A Trip Through Game Boy History in 15 Games – Chikyu Kaiho Gun ZAS

September 19, 2016 // Published by Stephen Keating

By Kitten
Chikyu Kaiho Gun ZAS

(JP December 18, 1992)

Obscure outside of the realm of serious collectors, ZAS is what is quite possibly the most technically impressive game in the entire Game Boy library… Which is doubly impressive when you bother to consider that it was the first and last game the team working on it would ever put out for the console. Produced by a relatively little known company by the name of T&E Soft, it hit shelves not long after Trip World and unfortunately didn’t happen to fare any better.

By the time that late 92 had swung around, output for Nintendo’s famous device was already slowly declining in quality, and publishers had begun to fall back on easy solutions to bring in bigger profits. Quality entries like this were disappearing, and they were being replaced by floods of incredibly lazy and/or incomplete games, many of which were produced under a well-known license to ensure sales. Though the Game Boy would go without a successor until late 1998, the vast majority of its good games were released in 93 or prior, with only a couple of great titles in 94 and very few outliers beyond that.

Although it’s fairly widely considered that we began to see people grow out of perceiving games as nothing more than a sheer novelty at this time, this mostly applied to home console games. As I mentioned much earlier, people frequently saw the Game Boy largely as an opportunity to play versions of games they already loved on a device they could take anywhere. That, or they had no resources to evaluate the quality of new games and drifted to other familiarities, like games based on cartoons or movies that they or their children were fond of. T&E Soft had no foothold to really advertise their game, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, few people bought it.

The depressing reality of ZAS being relegated to much the same fate as Trip World is hard to bear, especially being a fan of the space shooter genre that it belongs to and as someone who so loves the hardware it was released on. What makes it impressive is a number of things I’ll be going over, but what it does best, above all of its many interesting facets, is that it controls and plays incredibly well in motion.

A relatively little-known fact is that the Game Boy, as a piece of hardware, was actually more powerful than the NES. Although we saw many late-life NES games do what the Game Boy never could, this was because additional hardware was added to the cartridges to make them more capable (companies like Konami and Sunsoft even had proprietary chips that could add extra sound channels). Though you couldn’t enhance a Game Boy game in the same capacity due to the restrictive size of the carts, you could get more out of a game without needing a fancy chip to do so.

ZAS was one of very few games to actually show what Game Boy hardware was capable of, and it did so with incredible finesse. Capable of rendering an absolutely remarkable number of enemies and projectiles on the screen at once, it was genuinely a sight to behold, and it managed to do this with only the occasional bout of slowing down. It plays remarkably smoothly for a Game Boy game that happens to have so much going on, and that’s intensely valuable to its mechanical design on a fundamental level.

The quality of its visuals are in some ways entirely unsurpassed by its peers, and the most notable way in which it distinguishes itself is made obvious shortly after beginning your game. On the very first level, ZAS treads territory that few Game Boy games dared to by featuring a transparent foreground layer in addition to the background layer. Then, taking it a jaw-dropping step further than that, it had them scroll independantly of each other (what is referred to as parallax scrolling).

How this is possible is a bit tricky, and very clever. To start, let’s explain what “flickering” is. Older hardware has strict limitations on how many sprites can be on the screen at once, and where those sprites can be. When those limits are exceeded, the hardware will attempt to resolve this by automatically choosing whatever things are most taxing and rapidly alternating what frames they are displayed on. The result are sprites that appear to the naked eye to be flickering on the screen, and it’s something so common you’ve almost undoubtedly seen it in many, many games.

A technique called multiplexing allowed designers to take the matter into their own hands and designate certain sprites to automatically be rotating which frames they’re visible on. This was most typically done with projectiles fired from weapons, as they could very easily fill a screen and tax the game. For example, have you ever wondered why the bullets in Contra for the NES are always kinda fuzzy looking? Multiplexing. It’s one reason why it runs so smoothly despite its impressive action, and how it can get away with a weapon like the spread shot not crashing the game.

Observing how flicker works on the Game Boy leads to something particularly interesting. Because of the Game Boy’s cheap LCD screen, it was victim to something that is referred to as ghosting, which is what occurs when an LCD screen is being relayed information at a rate faster than it can display it. This results in the picture briefly lingering on the screen before being updated, and together with what I’ve already explained, this means that when flickering quickly enough, sprites on the Game Boy’s screen would appear to stay visually consistent. Although they’d appear uniquely faded – as if differently shaded than everything else – the “flicker” would appear nonexistent (something that modern emulators can imitate with a particular option).

