Game Boy line
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The Game Boy (ゲームボーイ, Gēmu Bōi?) line is a line of battery-powered handheld game consoles sold by Nintendo. It is one of the world's best-selling game system lines, with more than 188 million hardware units sold worldwide. The original Game Boy has sold nearly 70 million units, while the Game Boy Color sold 50 million units. The Game Boy Advance has managed to sell over 75 million units as of June 30, 2006.
Nintendo's Game Boy handheld was first released in 1989. The gaming device was the brainchild of long-time Nintendo employee Gunpei Yokoi, who was the person behind the Ultra Hand, an expanding arm toy created and produced by Nintendo in 1970, long before Nintendo would enter the video game market. Yokoi was also responsible for the Game & Watch series of handhelds when Nintendo made the move from toys to video games.
When Gunpei Yokoi designed the original Game Boy, he knew that, to be successful, the system needed to be small, light, inexpensive, and durable, as well as have a varied, recognizable library of games upon its release. By following this simple mantra, the Game Boy line managed to gain a vast following despite technically superior alternatives which would have color graphics instead. This is also apparent in the name (conceived by Shigesato Itoi), which connotes a smaller "sidekick" companion to Nintendo's consoles.
Game Boy continues its success to this day and many at Nintendo have dedicated the handheld in Yokoi's memory. Game Boy celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2004, which nearly coincided with the 20-year anniversary to the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). To celebrate, Nintendo released the Classic NES Series and an NES-themed color scheme for the Game Boy Advance SP.
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata had this to say on the rumored  demise of the Game Boy brand: "No, it's not true after all. What we are repeatedly saying is that for whichever platform, we are always conducting research and development for the new system, be it the Game Boy, or new console or whatever. And what we just told the reporter was that in thinking about the current situation where we are enjoying great sales with the DS and that we are now trying to launch the Wii, it's unthinkable for us to launch any new platform for the handheld system, including the new version of the GBA... Perhaps they misunderstood a part of this story, but as far as the handheld market is concerned [right now] we really want to focus on more sales of the DS; that's all."
The Game Boy console went through several design iterations, without significant changes to its computing power, since its release in 1989.
The original Game Boy was released on April 21, 1989 in Japan and in August 1989 in the United States with an MSRP of US$100. Based around a Z80 processor, it has a black and green reflective LCD screen, an eight-way directional pad, two action buttons, and Start and Select buttons. It plays games from ROM-based media contained in small plastic detachable units called cartridges (sometimes abbreviated as carts or GamePaks).
The killer game that pushed the Game Boy into the upper reaches of success was Tetris. Tetris was widely popular, and on the handheld format could be played anywhere. It came packaged with the Game Boy, and broadened its reach; adults and kids alike were buying Game Boys in order to play Tetris. Releasing Tetris on the Game Boy was selected as #4 on GameSpy's 25 Smartest Moments in Gaming: Tetris Makes Game Boy a Must-Have.
The original Game Boy was the first cartridge-based system that supported more than four players at one time (via the link port). In fact, it has been shown that the system could support 16 simultaneous players at once. However, this feature was only supported in Faceball 2000.
Play It Loud!
In 1995, Nintendo released several Game Boy models with colored cases, advertising them in the Play it Loud! campaign. Specifications for this unit remain exactly the same as the original GameBoy, including the monochromatic screen. This new line of colored Game Boys would set a precedent for later Nintendo handhelds; the Game Boy Pocket, the Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance (including the SP and Micro), Nintendo DS, and the Nintendo DS Lite all feature different colored units. Play It Loud units were manufactured in red, yellow, green, black, blue and clear cases. A very rare, limited edition Manchester United Game Boy - red, with the logos of the team emblazoned on - was released coterminously with the Play it Loud! handhelds in the United Kingdom.
Game Boy Pocket
In 1996, Nintendo released the Game Boy Pocket: a smaller, lighter unit that requires fewer batteries. It has space for two AAA batteries, which provide about 10 hours of game play. The Pocket has a smaller link port, which requires an adapter to link with the older Game Boy. The port design is used on all subsequent Game Boy models, excluding the Game Boy Micro. The screen was changed to a true black-and-white display, rather than the "pea soup" monochromatic display of the original Game Boy. The first version, which was silver, did not have an LED to show battery levels. This was soon added due to public demand, along with new Game Boy Pocket units of different colors, some of them new to the Game Boy line. Also included was a limited-edition metallic Ice Blue unit, among other limited-edition Game Boy Pockets.
Game Boy Light
The Game Boy Light was only released in Japan in 1997. Nintendo decided that United States consumers wanted "color, not light". The Light is about the same size as the Pocket and has a backlit screen for improved visibility. It uses 2 AA batteries, which give it approximately 20 hours with the light off and 12 with it on.
