Mi­nor­ity Report: Ga­mate

Retro Gamer - - CONTENTS -

Nick has not heard of any of these games so you know they’re go­ing to be su­per ob­scure

This brawler is eas­ily the most tech­ni­cally im­pres­sive game that you will find on the Ga­mate, and also the most en­joy­able to play. It’s a de­cent at­tempt at an ar­cade-style beat-’em-up on hard­ware that’s ob­vi­ously not built to host such a game. Right from the out­set, you can see that it looks a lot bet­ter than any other game on the sys­tem – even if the char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tions are jerky the back­grounds look amaz­ing, like an­cient ta­pes­tries, al­beit ones ren­dered in only four dif­fer­ent shades of green.

Also right from the start you’ll see that it falls foul of a crit­i­cism that’s of­ten lev­elled at beat-’em-ups, of­ten (but not in this case) un­fairly: that all you do is walk to the right, press the at­tack but­ton a few times, then re­peat that over and over un­til you die or reach the end of the game. There’s a few dif­fer­ent types of en­emy in each stage, but hon­estly, you never re­ally have to switch up your strat­egy, even for the bosses: just make sure you hit them be­fore they hit you, and keep re­peat­ing that un­til they fi­nally fall over, flash and van­ish. De­spite that, though, you’ll likely end up playing it for quite a while, and hav­ing a good time along with it. It’s a game that’s, more or less, com­pletely car­ried by the strength of its graph­ics and mu­sic, which is also of a higher qual­ity than you might ex­pect.

As well as the great back­grounds, the sprites are pretty big, and though they only seem to have a few frames of an­i­ma­tion each, they don’t suf­fer from the flick­er­ing that plagues a lot of Ga­mate games. Again, it far over­shad­ows any other game with which it shares a sys­tem in terms of qual­ity. But while that’s the great­est strength of Bao Qing Tian, it’s also high­lights the Ga­mate’s weak­ness. This game was re­leased in 1994, and the Game Gear had al­ready had an amaz­ing port of one of the best beat’em-ups ever in Streets of Rage II, and while beat-’em-ups were still (and would con­tinue to be) some­thing of an un­der­rep­re­sented genre on the Game Boy, it was get­ting pretty fun (though ob­vi­ously se­verely cut­down) ports of fight­ing games like Bat­tle Arena Toshin­den and Sa­mu­rai Shodown. Mean­while, Bao Qing Tian is ap­par­ently push­ing the Ga­mate to its ab­so­lute limit, and of­fer­ing a game that, while de­cent enough and fairly fun to play, still feels like it’s get­ting a lot of good­will sim­ply by virtue of be­ing such a mirac­u­lous tech­ni­cal feat on its host hard­ware. You could even call it pity. While the Game Boy would go on to last an­other seven years in one form or an­other, and even the Game Gear might have made it, if only it had bet­ter bat­tery life, the Ga­mate’s finest hour was also the fi­nal nail in its cof­fin, serv­ing to make it all the more clear that it was a sys­tem on its last legs, that had no hope of long term sur­vival, ei­ther against its com­peti­tors, or in gen­eral.

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