On Christmas morning of 1999 I received a Game Boy Color (GBC) and a copy of Pokemon Yellow. Leading up to that fateful morning, I’d been watching other kids play Pokemon Red and Blue and listening to their conversations about the games. Pokemon was everywhere: on the playground, in the neighborhood, and in every kids’ hands… except my own. I’d spent a year playing Pokemon here and there whenever a friend was nice and shared with me. I’d spent a year wanting this game.
I played Pokemon Yellow for months on end. On every road trip, every field trip, every after-school errand, that Game Boy Color never left my pocket. I wouldn’t own a Nintendo home console for several more years, so my Game Boy Color was how I first played through Nintendo’s famous pantheon of mascots, such as Zelda, Mario, and Donkey Kong. I borrowed many of my friends’ games as well, which is how I got introduced to other Game Boy staples such as Tetris, Wario Land, and Pokemon spinoffs.
The reason why I delayed buying a Game Boy Advance (GBA) was because I was still having tons of fun on my Game Boy Color. Well that, and my parents didn’t want to buy a new handheld only 2 years after they got the first one. I distinctly remember the Christmas of 2001 when I accidentally cut my left hand but still wanted to play my new GBC game: Harvest Moon 3. I had to wear a small cast while it healed, so I learned how to play the Game Boy Color one-handed. It was a lot easier than I thought. Once I got my first Game Boy Advance in 2003, I stored my GBC inside a clothes drawer and barely touched it after that. A few years later I got a Game Boy Advance SP, and my original GBA soon joined my GBC.
On one of my family visits during college break, I noticed my handhelds were missing from my drawer. As an adult, I knew my Game Boy Advance SP was with my brother, but I thought that my Game Boy Color and original model GBA were simply lost to time. I lamented that my parents sold them in a garage sale, or they broke. I thought I’d never see them again and moved on.
And then this summer I visited my sister and stayed at her place. I noticed a basket in the guest bedroom filled with retro consoles and games.
“Aw how cute,” I thought, “she bought a Game Boy Color.”
I picked up the basket to get a better look. I said, “That’s funny, that looks like the model I used to have.”
Then I looked closer. I took out the Atomic Purple Game Boy Color, and peered closely at the screen. The scuff mark in the top left corner was exactly where I had scraped it…
“Wait, this is my Game Boy Color!”
Sure enough, my original Game Boy Advance along with my childhood games were in the basket as well. I asked my sister what happened. Turns out our mother gave them to her and she played on them for a while. She had no use for them now, so I asked her if I could take them home, and she said yes.
When we got home, I quickly found our stash of AA batteries and turned the thing on. It worked! My sister had taken really good care of them. Aside from the GBC’s scuff mark, a bit of dirt, and the broken battery covers covered in tape (also how I identified them as mine), my handhelds were in immaculate condition. Every game worked. Some of the games even had old save files still on the system.
My sister has a save file where she was at the Elite Four in Pokemon Sapphire, and she was about halfway through Pokemon LeafGreen. I found my old 100% save from The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages. My old save from the Pokemon Trading Card Game was still intact as well. Sadly the save batteries for other games weren’t working, but I was impressed by what was still there.
I felt like I had reunited with an old childhood friend. It was surreal. The GBC felt so small in my adult hands, and yet it still felt remarkably comfortable. The GBA felt the same. The speakers chirped the tinny tunes exactly how I remembered them. I had completely forgotten how these consoles lacked a backlit screen — you needed to get just the right angle to properly see what you were playing.
I’ve played several Game Boy games on my 3DS Virtual Console, but there’s nothing quite like playing on original hardware. It’s like I’m reading an old manuscript or one of my old journals. I can’t help but overflow with sentimentality – these were my old Game Boys and my old games. I’ve traveled back in time to 1999, and I don’t think I want to leave.
After cleaning it up (including taking it apart to fix up the insides), I’ve been taking my Game Boy Color everywhere with me. It’s actually much easier to carry around than my Switch or even my 3DS. It’s literally pocket-sized, and that makes it 500% more convenient. I’ve started a new playthrough of Pokemon Yellow, and I’m basing a lot of my thoughts on Parts 1 and 2 of my upcoming Pokemon Retrospective from that playthrough.
I know some people like to mod their systems, like putting in a backlit screen, but I don’t think that’s for me. I think I want to keep my handhelds exactly how I remember them. I might even start collecting old Game Boy carts of the games I can’t get on the Virtual Console or that I just want to have physically.
I made a YouTube Channel called Game Boy Diary that will cover more of this Game Boy content. There are people on the internet that do challenges like only playing their Game Boy for 30 days, and I think that sounds like just the challenge for me. Unfortunately, a barrage of incredible Switch games is coming my way soon, so I think I’ll try this kind of a challenge once the noise dies down and I can truly focus on my GBC. Look forward to one of these follow-up reports in the future!