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Valley Weekend : New Version of 2 Oldies: A Good-News, Bad-News Story : Galaga and Galaxian are too hard to see on Game Boy, but bring good memories into focus in the Super Game Boy format.

October 19, 1995|AARON CURTISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

I hate it when good video games go bad.

Nintendo's latest in the Arcade Classic Series for Game Boy should have been a slam dunk, but ends up a schizo mess. It packages two classic shooters--Galaga and Galaxian--together for what should have been a rocking good time wasting aliens in outer space.

Instead, the two games are almost impossible to play on Game Boy, laying waste to my eyes and my patience. Game Boy's liquid crystal display is simply too small and not crisp enough to handle the kind of play designers wanted to include.

Divebombing aliens are too small and too blurry to see. And their missiles? Forget it. Maybe I am just an old man with bad eyes, but I gave up in frustration after only a few rounds.

Then I popped the pak into my Super Game Boy adapter for Super Nintendo. And there it was. Here, finally, was the game I remembered dropping quarter after quarter into at my neighborhood arcade.

The colors were the sharpest I've ever seen on a game with Super Game Boy compatibility. The aliens were big and clear, and their missiles were easy to spot--if not so easy to dodge.

So what's the deal? The way I see it, it's another case of overdoing a Game Boy game. Just like Donkey Kong Land, Nintendo tried to cram too much onto a system that has definite limitations. On Game Boy, simpler is better.

As for its performance on Super Game Boy, that's all fine and well, but why didn't Nintendo just design it as a Super Nintendo game in the first place? My advice: Skip Galaga / Galaxian unless you have Super Game Boy.

Pity.

Jim Hits the Road: One of my favorite games in a long time has finally made the jump to portable rigs. Earthworm Jim debuts this month on Game Boy and Game Gear in a scaled-down version that finally lets fans of blaster-toting Jim take him on the road.

For those who don't know the story, it's your standard tale of an earthworm being transformed into a biped by a mysterious spacesuit sought by an army of intergalactic bad guys headed by the evil Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-Filled, Malformed Slug for a Butt.

True to the original, the portable versions include levels like Snot a Problem and Buttville. If anyone still wonders why this game has been such a hit with young boys, consider the name of one baddie, Major Mucus.

Although all there, the portable versions are considerably easier than their big brothers, which were also done by Playmates Interactive and Shiny Entertainment. For Jim devotees, this might be a bummer.

Even so, they are well worth the money to tide players over until Earthworm Jim II hits the shelves this fall. The sequel, by the way, promises to be as good as the original. I played part of an early version and was impressed.

Groovy.

Bye Bye Game Gear: For those of us who came to love Game Gear, it's time to say so long. Although Sega says it has no plans to ax the hand-held player from its lineup any time soon, it is introducing a 16-bit portable this month that plays Genesis games.

Called the Nomad and priced under $200, the new unit is no bigger than Game Gear and will deliver twice the playing power. Besides, it will allow Genesis owners to play all their existing games instead of going out and buying duplicates for Game Gear.

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to see the writing on the wall. Why buy a Game Gear when a Nomad will do? Just like the Master system faded into obscurity after Genesis was introduced, Game Gear is not long for this world.

Staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games regularly. To comment on a column or to suggest games for review, send letters to The Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, CA 91311. Or send e-mail to Aaron.Curtiss@latimes.com.

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