A few designers realized this, and then tried to take advantage of it. Gradius: The Interstellar Assault, for example, used it to keep its options from being too visually distracting (and from taxing the game). Trip World used it to make sprites that were underwater visually distinct from what they’d look like above water. Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge used it in one level to make mountains in the background seem as if they were further off in the distance. And ZAS? Well, the way ZAS uses it takes it far beyond what others attempted.

Many designers saw the LCD screen as a tremendous hurdle to action games, but T&E Soft saw it as an opportunity. The Game Boy can’t do genuine parallax (though there techniques that imitate it), it can’t do transparency, and it can’t render more than one background/foreground layer at once. So how does the first stage in ZAS appear to do all these all things? Multiplexing on an LCD screen. What looks like all of these effects going on is actually just the game taking turns drawing two separate backgrounds on different frames, and then scrolling them at different rates.

Instead of succumbing to compromising the quality of their design and building themselves around the limitations, they worked with them. There is literally not one other game (to my knowledge) within the entire library of the Game Boy that does exactly what ZAS does, and it was released more than 5 years before the Game Boy would become obsolete to the next iteration of hardware. It doesn’t stop with its incredible command of the hardware on the first stage, either, and does amazing things in subsequent stages that I could still go on about.

All this impressive technical wizardry would of course fail to really matter if the game didn’t look gorgeous, but it absolutely does. Beyond the cleverness of its technical feats and smooth display, ZAS is also lovingly rendered with luscious sprite work and some incredible animation. Basic enemies are often given multiple frames of animation, and level detail is incredibly carefully rendered to create detailed environments that never get in the way of being able to decipher what is going on. Every boss enemy tends to surprise in multiple ways as well, with the just the first transforming from a simple sphere into a massive battleship.

Exceeding expectations hardly ends with the visual work, as the music’s exceptional quality cannot be understated, either. Compositions are varied and complex, but never need to borrow from the channel that the game’s effects are playing on (a common problem with complex music on old hardware). Music from the first stage sets the tone for a memorable, light-hearted adventure, while the track for the stage’s boss is frightening and hectic, as if the realization of the weight of your journey has struck you with a terrible anxiety.

As the game continues, the second level’s music lightens things up a bit, but the shocking encounter you just survived feels as if it’s set a distinct tone of apprehension for what comes next. Each level features a unique music track, as does each end-of-stage boss. The lack of repeated tracks helps establish a sense of progression rarely seen in other games of the era, and the attention given by the sound designers to ensuring that ZAS distinguishes itself from lesser games is immediately apparent.

When considering it on a mechanical level, ZAS is everything you could ask for out of a game on the system. Where T&E’s space shooter series for the MSX, Laydock, borrowed from games like Xevious, ZAS is much more reminiscent of more recent games like Gradius, Aleste, and especially R-Type. Similarly paced to each of those titles, you find yourself on a journey through five slowly-scrolling, different levels before reaching the end.

Each level features distinct enemies, visuals, gimmicks, sub-bosses, and bosses. The variety and abundance of these elements is almost unbelievable given the hardware limitations and obscurity of the title, and their carefully spaced usage make each level have a remarkably powerful identity. While ZAS imitates a vast array of other shooters with a high frequency, it never really outright steals from them and has its own unique twist on everything. Beyond just homaging light elements exclusively from well-known shooters, the scope often extends beyond that. Stage 2, for example, has several bits that feel as if they pay tribute to Quarth, a game that only tangentially belongs in the same genre.

Everything is executed to near-perfection, leaving the game to impress you with its mechanics on far more than just the status of its delightful variety. In terms of difficulty, it hits somewhere between R-Type’s constant tension and Gradius’ flow of disarming ease between serious moments of frenetic challenge. The tools to cruise your way through the game are there in front of you, but it ultimately comes down to execution and proves itself to be the most enticingly made shooter on the console without competition. A hard difficulty is there to push the game even further past both its limits and yours, with bullets now frequently filling the screen and the game requiring greater aptitude and strategy to conquer.

T&E Soft’s incredible grasp of both space shooters as a genre and the Game Boy as a piece of hardware are something that put almost all other designers for the console to shame, and yet this was the only game they’d ever grace the thing with. On the one hand, it’s easy to be consumed by how disappointing it is that this title wasn’t successful and we couldn’t have seen more like it, but on the other, we’re kind of lucky to have gotten it, at all.

