Black cartridge GBC games where the Game Boy version looks better

I’ve been looking at replaying Wario Land II at some point soon, which has left me pondering trying out the original Game Boy release which might have been how the game was originally developed considering the Game Boy Color hardware’s short development time of 10 months. A development time so short that the original GB version was never released in Japan, only the black cartridge with retroactive compatibility was!

Looking at the visual differences between each game and maybe it’s just me, but the original Game Boy version’s sprites seem to convey a greater sense of detail with its more limited colour palette:

(also note the windows are lacking rounded off ages throughout the entire GBC game)
Source: The differences between the B&W WL2 and the color WL2 | Page 2 | Wario Forums

If the GBC version is played on original Game Boy, the windows lack the rounded edges still. Not sure about the rest of the sprites.

Are there any other games where the use of GBC colour palettes result in less sprite detail, or as I have concluded, looks better?


Probably quite a lot of the colourised games. With that few pixels to work with, colourising without major reworks is always going to look slapped on.

And also requiring backward compatibility probably kneecapped lots of designs. This was also an issue with Neo Geo Pocket Color games, requiring them to work on the original black and white model held a lot of games back.

Link’s Awakening had the extra grass patches added, but is otherwise sprites designed for black and white shading awkwardly colourised.

This article describes it well, even though it’s mostly about the Oracles games which shouldn’t have had the same problem (but did because they were kinda crappy)

Aha! I stumbled across that very article a few months ago when I was replaying Oracle of Seasons.

Would it be fair to assume that almost all black cartridge games would have been designed for Game Boy first (At least their sprites and backgrounds), and then translated to GBC later?

Clear cart games, while better, still often have this overly sharp and undetailed look to them, which might explain why NGPC titles often appear the same…Game Boy games which master the hardware appear nicely antialiased by comparison.

I wouldn’t say all, but early on obviously devs would have been hedging with backward compatibility in mind. And that would limit their choices unless they made two completely separate games graphically.

Then GBC-only games only had a couple of years in the sun before GBA was around anyway.

Star Ocean: Blue Sphere is probably the most GBC-weighted black cart game I’ve tried in recent times, the density of the graphic design almost makes colour a necessity just to be able to parse everything easier. According to a developer interview ( Star Ocean: Blue Sphere – 2001 Developer Interview - Enix wouldn’t let Tri-Ace make a clear cart game due to the GBC install base being a big unknown when they started development.

The worst GBC upgraded game I can remember is probably Balloon Kid GB. Just looks terrible compared with the GB game where your imagination would fill in the gaps just fine.

I rather prefer the way Link’s Awakening looks on GB over GBC. This carries over to the black cart. They did a lot with the limitations of black/white + two grays that didn’t translate well to black/white + two colors.

On the flipside two specific cases where the GBC black cart obviously looks way better are Dragon Warrior 1+2 and Dragon Warrior Monsters. I first played those games on a GB Pocket and moving over to Color a few months later was a colossal difference.

I dunno about that one. It certainly looks quickly and cheaply colourised, similar to the Konami GB Collection games.

But the original Balloon Kid is a very early GB game and has a simple clean art style, almost minimalist, a lot like Mario Land 1. As such I think adding colour doesn’t really take away from it? One thing I will say it it’s colourised to be quite bright and cheery, when thematically I think muted would have worked better.

That said, it was just a download release, and pros play Hello Kitty World anyway :wink:

I guess the issue is the colour graphics aren’t necessarily conveying what the worlds looked like when the game was in development in 1990 - it’s like someone else came along and decided these are the colours they are meant to be.