Minority Report: Gamate
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.