I frequently see people lament that ZAS wasn’t released on a more capable console, but let’s consider here that great art defines its medium as much as that medium defines its art. ZAS is an excellent title specifically because of its medium, the climate it was released in, and the determination of its designers, and it would be an inherently different game were it to have been made for something else. The Game Boy didn’t hold it back, it defined it and allowed it to be precisely the beautiful thing that it is.

The root of appreciation for all things comes heavily down to context, and ZAS demonstrates mastery of its own. There is a sincere artistry in the way it defies its trappings, and it encapsulates a time when boundaries meant something significant to game design. To constantly look at games as “held back” is to never truly appreciate what they did, and to fail to appreciate what came before is to realize that everything we hold dear will merely be made obsolete by the notion of progress.

A Trip Through Game Boy History in 15 Games – Trip World

September 5, 2016 // Published by Stephen Keating

By Kitten
Trip World

(JP November 27, 1992)

Quickly growing to be one of my favorite games of all time, Trip World is an incredibly brilliant little title that falls victim to being too far ahead of its time. Criticisms of Trip World tend to focus on it being either too short or too easy, and even those who write positively of it seem to frequently consider it a collection of half-baked ideas that didn’t quite make it into the masterpiece they were meant to be part of. It’s acknowledged the game is technically impressive, but rarely much beyond that.

Titles like this and the Famicom’s Gimmick (also by Sunsoft, and bearing many similar design sensibilities despite the lack of shared staff) often fall under a type of game that rarely gets the genuine attention it deserves. Because they’re both quite expensive and heavily sought after by collectors, and because collectors are often tepid adults who are building a monument to the idea that they liked video games as a child, much of the discussion about both games has little to do with their many amazing qualities and more to do with whether or not they’re “worth it.”

Despite the current popularity of emulation and the incredible ease by which people can play Trip World for free, the idea that it is a collector’s game persists throughout and leads many willing to play it into the experience with the idea that people only talk this game up because of the value of its cartridge (which happens to be unfortunately true). Those few that stumble upon the game without this popular bias tend to still go in with years and years of expectations of ways to play a platformer, and approach Trip World with all the wrong sensibilities.

Something that platformers and games in general have taught us over the years is that the purpose of every game is to beat it. What lies between the beginning and the end are merely obstacles to conquer that impede your progress, and that the end screen is what matters above all else. We look at games as methods of empowering ourselves, and being able to “beat” them is the ultimate way of reaching that empowerment. When a game denies us victory, we say that it is too hard, but what we often really mean is that we didn’t feel strong while playing it.

Likewise, when a game is too easy, we criticize it for not bringing enough of a challenge, for not making us feel clever or capable. Trip World is a game that, even to a greater degree than Kirby’s Dream Land, avoids challenging the player almost entirely. Few enemies in the game can harm you, and boss fights are often very easy to master with a few attempts. While the game does have the common platformer trappings of hit points, lives, and boss fights, it’s fairly easy to reach the ending in just sitting down with the game for an hour or so, and to clear the game on consecutive playthroughs in roughly fifteen to twenty minute periods.

When you approach Trip World with the sensibility to treat it as you would a Mario game, as you have been taught by countless platformers, you reach the ending quickly and feel unsatisfied. That tends to be as deep as we evaluate any game with even the most superficial similarity to Mario – as a Mario game. That’s fine when that’s what a game is trying to be, but it’s absolutely not when we fail to see something trying to escape those boundaries and establish a new identity.

Immediately upon starting the game, Trip World’s subtle efforts to guide players into the realization that this is not a typical platformer are threefold. To begin, the very first object the player comes across is a fruit that will power-up your player character, Yacopu. It places a flower upon his head and replaces his kick attack with a projectile that will place a similar flower upon the head of any enemy it comes into contact with. While powered up in this way you cannot harm enemies, and the flower merely pacifies them and keeps them in place.

If you allow that power-up to run its course and evaporate or miss your target, the game demonstrates its second method of attempting to guide the player – the behavior of the very first enemy. Rather than attacking you, the friendly creature you first come across seeks only to jump on your head and remain stationary. It cannot harm you, and it tries to nudge you into realizing you may not want to harm it. This attempts to help inform you that maybe, just maybe, not everything in this world is dangerous.

