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History Of Nintendo: Game Boy Color

Nintendo's brilliant handheld goes colour...

Nintendo were late to the party when it came to creating a colour handheld console, but they were fashionably late. At the behest of Gunpei Yokoi, Nintendo waited until they were truly ready to launch a colour handheld console, watching as competitors tried and failed to trump their technologically inferior machine.

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In the aftermath of the launch of the Game Boy, Atari and Sega had released handhelds to rival Nintendo's machine but despite displaying LCD colour screens, neither the Game Gear nor The Lynx made a big impact. First up was the Lynx in 1989 but it was far more expensive than Nintendo's console and even an attempt to relaunch the handheld in 1991 with a reduced price and sleek new look failed to convince. The fact was that it didn't have enough brilliant games and, even if loads of all-time classics had been developed for the Lynx, gamers wouldn't have been interested because the six batteries that they'd forked out for would be dead after four hours of gameplay.

Console War

As for Sega's Game Gear, it suffered from similar problems. Despite a marketing campaign that tried it's best to discredit the Game Boy as the inferior machine (one TV ad apparently showed a gamer hitting himself in the head with a dead squirrel in an attempt to see colour in the Game Boy's monochromatic screen), Game Gear couldn't compete with the Game Boy and once again, battery life was its downfall. Six batteries were needed to power six hours of game life and not even the appearance of Sonic The Hedgehog could withstand such limitations.

As you may have read in last week's Game Boy feature, it was always Gunpei Yokoi's insistence that Game Boy would only go colour when Nintendo could make an affordable colour machine that didn't drain battery life. By 1998 the time had come but sadly Yokoi would not be around to see it. The failure of the Virtual Boy had lead to his resignation from Nintendo in 1996, days after his Game Boy pocket was released. He moved on to work on the WonderSwan with Bandai but was tragically killed in a car accident in 1997.

Although developers wanted a new Game Boy with colour visuals, Nintendo also wanted gamers to be able to play their old games so they created a backwards compatible console that could play all the old Game Boy games. This was important because not only could the new handheld display 56 different colors simultaneously on screen, it could also add basic four-color shading to games that had been developed for the original Game Boy. Games such as Pokémon Yellow and Super Mario Land benefited from this.

New Classics

Some games such as Tetris and Legend Of Zelda: Link's Awakening were re-released to take advantage of the new handheld. Tetris DX and Link's Awakening DX were arguably even better experiences in colour and then there was Super Mario Bros. Deluxe. Released in 1999, this was an update of the original Super Mario Bros., the game that ONM voted as its best Nintendo game of all time. It featured multiplayer, a challenge mode and eight additional worlds based on the notoriously difficult Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels. This unlockable extra wasn't called "For Super Players" for nothing.

Yet the biggest stars of Game Boy Color weren't Nintendo old timers such as Mario and Zelda, but Pokémon. We've already mentioned Pokémon Yellow but Pokémon Gold/Silver were the first Pokémon games to be released exclusively for Game Boy Color. The games launched in the UK in 2001 and by this time Pokémon was massive, partly thanks to the TV series which was broadcast every Saturday morning on Ant & Dec's SMTV. With 100 new Pokémon to catch, new items and the introduction of Pokémon breeding, Gold/Silver lived up to the hype and sold millions of copies worldwide.

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22 comments so far...
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  1. Fierce Deity H Wednesday 18th Nov 2009 at 17:54

    I had a GB color with Pikachu and Pichu on it...

  2. D.J Wednesday 18th Nov 2009 at 18:02

    My GB Color was one of the original batch that was coloured purple.

    My fave games on it were Pokemon Silver and Hamtaro: Ham Hams Unite.

  3. Super Xero Wednesday 18th Nov 2009 at 18:06

    Great article! :D

    I never really owned a GBC at the time, instead skipping it to buy a Gameboy Advance instead, but I got one a few years ago cheap. :)

  4. Redfish20 Wednesday 18th Nov 2009 at 18:06

    first console i ever owned, for the whole of it's life it played nothing but pokemon, pokemon spin offs, lego island, and once links awakening (which i didnt really appreciate at the time not knowing what zelda was)
    got it shortly before the gba was released but didnt upgrade to it for ages (not until i heard ruby+saphire were coming out).
    my gbc probably ate more batteries than my wii ever will.

