Retro Nintendo joins Game Boy
By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Marc Saltzman, a freelance technology journalist whose reviews also appear on the Gannett News Service.
Japanese gaming giant Nintendo has gone retro with a classic version of its 15-year-old Game Boy machine and a collection of original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) titles from the mid-'80s.
The Classic NES Limited Edition Game Boy Advance SP ($100) resembles the first television console game launched in the United States by Nintendo in 1985. The company quickly rose to success with games such as "The Legend of Zelda," "Donkey Kong" and "Super Mario Brothers."
Designed to strike a nostalgic chord with 30- and 40-somethings, this new Game Boy looks similar to the NES machine with its black and gray colors and two bright red A and B buttons to control the action.
The font used for the words "Start" and "Select," above their respective buttons, is also the same used for the original NES.
This portable Game Boy Advance SP is a 32-bit machine, compared with the NES, which was an eight-bit television console.
The "Classic NES" Game Boy is bundled with a rechargeable battery and AC adapter. It can play all existing Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance titles.
To complement this retro hardware, Nintendo has also launched eight classic NES titles that were originally available on the 19-year-old platform. Each one is available for $20 and rated E for everyone by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
Let's look at four of them:"Donkey Kong" involves a plumber-turned-adventurer who must jump over barrels, climb ladders and evade fiery enemies to rescue a young woman from the grip of a giant ape. The game looks and sounds just like the original, but veteran players may recall that the NES version left out the challenging "pie factory" stage from the 1981 arcade version, so it's not on this new Game Boy title either. (3.5 stars out of 5)"The Legend of Zelda" introduces a young hero named Link who sets off on an adventure to save Princess Zelda from an evil warlock. Through combat, puzzle-solving and item collection, our determined protagonist wades through eight dungeons to solve the single-player quest. Crude graphics aside, "Zelda" translates well onto the Game Boy. (4.5 stars out of 5)"Excitebike" is a side-scrolling motorcycle racing game that lets players race against computer-controlled riders across five unique tracks. Both buttons are used to accelerate, but the secondary turbo charge can cause the bike to overheat. Players can also use the track editor to design and race over their own creations. (3.5 stars out of 5)"Super Mario Bros" was one of the most popular console titles in the '80s and it holds up well as a pocket-sized diversion. As Mario, players must fight all kinds of baddies, collect coins and explore subterranean worlds to reach the end of this 64-level "platformer" game. For the two-player option, a Game Boy Advance Game Link cable is required, sold separately. (4 stars out of 5)
Other Classic NES Series games include "Bomberman," "Ice Climber," "Pac-Man" and "Xevious: The Avenger."