GBC Approval Process

Game Boy Color hardware applies automatic colorization to monochrome games, with one 4-color palette for backgrounds and two 3-color palettes for objects (sprites). Because of past under-utilization of Super Game Boy features even in first-party games (as explained in an article by Christine Love), Nintendo required Game Boy Color games to appear more colorful than this automatic colorization. Thus, Nintendo required publishers to keep Nintendo in the loop at three points in development. The Mario Club division evaluated games on whether color was being used appropriately. Some things Mario Club looked at were variety of colors, both within a scene and between scenes; choice of colors appropriate to a game’s art style, such as objects being distinguishable and trees being colored like trees; and contrast between foreground and background to emphasize color saturation.

For both original and ported games, the initial written game design document needed to explain and illustrate how color would be used, as well as a project schedule, estimated ROM and RAM size, and whether the ROM was dual compatible or GBC-only. Ports of a monochrome game (such as Tetris DX, Link’s Awakening DX, or ICOM’s MacVenture series) to Game Boy Color were subject to concept pre-approval, unlike original games. A port’s proposal needed to explain what new gameplay content (other than just colorization) it would include, such as levels, characters, or items.

At 50 percent milestone and near completion, the publisher would submit a ROM image to Mario Club for feedback on use of color and other aspects of game design.