Regular readers will know that we have something of a soft spot for the SEGA Game Gear, having penned numerous 8-bit related features over the past couple of years. It’s one of those formats we could talk about all day long and for reasons aplenty.
We aren’t blinkered to the fact that the ageing handheld’s screen quality is atrocious when compared to today’s standards, but we do hold its software library in very high regard. SEGA was seemingly very picky about what games to publish in Europe, and because of this the handheld’s catalogue is rife with hidden gems and import-only titles almost entirely unheard of.
Indeed, Europe really got screwed over when it came to the Game Gear’s release schedule. It’s understandable that publishers would shy away from releasing US sports sims and text-heavy RPGs, but denying the release of comic book tie-ins, arcade conversions and even a few big-name first-party efforts from SEGA Japan is another matter. A good example here is the 1994 racing spin-off Sonic Drift – the sequel was released in Europe under the guise of Sonic Drift Racing in 1995 – but the original never left Japan. Incidentally, and rather lazily, Sonic Drift Racing’s title screen still bared the name Sonic Drift 2.
This feature originally began as a straightforward list of games European Game Gear owners missed out on, but due to sheer number we ended up sorting them by category.
Next time you’re feeling miffed that some little-known RPG is passing western gamers by, just remember that European Game Gear owners didn’t exactly have the pick of the litter.
Just like the Mega Drive, the Game Gear’s initial line-up comprised mostly of arcade conversions. The likes of Space Harrier – which was far more than a simple conversion of the Master System version – fared well on the system and were strong sellers. Namco’s Mappy however was never released outside of Japan, with the simple reason being that Namco didn’t publish GG software outside of their home turf.
Out of the nine games Namco released for the format, Galaga ’91 (aka Galaga 2) was the only one picked up for a western release.
Two from Taito escaped European gamer’s clutches also. It’s easy to figure out why Bust-A-Move didn’t make it – when it arrived in 1996 software sales were slowing down drastically in the US and pretty much non-existent in Europe – but as to why 1991’s Chase HQ didn’t make it is a mystery.
Battle hardened gamers will know that the vast majority of ‘80s and ‘90s movie tie-ins were terrible – it was a time when publishers could always bank on licensed software to turn a profit, even if the game itself was an abomination. Say hello to Cutthroat Island, Surf Ninjas, Cliff Hanger, The Last Action Hero and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. At least we got Acclaim’s True Lies tie-in, eh?
Majesco’s re-issue of the long lost Super Battletank notwithstanding, 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park takes the honour of being the Game Gear’s last ever release. If it wasn’t for FIFA 98, it would have been the last European Mega Drive game too.
As mentioned already, by 1996 the Game Gear was fading fast. Clearly, SEGA must have thought that the license was so prestigious that even such a belated release would still generate some cash. Although the ability to play as a dinosaur holds some appeal, both the 8-bit and 16-bit Lost World tie-ins were painfully average.
Surf Ninjas, Cliff Hanger and The Last Action Hero weren’t up to much either, with Cliff Hanger in particular having all the hallmarks of a rush job. Acclaim’s Cutthroat Island – based on one of the biggest flops of all time – isn’t without merit though, borrowing more than a couple of elements from Prince of Persia. It’s one of those rare games that’s actually better than the film on which it’s based.