The greatest brick ever to play video games!
April 21st 1989, Japan. Gunpei Yokoi's portable video game system went on sale in the land of the Rising Sun. My young self couldn't quite believe the news showing up in the foreign press: Nintendo's new "Game & Watch" was able to play different games by purchasing different cartridges, it had a z80 CPU just like the ZX Spectrum however and unlike the NES, it had four channel stereo sound capabilities. My mind was racing for the possibilities.
It would be a couple more years until Nintendo's Game Boy arrived at my country, by then it was already being dismissed by Sega fans who kept claiming the Game Gear, in all aspects a portable Master System was a far superior product. Fortunately I was able to see further than local marketing tactics and just kept on tracking the amazing line up of games being released for the system. Capcom, Konami and every other major Japanese publisher was releasing either ports of their arcade games or making all new games from scratch that used the system's portability to it's full.
Neither Game Gear or Atari's Lynx was able to stand the three plus hour very boring bus ride from Lisbon to Algarve, which in a world without Internet, laptops or smart phones was really relevant to my young self. However that cool little brick would hold for over twenty hours with the same set of four double A batteries! I think I can live with the trade-off of only four colours an no backlit screen for portability sake.
And then there was Tetris. It came free with the system, a move proven genius by Nintendo since it was a game that anyone could enjoy regardless s of gender or age. It is still holds today the top of Game Boy game sales with over 30 million copies sold worldwide. I got Solar Striker, a forgotten gem shmup by Nintendo on the day I got my Game Boy. About a month later I got Super Mario Land and I have been a Mario fan ever since! It's amazing how much of a influence the Game Boy had on me for the past 2 years! It was after all my very first video game console, up to that point it was all micro computers.
Even more amazing and many years before Pokemon came along and it's numerous hardware revisions, the Game Boy was a social phenomenon. Everyone who had one would take games to trade at school. this allowed me to play literally hundreds of games I would have never been able to afford. The fact that the system was region free meant that sometimes American and Japanese games would show up at local retailers. I am still discovering new games up to this day, it's just amazing what was accomplished with such "simple 8-bit" architecture.
But perhaps what is most surprising it's how relevant the system is still nowadays. Who knew it would become the musical instrument of choice for the entire chiptune scene? Who knew that the ease of hacking and modding it's sound chip would make it such a perfect, sound tracker able music production and performing tool? Wherever he may rest now, surely Yokoi is smiling about his legacy to the video game world.
At the time I am writing this, it is already the Game Boy's 25th birthday in Japan. Happy Birthday, Game Boy! Wonder where the next 25 years will take you... Feel free to share your Game Boy memories in the comments below!
*Omake* My current Game Boy collection.