Gunpei Yokoi Gets The Legacy Treatment

The father of handheld gaming gets remembered in a hands-on tribute

Gunpei Yokoi pretty much created the handheld gaming market. His line of Game & Watch systems eventually paved the way for Nintendo's full-fledged portable gaming system, the Game Boy, also created by Yokoi. Before making video games though, he created a slew of toys that helped Nintendo make the move from a hanafuda card manufacturing company into the gaming giant it is today.

Now fans of his work can explore Yokoi's history at the “Gunpei Yokoi: The Man Called ‘God of Games’” exhibit in Harajuku, Japan. The tribute runs until August 29th and is being held at Harajuku’s Vacant venue. For a small entry fee, patrons can browse a library of his work, buy and play retro systems, and even go mano-a-eyeball with a Virtual Boy, another Yokoi creation.

Yokoi's earliest works are toys that have nothing to do with video games. One example on display is the Love Tester, a toy meant to test compatibility between couples. The machine had a meter and two handles for the couple to grab. The couple holds hands and grab the handles and watch how high the meter jumps to see just how compatible they are. Other inventions include Ele-Congas and the Ultra-Hand, that later of which was turned into a downloadable WiiWare game for North American Club Nintendo members called Grill-Off with Ultra Hand.

As for games themselves, Gunpei Yokoi's probably biggest accomplishment was creating the Metroid franchise. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have all the Primes, Fusions and Other Ms we so readily enjoy today. Not to mention the slew of titles inspired by the series.

Still, many people sadly remember Yokoi for spawning the poorly performing Virtual Boy, Nintendo's first foray into the 3D gaming market. Its clunky design, high price point and headache-inducing stereoscopic graphics made it the worst selling Nintendo system to date. Soon after the Virtual Boy debacle though, Yokoi left Nintendo and landed a job with Bandai, and this exhibit gladly covers that part of his career as well.

At Bandai, Yokoi helped develop the WonderSwan, a portable system meant to compete with his own creation: the Game Boy. The system saw three iterations: the black and white WonderSwan, the WonderSwan Color, and finally the back-lit SwanCrystal. At the exhibit users can play with the handheld, which is pretty darn small and can run for over 30 hours on a single AA battery. The system had some success thanks to an exclusive publishing deal for Final Fantasy games, but like the Game Gear, eventually fell to the unstoppable GBA.


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