It kept up my interest in anime when I should've lost it
The first game system that I ever owned was a purple Game Boy Color and the first game that I ever owned was Pokémon Red. I got it on my birthday, the night before Easter Sunrise Service when all the Moravians wake up at five in the morning to go sing in a graveyard for an hour. When I should've been getting my church clothes on, I was instead huddled over this purple block of joy. That said, initial enthusiasm did not equal immediate talent and when it came time to name my first Pokémon (the delightful Charmander), I panicked and ended up naming it "FZZZZZ." Me and FZZZZZ, best friends forever.
After that, the Game Boy (and its evolved form, the Game Boy Advance) had a near constant presence in my life, which is a nice thing to celebrate just after its 30th anniversary. And while I didn't always make the best choices when it came to the games that I wanted ("No, Mom. Don't get me The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX. I'd much rather have GEX 3: DEEP POCKET GECKO"), it did give me a window into areas of pop culture that I wasn't exposed to anywhere else, specifically anime.
While most of my friends consider Toonami to be the single parent that truly raised them, I didn't have the channel that contained it. When I did watch anime, it was mostly Pokémon and the monster-centric shows (Digimon, Monster Rancher, Yu-Gi-Oh!) that showed up on Kids WB and Fox Kids. Sometimes, I'd catch Sailor Moon when it played on UPN before school, but for the most part, when my friends discussed Dragon Ball Z and Gundam Wing, I had to stand to the side and just pretend like I was also in the know. Yes, Goku. I know that man. He is, umm, a cooooool guy. Don't get me wrong, I love any show that's about a spiky-haired kid and his dragon pets, but it would've been cool to know what a Vegeta was.
And I'm sure that I could've found more information about these shows on the internet, but between you and me and everyone in the world that's online right now and will be in the future, I am bad at computers. It's honestly a wonder that this article is even being written. I have the technical acumen of, like, a woodland mammal that finds its food in your trash. I am a computer possum.
So it was up to my little Game Boy (and later my Game Boy Advance SP) to pick up the slack. Sometimes, I imagine that it was a Back to the Future scenario where a young Game Boy was sent back in time in order to inform me of the plot of Dragon Ball Z so that I'd eventually write for Crunchyroll some day. But it almost seems like some weird kind of fate that my first exposure to the Dragon Ball franchise outside of my friends Brandon and Dustin talking about how rad it was was through the game guide for Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku II that I found in the back of a video game magazine.
Now, if you want to learn the ins and outs of the Android and Cell sagas, I don't recommend reading the guide for the Game Boy Advance adaptation of them. I feel like you'll be missing a lot of key points. But I read and re-read the guide, enamored with the characters, even when I had no context for why they were doing anything. And so I took the logical next step: I got The Legacy of Goku II game. It was in that game that I learned that, despite being the title character, Goku is barely in his own story. (For those that haven't played, you don't unlock Goku until after you've unlocked a bunch of other characters, so the game should logically be called The Legacy of Piccolo (And Possibly Gohan?)
But while this was my first dive into Dragon Ball, it wasn't my first exposure to the art style of Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama. That was given to me in the Game Boy Dragon Quest titles, so years before I read the Dragon Ball manga and fell in love with the beautiful way that Toriyama constructs his adventurers, I was already primed for them.
My love for those aforementioned monster franchises was only enhanced when I played the Game Boy adaptations of them. Remember the Monster Rancher Card Battle Game? For some reason, I got halfway through Monster Rancher and then was never able to finish the series until years later, so playing the card game was my sole link to it. Remember Yu-Gi-Oh!: Dark Duel Stories? It was released in 2002, when the original Game Boy was on its last legs. So Dark Duel Stories felt like a secret passed from a dying master to his apprentice. "Play thiiiiis....and gain the heart of the cards..." Dark Duel Stories whispered to me. "And then get your Game Boy taken away on the schoooooool buuuuuuus."
I love Yu Yu Hakusho now, but, man, did I not back in 2003. The Game Boy Advance game Yu Yu Hakusho: Spirit Detective is terrible. The only thing it's good for is reassuring us that when robots eventually try to take over the world, they'll be too stupid to succeed. The game gives you a few locations, but they all somehow look like the area in and around a WalMart parking lot. Yusuke moves like he's interpreting your button mashing as ironic, the story is bland, and the music sounds like your Game Boy Advance is having a loud existential crisis. But yeah, Yu Yu Hakusho is great now!
In short, the Game Boy line provided me with the anime stories that I had missed elsewhere. Did they match up to the actual anime versions that I'd eventually experience? Rarely. But they piqued my curiosity, and honestly, that's all you really need to become an anime fan. Well, that and hours and hours of spare time. But mostly that.
Did you play any of these games? What was your favorite Game Boy anime game? Let us know in the comments!
Daniel Dockery is a writer for Crunchyroll and you should follow him on his big, dumb Twitter.
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