The Game Boy Light used to be the rarest Game Boy variant outside of Japan at one time, but due to the Internet and online auction sites, the console has become more widely available. It was the only handheld Nintendo produced with an independently lit (backlit or frontlit) screen until the release of the Game Boy Advance SP in 2003.
Game Boy Color
Released in November 1998, the Game Boy Color (also referred to as GBC) added a color screen to a form factor slightly larger than the Game Boy Pocket. It also has double the processor speed, twice as much memory, and an infrared communications port. Technologically, it was likened to the 8-bit NES video game console from the 1980s.
A major draw of the Game Boy Color is its near-universal backward compatibility (that is, a Game Boy Color is able to read older Game Boy cartridges and even play them in selectable color). This backwards compatibility 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.
Game Boy Advance
On June 11, 2001, Nintendo released a significant upgrade to the Game Boy line. The Game Boy Advance (also referred to as GBA) featured a 32 bit 16.8 MHz ARM. It included a Z80 processor for backward compatibility to Game Boy and Game Boy Color games, and sported a larger, higher resolution screen. Controls were slightly modified with the addition of "L" and "R" trigger buttons. The system was technically likened to the SNES and showed its power with successful ports of SNES titles such as Super Mario World and Yoshi's Island. There were also new titles in popular SNES series, such as Mario Kart Super Circuit and F-Zero: Maximum Velocity, and a variety of original titles. A widely-criticised drawback of the Game Boy Advance is that the screen is not backlit, making viewing difficult in some conditions.
Game Boy Advance SP
Launched in March 2003, the Game Boy Advance SP resolved several problems with the original model. It featured a new smaller clamshell design with a flip-up screen, a switchable internal frontlight, and a rechargeable battery, with the omission of the headphone port, which now required a special adapter to be purchased separately. In some regions owners of the original Game Boy Advance received a special limited offer to trade their old models into Nintendo and merely pay the difference on the Advance SP. In mid September 2005, Nintendo released a new model in North America that featured a new and improved backlit screen.
Game Boy Micro
The third form of Game Boy Advance system, the Game Boy Micro is four inches wide, two inches tall, and weighs 2.8 ounces. By far the smallest Game Boy created, it is approximately the same dimensions as an original NES controller pad. Its screen is slightly smaller than the SP and GBA screens while maintaining the same resolution (240 × 160 pixels) but is now a higher quality backlit display with adjustable brightness. The Game Boy Micro is not backwards compatible with Game Boy or Game Boy Color games, only playing Game Boy Advance titles.
Other Nintendo handheld consoles
There are also other Nintendo handheld consoles that are not part of the Game Boy line, but have features and structures that make them similar.
Game & Watch
Designed by Gunpei Yokoi, these LCD games are considered to be the predecessor to the Game Boy. There were 58 different games released from 1980-1991. The games also included an alarm clock (thus why it is called "Watch"). Numerous Game & Watch games have been re-released through the Game & Watch Gallery series.
The Nintendo DS launched worldwide in late 2004. The system's distinguishing features are the presence of two screens (one of which is a touch-screen) a microphone, and a wireless connection. It has been technologically likened to the Nintendo 64 video game console.
The company officially states that it is not part of the Game Boy family and refers to it as their third pillar: their home consoles, such as the Wii, being the first, and their Game Boy line of portable-gaming devices being the second. Nevertheless there is significant speculation regarding the future direction of Nintendo's handheld line: there has been no substantially new Game Boy-branded hardware since the original Game Boy Advance in 2001, and there seems no commercial sense in Nintendo splitting their handheld market when the DS is selling better than the Game Boy. The DS has arguably replaced the Game Boy line, and it is notable that the DS is backwards compatible with Game Boy Advance game cartridges.
Note that some Game & Watch games had 2 screens, side by side or top and bottom.
Nintendo DS Lite
On January 26, 2006, Nintendo unveiled the Nintendo DS Lite, a redesigned version of the DS. Although it plays the same titles, it is smaller than the original DS model (133 × 73.9 × 21.5 mm compared to 148.7 × 84.7 × 27.9 mm for the original model) maintaining the same screen size but using higher quality transmissive LCDs with four brightness levels. The system is also lighter, at 218 g compared to 295 g for the original model. The system is available in a variety of colours and was launched worldwide through 2006.
Dockable Entertainment featuring Game Boy Advance
This player released by Visteon in 2006 is a portable DVD player that also has the ability to play Game Boy Advance cartridges via a slot on the top right hand side. It also plays WMA and MP3 files loaded on discs too.
It is compatible with all Visteon docking stations for in-car mounting.
The Game Boy, as with many other consoles, has had a number of both first-party and unlicensed third-party accessories released.
Each video game is stored on a plastic cartridge (or "Game Pak" as they are officially referred to). All cartridges, excluding those for Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS, measure 5.8 by 6.5 cm. The cartridge provides the data, logic and rules of the game; receives inputs from the console buttons; and sends outputs to the screen and speaker. Some cartridges include a small battery or flash chip, which allows game data to be saved.