  5. gamester Wednesday 18th Nov 2009 at 18:18

    Same here i was my first nintendo console too and when i got it i never used to leave it i couldn't stop playing super mario bros delux... Good times.

  6. nintendo_guy Wednesday 18th Nov 2009 at 18:39

    Lots of colour!

  7. Mr Resettio Wednesday 18th Nov 2009 at 18:46

    i have Super Mario bros. DX!

    epic win 8)

  8. SoulSilver IV Wednesday 18th Nov 2009 at 19:00

    Pokemon Silver and Super Mario Bros DX were amazing. I have the see-through purple Game Boy Colour.

    The Game Gear was pretty bad back in the day. :lol: I bought one recently though, and using some high power NiMH batteries, I'm getting over 10 hours out! Sonic the Hedgehog ftw.

  9. mandlecreed Wednesday 18th Nov 2009 at 20:06

    Don't forget Cannon Fodder!

    While it was obviously scaled down for such a tiny machine, the end result was still fantastic, and ruddy good fun.

  10. Ai64 Wednesday 18th Nov 2009 at 20:50

    Ahh the old GBC. I used to had the green one when i was young. I still enjoyed my favourite games such as wario land 3.

  11. deathroom Wednesday 18th Nov 2009 at 20:58

    Ah the first Game Boy was my first Nintendo system and I got hooked. I have had all verson of the Game Boy over the years. Links Awaking FTW!

  12. mariofanatic128 Wednesday 18th Nov 2009 at 21:09

    Why is wario land 3 only number 5, it was the best game on the game boy colour

  13. FreddieC Wednesday 18th Nov 2009 at 21:50

    My first Nintendo console, it converted me. GBC + Warioland 3 + Mario Tennis = years of fun.

    Micro Machines 1 and 2, GTA 2 and Cannon Fodder are also worth a mention.

  14. Nintendoman12345 Thursday 19th Nov 2009 at 08:29


  15. laguz Thursday 19th Nov 2009 at 10:21

    i love my GBC and still own it today, my favourite games were pokeomon gold/silver/crystal, emaculate pokemon games.

  16. ClockMenace Thursday 19th Nov 2009 at 13:07

    Ahaha, both me and my cousin have the see through purple GBA.

    I still play mine :D

  17. fisher2007 Thursday 19th Nov 2009 at 16:14

    Pokemon Silver was my favorite game. 8)

  18. jamboodle Thursday 19th Nov 2009 at 16:31

    I used to be hooked to Zelda and pokemon during the time I had a GBC, so many good times, I could never play games that much ever again.

  19. clarkie123 Thursday 19th Nov 2009 at 17:09

    I never even knew Metal Gear Solid was on the GB Colour. Hmmmm, you learn something new every day.

  20. slangman Thursday 19th Nov 2009 at 17:09

    Ah the GBC. I remember getting a purple version with Pokémon Yellow on my birthday. It was also my first ever time playing an handheld game and I really enjoyed it when it came out and still do. Great times.

  21. maxmatt Friday 20th Nov 2009 at 07:50

    The first time I had a go on a GBC was on a mates one. He had clear purple one.

    He couldn't afford to buy any more games for it at the time so for a while he had to make do with the game he got with it which was star wars episode one racing.

    It had a rumble motor in the cartridge the game was rubish but it was still enough to convince me to go colour I bought one a week later.

    were there ever any games released that used the infa-red feature

  22. richie_sutton Friday 20th Nov 2009 at 21:12

    Yeah, the GBC pokemon games used it but I can't think of any others. Heh, I completed my Gold Pokedex. I got my Celebi at a tour and borrowed Mew off a mate. Great article but didn't Capcom do the the Oracle games? It was the precursor to the Minish team. Though I forget who Flagship are, aren't they 2nd party?

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