& background information:
Nectaris GB was the
seventh Nectaris title to be released by Hudson Soft, but it marked
the first -- and only -- time a Nectaris game would make an
appearance on Nintendo's Gameboy. Released
in Japan only ( February 27, 1998 ) Nectaris GB heralded a
massive rebirth, reinvigoration (and I should add "recycling") of Hudson Soft's Nectaris franchise. You
see, an updated PlayStation version of Nectaris was released only two days after
Nectaris GB's debut. And then, a mere week after these two
new software releases, Hudson released GB KISS
LINK -- an infrared modem for transferring data between a personal computer (PC) and
a Gameboy -- allowing Nectaris fans
to transfer game data (i.e. maps created with Nectaris GB's map
editor, game saves, maps downloaded from a Hudson website, etc.) between their PC and Gameboy.
KISS & GB KISS LINK FAQ provides an in-depth examination of this unique
Needless to say, WINTER 1998 WAS HEAVENLY FOR NECTARIS FANS in
Japan because Hudson offered several items simultaneously: two new software
titles (both of which
included a map editor), GB KISS LINK hardware (supported by Nectaris GB and PC Windows 95), and a dedicated
Hudson website (with Nectaris downloads) was launched to support
GB KISS LINK <-> Nectaris GB interactivity. But what
is Nectaris GB like, you ask? Is it worth your time?
The answer is a
resounding, "YES!" -- for casual players and
hardcore Nectaris devotees alike -- because the Gameboy port offers
something for everyone: 108 total maps [original 1989 campaign (32 maps) + GB exclusive campaign (32 maps) + 44 "contest winner
maps"] as well as many unique features... such at the
ability to save at any point during a campaign (a first for the series),
a map editor (another first, excluding the PC titles), GB KISS for sharing your creations with fellow Gameboy owners via an
infrared (IR) communication port (a first and only for the series), and last but not least, compatibility
with the enigmatic GB KISS LINK modem (the first and only title in
the series to have this feature, or anything resembling it).
Before I get sidetracked into discussing the unique features of
Nectaris GB in more detail, let me first make some general observations about the game itself.
Nectaris GB is an
aesthetically-challenged port of 1989's Nectaris for the
PC-Engine console (later re-titled Military Madness
for TG-16 in North America) -- a turn-based war strategy game that is set on the
lunar surface of Earth's moon. Now, at its' heart, Nectaris GB is
quite faithful to the original (i.e. the gameplay and A.I. are
virtually identical), but due to the technical limitations of the Gameboy (i.e. screen
size / resolution, black & white LCD display, etc.), Nectaris
GB is not a straight port. For example, the user interface has been slightly
modified to accommodate the limitations of the Gameboy. Now,
the command menu and weapon data are now displayed in pop-up windows
instead of being permanent
fixtures of the screen layout). These changes to
Nectaris GB's user interface do not significantly
alter the flow of the gameplay, although I noticed that issuing orders
from the command menu is a bit more cumbersome and less precise than
the 1989 original ( ...bear in mind, however, that navigating the
interface of the PlayStation
version is even more irritatingly slow and cumbersome than this
Gameboy version). Nectaris GB's stripped-down aesthetics (i.e.
sprite animation during
battle scenes has been removed) still captures the essence of the
original and leaves the gameplay intact (although the battlefield
maps are harder to see, and can strain your eyes, since they utilize a
repetitive, tiled map with permanent grid lines, a la the "Gameboy Wars"
series, whereas the
original game featured nicely rendered maps, with a temporary hexagonal
grid appearing only when necessary).
The soundtrack (and some of the sound effects) are faithful to the original game, but no new arrangements or original tunes are offered. This isn't
surprising, unfortunately, since 1994's Neo Nectaris (Super
CD-ROM, PC-Engine DUO) was the only Nectaris game that ever featured a
brand-new soundtrack instead of recycling the original songs.
At least Nectaris GB offers plenty of maps (108 total) to keep you
busy. The 32 maps comprising the "New Story"
campaign are exclusive to Nectaris GB. However, the 32 maps of
"Legend Story" are recycled from the original 1989 game.
(Trivia: ALL Nectaris titles contain the original campaign.) The remaining 44 maps are
winning entries from a contest held in Japan (circa 1997?) in which Nectaris fans designed & submitted maps
to be judged. The 44 winning entries were included on both
Nectaris GB (Gameboy 1998) and Nectaris (PlayStation 1998).
[Note: The 44 "Contest Winners" maps included in the
Gameboy title are identical to the ones featured in the
Thankfully, to offset the disappointing graphics and somewhat
sluggish controls, an extremely easy to use map editor is included with Nectaris
Believe it or not, the map editor is virtually identical to the one found in
the PlayStation version (perhaps this isn't too
surprising, considering that these two titles were in production at the
The ability to create and share maps is wonderful -- only the PlayStation and PC freeware
(Japan) versions of Nectaris provided a map editor -- could it get any better? Yes, it can...
Nectaris GB allows up to six different maps (and
/ or save states) to be stored via battery back-up. Furthermore, you can share your creations with fellow Gameboy owners via
GB KISS. GB KISS -- not to be confused with GB KISS
LINK, which is a modem -- is a file sharing utility included on Nectaris GB (and
a handful of other Gameboy titles from Hudson Soft ) that enables you to send and
receive files from your Nectaris GB cartridge. Did I mention that
a mail program (for sending & receiving text messages) was also part
of the GB KISS utility? Did I mention that the GB KISS features
predate the Gameboy Color and its'
infrared (IR) communication port?
Anyway, the story gets even more
next section chronicles the GB KISS features and GB KISS LINK infrared modem in more
depth and reveals why it was one of the koolest peripherals for the
Gameboy (that you never heard of).