Nintendo has a knack for revising its handheld hardware to do more things at smaller sizes, but not every variation makes it into widespread markets. We've all seen the Game Boy Advance gain a backlit screen as the Game Boy Advance SP and the Nintendo DS's original display evolve into brighter screens, but have you seen the original Game Boy take on a glowing brilliance? Jeremy Parish at 1UP has a look back at the only-in-Japan Game Boy Light.
The Game Boy Light arrived in close proximity to the Game Boy Color. But it wasn't a color system; it was a black and white Game Boy Pocket with perks. Namely, the GB Light (as its name would suggest) was the first-ever backlit Nintendo handheld. But to up the cool factor and save battery juice, Nintendo didn't give it a full-on backlight (which would have been prohibitively expensive, not to mention brutal to power consumption). Instead, the Light used something similar to Timex's "indiglo" technology, bathing the screen with faint blue illumination. It's barely noticeable in daytime lighting, but in a dark room (or, say, the back seat of a car at night), it illuminates the screen just enough to make it playable.
And, as often happens with Nintendo hardware, the Light stimulates that part of the hindbrain that makes nerds want to own useless gadgets that will probably sit around gathering dust. Sure, you don't need a Game Boy Light, but it's a backlit Game Boy! It's basically your frustrated childhood dream made real. That kind of appeal can be hard to resist.
The hell of it is, he's right. I have no use for a GBL, but I find that I want one. I have better hardware that can display those old Game Boy games with much better clarity. I could pop a classic Game Boy game pak into my GBA SP or buy a cheaply priced title on the 3DS's Virtual Console. There's no reason for me to buy a GBL for actual playing purposes, and yet... I want it! More specifically, the younger version of me from 1990 wants it. Nine-year-old me would gladly take a Timex-like screen over the half-solution that was the old Light Boy accessory when sitting in the backseat of my parents' car on long family road trips. However, considering that it didn't arrive on Japanese store shelves until 1998, both past and present me will just have to learn to live without it.