The last way in which the game tries to guide you into a different play perspective is by the use of the score counter at the bottom of the screen. People familiar with games are well aware that when you get points, you’re doing something well and intended, and that when you don’t, you’re doing poorly. Attempting to communicate with the player in a language they’re already heavily influenced by, you are rewarded a small amount of points for placing a flower on the head of your first enemy… but none for attacking them to the point they are defeated.

These methods all exist as ways to ask the player in the least patronizing tone possible to rethink what they consider “play” to be in a platformer. Even as early as when Trip World came out, players already had years of training to treat any enemy as a dangerous obstacle on your path to victory – obviousness of this as apparent as the widely used term, “enemy.” This was so ingrained that even in a game as delightful and thoughtful as the then-recent Kirby’s Dream Land, nearly everything existed to be able to hurt or impede you along your way to victory.

Enemies as sweet and cute looking as Kirby’s Waddle Dee or as innocuous as Mario’s Buzzy Beetle were still capable of hurting the hero and therefore seen as threats. Violence against them, as cartoonish at it is, is something that is seen as accepted and empowering. It’s what you’re supposed to do. They’re animate objects that exist within a platformer, and if they don’t power the player up, then they’re enemies, there only to be exterminated. Upon said extermination, you, the player, are then rewarded by pleasant sounds, points going up, and possibly even an item to collect. You feel good about it.

While it’s difficult to argue or believe that games necessarily breed sociopathy, they certainly rarely go out of their way to teach any degree of empathy. Trip World allows you to play it as you would any other platformer without stopping you or slapping you on the wrist with a bad ending, but it tries to tell you that the real joy here is in playing with your enemies – not hurting them. The number of unique enemies in the game to help support this is nothing short of absolutely astounding.

Only a single enemy in all of Trip World repeats itself between stages, making encounters as unique and memorable as they are fleeting. Few enemies even repeat between screen transitions as you progress through the stages, and many of them are one-of-a-kind. Despite the intense diversity of enemy types and sheer number of unique encounters, every single enemy type on the game features unique behavior that you will never again see exactly copied.

This, coupled with the game’s incredible animation, makes it an absolute delight to try and see exactly how everything will react to you. Enemies are gorgeously detailed and feel alive, and their body language contributes as much to their abundant personality as their behavior does. Will this one want to be friendly with me? Is this one a bully here to get in my way? Is this one just existing in its natural environment and curious about why I’m here?

These are all behaviors you can miss if you elect to play this game like an ordinary platformer, and they’re all what compose the very heart and soul of Trip World. In Mario, we feel good when we step on a Goomba’s head and squish him on our way to the goal, but what if he weren’t so intimidating? What if he just wanted to be your friend? What if we were allowed to touch without harm? Wordlessly, Trip World answers these kinds of questions with excellent visual storytelling and interaction that allows you to feel the sum of this adventure within the span of a few seconds.

Modern games often explore the idea of non-violence in what players have come to understand as typically violent environments and trappings in a variety of ways, but they often tend to reach this success through openly condemning the player for what they’ve done. They scold the player, rather than gently urge them, and they respect the player’s intelligence much less in doing so. Player agency is often secondary in these games, and your objective is frequently as simple-minded and singular as what they’re trying to rise above. A game like Spec-Ops: The Line asks me to feel bad for committing violence, but it can only communicate this to me through forcing me to perform it over and over again.

Trip World is a game that is now over twenty years old, and it feels like it was nailing these concepts in a much better and more concise way, far before people popularly considered this a legitimate method of game design. While the end of each stage forces you into a boss fight with a violent solution necessary to proceed, the game world is filled with life that you slowly gain the determination to protect from the threat that has loomed over you since the beginning. Your actions are given motivation, and they’re relayed to you in a way that is much cleverer than a text dump at the beginning or as a forgotten aside in a manual about how what you’re doing is justified and there are probably things somewhere out there you’re doing this for.

While you could attempt to frame Yacopu’s journey as one of revenge, I feel like the ending outright makes the idea of that silly. He’s there to help and protect, and conflict (which is typically only gently kicking something) is only forced to reach an ultimately peaceful solution for everyone. The elegance of Trip World’s storytelling allows for me to be enriched in its narrative simply by taking my time and wandering through it at a leisurely pace.

