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Wario Land II
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Resident Evil Gaiden
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Zelda - Oracle Of Ages

The Game Boy Colo[u]r was the follow-up to the Game Boy. Essentially just the original GB but no longer was it simply black and white (nor shades of grey), but rather; truly an NES in your hands. There's much to love about Ninty's little handheld follow-up and hopefully this introduction will persuade you as to reasons why! So let's begin...
 
Coming hot off the heels of the GB's Pocket variation, the GBC was rolled out internationally in the year of 1998 and is regarded as a member of the fifth generation of video game consoles. Launching with the likes of Game and Watch Gallery and Tetris DX, it had its major factor in its backward-compatibility with all previous official Game Boy titles, despite the fact that the GBC had its own cartridges to differentiate between the two systems. Having a near decade long lifespan by this point with the GB, this idea of backwards compatibility (without need of add-ons/converters) could easily prompt one loyal to the brand to jump on board. You had no need to chuck or sell those old carts (Transbot forbid)! A masterstroke indeed and one that followed in generations to come, setting a sort of benchmark.

 

Although confusion can arise as to whether the GBC was a seperate console or a simple redesign, it must be stated here: yes, it is its own beast. Tech specs would be a good reasoning to explain why, here. The overall 160x144 display and the famous 4-channel audio structure remained the same, there was some significant changes elsewhere that made it more than a simple upgrade ala the Pocket (or the frontlit GB Light released earlier in 1998 in Japan). For one thing, the memory had been significantly upgraded with 32Kb of RAM and 16kb of VRAM. Secondly the processor powering the lil thing was yet another modified Sharp LR35902 as derived from the legendary Zilog Z80, but this time clocking seperate processor modes, natively supporting 4 and 8Mhz depending on the cartridge in use. The 2-bit palette is out of there, which is what everyone licked their lips over, however. Now supporting 10/32/56 colours on screen, with an available palette of 32,768...You should get exactly why this was a leap forward in Nintendos handheld brand. Design wise, while sleeker than an original GB, it remained slightly thicker than its Pocket cousin.

The possible use of link cable and stereo headphones remained, as did the typical button layout: D-Pad plus B/A/Select/Start. The GBC saw the return of the AA battery for the system, also. Yet now you could gain up-to-and-over 30 hours of gameplay time, topping the 2xAAA standard of the Pocket, yet coming close to matching the original Game Boy on technically half the battery power. Parents liked this. Despite the previously mentioned thicker nature, the console technically weighed less than the Pocket also. Go figure. There was also an inclusion of an infrared port to go alongside the adforementioned link cable connectivity (2nd gen, that is). New ways to play and so many colours? Hell yes, folks. 
 
There was, of course; ultimately ill-fated competition to attempt battle with Nintendo's all-new device. The Neo Geo Pocket, Bandai WonderSwan and Tiger Game.Com all looked for a piece of the action, while Sega chose to sit this one out and Atari were doing...nothing. As with the past generation there was really nothing that could be done to loosen Nintendo's stranglehold on the handheld market. Retailers lapped it up and consumers stayed loyal. The Game Boy branding was entirely trusted and the palette upgrades and backward compatibility was enough to seal the deal. The GBC reigned supreme in its time on Earth.
 
The DX remakes (essentially colourised versions of classic Game Boy titles) were something to behold. Finally, you could see the likes of Link's Awakening (the hands-down best Zelda game ever, I'll have you know) in all its 8-bit glory and experience it just like you did the first time round. It was a revelation, if not a revolution. Along this DX line gave one of the best conversions of the original SMB classic in the form of Super Mario Bros Deluxe. Not being backward compatible meant you *needed* to own a GBC as a Ninty/Mario lover. The addition of an overworld, new levels, select visual enhancements and brand new modes of play made it an instant must have for the system. Also, R-Type DX. Jus' sayin'.

To say the GBC would be a classic Pokemon fans handheld of choice may well be a mild understatement (at least at the time). Playing Red and Blue with corresponding palettes, then topping with the likes of Yellow, Gold, Silver and Crystal all probably made you weep with joy. That's without factoring in the likes of Pinball and Puzzle Challenge, either. Yurp. Go get yo' Pika Pika on, y'all!


But there were games to satisfy all bit-crunching taste buds for all those pixel connosiers out there. From sports games with the likes of pocket variations of franchises such as NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, Madden NFL and more. To updates and re-releases from the likes of Rainbow Islands, Paperboy, Tetris, etc. The majority of AAA N64 and multiplat titles also found home on the GBC with Turok 2, 3 and Rage Wars, Perfect Dark, Rainbow Six and even Grand Theft Auto.

 

Of course, Nintendo's IP's continue on strong with the likes of the brilliant Wario Land 3, the fun Mario Golf and Tennis upgrades and for all the Zelda fans; two brand new titles in Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages. For the real old-schoolers, the cross-compatible Game & Watch Gallery's continued on with the Game Boy Colour, acknowledging its lineage and history. Then the flipside, you have the scaled down exclusives of massive franchises including outings for Metal Gear Solid (Metal Gear: Ghost Babel), Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword, WWF Betrayal (a very odd title for any wrestling fan), (the so-far final) Earthworm Jim: Menace 2 the Galaxy and let us not forget Rare peering in with their release of Conker's Pocket Tales (yes, that Conker)!

So, yeah. Dem games, man. How'd that not tickle any kinda fancy? Oh, wait! It did? Then you're alive! Some may plead the case of the Game Boy Color simply not doing enough to warrant itself a place on its own and instead be grouped together with the original Game Boy. But, y'know what? Blech! Coz, like I said it is its own thing. Was it succeeded by the technically superior (on many a level) Game Boy Advance? Sure. But that wasn't 1998. 
 
You have to put yourself in the mindframe of a young gamer peering over another kids shoulder as they're playing their new handheld. That's in colour. But is also Nintendo. And some how smaller than your Play It Loud model. Yeah, that was me. Jealousy would set in and you instantly had to have one. It was new, it was fresh and it deserves its place in video game history. It sure as heck sold enough to warrant such! So we here at RetroGameGeeks say: look on the brightside of life and go play Link's Awakening DX.

 

- Olly023