Why The Gameboy Color Used Two Cartridge Types

Why The Gameboy Color Used Two Cartridge Types

Many of us remember both the clear and solid cartridges, but what was the difference?
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In 1998 Nintendo released its official follow-up to the wildly successful Gameboy from 1989, the Gameboy Color. While the Gameboy and its slimmed down, gussied up refinement the Gameboy Pocket enjoyed mass appeal and huge sales, the black and white handheld was becoming rapidly more and more outdated with every passing year. As Nintendo toyed with the idea of a portable Super Nintendo, something that would later be realized with the Gameboy Advance and Gameboy Advance SP in the 2000s, they knew that they had to develop and release something new in order to keep the Gameboy line alive.

Enter the Gameboy Color. A full-color screen, a processor with a clock speed that doubled that of its predecessor and about three times as much RAM as the Gameboy. The Color allowed not only a greater visual palette in terms of the colors available to developers, but also gave way to better animations (thankfully fixing the original’s issues with ghosting images during object movement) and more complex pixel art. It also had one essential feature that would define the Gameboy family up until its final system in the form of the Gameboy Micro; backwards compatibility.

All game cartridges released from 1989 to 1998 for the original, black and white Gameboy would work when slotted into the Color. Not only that but the better screen and power under the hood actually helped to clean up visuals that may have looked muddy on the antiquated display of the original. This helped to give the Gameboy Color a wide breadth of available content out the gate, alongside its three launch titles, “Wario Land II,” “Pocket Bomberman,” and “Tetris DX.”

Many games (especially later ones) released for the Gameboy Color differentiated themselves visually from the older cartridges through a clear plastic design that allowed a glimpse at the actual board itself, and a curving bubble of sorts at the top. Original Gameboy cartridges were rectangular, with a small notch taken out of the upper right-hand corner to allow for the power switch to be moved into the on position (an attempt to combat bootleg games), and were a solid gray color. The gray cartridges were compatible with the Color, but obviously still displayed in their original black and white. The clear cartridges of the Color worked specifically on the Color, taking full advantage of the system’s increased power and color palette.

There was, however, the second kind of Gameboy Color cartridge. One that kept the shape and solid plastic design of the original Gameboy, but came in Gameboy Color boxes, played in full color on the new system and opted (usually) for black plastic as opposed to the gray. This was the cartridge style of the three launch titles such as “Tetris DX.” For the kids that grew up with the 1989 original this difference might have been more obvious, but for those who started with the Color like myself, the real reasoning for this difference was often lost. As a child, I, and many of my friends simply didn’t think much about the difference in cartridge designs or just chalked it up to cosmetics. To us, it was probably just some aesthetic choice made by the developers (or “the people who made this game” to more accurately represent how we described game companies as kids).

The black cartridges (sometimes gold or silver) actually had a special design quirk in terms of their compatibility. While the gray cartridges that were the main format of the original Gameboy were backward compatible with the Color, the black cartridges were actually retroactively compatible with the Gameboy and Gameboy Pocket. When slotted normally into the GBC these games displayed their full-color palettes, as expected, but when slotted into a 1989-1997 GB system they actually worked and reverted to a black and white color scheme. For those that grew up with the Gameboy first this might have been an interesting little detail found alongside their new system, but to myself and several of my friends who never actually had the first Gameboy and, therefore, could not stumble upon this feature naturally, it was a bizarre revelation.

I actually discovered this when I recently began collecting various Gameboy models. I sat there and puzzled over the reasons for the various cartridge designs before noticing how the power switch fit into the notch on the old cartridges (my brother and I had often wondered about that weird little cut out of the plastic when we were younger). Feeling a bit experimental I took my newly unboxed Gameboy and slid in my copy of “Pokemon Gold,” a Gameboy Color game from 2000, over a decade after the first system’s initial release. “Gold” was a game I adored as a child and had only ever experienced in its full-color version on the GBC, so, when the familiar music began playing and the start-up screen booted up in black and white I was more than a little taken aback.

