Evolution of the Nintendo Gameboy / Handhelds

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This guide is simply available to educate people on the Evolution of Nintendo's Hand Held Gaming Consoles.   I personally like Nintendo's innovation, Quality and Performance and will continue to buy their consoles for years to come. I hope this guide serves as some useful reading to those who are interested .........


Nintendo Game and Watch Handhelds

During the early 1980’s Gumpei Yokoi was asked to create a new toy for Nintendo which would result in the Game and Watch pocket systems. The small handhelds similar to the Tiger brand LCD games. The Game and Watch were a small pocket sized system that often folded in half to protect the LCD screen it contained and many popular games were created utilizing the Nintendo trademark figures such as Donkey Kong, Mario, and Zelda.

Some systems, like Zelda, contained a double LCD screens. From this achievement, Yokoi also patented the Directional Pad or D-pad that Nintendo has used for many years. At the time of production for these small units, a joystick would be too difficult and clumsy to incorporate into a small system, so Yokoi, the great inventor created the D-pad, he called it ‘control cross’, which provided the most reasonable and accurate movements.

The production line lasted from about 1980-1989 and produced about 60 or so different games. Two LR44 batteries are required for play.





Nintendo Game Boy

In 1989 Nintendo debuted in the United States with the Game Boy, a handheld 8-bit black and white system to bring up their end of the portable console market.  The $99.99 system came with the Tetris game as a pack in.

Game Boy had been released the previous year, in 1988, in Japan. The 2” screen of the Game Boy, although not backlit, was a 8-bit monochrome (4 shades of gray) reflective LCD display that was 160x144 dots. The stereo was 4 channel stereo sound that could be mapped to one or the other, or split between speakers.

It was not so much of a battery muncher, as was the Game Gear and Atari Lynx of the same period, it could run about an average of 35 hours on four AA batteries. This one is lovinly referred to as "The Brick". Over a decade later, the Game Boy series of console has by far been the most successful pocket console of all time.






Game Boy Pocket

On September 3, 1996 Nintendo released the Game Boy Pocket system in the United States for a price tag of $59.99 USD. Released initially in metallic blue and silver, the Game Boy Pocket was 30% smaller than its’ pappy.

With the smaller size, came smaller batteries, two AAA batteries were included with the system and lasted the player about 10 play time on average. The red LED indicator light dimmed as the battery power diminished. Other marked improvements were the 2.6” large, high resolution reflective LCD screen.

Within time the system was available in more colors. This includes, but is not limited to: green, blue, black, red, atomic green, and clear. It still had 4 channel stereo sound and weighed only 4.5 oz. Like its' predicessor the Game Boy Pocket was released in the Play It Loud colors.

  • CPU: Custom Z80 @ 4.19 MHz
  • RAM: 8kb
  • Screen Resolution: 140x102
  • Max Colors on Screen: 4 greys (4 available)
  • Max Sprites: 40, 10 per scan line
  • Sound Channel: 4 PSG






Game Boy Light

The Game Boy Light was a system that was released only in Japan. Similar in size and weight to the Game Boy Pocket, the Game Boy Light is different because of an indiglo backlight. Besides the light, the Game Boy Light contains all the other functions of a normal Game Boy (batteries, contrast, etc.)





Nintendo Game Boy Color

In March 1998 Nintendo had a plan to come up with a full color Game Boy unit and finally delivered this plan in the form of the 8 bit Game Boy Color (GBC) in November of 1998 (October, Japan). The system came with two AA batteries which the system could run on for up to 13 hours on average.

While the GBC retains a reflective LCD screen and is not backlit, it does boast backwards compatibility. This simply means that one would be able to play most of the previously released games for the Game Boy and the new games for Game Boy Color. The GBC has come in six different standard colors: Dandelion Yellow, Berry Pink, Kiwi Green, Grape Purple, Teal, and Atomic Purple (see through). Atomic Purple and Grape were intially released in 1998, while the other four colors were released in 1999.

