Of course, the GBA was a handheld console, and never officially shipped with actual screen lighting of any kind, unless you count the much later GBA SP and Micro models. But it was also possible to play GBA games on your normal TV using the GameCube adapter, like the Super Game Boy allowed you to play Game Boy games on your SNES in the previous era.

I've noticed that many games, even ports of old SNES games, used a very "bleak" palette/visual look. Everything looks washed out and undefined. In contrast, those SNES games nearly always had very "defined" outlines and vibrant colours.

If the reason for this general "style" is that the GBA had no built-in lighting, wouldn't it be more logical to make them even more contrasting and "defined"? Wouldn't these "pale" visuals just be even more difficult to spot on the GBA screen?

A good example is Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town: https://youtu.be/gvxbjvIdNDg?t=4342

I also remember being shocked seeing the screenshots for "Golden Sun" in the review magazine. Even back then, I thought it looked awful, as if there had been some kind of error with the printing press or something. I couldn't believe how bright/pale it looked.

The entire palette appears to be cranked up, meaning that even "black lines" often come off as light-grey or perceived "bleak".

I did not see the same thing done for the most part for the GBA's predecessor, Game Boy Color, which also had colour and no lighting. What caused them to start doing this for the GBA?

  • I had to look it up, but the GameCube adaptor actually postdates the SP by a few months; though, admittedly, that’s the original front-lit SP.
    – Tommy
    Mar 10, 2021 at 23:21
  • I'm not quite sure -- are you saying the games appeared washed-out on the GBA, or on a TV / monitor using the GBA Game Cube Adapter, or both? Mar 10, 2021 at 23:48
  • 2
    @Reinhold yes, both the SP and the GameCube adaptor came out in 2003, the SP a few months before the GameCube adaptor. So my only point is that it wasn’t possible to play GBA games on your TV until after you could play them on a lit screen. It’s a minor observation, certainly.
    – Tommy
    Mar 11, 2021 at 0:49
  • 2
    @Reinhold There does seem to be some overlap. Especially that the answer also seems to be ‘no they weren’t’ in some cases – see for example the third-generation Pokémon games. Mar 11, 2021 at 7:56
  • 1
    The top answer on the "duplicate" question discusses perspective correction and textures of the PS1, which are inherently 3D properties. Many (most?) of the GBA titles I played were 2D sprite-based games, so I'm unsure how mutually applicable these answers are.
    – Kaz
    Mar 13, 2021 at 6:29


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