The cartridge is inserted into the console cartridge slot. If the cartridge is removed while the power is on, and the Game Boy does not automatically reset, the game freezes; the Game Boy may exhibit unexpected behavior, such as rows of zeros appearing on the screen, or the sound remaining at the same pitch as was emitted the instant the game was pulled out; saved data may be corrupted; and hardware may be damaged. This applies to most video game consoles that use cartridges.
The original Game Boy power switch was designed to prevent the player from being able to remove the cartridge while the power is on. Cartridges intended only for Game Boy Color (and not for the original Game Boy) use the space intended for the locking mechanism to prevent insertion into the original Game Boy. Even if this is bypassed by using a Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Light or Super Game Boy, the game will not run, and an image on the screen will inform the user that the game is only compatible with Game Boy Color systems.
Excluding game-specific variations, there are four types of cartridges compatible with Game Boy systems:
- Grey cartridges are compatible with all Game Boy systems, excluding Game Boy Micro. All original Game Boy games are of this type. Some of these cartridges are in alternative colors, such as red or blue for Pokémon Red and Blue, and yellow for Donkey Kong Land. The games on these cartridges are programmed in black and white; when used on Game Boy Color or later systems, the color of the graphics can be chosen at the start-up screen, by pressing a specific button combination (listed below). Most grey-cartridge games published by Nintendo have a special default palette, which is accessible by not pressing any buttons at start-up. Games which do not have a special default palette will default to the Dark Green palette. Some grey cartridges that were released between 1994 and 1998 have Super Game Boy enhancements.
- Black cartridges are compatible with all Game Boy systems, excluding Game Boy Micro. The games on these cartridges are programmed in color; when used on Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket or Game Boy Light, the graphics are in black and white. Examples of black-cartridge games are Pokémon Yellow and Pokémon Gold and Silver (however, the actual colors of these three cartridges are yellow, gold and silver, respectively). Games such as Wario Land II DX, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX and Tetris DX were full-color re-releases of gray-cartridge games with additional content. About one quarter of Game Boy Color releases were black-cartridge games. [verification needed] Some black cartridges have Super Game Boy enhancements.
- Clear cartridges are compatible with Game Boy Color and later systems, excluding Game Boy Micro. About three quarters of Game Boy Color releases were clear-cartridge games. [verification needed] Some clear cartridges have built-in features, including rumble features (Perfect Dark, Pokémon Pinball) and tilt sensors (Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble).
- Advance cartridges are half the size of all earlier cartridges and are compatible with Game Boy Advance and later systems. They are also compatible with Nintendo DS; however, due to its lack of a link-cable port, the Nintendo DS cannot utilize any of the multiplayer modes of any Game Boy Advance titles. Some Advance cartridges have built-in features, including rumble features (Drill Dozer), tilt sensors (WarioWare: Twisted!, Yoshi Topsy-Turvy) and light sensors (Boktai).
Most game consoles become obsolete as newer systems become available. The Game Boy is unique in its stamina. 2004 brought about its 15th anniversary and in that time it has seen off many (often technically superior) rivals; most notably the Sega Game Gear and the Atari Lynx.
Thousands of games are available for the Game Boy, which can be attributed in part to its sales in the amounts of millions, a well-documented design, and a typically short development cycle.
The Nintendo DS is able to play the large library of Game Boy Advance games. However, it cannot play multiplayer GBA games or link to the Nintendo GameCube, and it is not backward-compatible at all with the original Game Boy or the Game Boy Color due to the lack of a Z80 processor.
- The short-lived 1980s cartoon series Captain N: The Game Master featured a life-sized Game Boy character, who communicated via faces on its screen.
- Thomas Ian Nicholas' character plays "Tetris" for Game Boy in the 1993 film Rookie of the Year. Gary Busey's character Chet Steadman tells him, "That's gonna make you stupid." When the kid doesn't answer him, Chet replies, "I guess it already did."
- Numerous musical acts have appropriated the Game Boy as a musical instrument (Game Boy music), using software such as nanoloop or Little Sound DJ. Notably: 6955, Bit Shifter, Bubblyfish, Covox, Cow'P, dot.matrix, FirestARTer, Gameboy Music Club, Gameboyzz Orchestra, Glomag, Goto80, Lo-bat, Bud Melvin, Nullsleep, OMAC, Role Model, Saitone, etc.
- List of Game Boy games
- List of Game Boy Color games
- List of Game Boy Advance games
- List of Game Boy colors and styles
- List of Player's Choice games
- List of Super Game Boy games
- Game & Watch
- Virtual Boy
- Nintendo DS
- Nintendo DS Lite
- Comparison of handheld gaming consoles
- Official Site
- DMG Ice - A non-emulation Game Boy site.