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February 9, 2016

2016 February 9: Alas! An update was missed. Please enjoy both Cosmo Tank and Catrap.

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Now in print

April 11, 2015

I’ve assembled a book compiling the articles on all 1989 Game Boy releases in Japan and the U.S.

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Cosmo Tank

June 8, 1990

A game that brushed with greatness but didn’t quite make the connection. Cosmo Tank spans planets, genres, and play modes—it’s incredibly ambitious, and almost a masterpiece.

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Catrap

June 1, 1990

Despite sharing a great deal in common with previous Game Boy puzzlers, Catrap stands out in a crowded field thanks to its innovative, player-friendly rewind feature.

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Ultraman Club: Teki Kaijuu o Hakken Seyo!

May 26, 1990

Ultraman’s debut on Game Boy bears a suspicious similarity to Gundam’s first portable outing. Except instead of taking the form of a brain-dead fighter, it’s more of a primitive proto-Pokémon.

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Ayakashi no Shiro

May 25, 1990

The first of approximately half a dozen first-person RPGs ever to appear on Game Boy, Ayakashi no Shiro plays by the rules laid down by Wizardry but switches up its setting to ancient Japan.

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Heavyweight Championship Boxing

May 18, 1990

Game Boy’s first boxing title takes a lot of inspiration from Punch-Out!!… and then just keeps adding stuff and adding stuff, until it collapses into a heap of overcomplicated design. There’s merit here, sadly spoiled by a lack of restraint.

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Lock ’N Chase

May 11, 1990

Data East arrives on Game Boy by dipping back into its vast arcade archives. But this is no rehash—Lock ’N Chase plays more like a sequel than a port.

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Gargoyle’s Quest

May 2, 1990

At long last, Capcom makes its debut on Game Boy, and that game—an RPG-inspired Ghosts ’N Goblins spin-off—raises the bar for quality on the platform.

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Mercenary Force

April 28, 1990

Designed by the creators of Deadly Towers, crafted in the image of Bokosuka Wars and King’s Knight, Mercenary Force should by all accounts have been awful. But no, it was great!

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Snoopy’s Magic Show

April 28, 1990

Like so many licensed kids’ games of the ’80s and ’90s, Snoopy’s Magic Show had basically nothing at all to do with Peanuts: A generic action-puzzler. Always remember: Capcom’s NES Disney titles were the exception, not the rule.

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Soccer Mania

April 27, 1990

A startlingly wretched take on soccer (the other football) whose only interesting points are its bizarrely huge sprites and the fact that it may have been produced by the company that animated Ranma 1/2. Those facts are not enough to justify playing Soccer Mania, though!

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Popeye

April 20, 1990

Nintendo’s Popeye was a memorable but slightly subpar action game from the golden days of the arcade. Despite its deficiencies, it blew away this sad take on the license by Sigma Enterprises.

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Daedalian Opus

April 20, 1990

Dear Vic Tokai, if you have to include an IPA pronunciation guide for your game’s title on the box, maybe use a different name? Especially when that cumbersome title could discourage people from checking out a great puzzler that stands out from the teeming puzzle masses on Game Boy.

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Blodia

April 20, 1990

Based on Diablo—no, not THAT Diablo. Blodia draws its track-arranging concept from a 1983 ColecoVision game which in turn probably took cues from Konami’s Loco-Motion. Whatever its heritage… it’s not very fun.

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Dead Heat Scramble

April 20, 1990

An interesting, albeit failed, attempt to find a workable format for racing within the cramped confines of the Game Boy hardware. This top-down offroad-ish game doesn’t quite pull off its ambitions thanks for fussy controls and annoying track design.

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Ninja Boy

April 20, 1990

The first portable entry in Culture Brain’s long-running Chinese Land franchise, Ninja Boy is also the worst entry in the series. Don’t be fooled by those big, appealing character sprites; poor design and terrible controls and collision detection make this a frustrating nightmare.

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SD Lupin III: Kinko Yaburi Daisakusen

April 13, 1990

The classic manga and anime comes to Game Boy in the form of… a generic, by-the-numbers puzzler. Because that’s precisely what one of the most beloved (and stylish!) comic franchises deserves, yeah.

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Batman: The Video Game

April 13, 1990

Game Boy’s first tie-in to a Western comic (and movie) property came to us in care of the hottest comic and movie property of the time: Tim Burton’s ultra-stylish Batman. Surprisingly, this is not simply a port of the NES game (also by SunSoft) but rather a completely original title.

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Cyraid

April 13, 1990

Featuring a profound lack of brick-headed silver space faces and more than enough surreality to make up for it, Cyraid turns out to be a ladder-kicking platform puzzler… and one of the better efforts so far.

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Qix

April 13, 1990

Nintendo and Minakuchi Engineering take Taito’s arcade classic under their first-party week to embellish it with multiplayer mechanics and Mario dressed as random ethnic stereotypes.

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Serpent

April 6, 1990

A curious sci-fi reimagining of the game more commonly known as Snake, Taxan’s Serpent takes the venerable arcade classic Blockade and adds special attacks (as well as some sort of galactic war story) to the whole affair.

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NFL Football

April 1, 1990

Game Boy’s first American football release, and its first U.S.-only release. Coincidence? Naw. Konami clings to the outer edges of competence by a thread with this one — it’s bare-bones sportsball in the extreme.

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Penguin Wars

March 30, 1990

A head-to-head competitive dodgeball game featuring cute animals, because why not? This is a two-player port of a single-player arcade game, and also the Penguin-kun Wars series’ sole journey outside Japan.