At first, I felt like an idiot for never having realized or come across this little “fun fact” feature, but after several excited texts and calls to my friends, I found that I was far from alone in my ignorance. It was new information to each of them. Thinking back on it now it should have been fairly obvious. GBC games like “Link’s Awakening DX” and “Tetris DX” were just colored, enhanced versions of black and white Gameboy games re-released on the Color, retaining the shape and basic look of their older cartridges. The games that were released for the GBC in the clear plastic shells, without the power switch notch, likely took full advantage of the Color’s increased technical specs and graphical prowess, barring them from being able to run on that first system even in black and white. This allowed games like the aforementioned “Pokemon Gold” to not only run on their associated system and be backwards compatible on future handhelds in the Gameboy family such as the Advance and Advance SP but also allowed them to be played on the previously released hardware like the Gameboy, Gameboy Pocket, and Gameboy Light. This meant that those cartridges could be played on every single Gameboy ever released (with the exception of the niche product the Micro) from 1989 all the way up to 2003.

A small childhood mystery solved by a moment of curiosity almost two decades later.

Cover Image Credit: i.ytimg.com

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21 BuzzFeed Quizzes To Take When You're Trying To Procrastinate

Why study when you could be on BuzzFeed?
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According to my previous article, 12 Things That Are Only Acceptable In College, spending 2.5 hours taking BuzzFeed quizzes is completely acceptable if you're in college. With it being that time of the semester when the list of things to do is never ending, sometimes it's easier to just ignore your problems and spend your studying time procrastinating. If this sounds like something you need to do, here's the ultimate list of quizzes to waste your time on.

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Cover Image Credit: Julia Waterbury

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Trouble In The Gaming Industry

The way consumers interact with games has changed dramatically over the years.

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Video games have officially become a part of popular culture. Whether one points to the viral sensation of Fortnite, or the success of various consoles and mobile games, it is clear that gaming has become a part of our everyday culture. Video games have been around for quite some time now and always enjoyed some level of popularity among the youth. However, today's levels of gaming have reached unprecedented levels. Approximately 64% of American households hold someone that plays video games once a day. Furthermore, Fortnite boasts a registered playerbase of over 200 million players, and continues to climb everyday.

As the industry grows larger however, it is beginning to shift and change from what it once dealt in. I grew up with classics ranging from Mario Kart to the Jedi Knight Series. Many of the games I used to play were created with an unprecedented level of soul and creativity. The industry grew to treat games like an art for a while. That has begun to change in recent years as major companies like EA have turned into massive money-making machines. First of all, many of the games I grew up with were not lacking in content. I could have played Star Wars Battlefront I and II (the original early 2000s versions) for hours on end, and there was NO DLC. Today, it is rare that you see a AAA game release that does not include a season pass or DLC. Why relase a game and force the customer to pay extra when there is more to be added on? Second of all, loot crates and other forms of in-game gambling plague the market. Of course, EA, Activision, and other major companies have been a part of this disturbing trend. It has caught enough media attention now that some governments are even considering regulating video game loot crates.

However, the most disturbing trend of all is mobile gaming. Mobile gaming has sucked in the young rich children of America. These are cheap, simple, and uninspired games meant to rake in money. Essentially, these games will benefit from in-app purchases through what they call "whales." These "whales" are typically young, rich, gamers who have the money to make large purchases. These customers provide the bulk of the influx of money leaving other gamers with little to no content to enjoy, or the inability to play against pay-to-win gamers. This is causing greater harm to the industry as a whole because it is making companies lazy. Rather than spend millions on a AAA game, companies are making apps that bait the customers into buying in-game currencies or extra lives. The days where games had soul and inspiration are dying out. A clear example of this was the Battlefront I and II reboot by EA which was boring and copied major shooters which had already been made.

Unfortunately, it would appear as though the gaming industry has turned into something dreadful. My hope is that enough people will grow bored with these dull cookie-cutter games that keep on coming out, but the unfortunate truth is that they're made to rake in the big-bucks no matter how boring.

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