(I was going to write about this today anyway, but sometimes you really just can’t plan these things any better. Believe me, I’ve tried.)
Originally released exclusively in Japan in 1998, the Game Boy Light was priced the same as the Game Boy Pocket, but despite its name, carried slightly larger dimensions to accommodate for the shift from two AAA batteries to two AA batteries. The reason for the additional heft is right there in the name.
Prior to the Game Boy Light, the LCD screens of the earlier iterations of the Game Boy featured no light whatsoever. As a result, external sources of light — such as the sun, lamps, etc. — were needed to enjoy playing, especially at night. This led to something of a sub-industry forming around the idea of providing an attachable light source for the handheld, resulting in everything from the simple and practical to the absurdly outlandish (because if you’re going to add a light, why not a few other bells and whistles, too?):
Nintendo solved this little problem by giving the Game Boy Light an electroluminescent backlight, which provided a nice, teal-colored glow similar to backlit watches from way back when. With the light on, the two AA batteries would provide 12 hours of life, while going dark would give you upwards of 20.
For its short lifespan in its native Japan, the Game Boy Light would see a few variations. The standard versions gave players a choice between silver and gold (perhaps attempting to match the planned releases of Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver, before they were delayed to 1999), and special editions ranged from a translucent red Tezuka Osamu World Shop version (featuring Osamu Tezuka’s characters emblazoned on the front) and transparent Astro Boy version to a solid yellow Pikachu version sold at Pokémon Center Tokyo (believed to be limited to around 1,000) and translucent yellow Toys R Us exclusive.
The most peculiar one, at least to me, is the one pictured here: The translucent Famitsu 500th special edition “Skeleton” model, limited to 5,000 pieces.
What sets this one apart is not the hardware itself, but rather, the packaging that it came in. Like the vast and various versions of the Game Boy before it, the Game Boy Light came packaged in a cardboard box — most of the time. Not so in the case of the Famitsu version. Instead, it came in a blister card, not unlike a standard action figure — or perhaps some bootleg and knockoff video game handhelds you might have seen in some shadier marketplaces. As official Nintendo items go, this one definitely stands out from the pack, and goes for a pretty penny, to boot.
For whatever reason, however, Nintendo would not see fit to include a light in a Game Boy again — anywhere in the world — until the release of the Game Boy Advance SP in 2005.
HD replica image in header via Reddit. Head over there to see the whole thing!