It’s 1991, and the Gameboy has dominated the new portable gaming market with hits like Super Mario Land and Tetris. All over the world, people were enjoying their new past time especially since Nintendo did so well with the home consoles. However this new market needed competition, and break people away from the green and grey screen of the Gameboy.
Enter Sega R&D and what came along from their creative ideals was one of the most epic relics of the 90s.
Before Sega’s dark times, we’ve had the Master System for the 8 bit market, the Genesis for the 16 bit home market. For the rising portable market however the Master System was recreated in a new form to wage war against the Nintendo Game Boy. It was more horizontal than the gameboy, sporting a bigger screen, and the major selling point was the Gear Gear was in color! The system took six AA batteries to power up with a series of different accessories (Even a TV Tuner!) to support it, it came in black, later blue with special edition colors in Japan along with a library of 363 games. The Game Gear was a powerhouse to be reckoned with in the 90s, and as soon as you powered it on and heard that Sega chant.
You knew it was all about the games from here on out.
There were multiple Sonic Games, Columns, Mortal Kombat, a few RPGs, and even Mega Man graced the Game Gear screen at least once. Some of the most enjoyable games from my library alone even dealt with Larcen from Eternal Champions being in his own spin-off game called Chicago Syndicate. There were lots of opportunities with this console even a link cable so you could battle against another Game Gear owner if they had Mortal Kombat. Keep in mind this before Game Freak came around with Pokemon, so all of this was still new at the time.
While it seemed to have epicness written all over it, the Game Gear wasn’t without its share of problems. It was hard to play the game in sunlight, it wasn’t so easy to hide in your pockets, the accessories make it more cumbersome to carry around, and the battery life of the console was hilariously bad. Due to the Back lit Screen, the Game Gear was a battery eater in every sense of the word. I remember this being my main problem with it in my travels as I would get to a tough villain in Sonic Chaos and get so close to beating it, only for my system to shut down due to battery death.
There were remedies to this you could use a spare Genesis power adapter to keep gaming at home (which I did) or you could use one of the accessories like the Battery Pack, which was able to connect to the system’s a/c adaptor port but it dangled and connected to your belt which was later phased out in favor of an actual connector called the Powerback, and a Car Adaptor was created when your system died on the go.
There is also a design flaw within the system’s capacitors which if you still have one now, it probably won’t turn on anymore or ripple in the pictures due to the capacitors leaking. It can be fixed and there is a how to but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are patient and love to tinker with machines.
So age hasn’t been so good to the Game Gear in this regard but like other retrogamers there is a love that surrounds it from appearance alone especially with memories of the hours lost in gaming.
Unfortunately as the heat from the 16 bit era was shifting to 32-bits, the Game Gear was starting to show its age, and although it was out there as a great alternative to the Game Boy. Sega didn’t want to support it anymore unlike the Genesis whom later received those two infamous “add-ons.” The home market was thriving so well for Sega that the Game Gear got lost in the crowd and as the Game Boy library grew, the Game Gear slowed down to a crawl. As news of the Saturn came around, the Game Gear bit the dust and Sega moved onto developing a 16 bit portable successor in the same vein called the Nomad.
While the Game Gear’s story was bittersweet, it managed to acquire a tremendous amount of fans over the years. The system was re-released in 2000 by Majesco with Sega’s licensing and received a brief resurgence in popularity. Plenty of the games can be enjoyed again through emulation, visiting different flea market outlets, and of course Ebay. If you have a broken Game Gear like me, you’ll probably wanting to know how to repair and fix up your capacitors so you can get back into 90s portable gaming so I’ll leave the link here at the bottom. that system’s design of the system was also influential for other portable consoles like the PSP, The GameBoy Advance, and Micro, and plenty of other retro consoles out there. The Game Gear is still a remarkable system and it makes me wonder what it would’ve been like if Sega were still producing consoles?
Would we have had as many different Game Gears as Nintendo had GameBoys?
Would we have a Game Gear 3D before the Nintendo 3DS ever came?
I guess we’ll never really know but it’s always fun to take a look back at how gaming grew into where it is now.
(The how-to fix for your Game Gear Capacitors are provided via this link, and I am not responsible for what you do in repairing it.)