The infrared ports, located at the top of the Game Boy Color are used for only a few things. Of the most notable are communicating with other GBCs (only, not Game Boy or Game Boy Pocket) and communicating with the Pocket Pikachu 2.

To communicate with other GBCs you must be out of direct sunlight and away from other infrared interference and within 1.5"-2" of the other GBC. You can go 'link-less' and play others with use of the infrared port, but the game pack you are playing must work with the infrared function (most GBC only games support this). Bomberman Max games are one example.

  • CPU: Custom Z80 @ 8MHz
  • RAM: 32KB (carts 128KB)
  • ROM: 64MB
  • Max Colors on screen: 10, 32, or 56 (32,000 palette)
  • Max Sprites: 40, 10 per scanline
  • Screen Resolution: 160x144x56
  • Sound Channels: 4 PSG






Nintendo Game Boy Advance

In 1996 Nintendo started project ‘Atlantis’ as their next generation hand held system. The fruits of their labor resulted in the 32 bit Game Boy Advance (GBA) release of 2001. March 21, 2001 was the release date of the GBA in Japan. The Arctic, Purple, and Glacier models were released on June 11, 2001 in the United States and the Fuschia model was release later that month on June 30.

The system came with two AA batteries that have a 15-20 hour life on average. Retaining qualities of previous Game Boys’ the GBA has a 2.9 inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) color LCD screen that is not backlit. It does boast a color display of 32,768 capable colors (512 displayable) and has a 32 bit embedded memory, comparable say to a Playstation or Sega Saturn, which makes easy for re-releases of favored the favored 16 bit Super Nintendo Entertainment System titles.

The screen is 50% larger than the Game Boy Color. Nintendo has made life easier on parents with their ‘4 on 1’ in select first party cartridges. Mario Kart, F Zero, and Super Mario Advanced for example, all allow 4 players to compete against each other via link cables, but this time only one cartridge is necessary for play in certain modes. Along with these new, improved 32 bit cartridges is the ease of a fully backwards compatible system, meaning you can play all of the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color cartridges.

One noticeable difference in the GBA is the absence of the AC input. A special adapter is required: a piece slips in place of the battery cover and the AC input is placed in that component.(2AA, Rating 3V=0.6W) The GBA has an improvement over the Game Boy Color: a better battery indicator light.





Game Boy Advance SP

The Gameboy Advance Special (GBA SP) was introduced to the United States on March 23, 2003.
It is more of a revamp to the Game Boy Advance rather than a new console. (Think along the lines of Game Boy > Game Boy Pocket)

 The GB SP totes a smaller package, flip open design and a side lit screen. Although, this is not the first time the Game Boy has officially gotten a lit screen; the Japanese only Game Boy Pocket Light had a lit screen also. Besides the light, the SP comes with a rechargable battery and does not utilize regular AA or AAA batteries.

A fully charged battery can run for 10 hours using the light function and 18 without. The battery takes 3 hours to fully charge from the 'empty' state. When the battery is fully charged, the light on the side of the GB SP will go off while plugged in. Like the GBA, when the battery is running low, the indicator light will turn red. The battery can be recharged about 500 times.

  • 2.9" TFT LCD Reflective Display
  • Up to 32,000 simultaneous colors
  • 32-Bit ARM with embedded memory
  • Self-Contained LCD screen light
  • Built-in rechargeable lithium ion battery pack (18 hours play without light, 10 with light)
  • Folding design
  • Compatible with Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games.
  • Closed: 3.25"x3.25"x1"

