Nintendo Game Boy Color Review

Hardware

The Game Boy Color, unlike its predecessors; features a colour screen, which is a big improvement over the original Game Boy and Game Boy Pocket. Unfortunately the screen isn’t backlit, which is one of the biggest hindrances of earlier Game Boy models. Gaming out in the sunlight is virtually impossible, and even in a well-lit room with the glare pointed away, the screen doesn’t show decent image quality unless you point the screen to a specific angle. This makes playing on the system that much more awkward, and could potentially give you neck cramp after a while from having to keep tilting your head.

As with the original Game Boy, it has a custom 8-bit processor made by Sharp, which is considered a hybrid between the Intel 8080 and the Zilog Z80. The Sharp LR35902 has a clock speed of approximately 8 MHz, twice as fast as that of the original Game Boy and also has three times as much memory as the original (32 kilobytes system RAM, 16 kilobytes video RAM).

It’s slightly thicker and taller than the Game Boy Pocket, and features a slightly smaller screen.

The Game Boy Color also features an infrared communications port for wireless linking. The feature was only supported in a small number of games, so the infrared port was dropped from the Game Boy Advance line.

Design

By design, the Game Boy Color uses the same “Portrait” layout as the original Game Boy and Game Boy Pocket. The Game Boy Advance, its successor, was Nintendo’s first handheld to move away from the old design, and start using a verticle layout for the incorporation of a wider-screen.

At the top, there’s an infrared communications port for wireless linking with other GBCs.

On the front of the device is most of what you need to use, there’s a D-Pad on the left with the A and B buttons on the right along with the start buttons. This makes up the entirety of the button interface. In the bottom corner, there is a mono speaker, which doesn’t sound as good to the ones used on most modern handhelds.

Above the button interface is the screen used to display games you’re playing, as well as a light to show when the power is and isn’t turned on.

Moving over to the left-hand side, there is a spinning dial for the system’s volume and above it is a proprietary slot used for the system’s Link Cable, used for multiplayer features in games like Pokemon Silver and Gold. On the opposite side there’s a single movable switch that turns the system on and off.

At the back, there’s a large slot for inserting Game Boy and Game Boy Color games to play. Near the bottom, there is a panel that comes off for replacing batteries. Unlike the Game Boy with its 4-battery requirements or the 6-battery requirements of the Game Gear, the GBC only took 2 AA batteries to be able to run.

Finally, all the way on the bottom of the device, we have the lone headphone jack for the use of earbuds or headphones, and small port for connecting a 3V DC charging cable in to play games without having to use AA Batteries.

There are 7 basic colours, 7 limited edition colours, 7 Pokemon editions and 16 special edition varirants to choose from.

Ergonomics

How does the Game Boy Color feel in your hands? Quite simply, it feels cramped. Every time I pick the thing up, my fingers are overlapping and hugging each other and the opposite sides of the system. It just feels really weird. While the system is the perfect size to slip into your pocket, it just doesn’t feel comfortable to play.

Battery Life

The GBC requires two AA batteries, or a third-party battery pack to play games on the go. Alternatively, you can get a 3V DC charging cable to play your games, without having to worry about getting any AA bateries or a seperate battery pack.

If you’re powering the Game Boy Color with AA batteries, expect to get around 10-30 hours of use, before needing to replace the batteries. The battery life to me is still rather impressive on the GBC, and not having a backlit display will also help increase battery life.

I would still suggest getting a third-party battery pack though, if you’re wanting to be able to recharge it without having to worry about replacing the batteries. These can usually be found on eBay rather cheap.

Software

Due to its backwards compatibility with Game Boy games, the Game Boy Color had a large playable library at launch. The system amassed an impressive library of 576 Game Boy Color games over a four-year period. While the majority of the games were Game Boy Color exclusive, approximately 30% of the titles released were backwards compatible with the original Game Boy.

While Tetris for the original Game Boy was the best selling game compatible with the system, Pokémon Gold and Silver were the best selling games developed for the Game Boy Color. The best selling Game Boy Color exclusive game was Pokémon Crystal.

The last Game Boy Color game ever released was the Japanese exclusive Doraemon no Study Boy: Kanji Yomikaki Master, which was released in Japan on July 18, 2003. In North America and Europe, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, released in November 2002, was the last game released.

History

The Game Boy Color was released on October 21, 1998 in Japan and was released in November of the same year in international markets. The release of the Game Boy Color was a response to pressure from game developers wanting a more sophisticated handheld platform, as they felt that the Game Boy, even in its latest incarnation, the Game Boy Pocket, was insufficient.

Technical Specifications

 

  • Main processor: Sharp Corporation LR35902 (based on the 8-bit Zilog Z80)
  • Processor speed: 1.0485 (speed of original Gameboy) or 2.097 MHz (two processor modes)
  • Resolution: 160 × 144 pixels (10:9 aspect ratio, same aspect ratio and resolution as the original Game Boy)
  • Palette colors available: 32,768 (16-bit)
  • Colors on screen: Supports 10, 32 or 56
  • Maximum sprites: 40 total, 10 per line, 4 colors per sprite (one of which being transparent)
  • Sprite size: 8×8 or 8×16
  • Tiles on screen: 512 (360~399 visible, the rest are drawn off screen as a scrolling buffer)
  • Audio: 2 square wave channels, 1 wave channel, 1 noise channel, mono speaker, stereo headphone jack
  • ROM: 8 MB maximum
  • RAM: 32 kB
  • VRAM: 16 kB
  • Cartridge RAM: 128 kB

Power:

  • internal: 2 AA batteries, up to 10 hours of gameplay
  • external: 3V DC 0.6W (2.35mm × 0.75mm)
  • indicator: Red LED

Input:

  • 8-way D-pad
  • 4 buttons (A, B, Start, Select)
  • Volume potentiometer
  • Power switch
  • Serial I/O (“Link cable”): 512 kbit/s with up to 4 connections in serial
  • Infra-red I/O: Less than 2 m distance at 45°
  • Cartridge I/O

 

Final Verdict

Pros:

  • Colour Display
  • Impressive 10 to 30 hours of battery life
  • Over 576 Game Boy Color games to choose from
  • Backwards compatible with orignal Game Boy games

Cons:

  • No backlit display
  • Isn’t comfortable to use in hands

The Game Boy Color is a a blast from the past – not only did it bring color to handheld Nintendo games, it also brought a massive game library filled with must-play games along with it. It’s definitely an improvement over the original Game Boy and Game Boy Pocket, and the battery life is still rather impressive to this day. However, the screen is rather difficult to see without a backlit display, and also isn’t very comfortable to hold in your hands.

Despite its flaws, the Game Boy Color is still a rather impressive handheld to this day. Many 90s kids, like myself, will remember having one, or at least getting to try one out – either through a friend, or at a video game store. I remember spending many hours playing on one of these, and brings back many good memories of my childhood.

I’d definitely reccomend picking one of these up, if you’re feeling nostalgic and want a trip down memory lane!