WonderSwan Color Makes Debut in Japan – December 9th, 2000 – Today in Video Game History
The WonderSwan Color is one of many portables that we never got in North America. This is actually the second iteration of the WonderSwan, a portable originally released in March 1999. As the name would suggest, Bandai added color to this version, similar to Nintendo’s release of the Game Boy Color in 1998. Sadly, there is a connection between Nintendo and this portable by Bandai.
WonderSwan Color stood tall
While Bandia is not known for their AAA releases, they knew how to license great games in Japan. There was an Arc the Lad game, various Digimon titles, several Final Fantasy games, Golden Axe, Mr. Driller, and even a Wizardry and Tetris release for the WonderSwan Color. Most of these were reprogrammed by Bandai, or another company, for release on the portable so quality may be varying.
The point is, the WonderSwan Color had well known titles available. That is something Sega struggled with for their Game Gear portable.
Wikipedia says there were nearly 90 titles released for the Bandai portable. The total swells even more when you add in the forward compatibility with the black and white titles.
There were just over one million units sold for the WonderSwan Color. Total the WonderSwan line almost reached four million units sold. Not bad considering the distribution it enjoyed.
Plenty of power under the hood
The WonderSwan Color was powered by a 16-Bit NEC V30 MZ CPU running at 3.072 MHz. The screen could display up to 241 colors at once, out of a palette of 4,096 total colors. This was impressive for the time because the Nintendo Game Boy could only display 56 colors at once. In fairness, the Nintendo portable gave developers over 32,000 colors to choose from.
This had little effect in getting fans to support the Bandai portable though.
That makes this last part even sadder in a way. The Bandai WonderSwan was created by Gunpei Yokoi’s company, Koto Laboratory in conjunction with Bandai. This was the last piece of hardware that Yokoi would work on before his passing. For those that do not know, Yokoi was a major contributor to the creation of the Nintendo Game Boy.
If you want to score a Bandai WonderSwan Color check out eBay. There are some good deals out there. Many of the better games do not require knowledge of the Japanese language to enjoy either.
This article was originally published on Retro Gaming Magazine.