Sega Game Gear
From Sega Retro
Revision as of 08:29, 14 July 2012 by Black Squirrel
The Sega Game Gear (セガゲームギア) is a handheld game console developed by Sega as a response to Nintendo's Game Boy handheld. It is a full colour console and was Sega's first attempt to compete in the handheld games market (the second being the Sega Nomad — a handheld Sega Mega Drive). In South Korea it is known as the Handy Gam*Boy (핸디겜보이).
Development on the Sega Game Gear began in 1989, with the codename Mercury. At the time, Nintendo's Game Boy was proving to be a huge success, despite its awkward shape and four shades of murky green/yellow. Sega felt that consumers may buy a handheld that fixed these problems, and so the Game Gear was born.
The Game Gear is basically a portable Sega Master System with a VDP capable of displaying palettes consisting of a wider variety of colors than its predecessor and stereo sound. The system is held lengthwise at the sides, preventing the cramping of hands that plagued the Game Boy. It also has a backlit LCD screen, meaning it could be played in darker conditions than the Game Boy.
The Game Gear was first released in Japan on October 6, 1990 with launch titles Columns (bundled with the unit), Super Monaco GP, and Pengo. Japanese consumers were not interested in the handheld, and early units suffered from several hardware faults.
Japan was the only region to receive coloured systems (with one exception). Initial units were black, much like the rest of the world, but later, yellow, blue, red and white units were released, as well as several special versions tied to game releases.
North America got the Game Gear in 1991. Sega of America advertised the Game Gear throughout its lifetime through a television advertising campaign involving amusing and bizarre spots, some directly attacking the Game Boy for its limited colour palette.
The Game Gear also went against other color handhelds, including the Atari Lynx and NEC TurboExpress. Though the Game Gear never topped the Game Boy, it did manage second place, with many of the Game Gear's flaws also applying to the Lynx and TurboExpress.
Blue Game Gears were bundled with copies of World Series Baseball in this region. They are considerably rarer than the black models, and a darker shade than the Japanese blue models.
Majesco, who were given the rights to distribute older Sega consoles, re-released the Game Gear in 2000 with slightly improved specifications, including a better screen and longer battery life. Majesco Game Gears can be identified by their non-coloured logos and purple start buttons. They are incompatible with the TV Tuner.
Though a reasonably popular handheld in Europe, the Game Gear again played second best to the Game Boy, making it the first Sega console in that region to make less money than Nintendo.
While its hardware was superior to the Game Boy and was its most successful and longest lasting competitor, a combination of poor design choices and poor third-party support led to the Game Gear's eventual decline and discontinuation in 1997.
The Game Gear was bulky and required six AA batteries, which the fluorescent backlight on the LCD screen ate through in three to five hours (though a battery pack provided longer playtime). Furthermore, the system gave off more heat than the Game Boy, often leading to "sweaty palms" after prolonged use.
As with later consoles, third-party support for the Game Gear was in short supply. However, due to the hardware similarities, many early Game Gear games were modifications of Sega Master System games made to take advantage of the larger palette capabilities and smaller screen size. This meant many companies could convert their Master System lineup in to Game Gear titles fairly easily (and vice versa), but this only applied to companies supporting Europe, as by the time the Game Gear was released, the Master System had been discontinued in Japan and North America.
Several hardware adapters were made to allow the play of Master System games on the Game Gear, such as the official Master Gear.
Approximately 390 Game Gear games were produced, with 11 million Game Gear units sold worldwide.
Mega Gear / Mega Game Gear
This was a product supposedly in development early into the Game Gear's life that would allow Sega Mega Drive users to play their Game Gear titles on their home console, similar to how the SNES could run Game Boy games using the Super Game Boy cartridge. There was very little, if any, official word from Sega about this, aside from very vague references in gaming magazines at the time.
With the advent of console emulation, there have been attempts to prove that this method of playing Game Gear games is possible, and have been fruitful: there are utilities available that supposedly convert Game Gear ROMs to Genesis-format ROMs, however their ability is unproven, as they will generally not function in any current emulators.
Coloured Game Gears
Japan saw four coloured Game Gear models which did not see a release in the west - Blue, Red, Yellow and White. Only 10,000 white units were manufactured, and weren't available in stores. Instead, they were often given to developers or those directly associated with Sega. White units also came with a white TV Tuner and a white carrying case with enough space for the console, TV Tuner, AC adaptor and six AA batteries.
Game Gear development hardware
This, along with a TV-out modified Game Gear, consists of two cards to plug into a PC, an In-Circuit Emulator, a 5.25" floppy (presumably containing an assembler) and a large circuit board with composite video out.
Coca-Cola Game Gear
This was a limited-edition Japan-only release of the Game Gear as part of a promotion between Sega and Coca-Cola. It is exactly the same as a standard Game Gear console, save from a deep red color instead of the standard black. It was released with a similarly limited-edition game named 'Coca-Cola Kid'. An example of this unit is on display at the Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta.
MKR Game Gear/Kids Gear
Another Japanese Game Gear variant is Magic Knight Rayearth GG, which sported a red color, and featured the Rayearth logo. Another variant is the so-called 'Kids Gear', released in 1996. This variant is again a standard Game Gear, only renamed and featuring a large Virtua Fighter 2 image fascia, which reflected the pack-in title (Virtua Fighter 2).
A South Korean variant, distributed by Samsung in 1991.
Majesco Game Gear
The Majesco Game Gear is a model of Game Gear designed by Majesco. The casing is the same as the original Game Gear but the Game Gear logo was colored white. It is also incompatible with the first version of the Master Gear Converter and the Sega Game Gear TV Tuner.
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