The is Nintendo's successor to the Game Boy and was released on October 21, 1998 in Japan and in November 19, 1998 in North America and November 23, 1998 in Europe. It features a color screen and is slightly thicker and taller than the Game Boy Pocket, but smaller than the original Game Boy. The Game Boy and Game Boy Color combined have sold 118.69 million units worldwide.
The Game Boy Color was a response to pressure from game developers for a new and much more sophisticated system of playing, as they felt that the Game Boy, even in its latest incarnation, the Game Boy Pocket, was insufficient. The resultant product was backward compatible
, a first for a handheld console system, and leveraged the large library of games and great installed base of the predecessor system. This became a major feature of the Game Boy line
, since it allowed each new launch to begin with a significantly larger library than any of its competitors.
The processor, which is a Z80
workalike made by Sharp
with a few extra (bit manipulation) instructions, has a clock speed of approx. 8 MHz, twice as fast as that of the original Game Boy
. The Game Boy Color also has four times as much memory as the original (32 kilobytes system RAM, 16 kilobytes video RAM). Additionally, the Game Boy Color could address more ROM, allowing games as much as eight times the maximum size of those for the original Game Boy. The screen resolution was the same as the original Game Boy, which is 160x144 pixels.
The Game Boy Color also featured an infrared communications port for wireless linking. However, the feature was only supported in a few games, and the infrared port was dropped for the Game Boy Advance and later releases. The console was capable of showing up to 56 different colors simultaneously on screen from its palette of 32,768, and could add basic four-color shading to games that had been developed for the original Game Boy. It could also give the sprites and backgrounds separate colors, for a total of more than four colors. This, however, resulted in graphic artifacts in certain games; a sprite that was supposed to meld into the background was now colored separately, exposing the trick.
- In Super Mario Land, there are many hidden sprites (in the form of hidden enemies/opportunities) exposed by using a multicolored palette. These and other "spoilers" can be avoided by using the monochromatic color palette as described above.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (original version) there is an area full of statues, some of which are enemies and some of which are normal. The enemy statues blend in normally but the pallette trick in the GBC makes them stand out.
Transparent cartridges are designed for, and therefore will only work with, the Game Boy Color or the Game Boy Advance. Black cartridges are designed for the Game Boy Color and will also work on previous systems, as they have a similar design to the original grey Game Boy cartridges. The black cartridges can be easily identified from the grey ones. The European and American releases of the Pokémon games feature different color cartridges.
Color palettes used for original Game Boy games
When playing an original Game Boy game on a later system, the user can choose which color palette is used. This is achieved by pressing certain button combinations, namely either A or B (or neither) and a direction key while the Game Boy logo is displayed on the screen.
| Key combination
|| Key combination
|| Key combination
|| Palette |
|| Up + A
|| Up + B
|| Dark brown |
|| Pastel mix
|| Down + A
|| Down + B
|| Yellow |
|| Left + A
|| Dark blue
|| Left + B
|| Monochrome |
|| Right + A
|| Dark green
|| Right + B
|| Inverted |
These palettes each contain up to ten colors. In most games, the four shades displayed on the original Game Boy would translate to different subsets of this 10-color palette, such as by displaying movable sprites
in one subset and backgrounds, etc. in another. The monochrome (Left + B) palette produces an appearance essentially identical to that experienced on the original Game Boy.
In addition, most Game Boy games published by Nintendo have a special palette that is enabled when no buttons are pressed. Any game that does not have a special palette will default to the dark green (Right + A) palette. Notable games that do have preset palettes are Metroid II: Return of Samus, Kirby's Dream Land 2, Super Mario Land, and the Wario Land series.
The logo for Game Boy Color spelled out the word COLOR in the five original colors in which the unit was manufactured. They were named:
Another color released at the same time was "Atomic Purple", made of a translucent purple plastic.
Other colors were sold as limited editions or in specific countries. For example:
- Color-shifting gold/silver paint (Pokémon Gold/Silver edition)
- Yellow front, blue back with one red button, one green button, and a blue arrow decorated in Pikachu & Jigglypuff(Pokémon edition)
- Yellow with one orange button, one green button, and a light blue arrow decorated in various Pokémon (Pokémon Center edition)
- Pastel pink with Hello Kitty head in the middle (Japan - Hello Kitty edition)
- Clear (Japan)
- Clear black
- Clear green (Japan)
- Midnight blue
- Ice blue
- Clear orange (Japan)
- Clear blue
The last Game Boy Color game released in Japan that was also compatible with the Game Boy and Super Game Boy was From TV Animation - One Piece: Maboroshi no Grand Line Boukenhen!
(June 2002). This gave the original Game Boy (1989-2002) one of the longest continuous lifespans of any console, only bested by the Atari 2600
(1977-1992), and the Neo-Geo AES/MVS
(1990-2006). In the US, the last game was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The Game Boy
and Game Boy Color combined have sold 118.69 million units worldwide, with 32.47 million units in Japan
, 44.06 million in the Americas
, and 42.16 million in other regions.