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The Game Boy Color was Nintendo's successor to the Game Boy and was released on October 21, 1998 in Japan and in November 1998 in the United States and 1999 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 Color could display up to 32 colors on screen at any one time and was much smaller than the original Game Boy, with a size on par with the Game Boy Pocket.
The processor, which is an 8080 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.
The system was itself available in multiple colors. 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 using translucent purple plastic. It had better battery life and used only two AA batteries (the original Game Boy used four).
The keys are laid out so it's pretty easy to play with one hand for most people and adds an IR game link to the wired one (top left pointed to by ^COMM in the picture to the right).
Game Boy Color games came in a clear plastic cartridge with a raised bump. Nintendo also made black cartridges that were compatible with the Game Boy Color, the older Super Game Boy and the original Game Boy. The black color distinguished these special cartridges from the grey Game Boy carts and the transparent Game Boy Color carts. The black cartridges had notches in the corner like old Game Boy cartridges, allowing an original Game Boy to be turned on when they were inserted, while the Game Boy Color cartridges did not. Special Game Boy Color palettes were built into the black carts, making it impossible to change their palette.
There is a fair market in used Game Boy Color units and used games even now, but beware that games with batteries like many Pokémon games will forget the saved games (shows as "The save file is corrupted!") and the batteries are soldered in.
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 (both achieving different results) and an arrow key, while the Game Boy logo is displayed on the screen. It is also possible to use a monochromatic color scheme that preserves the original look of the game by pressing B+Left.
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 instead. Two notable games that do have preset palettes are Metroid II and the Wario Land series. It is a reflective LCD display so it needs light to be seen (again like the original Game Boy), but does work in less light than the original.
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.