As of July 31st, 2009, the Game Boy has marked the 20th anniversary of its release in North America. And as it was that release which I anticipated and, of course, which ultimately affected me the most, it is the date I have chosen to observe with this article.
I knew a lot of kids with Game Boys after it was released. Friends, neighbors, cousins. However, I was not one of them. Nor was I one of “those kids” who instead had a SEGA Game Gear. And a Turbo Express? Not even close.
Growing up, I was a Nintendo kid. Do you remember the commercials they once ran, where they talked about eating, drinking, and sleeping Nintendo (or Mario, in this specific instance)? They were talking about me, from the Nintendo ice cream sandwiches and nutty bars to the Mario/Zelda bedsheets, which I still have to this day.
It’s All About the Games
I had a Nintendo Entertainment System, and my parents had their own NES as well, and life was good. And in 1989, it was about to get even better: Nintendo announced the Game Boy. Nintendo to go! What more could a video game-loving kid want than a way to play video games on the go? Sure, there had been the Tiger handhelds and Game & Watch, but Game Boy promised games more of a calibur like we experienced at home, rather than the stilted-frame movements the other devices were providing.
And the games that were coming were not just ports of NES titles, but original adventures, starring Mario and all of my favorite characters! It was slow to start, but there was Super Mario Land, which enraptured me with its unique box art, more adventurous than those made for the NES titles, or even Super Mario World in the years to come.
And Tetris! Sure, the NES also had Tetris, but unlike that version, the Game Boy one featured Mario in two-player mode. And the NES version (Nintendo’s, not Tengen’s short-lived interjection into the marketplace), was a bit of an eyesore.
Alleyway was another which looked neat, and there were more cool games on the way. It was like a dream come true…
…and, short of playing Tetris on the demo units at Walmart, or the occasional short session at a neighbor kid’s house, I couldn’t touch them. My dad was quite strict about not letting me have a Game Boy, and he always stuck to the excuse that it would “ruin my eyes.”
For the record, today, I need glasses to drive. On top of that, there’s friggin’ micro-screened everything, from cellphones to MP3 players and whatever else, so yeah– it was postponing the inevitable, really.
Furthermore, my parents employed some rather peculiar logic. When Valiant Comics was publishing the Nintendo Comics System, my parents were willing to let me partake in any of the comics but one. They felt that since I did not have a Game Boy system, I did not need the Game Boy comic, and that it would be a waste of money. Never mind that the comic was more about an abstract series of Mario adventures that were actually a bit more epic than those appearing in the actual Super Mario Bros. comics; it all fell on deaf ears.
As Days Go By
The years went by and the library grew: Super Mario Land 2, with the first appearance of Wario. Metroid II: The Return of Samus, a bonafide sequel to a big-name console game! An entire sub-series of Mega Man! A remake of the arcade classic Donkey Kong with 96 new levels (including that one that has been missing in nearly every Nintendo home port)! A complete Zelda adventure in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening! And tons more.
Of course, for as long as they were all on that one portable device with the tiny green screen, it seemed that they would forever be out of my reach. When all hope seemed lost, then came salvation.
It was known as the “Super” Game Boy, but unlike what the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was to the NES, the Super Game Boy was not a more powerful version of Nintendo’s runaway handheld juggernaut– that would not come for many more years. Instead, it would not only allow you to play Game Boy games on your TV through the Super NES, but it would allow you to do so in color!
I was immediately sold, but for the fact that I really had no efficient way to obtain the cash necessary for what would no doubt be a worthwhile investment for me. I was not on an allowance, and was still about a year or two away from being legally able to find gainful employment.
And furthermore, my dad still didn’t believe in the Game Boy brand, not seeing what the big deal was about games for it. This led me to initiate a plan of ultimate desperation for me, one which I am not proud of and do regret to this day.
What I did was take advantage of Walmart’s surprisingly lenient return policy. I traded in my NES, years old but well-cared for, to get the funds necessary for me to purchase the Super Game Boy and Link’s Awakening, right then and there. My parents still had their NES, which I could use at anytime, and I eventually gained another. Nonetheless, I feel guilty about what I did.
Without the desperation behind the act clouding my vision, I now actually feel quite guilty about the whole thing. Not so much for Walmart, either– I’m quite sure they managed to move it in short time– but I’m a bit of a sentimental fool when it comes to such things. I feel as though I betrayed one of my best friends from growing up, one which entertained me for many a year. It is an act I do truly wish I could take back, and find some other solution to the problem with which I was faced.
I don’t actually regret getting them, though, as they finally allowed me to experience what I had been missing all those years prior, years which felt like an eternity as I was growing up. And all without squinting, either.
Thanks to the Super Game Boy, I was no longer unable to enjoy the games which many of my friends and classmates seemingly took for granted. I got to play the Super Mario Lands, the Mega Man games, the new Donkey Kong, and plenty more. Certainly, I still did not have the luxury of portability, but at least I could play the games which had eluded me for so long.
Wish They All Could Be California Rentals
However, prior to the announcement of the Super Game Boy, I did get to experience it on a trip to California, thanks to a friend allowing me to borrow his. It was also on that trip that I remember going to a video store, one we did not have in North Carolina, and I discovered that they actually rented out Game Boy games.
My mind was blown– be it the mom ‘n pop-type rental stores around me or the Blockbuster Video in the next town over, no one rented out Game Boy games. So I immediately took advantage of my good fortune, and with my cousin, we rented one Game Boy game in addition to Mortal Kombat for the Super NES: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins.
And don’t think any time was wasted when it came to this– pardon the expression– golden opportunity. I made absolutely sure that I enjoyed the game to its utmost and beat it before we had to return home to another Game Boy-less existence.