It’s 2022 and I’m releasing a *checks notes* Gameboy game designed with my two kids!
How absolutely bizarre.
(To skip and get to the goods, scroll to the end)
The Nintendo Gameboy, released in 1989, was easily one of the most prized possessions of my own childhood. I don’t remember exactly what year I came to acquire one, but I do remember my Great Uncles Joe and John buying an original DMG and Kirby’s Dreamland for me after mentioning my interest in it maybe once? The adventures that chunky box of electronic delight took me on were amazing. I could only dream of creating a real game to play on it.
Over the years, it lost its proverbial shine, and I foolishly parted ways with my collection in order to “trade up.” More time passed, the Raspberry Pi with RetroPie came to my attention, and that nostalgic shine flashed once more, leading to the creation of an equally-chunky custom handheld console: the DrachenberryPi.
Then near the end of the summer of 2019, I came across a Gameboy Color for sale while on a trip to Flagstaff with my wife. Green, in great condition, and completely captivating my attention, my wife suggested that I purchase it. My children became equally captivated, and that first step snowballed into reassembling a decent collection of consoles and games we could all enjoy together.
I soon became aware of the hardware modding community, developed a storage and display system for the GBC & GBA, and learned of GB Studio. My dream was somehow surprisingly within reach!
My first attempt at creating a videogame, a collaboration with my nephews in Chicago, was announced last year. Due to the busyness of life on all our parts, development stalled out not too long afterward. However, during those early days, a light flicked on for both my kids as they realized they could have their own videogames playable on Gameboy. The three of us went to the whiteboard and they both gave me their pitches.
My daughter’s concept (age five at the time):
- Normal kid
- Go pick out a pet
- When you go home, your house is GONE
- Have to go through portal
- On the other side, your house is there, but it is a DUNGEON
- Have to defeat the boss and then everything is back to normal.
My son’s concept (age three at the time):
- You are a badguy
- You poop on everything
- A difficult game
Not wanting to get one of them excited and the other disappointed, I went back and forth on which one I should work on first. It was a few months later that I realized BOTH of these concepts could function within a single game, and work on the combined project began in GB Studio V2 Beta 4.
The time following was a great experience learning the GB Studio software, as well as working with Aseprite for sprites and Tiled to create the scenes. Being a beginner and completely out of my depth, I relied heavily on the GB Studio community, using krümel’s music from the community assets, and a sprite generator developed by 0x72 to create many of the characters. Inspiration for the scenes and gameplay came from classic top-down adventure favorites like the Legend of Zelda and Pokémon series.
And just like that, “Dragon Mountain Double Feature” was created!
From the title screen, the player can choose one of two game options to start, and the second game will begin automatically upon completion of the first. It is up to the player to decide which game to start with, and both are interconnected in a way that accomplishments in the first game will change aspects of the second. In some cases, significantly (there are multiple endings to both games). In others, subtly. This was a fun and exciting challenge to take on, and I’m really proud of how it came together.
Working with colors and palettes was not something that I originally considered, but after dipping my toe into that a little, I realized they could be used to add a layer of depth to the games in a Wizard of Oz type of way. Both games start out in a black and white world, but there are hints at a potential larger story behind the scenes.
Alright. That’s probably enough droning on for now. We are all here for the game, anyway.
Click the Download link for a zip file containing the Dragon Mountain Double Feature ROM. This can be played on a Gameboy emulator, or a flash cart on original hardware (in a wild closing of circles, I’ve now been able to play a game that I created on a handheld console that I also created. What a world we live in).
If you can’t work with a ROM for one reason or another, I’ve also posted the game up on itch.io where it can be played in browser.
It should also be mentioned that time and effort was taken to create a few cartridges for some friends and family using insideGadgets 512KB Flash Cart, artwork created by one of my nephews, and labels printed by stickeryou.com. At this time, there are no plans on a larger physical release, but it did make for a fun lifetime achievement.
Special thank you to Chris Maltby. Your work has created the means of realizing a previously unachievable dream.