Remembering the Sega Game Gear: … because I have no idea where I put the thing…

*… because I can’t find my Game Gear Featured Image is provided by Nostalgia Nerd (Original) under CC-BY-2.0… oh you sweet Flickr valet of moody-lit consoles and stuff…  

… I mean, seriously… where have I put it? I know it’s here somewhere! 

Attic hunting aside, the Sega Game Gear was my first console and the company’s 1990 answer to Nintendo’s GameBoy. It’s a contest which my beloved bulky hunk of plastic never really stood a chance of winning; Nintendo’s fighter had a year head start and Tetris which catapulted it in to the stratosphere amassing over 100 million lifetime sales compared to a meagre 10 million accrued by the Game Gear. All that being said I loved that little system. Loved it in-spite of the monstrous appetite it had for AA batteries (that I rarely fed it, choosing to play mostly using a power adaptor) and that sometimes hard to see screen… and the way that if you knocked the power cable it would often reset the game.

sonicgg1

Negative points aside, the GG had a lot going for it. For one thing it had a bright full colour display which meant you could partake in sneaky night-time playing when you should have been asleep. It was certainly a bulky beast, although holding the system either side of the screen made much more sense than having your hands crammed down one end of the system. All this combined to make it feel like a home console crammed in to the body of a handheld… which is appropriate because under the hood it was effectively a handheld version of the Sega Master System with many titles ported almost identically. On top of this one of the GG’s most well known peripherals was the ‘Master Gear Converter’ which just cut out the repackaging middleman and let you play Master System games directly on the handheld.

… all of which begs the question, why bother even making GG games at all when you could have just had a MS cartridge slot and fully transferable library? Yes, the MS boasted a marginally higher resolution so I guess some of the GG ports would have been tweaked to allow for easier visibility on the small screen. Maybe the idea of carrying around a pocketful of the bulky MS cartridges would have put people off…. 

Now (tangenting slightly here), I had the ‘Master Gear Converter’ which certainly has the hallmarks of an odd gift from my parents for the under-ten version of me. The reason it was odd is that I didn’t actually have a Master System… or any games associated with it… I was gifted a copy of the MS version of Strider at the same time which somewhat made up for it, but Soviet-dystopian-sword-swinging aside I only ever remember a handful of occasions using it when I borrowed games from a friend. Maybe the thought was that it would open up a strong back-catalogue, or maybe MS games were cheaper than GG games… or maybe I just got it into my head that I wanted the thing that plugged in to the thing that I had… we may never know the workings of a young me’s mind…

CoI_1

Of course I also had a modest library of GG titles to choose from and I played the heck out of all of them. From the 8-bit incarnation of Sonic the Hedgehog, the nauseating scrolling pyramids of G-Loc, to Olympic Gold… yes, Olympic Gold, the tie-in to the ’92 Barcelona Olympics, I undertook all .. erm.. seven?… of those events with gusto, even learning how the fiddly diving event worked, despite barely being able to read the scores, and that none of it made any sense … I really have to revisit that one… I even did what I could to persevere with Sonic 2 which to this day has the toughest opening zone boss I’ve ever encountered (man, that’s another one I should go back to!). The point is that for a young gamer in the early 90’s, the GG’s catalogue really wasn’t all that bad. It had some solid ports… some weird ports… and just the odd exclusive which kept things interesting. More importantly it could be taken on holiday (remember this was the early 90’s so gaming on the go was barely a thing) and plugged directly in to a car cigarette lighter to keep my sister and I entertained on those long family car trips.

My earliest memory of the GG was just outside Halesowen… the Comet just outside Halesowen to be precise. I remember it all pretty clearly… it was late at night… well, no I mean, it probably wasn’t, but it FELT like it was late at night… I mean, I guess it must’ve just been ‘winter’ so like 5:30 pm or something, but it was dark and being out after dark was always an event when you’re a kid. Anyway, we went to Comet and I was allowed to stop and play on this mysterious handheld machine locked and loaded with a game called “Mickey Mouse’s Castle of Illusion” and it was amazing! I stood there in that shop and played for hours… or maybe it was just minutes… but it felt like hours because I didn’t know that Mickey could pick up items and throw them so I just kept failing at the same bit in the opening level. Eventually I was coaxed out of the shop, but miraculously Father Christmas (that’s Jolly Ol’ St. Santa Claws to everyone reading in the U.S.) brought me that very same mysterious games box for Christmas that year and I played it for …. possibly three hours until the batteries gave out…

… good times…

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What is all this about?

From that point on the GG accompanied us on all family holidays and often any slightly-longer-than-normal car journeys. All safely stowed away in that boxy black carry case with a carefully chosen selection of 4 games… well, 5 if you left one in the system..

PAPERBOY! How could I forget about Paperboy?? 

I’d buy Mean Machines Magazine… then later Mean Machine Sega when … I don’t know, they decided to specialise? Just to read the often tiny columns (no pun intended) of content devoted to this plucky little handheld…

DONALD DUCK’S LUCKY DIME CAPER!!! … Whatever you do, don’t pick up the mallet! The … discs?… are the weapon of choice! 

Man, I really need to work out where that handheld got to…. 

12 thoughts on “Remembering the Sega Game Gear: … because I have no idea where I put the thing…

  1. Don’t go back to Sonic 2, at least on Game Gear. Save your sanity and play the Master System version. Sonic 1 on Game Gear, however, is a masterpiece.

    I have a Game Gear but its screen and speaker are both buggered. Not sure if I can be arsed to get it fixed (or indeed how/where to get it done) but I do both have one and know where it is!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dang! at least you know where yours is! 😛

      Sonic 1 was one of the best games on the system, but yeah… something went wrong with Sonic 2. All I remember doing as failing over and over again on that first boss fight; those bouncing balls are so difficult to see and there’s just no margin for error…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s the screen size: on the GG you don’t have as much horizontal “peripheral vision” so you can’t prepare adequately for them. The Master System version gives you a wider display (and is somewhat “zoomed out” relative to the Game Gear) and thus is actually playable!

        I grew up only knowing the Game Gear version. When I covered Sonic a few months back, I was legitimately shocked how different the Master System experience was. Suddenly I could actually enjoy that game!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hmmm… I might just have to look in to it! There were stages that I really remember liking (despite being really fiddly I enjoyed the handgliding in Sky High Zone)

        … The more I think about it, the more it seems like such a weird decision to make underground the opening zone… it was so drab!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have not played the Game Gear, but I have played a few Game Gear games either online or through the Sonic Adventure DX: Director’s Cut game. I did find the games quite interesting, they were surprisingly colourful and enjoyable, with some games also being quite innovative. I do agree with the statement about the opening zone boss in Sonic 2 being difficult, I remember trying to judge which avoidance strategy would work on the incoming balls depending on the height of the bounce and hoping that the boss would catapult Sonic up the ramp. I like the statement about playing the game under covers late at night, it reminded me of a message that appeared during the credits at the end of the Sonic Spinball game, which told the player “Nice one, now go to sleep”, suggesting that the creators were aware that the Game Gear would be used for this reason.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I loved the Sonic’s obviously, such a Sega Kid of the 90’s… Even if the 2nd one was crazy difficult. Also really liked Castle of illusion … I guess maybe just because it was the first game I had.

        Liked by 1 person

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