Sega GameGear: An Appreciation

If you’re a follower of our Twitter feed then you may be aware that I’ve been collecting Sega GameGear stuff since the start of the year. After having been lucky enough to bag a few large bundles on eBay relatively cheaply, I’m not far off from having a complete collection of PAL releases.

Why the GameGear, you ask? Well, the handheld holds a lot of nostalgia for me – I’ve owned one since around 1994, when games for it were still being released. I also believe that it’s the most under-appreciated system ever with a huge catalogue of decent titles, many of which are largely unheard of.

Because the GameGear didn’t sell as well as Nintendo’s GameBoy many people see the system as another one of Sega’s failed attempts. Not so – eight million of the 8-bit handhelds were sold during its six year lifespan. When you bear in mind that the GameBoy Advance was around only for five years it can hardly be deemed a flop.

The majority of people also think of the GameGear as nothing more than a portable Master System. This isn’t a lie as such – for the first couple of years of the handheld’s existence most of the software for it was simple Master System conversions – but once the Master System started to fizzle out many developers started converting their Mega Drive games to it, often with decent results. The 8-bit versions of the likes of Earthworm Jim, Super Return of the Jedi, James Pond 3, Ristar, Dynamite Headdy, Gunstar Heroes and Jungle Strike remained just as playable even though scaled down slightly.

While building up my collection I soon became fascinated with finding out what titles were denied European releases. The amount of games that were US and Japan only is staggering. I’m not just talking about obscure RPGs like Lunar and Shining Force but games based on established brands and characters like Pac-Man, Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude, Coca-Cola Kid, Tails’ Sky Patrol and the aforementioned conversions of Jungle Strike and Gunstar Heroes. On the upside though, Europe had a fair few exclusive releases including Mortal Kombat 3. Games were released right up until 1996, which is a whole year after the Sega Saturn and PlayStation was released.

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