Is WonderSwan Color Backward Compatible?

When people think of popular retro handheld consoles, the Nintendo Game Boy and Sega Game Gear are considered prominent examples. However, few are aware that in 1999 a new contender made its entry into this highly competitive market. Made by Bandai, WonderSwan was Gunpei Yokoi’s final creation before his tragic death in a car accident.

Is WonderSwan Color backward compatible? Yes, it can play original WonderSwan games as it is powered by a slightly more advanced version of the same NEC V30 processor. Cartridges for both consoles are similar in size and design, but you won’t get any color while playing original WonderSwan games on your WonderSwan Color .

Released exclusively in Japan, WonderSwan was a highly localized product designed to compete against Nintendo’s Game Boy. It had superior hardware and some very innovative design choices, especially the control layout. However, Bandai sold just 3.5 million of these consoles between 1999 and 2003 (for reference, Nintendo sold nearly 119 million Game Boys).

WonderSwan Color & Regular Specs

Indeed, because both the regular and color models use the same basic processor design. It’s an NEC V30 MZ, clocked at 3.072MHz. The Color model has a slightly more advanced version of this CPU with 64 KB of RAM instead of 32 KB.

Plus, both consoles use the same cartridge design. You can tell WonderSwan Color cartridges apart from regular WonderSwan cartridges by looking at the shell. Color cartridges use transparent shells while regular WonderSwan games come in solid black cartridges.

Both the regular and color model get their power from a single AA battery. WonderSwan gets about 40 hours of gameplay from this one battery, while WonderSwan Color gets 20 hours of gameplay. WonderSwan Color also has a slightly larger LCD screen compared to the regular model.

Do WonderSwan Color Games Work On Original WonderSwan?

Here’s the really interesting part. Both of these consoles were released within a year of each other and run the same code, so there is a ton of compatibility and it goes both ways. Not only is WonderSwan Color backward compatible, but the regular WonderSwan is forward compatible (depending on the game).

It’s kind of like the PS4/ PS5 dynamic, both share a very similar processor and memory architecture. This means the PS4 can run the same games that you find on PS5, provided they aren’t enhanced or exclusive to PS5. It’s just a matter of whether the PS4 is powerful enough to run a certain game.

With the regular WonderSwan, you won’t get any color video on your screen. But you can still play some WonderSwan Color games, as long as they aren’t exclusively designed for the color model. If you insert an exclusive title into the regular WonderSwan, it will display the error message “This cartridge is for WonderSwan Color only”.

It’s quite amazing how much interoperability there is between the two WonderSwan variants. Even more impressive is the fact that developers wrote games in machine code because each WonderSwan cartridge has a maximum capacity of no more than 16MB. Apparently, this was enough to deliver masterpieces such as GunPey, Lode Runner, Clock Tower, and Klonoa.

When Did The WonderSwan Color Come Out?

It was released in December 2000, over a year after the base model was released in March 1999. Launched at 6800 yen, it was 41% more expensive than the regular WonderSwan which cost 4800 yen. Bandai sold 1.1 million WonderSwan Colors and 1.5 million WonderSwans.

How Many Games Are There For The WonderSwan?

The original WonderSwan has 109 games, while the Color has 91 games. Both the console and its games are exclusive to Japan, so if you’re going to import them you need to have a basic understanding of Japanese. Fortunately, there are fan projects that translate the Japanese content into English (but you need to play these via emulation).

Who Made WonderSwan?

Gunpei Yokoi, the father of the Game Boy. He left Nintendo after the failure of Virtual Boy and helped Bandai design the WonderSwan. Unfortunately, he passed away before he could see the launch of his new console.

Even those who’ve never played a Game Boy have experienced Gunpei’s brilliance. Because he is considered the innovator of what we know today as the “D-pad”. He implemented the first D-pad in the Game and Watch version of Donkey Kong (1982).

What Is The Resolution Of The WonderSwan Screen?

Measuring in at 2.49 inches (diagonally), the original WonderSwan has a display resolution of 224 x 144 which is higher than the 160 x 144 resolution of the Game Boy. WonderSwan Color kept the same resolution (224 x 144) but increased the screen size to 2.8 inches. The WonderSwan Color uses an FSTN reflective LCD panel, in 2002 Bandai released the SwanCrystal with a superior TFT LCD.


I hope this article helped you understand the differences between a regular WonderSwan and the WonderSwan Color, as well as what games you can play on both consoles. Since they are so similar on the inside, WonderSwan Color is backward compatible. The regular WonderSwan can also play some WonderSwan Color games as long as they aren’t exclusive to the more advanced model.

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As long as I can remember myself I always enjoyed video games. I had amazing moments playing them and that's why I became a game developer, to create amazing experiences for the players. Read More About Me

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