Ten Things you Didn't Know about the Game Gear
Robert Falcon flexes his retro trivia muscle and provides a Game Gear history lesson, all at the same time...
What the hell. We're on a bit of a retro kick here at Modojo, and I felt it would be a good time to talk about Sega's first foray into handheld gaming, the Sega Game Gear. This little system wasn't really as popular as Nintendo's Game Boy audience, but it still had quite a following amongst the Sega elite. So, with that, we've dug up ten little facts about the system that you may or may not have known about. Read on, and enjoy a look back at the 8-bit gaming machine that once was.
1. In its conception days, the system was originally known as "Project Mercury". It seems that Sega has a habit of putting planet code names on systems that are in development. For instance, the company was working on a Sega Genesis/32X hybrid at one point, calling it the Neptune.
2. The Sega Game Gear turned out to be the first portable system that allowed games from another platform to be played on the go. This came courtesy of the Master Gear Converter, which allowed gamers to connect their Master System cartridges and play them anywhere. Granted, the Sega Master System and Game Gear were essentially the same hardware, but it's still considered quite a technical feat. Sadly, the process could not be reversed at the time, due to the Game Gear's higher color palette. Bummer.
3. Even though many of the licenses crossed over between the Sega Game Gear and the Sega Genesis, the games were very seldom the same. Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, for instance, featured two distinctly different looks for Mickey across the two games -- the Genesis version featuring a more vibrant, modern-day image of Mickey and the Game Gear version containing a more cartoonish, Steamboat Willie-like mouse. Both games, however, continued to focus on platforming adventure, and both were (and still are) excellent.
4. At the time of its production, Sega released an optional TV tuner for the system, enabling gamers to get on-the-go TV service via a connected antenna. It's not nearly as high in technology as modern-day DVD players or even UMD discs, but, hey, for technology back in the early 90's, it was pretty bad-ass.
5. Even with a processor speed of 3.58 MHz, the Game Gear was capable of running a game with very large characters on-screen. In fact, an option is included in Virtua Fighter Animation to have characters duke it out with enormous characters on-screen. And players kept saying how weak 8-bit gaming was. Pshaw!
6. Throughout its release status, only two models of the Game Gear were ever released in the US. The first was the typical black model, but the second was the far more vibrant blue-bodied system that came packaged in a World Series Baseball bundle, released in 1993. However, there are no differences between the two systems aside from body color.
7. The Game Gear became a prominent item that found its way into many feature films, including the Jackie Chan action flick Rumble In the Bronx, Wayne's World, and even an episode of ER. However, its biggest screen appearance came in the comedy Surf Ninjas, in which Sega cooperated to produce a game tie-in around the same time. Sadly, both the film and the game sucked. I mean, really- Leslie Nielsen as an evil ninja warlord? Tone Loc as a surfing cop? And the worst variation of "Barbara Ann" we've ever heard. Yuck.
8. Just over eight million Game Gear units were sold in all (compared to the Game Boy's worldwide userbase of 69 million), and the top-selling Game Gear title of all time, to very little surprise, was Sonic the Hedgehog. At one point, Sega even sold a huge-selling Sonic bundle, released just in time for the 1991 holiday season.
9. A smaller version of the Game Gear found a re-release through Majesco overseas in 2006, still able to be powered by three mere AAA batteries. Sadly, no plans are in effect to bring the system to the States. Majesco had already attempted a revamping of the Game Gear back in 2000, to very little interest. (Of course, Sega still had the Sega Nomad around at the time.)
10. The Game Gear's life span was roughly six or seven years in terms of support by Sega. That's still longer than the support the Master System received- it only lasted five and a half years. It's also the longest standing handheld competitor to a Nintendo system...even compared to the Sony PSP.