks that required all-around solid deckbuilding and strategy.
The game allowed you to use preconstructed decks and the decks of conquered gyms. However, the best aspect in the game is the complete control over deck building, allowing up to 5 custom decks to be held at once (and other decklists to be saved in-game). This is the critical piece to the games success. Duels of the Planeswalkers (for Magic: The Gathering) still does not allow custom deck building in 2015, and it suffers dearly for its omission. True deck building coupled with a true adaptation of the cardboard game’s rules allows players to use their deck ideas in-game and then build the deck for real and vice versa. When I wasn’t able to go buy 50 packs at Target, I could get my fix cracking packs on Gameboy.
If you have (or had) any interest in the Pokemon TCG or card games in general, this game is loads of fun. The cardpool is large enough and the opponents strong enough to hold a continued interest. Building decks with your steadily growing collection and creating decks for specific opponents satisfies a certain strategy itch. The game is on Virtual Console. Go get it!
What are your thoughts on these two GBC classics? What turned you on/off about these titles? What are some GBC titles you loved but weren’t popular? Discuss in the comments.