The various power-ups often fundamentally alter how Yacopu interacts with the world, and he can freely transform into an aquatic or airborne form at any time. Ease of control is consistently well implemented, and there are often subtleties to understanding the nuances of movement that help flesh the game into a deeper experience than first glance would indicate. The trick to sharp vertical ascent when flying may feel clumsy, at first, but it will eventually reveal itself to be as clever and rewarding of skill and understanding as the game’s tougher boss encounters.

Visual quality, as mentioned briefly earlier, is breathtaking, especially as far as the Game Boy is concerned. Easily one of the best looking and most technically impressive games available for the console, the environments are lush and carefully rendered, and the enemy animations are so superb they’re more or less without equal. Trip World jumps to life with an enthusiasm unlike almost anything else available for the system, and easily deserves its many accolades in this regard.

Sound-wise, it’s almost equally impressive. The instrument samples on display are incredibly diverse, and the composer clearly demonstrated mastery over what the Game Boy was capable of producing. Compositions are memorable and surpass expectations, although the repetition of the game’s primary boss theme is one of few things that ends up ever-so-slightly grating on me. I’m particularly fond of the first level’s theme and its marked air of determination – it feels surprisingly intense and helps establish Yacopu’s strong sense of bravery, despite his harmless, cute appearance.

When all is said and done, there is nothing to deny that Trip World is a very brief game, but it’s very rare in all of video games to see so much said with so little. Its story of a lack of sales and success is well known, but as I hope I’ve illustrated, it’s not for what people usually argue. Extremely deliberate in its gentle, caring design, Trip World is like a sideways look into a universe where game design became more thoughtful, rather than less.

A Trip Through Game Boy History in 15 Games – Bionic Commando

August 17, 2016 // Published by Stephen Keating

By Kitten
Bionic Commando

(JP July 24, 1992; NA September, 1992)

Essentially a remake of the NES game, Bionic Commando for the Game Boy is one of Capcom’s best titles available for the handheld. Only, well, Capcom didn’t actually make it. Commissioned by Capcom, Bionic Commando was actually developed by a much smaller company known as Minakuchi Engineering. Outsourcing help or entire projects to other companies has always been popular in the games industry, and along with that, so has been giving as little credit as possible in favor of maintaining brand image.

What was likely intended to have originally been just a port of the popular NES game, Bionic Commando seemed to have well outgrown that idea sometime within development. Taking a much more “anime” approach to its aesthetic, the visuals for the game have received a complete overhaul, with it sometimes only vaguely imitating the NES original and its somewhat basic style. Characters now frequently sport exaggerated spiky hair, and everything has been given a much more futuristic look, highly reminiscent of late 80’s sci-fi anime.

The level of detail on both character sprites and stage art has also been noticeably increased to help compliment this shift in style, and the game now features art much more detailed than its higher resolution NES counterpart. Characters now feel much more animate and lively despite typically being smaller by pixel count, and display much more distinct art. Levels are also surprisingly diverse in their appearance with little space on the screen is spared in showing just how far the artists were willing to go.

Many Game Boy games – even many of my favorites – often tepidly approach background art by using massive amounts of negative space with very sparse illustration, but Bionic Commando takes it a step further and frequently fills in backgrounds with heavy detail. To keep this from detracting from the game’s fast paced action and causing confusion in comprehension, the darkest of the Game Boy’s 4 shades is very rarely used in the background, giving it clear visual readability as distinctly separate from the foreground.

The overall composition of the visual work within the game is incredibly cohesive, giving it a distinct look and feel for a Game Boy title even many years after the console’s being put to rest. It also has what is inarguably a much greater deal of personality, with some pretty memorable enemy designs being far more interesting than the the predecessor’s many bland-looking soldiers. Which you like better is certainly up to preference, but which has more thought and effort put into it is clearly the Game Boy game. The music happens to be pretty great, as well, featuring both returning and original compositions.

Bionic Commando also borrows the mechanics of the NES game, but it attempts to arrange its elements in a much more thoughtful way, as to forego player frustration with unnecessarily crude ideas. For instance, the level map returns, but the way that it is numbered now suggests a level path rather than leaving the numbering deliberately obtuse as to confuse the player.

