I may have previously mentioned that my family wasn’t that wealthy when I was growing up; in fact, I’d probably say we were somewhere near the lower middle-class. My parents worked hard, they made their money stretch, and we often simply had to make do with what we could afford versus what we wanted.
This presented an obstacle with video gaming, since my folks saw purchases like the NES and the Gameboy as niceties instead of necessities (and they were right), so we made do with the Atari 2600 and, in the case of the Gameboy, many cheap portable electronic games.
Tiger Electronics was probably the most famous maker of these LCD games (and for all I know, it’s still kicking along). Usually the company would take a popular hit title on a console and come up with a portable version that worked within the limitations of the technology. Of which, by the way, there were a lot. LCD games had no real animation, per se, but had screens that black images could be shown or not shown, but could never overlap. This meant that bullets could never really hit you, and the more “animations” characters had meant the less screen space for everything else.
In a way, these limitations forced the makers to be way more creative. Bad guys and weapons often could be changed by adding or taking away parts of the costume or effects, and the makers utilized every tiny space on the screen to their full advantage. For example, in one game a skeleton:
Could easily be turned into a ghost using the same real estate:
Two of my favorite titles from that era were Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest and Mega Man 2 (both sequels, oddly enough). Castlevania II was a side-scroller where your overly large Belmont would go whipping, jumping, and surviving until you could defeat Dracula. You had a whip and silver knives at your disposal to take out the nine enemies (!) along the way, and I have to say that I spent a huge amount of time trying to master this game. It’s amazing to think that Tiger even managed to finagle four different level types into the game and a sun/moon mechanic that changed the types of monsters you were facing.
Even more fun was Mega Man 2. Like the game, you could choose which enemy you wanted to confront first (you had six robots you could go up against), and each robot boss destroyed would give you a new weapon type. So not only did Tiger cram seven player weapon types (your default + six others) onto the screen, but managed to figure out how to make six variations of bosses plus a couple additional ones for the final levels.
We also lusted after Tiger Electronics’ game watches, which used the same technology on a much smaller scale. I don’t remember if I owned any of these or not, but I always did lust after the RoboCop one: