A team headed by Gumpei Yokoi designed the Game Boy. Yokoi had previously designed hand held games for Nintendo with the cartridge based Game & Watch system, introduced in 1980. His staff, called Research and Development (R and D) team #1, had designed the successful NES games Metroid and Kid Icarus. What Yokoi's team did was create a hybrid of the NES and the Game & Watch systems.
When the Game Boy was introduced it immediately fell under scrutiny. Critics noted the system is built around a small, monochrome screen less than two square inches in size.
When stacked up against the more modern color home consoles, the Game Boy appeared inadequate. However, these apparent shortcomings all served a purpose which Yokoi had intended. The small size of the LCD screen helped make the whole system portable; it only weighs 10.6 ounces. The fact the screen is monochrome and not color helps it provide excellent battery economy. Four AA batteries allow up to 35 hours of game play.
When compared to other portable game systems like Milton Bradley's Microvision, Game Boy represented a quantum leap in technological growth. Though its screen is black and green, the system features highly defined graphics and scrolling backgrounds. Unlike any portable consoles before it, the Game Boy has a headphone jack to hear games in digital stereo sound.
Even with all of these attributes, Nintendo realized the Game Boy would require a highly sought after game to successfully launch the system. In June 1988, Minoru Arakawa, CEO of Nintendo of America Inc., saw a new game at a trade show. It was called Tetris and was invented by a Russian mathematician named Alexey Pajitnov.
Tetris is based on a series of four squares that can form any one of seven different shapes. The squares scroll down the screen and come to rest on the bottom. By manipulating the shapes, players can either build rows or add to an ever-rising wall. When an unbroken row is formed, it quickly disappears. The object of the game is to make as many rows vanish as possible before a wall fills to the top of the screen.
As with Super Mario Brothers and the NES, Nintendo packaged the ideal game with its system. In the United States alone, Nintendo sold 1 million Game Boys in 1989, 3.2 million in 1990 and 4.4 million in 1991.
One other advancement the Game Boy made in the field of portable technology was with Video Link. Through this small cable, two people can compete against each other by linking their Game Boys and using their own copies of the same two-player game. The best two player Game Boy cartridges include: Tetris, Kirby's Star Stacker, Spy vs. Spy, Atomic Punk and Dynablaster.
The Game Boy does come with a couple drawbacks. Its small screen has created eyestrain for players who have squinted at games for uninterrupted hours. The Game Boy also needs to be played under an external light source because it does not feature a backlight. The screen cannot be viewed in total darkness.
In November 1996, Nintendo introduced an improved version of its successful hand held system. The Game Boy Pocket maintains the same size screen as the original with a smaller and slimmer console. It requires only two AAA batteries and provides even more economical power consumption. Its retail price was $59.99.
Best games for the Game Boy system include: Final Fantasy Legend, Final Fantasy Adventure, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Metroid II, Castlevania II, Gradius: The Interstellar Assault, Operation C, Tetris and Chessmaster. ~ Dave Beuscher, All Game Guide