Previously, we took a brief look at the Game Boy’s Game Link Cable and how it helped prolong the life of the system, well past the point a successor would have rightfully taken its place. Today, we look at how Nintendo was effectively able to double its gameplay output.
The Four Player Adapter acted as something of a hub when plugged in to a Game Boy system, allowing three other Game Boys to use their Game Link Cables to hook up and experience four-player action (as you no doubt guessed from the name). It would eventually be sold on its own, but originally came bundled with Nintendo’s own F-1 Race title, a port of a Famicom title not released outside of Japan.
Only a handful of titles would take advantage of the ability to have four players face off at once, with some never leaving Japan. Most prominent among these were Super R.C. Pro-Am, a portable port of Rare’s radio-controlled racing Nintendo Entertainment System game; Wave Race, the predecessor to the hit Nintendo 64 and GameCube jet ski-racing titles; and Yoshi’s Cookie, a Game Boy version of the NES and Super NES puzzle game set apart by being the only one to allow 4-player competition.
But perhaps the most notable use of the Four Player Adapter came from a title which was not only not a racing or puzzle game, but is alleged to defy the very name of the peripheral itself.
Faceball 2000 was a competitive first-person shooter which predated the likes of Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. Further separating it from the other titles named here, it supposedly could support a maximum of 16 players by daisy-chaining some seven Four Player Adapters to one another, each allowing a further two players to participate until the maximum number was reached. While the original PC version of the game (under the name MIDI Maze) supported 32 players, even half of that would nevertheless trump other ports, including the Super NES’s comparatively paltry 2-player mode.
However, this 16-player scenario bears caveats. While Guinness World Records says that the improbable feat (that is, “improbable” in that getting all of the needed resources to pull it off would require some serious planning, and was likely quite rare when the game was released in 1991) has taken place, finding evidence of anyone actually doing it online is surprisingly more difficult. Even the official materials for the game only state an upper-limit of four players as a possibility.
If this archived page from The Great Games Experiment is to be believed, then Producer David Nolte notes that the 16-player capability was to be supported by their own multiplayer device, but that Nintendo’s Four Player Adapter was a resource hog that they insisted the developers support, thus making it all but unplayable for more than four players.
Should this indeed be the case, it might also go far in explaining why support for the peripheral was so limited.