Game Boy Color

Game Boy Color
Game Boy Color
Atomic Purple version of the Game Boy Color.
Manufacturer Nintendo
Product family Game Boy line
Generation Fifth generation
Release date
  • JP October 21, 1998
  • NA November 18, 1998
  • PAL November 23, 1998
  • AUS November 27, 1998
Retail availability 1998-2003
Units sold Worldwide: 118.69 million,[1] including Game Boy units[2]
Media Cartridge
CPU Custom, Zilog Z80-alike
Best-selling game Pokémon Gold and Silver, approximately 14.51 million combined (in Japan and the US) (details).[3][4]
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, 3.96 million copies, and Oracle of Seasons, 3.96 million copies (as of March 2004[dated info]).[5][6]
Game Boy
Predecessor Game Boy[7]
Successor Game Boy Advance[7]

The Game Boy Color (ゲームボーイカラー Gēmu Bōi Karā"?) is Nintendo's successor to the 8-bit Game Boy handheld game console, and was released on October 21, 1998 in Japan, November 19, 1998 in North America, November 23, 1998 in Europe and November 27, 1998 in the United Kingdom. It features a color screen and is slightly thicker and taller than the Game Boy Pocket. As with the original Game Boy, it has an 8-bit processor.[8] The Game Boy and Game Boy Color combined have sold 118.69 million units worldwide.[1][2]



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 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.

Launch titles



The technical details for the console are as follows:[9]

  • Main processor: Zilog Z80 (8-bit)
  • Processor speed: 4 or 8 MHz (two processor modes)
  • Resolution: 160 x 144 pixels (same as the original Game Boy and the Sega Game Gear)
  • Palette colors available: 32,768 (15-bit)
  • Colours 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: 8x8 or 8x16
  • Tiles on screen: 512 (360 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, 30+ hours of gameplay
    • external: 3V DC
    • 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

The processor, which is a Z80 workalike made by Sharp with a few extra (bit manipulation) instructions, has a clock speed of approximately 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). 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. The feature was only supported in a few games, however, 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. For example, sometimes a sprite that was supposed to meld into the background would be colored separately, making it easily noticeable.


Games that are designed specifically for the Game Boy Color are housed in clear-colored cartridges, and will not function in an earlier Game Boy or the Super Game Boy (or will simply display a warning message and refuse to play). Games that are designed for the Game Boy Color, but which also include backwards-compatibility with the previous Game Boy systems, have a similar design to the original grey Game Boy cartridges, but are colored black for identification. The European and American releases of Pokémon Yellow and Pokémon Gold and Silver feature different-colored cartridges, although they are technically identical to the standard black ones. Game Boy Color Cartridges will function correctly when used in a Game Boy Advance or Game Boy Advance SP system. No cartridges made for any system earlier than a Game Boy Advance will function in the Nintendo DS or Nintendo DS Lite, and nothing earlier than a DS card will function in a Nintendo DSi or 3DS.

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.

Directional pad Action button
None A B
Up Brown Red Dark brown
Down Pastel mix Orange Yellow
Left Blue Dark blue Grayscale
Right Green Dark green Inverted

These palettes each contain up to ten colors.[10] 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 grayscale (Left + B) palette produces an appearance essentially identical to that experienced on the original Game Boy.

In addition, 93[citation needed] Game Boy games 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, Tetris, and the Wario Land series. The default palettes are stored in a database within the internal boot rom of the GBC, and not the game cartridge itself.[11]

Super Game Boy titles will work too. Despite compatibility with Super Game Boy titles, the Game Boy Color will not recognize the coloring header for Super Game Boy titles which have a color graphics system of its own.

Colors produced

The Atomic Purple Game Boy Color system has a purple tinted translucent case. It is a standard color.

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:

  • Berry
  • Grape
  • Kiwi
  • Dandelion
  • Teal

Another color released at the same time was "Atomic Purple", made of a translucent purple plastic that was also used on the color-respective Nintendo 64 controller.

Other colors were sold as limited editions or in specific countries. These included:

  • 3rd anniversary orange with Squirtle, Charmander, and Bulbasaur on the left side, Pikachu on the right, and Charmander's tail flame as the power LED. (3rd anniversary of Pokémon edition)
  • Color-shifting gold/silver paint (Pokémon Gold/Silver edition)
  • Metallic gold/silver paint with a Pikachu & a Pichu around the screen. Pikachu's cheek lights up instead of the usual power light. (Pichu/Pikachu edition)
  • Yellow front, blue back with a red A button, a green B button, and a blue arrow. Has Poké Ball in place of power light. Has Pokémon logo above Start and Select buttons. Has pictures of Pikachu, Togepi, and Jigglypuff around screen (Pokémon edition)
  • Yellow front, blue back with a red A button, a green B button, and a blue arrow with a Pikachu & a Pichu around the screen. Pikachu's cheek lights up instead of the usual power light. (Pichu/Pikachu PAL edition)
  • Yellow or Red with one orange button, one green button, and a light blue arrow decorated in various Pokémon (Pokémon Center edition) (Japan)
  • 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, produced for Turkish soft drink company Yedigün)
  • Clear blue
  • Green and Yellow (Australian Edition)


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! (July 2002). This gave the original Game Boy (1989–2002) one of the longest continuous lifespans of any console, only beaten by the Atari 2600 (1977–1992[citation needed]), Neo-Geo AES/MVS (1990–2004) and the NES (1983 - 2003). Its North American lifespan was shorter though, as the last Game Boy and Super Game Boy compatible game released there was Dragon Warrior Monsters 2 (September 2001). The last North American Game Boy Color-exclusive game, however, was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Although it was released on different consoles, the Game Boy Color featured an exclusive version.

With the release of the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo has announced that the Virtual Console service will also be available for the 3DS and will allow players to play games from the Game Boy and Game Boy Color.


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.[1][2]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Consolidated Sales Transition by Region" (PDF). Nintendo. 2010-01-27. Archived from the original on 2010-02-14. Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  2. ^ a b c "A Brief History of Game Console Warfare: Game Boy". BusinessWeek. McGraw-Hill. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  3. ^ "Japan Platinum Game Chart". The Magic Box. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  4. ^ "US Platinum Videogame Chart". The Magic Box. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  5. ^ Rob Parton (2004-03-31). "Xenogears vs. Tetris". RPGamer. Retrieved 2008-03-09. 
  6. ^ "March 25, 2004". The Magic Box. 2004-03-25. Archived from the original on 2005-11-26. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 
  7. ^ a b Umezu; Sugino (Transcript). Nintendo 3DS (Volume 3 – Nintendo 3DS Hardware Concept). Interview with Satoru Iwata. Iwata Asks. Nintendo. Retrieved 2011-03-07. 
  8. ^ "GBC Hardware Info". The Internet. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  9. ^ "Nintendo GameBoy Color Console Information - Console Database". Retrieved 2011-02-19. 
  10. ^ "Changing the Color Palette on Game Boy Advance Systems". Customer Service. Nintendo. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  11. ^ Disassembling the GBC Boot ROM

External links

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