The Master System and Game Gear both lead a long lives in Europe, peacefully co-existing alongside the Mega Drive for a remarkable amount of time.
If we include the 32X and Mega CD, SEGA did at one point circa 1995 have seven consoles on the market. And yes, that’s as crazy as it sounds.
Something had to give eventually, and as gamers turned to newer formats SEGA’s 8-bit market started to dry up around late 1994. This lead to a fair few games dropping off release schedules due to fears that they wouldn’t turn profit.
Join us as we take a look at eight 8-bit SEGA games that didn’t quite make it.
Dinobasher: Starring Bignose the Caveman – Master System
Codemasters arrived late to the SEGA scene, showing up only after C64 and Spectrum markets had dried up entirely. With them they brought belated conversions of Fantastic Dizzy, Dropzone, Micro Machines, CJ Elephant along with new games such as Man Overboard.
They arrived so late on the scene, in fact, that some of these were amongst the last few Master System and Game Gear titles to be released.
Dinobasher: Starring Bignose the Caveman was another conversion, this time from a NES game dating back from 1991. Development was handled by UK-based Optimus, who were eventually bought out by Iguana and went on to work on the home conversions of NBA Jam.
Unlike some games in this article, development was finished and copies were sent out to the press for review. The fact that Sega Power described it as “prehistoric poo poo” before giving it 42% could be why it was never released.
Plans were also pipeline for a 16-bit Bignose game, which would have allegedly entailed the cave man riding around on a skateboard. The ‘90s were pretty rad.
Lemmings 2 – Master System / Game Gear
This sequel to the evergreen puzzler Lemmings was another that made it out to review – again by Sega Power – but with a resounding 86% behind it it’s safe to say that the decline in Master System and Game Gear sales was to blame for its demise. By 1994 eyes were starting to turn towards the Saturn and PlayStation, never mind the Mega Drive.
Of all the 8-bit version of Lemmings to be developed, the Game Boy version was the only one to be released. A forum post on SMS Power by programmer Matt Tailor reports that the Game Gear version was far superior to its monochrome counterpart, featuring sampled sound and visuals that showed what the system could do when tickled in the right places.
Sony Imagesoft also cancelled the release of Hook on Master System around the same time, although it did make it out on Game Gear in both the US and Europe.
Sonic’s Edusoft – Master System
Education title Sonic’s Edusoft is a curious thing. It was never officially sanctioned by SEGA , and so in the eyes of many it’s seen as an ‘unlicensed’ Sonic game. Or ‘unofficial’ Sonic game, if you prefer.
Development was underway by Manchester-based Tiertex shortly after the original Sonic proved to be a runway hit, with hope that SEGA would take a shine to it.
Sadly, that didn’t happen. It was perhaps believed that an educational title featuring mini-games based on maths and spelling would take the edge of Sonic’s coolness. Or then again, maybe it was believed it would distract from the upcoming Sonic 2, a game that played a huge part in turning the 16-bit console war in SEGA’s favour.
The playable ROM that’s available online suggests that development was pretty much finished. One of the programmers even said – via a forum post on SMS Power – that it even got as far as being play-tested at a local school. We wonder if those children know how lucky they were to get to play an unreleased Sonic game?
NBA Jam – Master System
Iguana Entertainment started development on NBA Jam in 1994 – a full year (or thereabouts) after the Game Gear conversion.
Considering the Master System was discontinued in US during in 1991 (Sonic the Hedgehog was the last official release, in fact) it makes sense that the Game Gear version took priority.
There’s one single reason as to why the Master System version of NBA Jam ended up being slam-dunked in the trash, and it’s a good one – the developers struggled to get a competent control system in place.
The Master System controller had just two buttons, when ideally three at the very minimum would have been required. Although in fairness, this didn’t stop publisher Acclaim from releasing the likes of Mortal Kombat on the console.
Barbie Super Model – Game Gear
This primarily pink mini-game collection forms a trio of unreleased titles from Hi-Tech Expressions, alongside movie tie-ins We’re Back: A Dinosaur’s Story and Beethoven.
Why aren’t we talking about one of those? Because Barbie Super Model was the only one to be finished. It was a conversion of Barbie game for Mega Drive and SNES, and to be frank nothing good can come of us – or indeed anyone – knowing this.
All you need to know is that one of the mini-games featured was based on choosing a new hairstyle for Barbie. Hardly griping stuff.
If for some reason you want to experience it first-hand, the ROM is available online. Don’t worry – it can be our little secret.
Frogger – Game Gear
Frogger, of all things, was the last official release for both the Genesis and SNES in America, arriving in 1998 via budget publisher Majesco. This handheld rendition is completely unconnected, originally due out in 1991 – the same year as Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and the original Sonic.
For an early Game Gear title it does appear quite the looker, with redrawn sprites and a bright colour palette. New hazards and bonus rounds featured too, which made it feel more of a remake than a simple conversion of the arcade original.
What could have been a shot in the arm for the handheld – which had an unsteady slew of new releases during its early days – was sadly cancelled following on-going disputes with Konami and SEGA as to who owned the Frogger rights.
When Majesco re-released the Game Gear in the US in 2001 – alongside a handful of Disney titles – Frogger did appear again on release lists, although chances are it would have been based on the Genesis and SNES versions from 1998.
Spirou – Game Gear
Poor old Spirou. The inquisitive Belgian reporter has been around longer than Asterix (1959) and nearly as long as TinTin (1929) but never receives anywhere near as much recognition. We put this down to only a handful of Spirou books being translated into English. Apparently they’re very good reads – unlike TinTin, Spirou is actually seen carrying out some reporting during his adventures.
Anyway, Infogrames’ Asterix, TinTin and Smurf games did every well in Europe on both Game Gear and Master System, and so Spirou was summoned for similar platformer fare.
The released prototype suggests that it was going to be little more than a generic platformer, complete with predictable enemy attack patterns and tedious level design.
The planned 1996 release date would have made it a strong contender for the last ever Game Gear game to be released in Europe.
Incidentally, Infogrames’ own The Smurfs Travel the World takes that accolade and can sell for handsome sums due to its rarity.
Yogi Bear in Yogi Bear’s Goldrush – Game Gear
The Game Gear wasn’t short on platformers, but this one had something that made it stand out from the crowd – the ability to swap between two characters in the blink of an eye.
Boo Boo could squeeze through small gaps and jump higher than Yogi, who happened to be the stronger of the two. Interestingly, the ability to change characters didn’t feature in the released Game Boy version.
Chances are that if Yogi Bear’s Goldrush had been released, it wouldn’t have made it out of the US anyway as GameTek’s other Game Gear titles – which included Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Pinball Dreams – never left their home turf.
A playable ROM exists online. It’s a fair more pleasurable platformer than you may expect, getting more than just the bare necessities right.