In 1998 Nintendo released the third version of their classic handheld game machine, the Game Boy. The original GB had grown stagnant in the eyes of the new generation of gamers, a group that wet their video game feet with systems such as the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64. If the Game Boy was going to continue to thrive, it needed an update (and not just a slimming down, as the Game Boy Pocket proved). What could Nintendo do to keep the Game Boy alive and kicking? Add one of two things that gamers had been begging for for years: color.

The Game Boy Color was quite a nice little device. It was fully backwards compatible with the old line of Game Boy software and could play the old games in addition to the new color ones. Some color games could even play on the old Game Boys (such as Mega Man Xtreme), although they would be in noncolor, of course. Some new color games demanded a Game Boy Color and would not work on the old system (such as Mario Golf). As time went on and the original Game Boy began to fade into memory, these dual mode games began to disappear and somewhere in 2000 all new color games started requiring a Game Boy Color to operate. The GBC itself was available in several different color cases, including teal, grape, pink, and Pikachu-yellow. The GBC originally sold for $79.95, but has dropped in price considerably as it begins to enter retirement.

The actual specs of the system:

  • Dimensions: 135.5 x 78 x 27.4 mm
  • Weight: 138g (the lighest Game Boy yet)
  • Power Source: 2 AA batteries
  • CPU: 8 Mhz 8-bit processor
  • Available RAM: 32 KB
  • Available Colors: 32,000 (32 at once max dual mode games, 56 GBC exclusive games)
  • Sound: Four tone generators similar to those found on the 2A03, the NES CPU. Two PWMs, one wavetable, and one LFSR.
  • IR Speed (for data transfer and multiplayer): 512KB/sec
While Nintendo and other third parties did produce numerous GBC games, in the beginning Nintendo opened up the vault of old games and produced some color versions of older Game Boy titles. These titles include The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX, Wario Land 2, Tetris DX, and Super Mario Brothers Deluxe (which, while not an original Game Boy game, it was a direct port + enhancement of the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES). As time went on Nintendo abandoned the dual mode games and focused purely on emphasizing color. Color-only games will display a friendly error message if placed in an old-style Game Boy, or might offer a single short mini-level as some compensation for the game not working correctly. Note that the Super NES peripheral Super Game Boy cannot play GBC games in color. Instead the adapter treats the games as a plain Game Boy game. The GBC will, however, link up to an Nintendo 64 controller via a special adapter called the Transfer Pak to unlock secrets on certain N64 games. For example, linking both versions of Mario Tennis together will unlock new characters. This link requires a special link cable, of course.

In 2001 Nintendo began to move away from the Game Boy Color and introduced the Game Boy Advance, a new color handheld game system that was capable of playing games equal to the levels of the Super NES and some early Nintendo 64 titles. As the Game Boy Advance took off like a rocket, support for the old GBC began to drop and the system's days are undoubtedly numbered. Add in the fact that the Game Boy Advance can also play all the old Game Boy and Game Boy Color cartridges, and it's easy to see why the GBC is headed for the game console retirement home. In fact, some GBC games actually offer bonuses and extras if played on a Game Boy Advance, such as The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons which offers access to the secret "Advance Shop" that sells several secret items. On a GBC the store is locked up and inaccessible. The last GBC game, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was released in November 2002.

As the Game Boy Color moves into the sunset we should not forget the role it played in bridging the gap between the Game Boy and the Game Boy Advance. It may have had a short overall lifespan compared to its console cousins, but it's by no means a little player in the console wars. It's contributions to the industry helped Nintendo remain the sole major competitor in the handheld gaming market.

Playing Mario Golf, Wario Land 2, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX, Mega Man Xtreme, Mario Tennis, and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
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