People don't seem to talk about the Game Boy version of Nintendo's 1992 puzzle game, Yoshi. It's certainly easy enough to forget about if one compares it to the monster puzzle titles of the era such as Tetris and Dr. Mario. Even if you did enjoy it, you'd probably spring for the colorful, more detailed Nintendo Entertainment System version of the game. Not me, though. I walked right up to the counter at the mall electronics store, plunked down my $30 in saved allowance, and proudly asked for the little handheld version of Yoshi. I didn't do it near my home though. I bought it nearly three-thousand miles away as close to "the source" as I could possibly manage. I'm getting ahead of myself though.
My parents decided to give me a unique present in March 1991 for my tenth birthday. In addition to a custom-built Game Boy storage case created by my father, they gave me the choice of where we would take our annual summer vacation. Our usual routine in the summers was to pile into the car and drive north along the eastern seaboard on a trip to visit family in New Jersey or just wander the interstate in search of whatever looked interesting. Road trips were fun, but to mark ten wonderful years of me I felt we needed to reach a little further. I was very much a planner as a kid (in some ways, I still am), so on trips to the public library I would check out travel guides for every region in the country to study in search of a destination. My parents put the kibosh on massive metropolitan areas after I'd expressed interest in places like Los Angeles and New York City, and the more I read the guides, the more I just wanted to get as far away from our home in central Florida as possible. Turning my attention from a guide to the new issue of Nintendo Power one afternoon, inspiration struck. Why not go to the source of Nintendo's American operations? Why not go to Seattle, Washington and its surrounding areas?
Surprisingly, my parents were game for it, although I kept the Nintendo connection to myself. I thought it was unlikely that the company offered tours as if it were the Coca-Cola bottling factory, and checking the guides showed that there was plenty of non-Nintendo things to do there. It took a year to make the trip happen, so it wasn't until June of 1992 that we were able to go, but it was definitely worth the wait. We explored the downtown area. We had breakfast in the Space Needle. We visited the city's science center where there just happened to be a video game exhibit at the time (I set a Tetris high score). We drove out to Mt. Rainier and became trapped on the mountain overnight after the fog rolled in, leading us to stay in a log cabin.
We also went shopping at the downtown marketplace area which is where I wandered into the electronics shop. I knew I had to buy a game while I was there. Any first-party game would do, really. I just wanted to be able to have a Nintendo item to hold up as purchased right by the American source of Mario, Link, and Samus Aran. The Mushroom Kingdom had never steered me wrong, so I chose Yoshi on the grounds that not only was it "local", but it was also recently released. In other words, it was "fresh". I then spent much of the rest of the trip with my face buried in my Game Boy.
Today is my thirtieth birthday, and I think I may break Yoshi out of its my old Game Boy case this evening for old time's sake. After all, that game pak traveled a long way to be here.