100th Review Special, Part 4: March of the Mediocrity

The primary difference between a 3/10 and a 4/10 on my scale is that I couldn’t personally endorse playing any game from the former tier. With the latter tier, my stance when it comes to the question of recommending a game is less straightforward. Essentially, a 4/10 means that I would be more likely to dissuade people from playing the game in question, yet it does just enough right so as to not make the experience irredeemably bad. In practice, quite a lot of the entries on this tier are games that had historical significance, yet are decidedly inaccessible from a modern standpoint. Either way, now that we’re out of the red-score tiers, you can rest easy knowing that from here on out, I’ll be talking about games that are, for the most part, worth looking into.

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Gunpei Yokoi’s Game Boy sold millions of units on its launch day in 1989. So great was the popularity of the first handheld console to truly come into its own that the one million units shipped overseas sold out within a few weeks. Three years prior to the Game Boy’s release, a London-based developer named Argonaut Games created Starglider for the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST. This game, heavily inspired by the vector-based graphics of Atari’s coin-operated Star Wars adaptation was one of the earliest first-person combat flight simulators available for home computers. It wound up being one of the bestselling titles for the platform, and won Crash magazine’s “Game of the Year” award in 1986.

After observing the then-unique mechanics of Starglider, Nintendo sought to create a similar game for their handheld console. This project was slated to be published by Mindscape, a company established in Novato, California under the names Eclipse or Lunar Chase before Nintendo themselves took over the project after becoming interested in the idea of having three-dimensional graphics in a Game Boy title. Helming this project was Yoshio Sakamoto, a Nara Prefecture college graduate who worked under Gunpei Yokoi’s supervision, contributing pixel art for the NES classic, Metroid. Shortly before the game’s release, then-president Hiroshi Yamauchi shortened the title to a single English letter: X. When it was released in 1992, it proved to be a moderate success, providing the Japanese audience with a completely new experience while pushing the technical capabilities of the Game Boy to its absolute limits. Famitsu magazine would go on to list X as one of the Game Boy’s most influential titles, being the first 3D game released for a handheld console in Japan.

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