born in 1990Thank you Nintendo for the Sega Game Gear. That's right, if it wasn't for you and your plucky, ground-breaking Gameboy, Sega probably wouldn't have come up with the Game Gear.
The mammoth Atari Lynx may have came a little earlier, but the game boy proved that the market was there for the taking, and it was great: finally you could take Nintendo goodness with you wherever you went. It had Mario, Tetris and all the other Nintendo faves, plus it introduced the world to selfies via the camera and printer. But what made the Gameboy's initial success so easy was it's lack of any real competition. If you wanted to play on the go in 1990, you had to get a Gameboy.
Sega must have been watching the sales of the Gameboy jealously and keen for a slice of the hand-held pie, a year later came up with the Sega Game Gear, which, despite being rushed to market, made improvements in almost every area.
The Gameboy has a playful, toy-like design and colour scheme, but the Game Gear was much more classy looking in comparison with glossy granite grey, pebble-shapped body with a girth that made it feel like a classy and grown-up piece of tech. I can still remember the way the ergonomic lines of the cool plastic felt in the hands. Smooth and hefty, the landscape orientation making it less fussy and more comfortable to hold than the Gameboy. It was certainly technically superior to Nintendo's junior console, with the quick development speed evident only in it's software. The unit, while still large and a challenge to fit into a pocket, was a world apart from the embarrassingly OTT and flimsy design of the Lynx.
While Nintendo's hand-held is used in portrait mode, Sega adopted the more comfortable and practical landscape orientation, which has held sway for almost all hand-helds since.The screen of the Game Gear makes the Gameboy seem archaic in comparison, replacing the movement-smearing monochrome display only visible in decent ambient light with a fully backlit colour display, which even coped with Sonic's speeds without any trouble.
Sega Game Gear Review (classic game room)
But games, rather than tech specs is what sells consoles and although there were more than 300 available for the Game Gear, including some great Sega Mega Drive licences represented on the system, like Mickey Mouse and the Castle of Illusion, Shinobi and After Burner wannabe G-Loc, it ultimately couldn't compete with the might of Nintendo's weighty line-up. Original content was severely lacking on the Game Gear. Master System ports were very popular due to their ease of porting and to enhance the game library further, a Master System game adaptor became available which allowed users to play their Master System games on the device.
Unfortunately though, largely due to licensing issues, third party support was somewhat lacking. Also against the Game Gear was the short battery life and large girth, which made it in excess of pocket sized. That graphical grunt and backlit screen came at a cost.To boost functionality still further, a TV tuner could be loaded into the cartridge slot; a real treat back in the day, but one that didn't do enough to reverse the fortunes. After all, people by games consoles to play games, new games at that.
The Game Gear was the first console I owned as I'd always been a computer, rather than console, kid. I'd had a few Speccies, then an Amiga and I was perfectly satisfied, but when I saw the Game Gear I just had to have one. My birthday fast approaching, I can remember delivering my sales pitch to my Mum which, among other things, pointed out the full colour, arcade quality graphics, which I just couldn't believe was available in a portable device.
In the end though, I, like so many others, was frustrated by a lack of original games and it gathered more dust than it deserved to. Unusually, this is a console I remember for the hardware, rather than the games. An elegant and mature entry into the early Hand-Held market, which unfortunately turned out to be a missed opportunity by Sega.
Sega Game Gear commercial