    Limited Edition SP Models

    Lime Green SP: Target Special Edition, holiday 2003 and packaged with Donkey Kong Country
    Gold SP: Toys R Us Special Edition, holiday 2003 and packaged with Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Brothers 3
    White SP: Packaged with Metroid: Zero Mission during Holiday 2004
    Platinum/Onyx SP:  Onyx top and Platinum bottom. Spice/Lime SP: Like the Platinum/Onyx SP but with a Spice/Lime color scheme.
    Classic NES SP: Platinum SP with vinyl stickers to make it look like a regular Nintendo.
    Tattoo SP: Platinum SP with tribal markings on the top
    Who Are You SP: Onyx SP with 'Who Are You' tagged in Platinum on the top
    Torchic SP: Spice colored SP with sillhouette of the Torchic Pokemon (only available at the Pokemon Center)
    Kyogre SP: Cobalt colored SP with sillhouette of the Kyogre Pokemon (only available at the Pokemon Center)
    Groudon SP: Flame colored SP with sillhouette of the Groudon Pokemon (only available at the Pokemon Center)
    Sponge Bob Square Pants: Yellow SP with the loveable cartoon sponge motif painted on it, complete with eyes. (Only Available at TRU)
    Pikachu SP : Yellow SP with Pikachu's face on the cover. Japanese version as well as a TRU only edition as of 2006





    Game Boy Micro

    Break this device out of its box and you'll be amazed at just how petite it actually is. No bigger than a small mobile phone, the Micro measures in at 10cm wide, 5cm tall and 1.75cm deep, and weighs only 79 grams. 

    Despite its small stature, the Micro still packs in all of the controls of a larger Game Boy SP, including the traditional four-way navigation pad and two control buttons. There are also left and right shoulder buttons at the top of the unit, with the start and select buttons fitted on a slanting surface underneath the screen.

    Volume controls have been placed on the right hand side, while Nintendo has obviously listened to gamers' pleas by including a normal 3.5mm headphone jack with the Micro (as opposed to the proprietary connection the Game Boy SP sported).

    Game cartridges slip in at the bottom of the unit, while the top sports a proprietary connector which is used for recharging the Micro's internal batteries. Perhaps the greatest concession the Micro's had to make is with its screen size.

    At roughly 5cm wide, the screen isn't exactly a huge piece of real estate, although it more than makes up for it by producing bright and vivid images.





    Nintendo DS

    The Nintendo DS was released November 21, 2004 in the US.  The system totes dual 3" LCD screens that are programmed to do a variety of things. The lower screen is touch sensative, so in order to move around in game you may have to glide the stylus left and right, up and down or any other way to move your character on the top screen. In other games, the stylus may show your inventory, enemy weaknesses, etc.; whatever the programmer will think up! The DS also contained a microphone in the base so players can shout, talk, and whisper to the in-game characters.

    The DS system contains 16 channel sound, one gigabit semiconductor memory, 3D graphics with 60 FPS and the ability to support details like fog and cel-shading.

    Because of the processors used in the DS (ARM9, ARM7), Game Boy Advance games are playable, but original Game Boy and Game Boy Color games are not. The GBA games are playable in single player mode and the DS does not support GBA accessories that are used with the games (such as link cables, etc.) The DS supports wireless gaming features up to 30 with up to 16 players on a wireless connection.





    Nintendo DS Lite

    DS Lite is about two-thirds the size of the original DS, and at 218g is 21 percent lighter.
    The stylus has also received a welcome redesign -- it's now longer and thicker than the original DS stylus, making it much more comfortable to hold.
    The most apparent new feature with the DS Lite relates to screen brightness. The DS Lite comes with four brightness settings, the lowest of which is brighter than anything the original DS could muster.

    With Nintendo DS Lite, dual screens and touch-screen technology allow you to interact with games like never before. Wireless communication allows you to experience real-time multiplayer gameplay, and the free Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service allows you to compete against players from around the globe.

    Two incredibly bright LCD screens offer one of the most groundbreaking gameplay advances ever developed. Each 3-inch screen can reproduce a true 3D view, with impressive 3D renderings that can surpass images displayed on the Nintendo 64.

    Ready to take on the world? Now, with Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, you can connect wirelessly, chat and play with Nintendo DS owners across the globe. All you need to play is a Nintendo DS and a Wi-Fi-ready game. There are no subscription fees -- the service is free!




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