Bullets are still collected from fallen enemies to replenish your health, but you now start with a couple of free hits rather than being met with immediate death upon your first time stumbling into an enemy. The game still features bonus stages when you encounter enemy transports on the map, but rather than homaging Commando and featuring overhead stages, we’re met with side scrolling stages that parachute in hordes of enemies. The only way to obtain continues is still from these bonus stages, but the game is now generous enough to start you off with a few, for free.

Other subtle changes are made to make things less frustrating for the player, such as the ability to change weapons or communicators from within a level and NPC’s making it much more clear what they’re attempting to indicate with their dialogue. Communications rooms are also now much more friendly in their placement, a password system has been implemented, so on and so forth… What you’re left with is a game that is much less rough around the edges for the player to interact with. This leaves the game easier to recommend than its predecessor, as there’s now much less to distract the player from the meat – the swinging.

Controlling nearly identically to its previous installment, things are still all about the “bionic” part of being a commando. Steadfast in deciding the game had nothing to gain by adding a jump, your only methods of aerial movement are via your wire, and this is where the real beauty of the game begins to shine. Swinging around is just as skill-intensive as it was before, and a decrease to your falling speed greatly increases your options via getting around in a level. Falling from a platform or detaching your wire while stationary met with an abrupt plunge back on the NES, but the speed is now reduced just enough to reattach and reposition yourself.

This opens up a lot of new possibilities, and the levels highly accentuate this. While some levels are mostly identical in layout to their NES counterparts, there are several new stage layouts that demand significantly more of your swinging ability and really put your skills with the game to the test. Blind jumps are much more of a rarity, too, immediately indicating a better grasp of how to design the game. Not content to slowly break you into the mechanic over filler levels, Bionic Commando unleashes itself with a volley of difficult challenges that are going to make absolute sure you’ve explored how to play to the fullest extent before allowing you to proceed.

As opposed to most games, enemies are hardly your greatest hurdle – here, it’s the environment. The subtlety of your movement can mean life or death, and the game presents itself as a starkly different landscape than games like the Game Boy’s installment of Donkey Kong, where your diverse moveset is always present, but never required to get through the level. Not understanding that pressing down on the d-pad can detach you from a jump early, granting you the lowered momentum to precisely land on a smaller platform can mean repeated, frustrating deaths.

That’s not to say the game’s design isn’t excellent, but rather that it’s not going to reduce itself to deny players seeking challenge what they desire. It was slowly becoming rare, even as early as 1992, to see games that were willing to go further than to just tease the player with superb control over the character, only to never make them actually showcase it. On the one hand, this reduces the overall scope of players who will ultimately be able to get into the game and appreciate it. On the other hand, those who love it will find so much more to get out of it.

I don’t feel like this kind of design exists in contradiction to a game like Kirby’s Dream Land, but rather that it exists parallel to it. Not all games have to be for all people, and I feel like that’s an important thing to take away from this, that you can appreciate both what reaches out and what appeals to just you. While I listed many attempts to make the game more accessible, I don’t think the difficulty necessary takes away from that. The refinements exist to make the game’s unpleasant parts less abrasive, and to focus more on where the application of difficulty can be meaningful. Not unlike a game of pinball, grasping the basics is simple, but applying the sum of your skill is much more engaging and demanding.

Death will be often be frequent, but each one is a learning opportunity. “If only I had detached sooner, if only I had been a little bit more precise…” – these thoughts will flood your mind at your repeated failures, but they are there to embolden a determination to finish the game, not to make you feel as if you’re throwing yourself at a wall until it collapses. Like riding a bike, you slowly become intimately familiar with the use of the wire in a way that is as natural as it is to jump over a Koopa in a Mario game. The game is much better programmed this time around, as well, with your player character spending a lot less time clipping through the ceiling while performing short swings, and also having much fewer enemies simply disappear from the screen due to how scrolling was implemented.

Considering how unexplored mechanics like the swinging in Bionic Commando are, it’s pretty amazing that they managed to hit the nail so squarely on the head, here. While there are moments that feel that they could have been arranged a little bit better (something we’d see with Bionic Commando: Rearmed, many years later), the degree to which these designers grasped the mechanics of what they were dealing with is astonishing, and that they actually asked the player to perform as well as they did is something I heartily appreciate.

Frequently forgotten as some sort of cute footnote between the NES game and its eventual remake, it deserves far more than that. Bionic Commando for the Game Boy is an excellent title deserving of some of the finest praise of its time, and is one superb handheld game. For those out there looking to get something more out of platformers, there’s hardly anywhere better to look.