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?

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the Gameboy Pocket enjoyed mass appeal and huge sales, the black and white handheld was becoming rapidly more and more outdated with every passing year.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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Read More: Checkout the brief comparison of best web hosting companies here.

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· VisualStudio Code

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· Firebug

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Nintendo's Consoles Ranked Worst To Best

Spanning 30 plus years, Nintendo has released some amazing and even some embarrassingly bad video game consoles.

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, I was introduced to my first Nintendo video game console. Okay, the year was 1987 and it was Kentucky, the home of my sister and her husband. Not that it matters. What matters is the love affair between the subdued gray box of plastic and myself, an affair that is now three decades long.

From an arguably overweight plumber to a Hyrulian hero of legend to a spacing-faring bounty hunter named Samus Aran, I was smitten with all the adventures the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) had to offer.

Although I'm far from old, I am grown, and I don't have the same time to devote to gaming like I once did. Complicating matters is multiple consoles upon which I play games. There's also a slew of homework as I finish my undergrad and a handful of responsibilities that prevent me from settling in and playing to my eyes and yadda, yadda, yadda.

Despite owning a number of consoles outside of the Nintendo brand, I'm a Nintendo through-and-through. Thankfully, Nintendo has put out quite a few consoles in my time, and it's below that I'll present a ranking of Nintendo consoles from worst to best.

12. Virtual Boy

Admittedly, I never bought the Virtual Boy. Every time I tried to play on it at Best Buy or Target, I ended up getting a headache, potentially the result of its poor attempt at serving up a 3D video game experience. Also hurting it was that every game was red in tone and the inconvenient, bulky design the console's intended portability.

11. Wii U

While the concept was intriguing, I never really saw the Wii U's potential realized. As a consequence, I never really cared for it and it's ungodly expensive Gamepad controller. On that note, quite a few of the friends I know preferred to use a controller other than the Gamepad, so...

10. Gameboy

Ranking this so low almost hurts, as it is the granddaddy of portable Nintendo gaming, but the games do not stand the test of time. The damn thing required too frequent battery changes, a screen that was too tiny, and a constant source of light, an inconvenience that ruined this on car rides at night. If memory serves, there was a backlit Gameboy released, but it was far too late, in my opinion.

9. 3DS

While I have to extremely boss games on the 3DS, they're remakes of old-school games from the PlayStation 2 and the original Gameboy. Were it not for those two games, I'd not have wasted my money on what never really delivered on the 3D side of things nor really showed us anything that an earlier handheld didn't already show us.

8. Wii

Now, this is an odd entry, and I sometimes will rank it higher than I am now. However, despite some of the stellar games released on the Wii, this machine was more gimmick than a mainstay. Yeah, "Smash Bros," "Mario Kart," and "Metroid Prime 3" were all amazing, but I don't want to be so physically active while playing a game. Also, were it not for the Virtual Console, this would rank even lower.

7. DS

I only bought this to help pass the hours while wasting away entire days during my enlistment. However, this is far from a throwaway Nintendo experience. The two screens made for a unique way to play games, and its library of games was solid, too. Of course, most games I played were mostly retro game remasters and remakes.

6. Gamecube

This lil' box of a console was deemed to cutesy and too childish for more hardcore gamers, but it had some hard-hitting games that stand the test of time. "Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker" was, far superior to "Ocarina of Time," an assertion sure to get me killed. "Metroid Prime" as both fun and an amazing sight to behold. There are countless more games, but I'll say no more.

Don't agree with my ranking? Fight me.

5. Gameboy Advance

The Gameboy Advance was everything the original Gameboy should have been, were it not for those pesky lil' technical limitations. The advance had quite a decent library and provided a better gaming experience than its predecessor. Did I mention it was backlit? No? It was backlit. Now I've said it.

4. NES

Simple in design and its library of games is out of this world. Chances are, if there's a remake of an old NES game, I have that remake. Now, I would hook up and play the actual console, but, if you've ever owned one, you know that the console itself was cantankerous.

3. Switch

"Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" is reason enough for this console's inclusion in my top three. However, it's blend of portability elevates this console to lofty heights. "Mario: Odyssey" is on point, and being able to lie in bed AND play "Skyrim" makes a strong case. Of course, additional points were given for potential of the console.

2. N64

By virtue of its cartridge versus compact disc format, the N64 should have failed in the face of competition with the PlayStation. Anyone who has played "Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time" or "Super Mario 64," among other games, know full well why this console is still considered one of the best of its era.

1. SNES

Not only is the most significant console of my formative teen years, it has the beefiest library of games of any other console on this list, save the original NES. "Chrono Trigger" is possibly one of the greatest RPG experiences of all time. "Super Metroid" improved upon the original in some many ways it's sick. "Mega Man X?" Still one of the loveliest Mega Man games ever.

I really could on forever in this console's case. It had it all. RPGs by the truckload. Adventure games in the hundreds. Sports games aplenty. It had a little bit for everyone. Truth be told, I don't think a console has been quite as pleasing as the SNES was, and still is, although the Switch has potential. Maybe...

Some consoles or portables were omittied because they either did not release in North America or they were simply an earlier model with the most minor of changes.

Anyway, what do you think? Would you agree with my ranking? Any choices surprise or enrage you? Drop me a message and let me know.

Cover Image Credit: Umich

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