by Michael Crider on
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Before the Switch, before the PS Vita, and yet some time after the advent of the Game Boy, stores carried a slew of handheld games–not consoles, individual games–featuring titles from Mortal Kombat and Batman Forever to Simon and Tamagotchi. Now you can play them all in your browser.
The non-profit Internet Archive is perhaps best known for its Wayback Machine that takes snap shots of web sites so you can see what they looked like in the past. However, it also has a robust side project where it emulates and uploads old, outdated games that aren’t being maintained anymore. Recently, the organization added a slew of a unique kind of game that’s passed into memory: handheld LCD electronic games.
The games–like Mortal Kombat, depicted above–used special LCD screens with preset patterns. They could only display the exact images in the exact place that they were specified for. This meant the graphics were incredibly limited and each unit could only play the one game it was designed to play. A Game Boy, this was not.
Yet, if you were a kid in the 80s, your parents probably bought you one of these because, well, they’re cheap and we still played them. Especially games like Tamagotchi, which came later in the 90s and used an LCD matrix to display complex (comparatively) images. Moreover, a Tamagotchi was a portable, digital pet you could take with you, instead of a watered down version of a game you’ve already played in the arcade or at home, which made it that much more popular.
Since these games were hardwired for a specific game, “emulating” them isn’t exactly an easy process. So, the Internet Archive had to dismantle units of the original games, scan the displays into a computer and recreate the game essentially from scratch. Even if you don’t want to waste your Tuesday playing an emulated version of an already clunky game just to feed your nostalgia, it’s still worth checking out the games over on the Archive’s site. They’re an impressive feat of digital conservation that few thought anyone would care to do.
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