There are a bunch of arcade classics on the Game Boy. In some ways, these were nostalgia grabs. It was a way for these companies to get some more mileage out of an arcade game that was popular in the early 80s and someone might remember it in the 90s.
Many of these games were direct ports of the game. There were minimal changes to add value to the game. This would change later, but the games would only add a multiplayer mode in the early years of the black-and-white Game Boy.
Several of these games were packaged together in these compilations. The Arcade Classics 1-4 are some of these compilations. Let’s look at the first compilation, Asteroids, and Missile Command.
TLDR: Bad Controls but Decent Graphics.
Neither game has a story to it. Missile Command comes close to telling you a story, but it is told through gameplay. Asteroids is like all other shooters from this time; you play as a ship.
Missile Command has been dissected quite a bit in the last few years. The game is about the dangers of nuclear war and how there is no way to win. The cities you’re defending were meant to be cities in California but can be any six cities with which the player is familiar. A story was injected into the game when it was ported to the home console. It was set in space and was about two warring alien species.
With Asteroids, you’re a ship, and you have to blast asteroids and the occasional alien ship. You don’t know what is going on or who the aliens are. This wasn’t a problem for games of this era, but it did become an issue as stories became more important for video games.
I try not to hold the lack of a story against games like this, especially regarding compilations. It would be nice if the developers tried to do something with the base games, but they might have been simply doing this for a paycheck while working on a game they were more passionate about.
This version of Missile Command has some of the same issues as the Atari 2600 port. In the arcade game, the player used a trackball to move the cursor around the screen. This was a very accurate way to target your missiles.
Unfortunately, the Game Boy doesn’t have a trackball, so you’re stuck with a directional pad. It gets the job done but isn’t as good as having a trackball. As a result, your accuracy is going to be off.
The Game Boy port gives you two missile launchers instead of the three from the arcade game. The A and B buttons control the two launchers. This adds some of the strategy back into the game and is a huge improvement over the Atari 2600 version.
The rest of the gameplay is the same as the arcade game and other ports of Missile Command. Missiles come down at your six cities; your goal is to keep as many cities safe as possible. You’re just going for a high score. There isn’t another goal for this game.
This version of the game looks good. Enemy missiles are easy to see, and the explosions are as good as the Game Boy could muster. I only have one problem with this game. That has to do with how busy the screen gets.
The screen gets way too busy! I lost a city during one game and had no idea when it happened. There was so much going on that I must have missed a missile, but I thought I had everything covered.
I expected Missile Command to be chaotic, but it felt a bit unfair. This wasn’t a fatal flaw in the game; it just bothered me while I was playing.
This isn’t a good port of Asteroids. Developers seemed to have a hard time translating the arcade game’s controls to the home console. The small screen of the Game Boy doesn’t help the gameplay much.
In Asteroids, you play as a ship, and your goal is to clear the screen of the asteroids. An alien ship will also appear on the screen, which you must destroy. It is a simple game, but it does get more challenging as you progress. Asteroids is all about the high score, so the game has no end goal.
It is Asteroids, but it isn’t a good version of the game. The controls in this version of the game are bad. Lining up your shots is frustrating, and things get way too busy.
Thankfully, there are enough buttons to get all the controls from the arcade into the game. The directional pad can make you rotate left or right; by pressing up, you can accelerate, and by pressing down, you’ll slow down.
The A button fires your gun, and the B button causes you to teleport around the screen. This is the hyperspace button from the arcade game and is more of a liability.
The sprites in this port are way too big. They make the screen feel smaller and can cause things to be way too confusing. There are better versions of this game out there.
N/A. I don’t know how to score this game. I think Missile Command is a good version of the game, and Asteroids is a bad version of the game.
- Two games on one cartridge
- Controls are good for Missile Command
- Pick-up and Play
- Good graphics
- Repetitive gameplay
- Lack of game modes
- Controls for Asteroids are not good
- Small screens make things confusing
Missile Command was the real draw for me. It is one of my favorite arcade-style game. It is nice to have the game on the Game Boy, where I can play it on the go.
Asteroids is a fine game. I don’t have the same nostalgia for it as I do with Missile Command. I remember a few clones of the game, but I don’t have the same memories of the game.
This was a fun cartridge to look at. There are a few other arcade classics that got this same treatment. I think there will all be the same, but I’m looking forward to seeing how the developers handled the ports.