The Pocket Sonar Was A Strange Game Boy Accessory That Helped You Fish

Fishing is a very accessible and multi-faceted pursuit. For some, it brings back beloved childhood memories of trips to a lake or creek. There were no expectations of stellar catches (unless there were, of course), just a relaxing time and potentially a lazy afternoon spent on the water or at its edge. Fishing can, however, be incredibly involved and competitive, not to mention dazzlingly expensive. 

A ruby-and-diamond $1 million lure may be out of reach for most of us, but it's not always necessary to have access to such premium equipment to be able to enjoy fishing. Or even access to a real-life body of water. Fishing minigames have long been commonplace in video games. With the advent of Nintendo Wii and other motion-sensitive systems, fishing rod peripherals began to appear on the market. Decades before that, though, the humble Game Boy saw the release of a sonar fish-detecting device.

What was the Gyogun Tanchiki: Pocket Sonar?

The simple 8-bit Game Boy saw some of the biggest releases in gaming history. "Tetris," for instance, is a puzzler that needs no introduction, and the ultimate evidence that tech specs (as important as they can be) aren't necessarily the be-all and end-all. Nevertheless, the system was compatible with some truly remarkable accessories. The iconic Game Boy Camera and Game Boy Printer, for instance, allowed users to take photographs using the system via a camera that protruded from the top like an intrusive alien eye and print them on small squares of sticky paper.

An equally remarkable (yet rather more obscure) Game Boy accessory was the Gyogun Tanchiki: Pocket Sonar. The peripheral was a curious Bandai venture released only in Japan, an intriguing blend of video game and device that allowed those enjoying real-world fishing to find their quarry.

According to Guinness World Records, this 1998 curiosity was officially the "First sonar enabled peripheral for a gaming console." Though the Game Boy itself would not be submerged in water during use, the attachment would certainly get wet. As the name suggests, the Gyogun Tanchiki: Pocket Sonar would use sonar down in that watery world to highlight the location of any fish. Even more surprisingly, this wasn't the only thing weird thing Game Boys could do. The Game Boy Color, for example, functioned as a sewing machine add-on.

How did this fisher's friend work?

The Gyogun Tanchiki: Pocket Sonar, as with a lot of pocket devices of its era, wasn't particularly pocket-friendly at all (even considering how voluminous peoples' pants tended to be in the 1990s). The main crux of the device was a long, rectangular slab of a Game Boy Game Pak rather akin to the Game Boy Camera's own. The sonar functionality was a separate animal entirely, as The Gaming Historian demonstrates on YouTube: it was housed in a bright yellow body that floated on the surface of the water, and the full complement of AAA batteries crammed into the Game Pak made the magic happen.

With their Game Boy safely nestled in a transparent waterproof pouch, which was also thoughtfully included in this intriguing package, anglers could then try to locate those fish. "The sonar sends out an acoustic signal through the water," The Gaming Historian goes on to explain. "When the signal comes into contact with anything, like fish or plants, the signal is reflected back." By inputting information such as water depth on the Game Boy, the details and fish graphics displayed were, reportedly, quite accurate, if quite hard to parse on that busy little screen.

The software was rounded off with a Game & Watch-esque fishing minigame and a section of fish trivia, allowing it to have some utility when used away from the water. Sadly, the system would never see a worldwide release.