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SEGA Game Gear
One of the color-screen handhelds that stood well against Nintendo's Game Boy. Despite the short battery life, the system presented an impressive library of games exclusive to the horizontally-built handheld.
Ah yes, the Game Gear from Sega, taking their shot in competing against Nintendo at the handheld department (you never know unless you try, right?). Sometimes, I wonder what the folks in their office are thinking: "Wow, Nintendo is taking charge; Let's take 'em down!" I'm going to go out and guess they had torches and pitchforks while pushing to market this handheld.
Selling just over 10 million, the Game Gear was a handheld that greatly differed from the popular Game Boy from Nintendo, and rightfully so off the bat. The unit was produced with the common black color with a horizontally-wide body, making holding the unit much more feasible, like spreading your elbows out when playing a trumpet. With the usual directional pad and the START button, you get a 1 and 2 buttons, as opposed to the common A and B buttons. Games call these the "Fire Buttons" calling them "Fire 1" and/or "Fire 2" buttons. Compared to the Game Boy, there is no SELECT button, but you sure do a backlit color screen! The screen is a CRT-like tube screen, and with the backlight, you kind of have to see the game you're playing at a bit of an angle. The other downfall is that the screen suffers from a huge case of motion blur, which, during the heat of the game, can strain your eyes; This includes fast-paced games with a high amount of motion, like Sonic The Hedgehog. As for the screen itself, this is technology back in 1990 but Sega was brave enough to try and do it anyway. As for the sound, the audio capacitors don't age very well and may need replacement. Besides that, it sounds crystal clear and loud with the volume knob located at the top, right next to the headphone jack and an EXT port. On the side, you get the "BRIGHT" knob which controls the backlight of the screen. Some thought this was useless, but despite the fact that the screen has a terrible motion blur and must be seen at a particular angle, this can be useful. Speaking of controlling the backlight, on the back of the unit is where the game cartridge is placed and the battery compartments are. This system requires six (6) AA batteries, and because the battery covers aren't attached to the unit, you can lose the covers very easily. Again, this is nineties technology so having said that, battery life wasn't amazing (lasted around 2 hours, give or take). Awful motion blur of the screen and terrible battery life was the demise of this handheld. Had those been improved, perhaps this would sell well (portable, colored screens were considered pricey and thus would've spiked the MSRP of the unit). I don't blame Sega for trying because this would've done very well, as it had over 350 games released overall (Game Boy had over 400 games released).
Unlike the Game Boy, Sega released something unique to bring out the usage with this handheld: a TV tuner! Yes, during the days of UHF/VHF antenna television, you could watch television on this unit by plugging in the tuner where the cartridge slot is. Even back then, it was cool, yet amusing, to watch home shopping channels, Christian-based services, public access television and Spanish-speaking soccer games through the tube via the antenna. Sega also released another add-on where you can play Sega Master System games—Sega's 8-bit system. Yes, you can play Sega's library of 8-bit games from the Master System which was similar to the Power Convertor—an add-on for the Sega Genesis (16-bit system).
Versatility seemed to be Sega's secret weapon, but its sales and marketing said otherwise. It didn't reach, nor defeat, the success of the Game Boy.
As for video game collectors, this system is one of the least sought items in one's inventory, making reselling very different. However, thanks to [independent] third-party video game engineers, some of them offered services to modify, or "mod," a Game Gear. This means, whether you want to replace and renew the speaker capacitors and/or completely replace the screen with a modernized, Nintendo DS-like screen, it can be done! The mod I purchased allowed the Game Gear to be plugged and output to TV (more on that coming later)! The price for these services, depending on who you find and what they offer, also depends on the work needed to be done and what other modern upgrades you would want. Choose which one you MOST prefer as it can be very pricey. Nevertheless, this opens up a whole new possibly in digging deep in the Game Gear library! (All this explains why finding a used Game Gear at a low price is very easy, and something you almost never will miss out on due to low demand.)
Finally, the Game Gear has some rare versions of the unit itself. While I have a modded one, which is a dark gray-ish color, and the sports edition, the blue one, I have seen a yellow, white and a pink colored Game Gear. One of the rare ones I saw was a red one with a Coca-Cola logo imprinted on it (it wasn't modded to include that, as it was Sega's marketing tactic to include the game Coca-Cola Kid targeted to children). If you're a hardcore Game Gear fan, be sure to look for these! (Speaking of hardcore Game Gear fans, if you are one, we will like to interview you here on SHOWSOTROS!)
The first time I saw and played on a Game Gear was back in summer school during my elementary days. My classmate Bryan brought this huge bulky video game handheld with an AC adapter, which he plugged on a wall outlet near our computer lab, and he and I took turns playing NBA Jam. That was the one and only time I ever played it as a kid, when little did I know, he introduced me to The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening for the Game Boy later that same season. You're the man, Bryan!
- Backlit, color screen.
- Horizontal build makes the gaming experience less strenuous.
- Impressive library of games from the Sonic series to Mortal Kombat.
- Comes in specific colors, especially some incredibly rare releases like a Coca-Cola version.
- One of the popular handhelds to be 'modded' to modern standards.
- Included neat add-ons like a TV Tuner.
- Compatible in playing regular Sega Master System games with Game Gear cartridge add-on.
- CRT screen suffered from major motion blur.
- Capacitors don't age well.
- Audio speakers get muffled at times.
- Poor resell value.
- Requiring six AA batteries, albeit poor battery life.
- No option for TV output, and TV/HD output mods can be expensive.
|Game Console||SEGA Game Gear|
|ISBN / Bar Code number||????|
|Video Format||1.33:1 (4:3) Full screen|
|Audio Format||Mono (Stereo via headphones, depending on game)|
|Region Compatible||NTSC, PAL|
|Released||1990 (JP), 1991 (US/EU), 1992 (AU)|
|Other Console Versions||Game Gear Sports Edition, Japanese Game Gear, Coca-Cola Game Gear|
|Other||The Game Gear sold over 10 million units worldwide.|