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Sega Saturday: A Cult Tribute to the Sega Game Gear

Updated on June 13, 2015

Welcome back to Sega Saturday, the series that has been on hiatus because I just keep forgetting to write about it. I know, so grand. As this being the first Sega Saturday edition since I moved back here (remember the move? Pepperidge Farm remembers), I figure we should do something special today. And thus we shall, with a Cult Tribute to a childhood love of mine. Back when I was a kid in the 90s (aka, a better time), the console war between Sega and Nintendo not only included battles over home consoles, but handheld consoles as well. Yes, in the endless quest of world domination (seriously, why else do video game companies need so much money?), Nintendo and Sega tried to one up each other with consoles you could use for TV and consoles you could use on the go. As it turns out, two of my favorite consoles of the era were handhelds; Nintendo's Game Boy and the subject of today's tribute, a handheld console that, despite some flaws, was ahead of its time and in some ways even superior to Nintendo's greatest non N64 masterpiece. So grab yourself a Pepsi (or for this one, perhaps a Coke), turn down your Social Distortion records and get ready; this is a Cult Tribute to the one, the only, Sega Game Gear.

What You Already Know


As time has gone on, it appears people have forgotten about Sega's first ever handheld system. Thus, we're keeping this section shorter than Mini Me here. The Sega Game Gear was, in short, Sega's answer to the Game Boy, released in 1990 with the intention of being the coolest of the handheld consoles. In the end, it was not to be as the Game Gear only had a six year run before being discontinued in 1996. It was replaced by the Sega Nomad, which unfortunately was as good a follow up as the Saturn was to the Genesis. Poor Sega; never quite stuck the landing with that sequel console huh?


What You Didn't Know


For one, the Game Gear was much bigger than the Game Boy. No seriously, the Game Boy looks like a hobbit compared to the Game Gear's size, which was the equivalent of a Genesis controller. Hilariously enough, that was the point. Believing the Game Boy's small stature made it uncomfortable for players to use, Sega set out to make the Game Gear bigger in order to provide the player more comfort. Thus, the size and texture (yes, you read that right) of the Game Gear was completely modeled after the Genesis controller. Was that an overall success? I can't say for sure. I personally found it to be enjoyable, but there's several people I know who thought the system was too big and clunky. I think we can all agree it was definitely a unique design though. It's not like unique has ever been a bad thing right? Crap, I feel like I'm losing this argument.

Perhaps the coolest thing about the Game Gear however was that you could watch TV on it. Yes, Sega went so far out there with designing this handheld that they even created a TV Tuner specifically for the system. With the TV Tuner (which looks like what would happen if Sega made retro radios), players could actually sit back and watch TV, though the amount of channels available is unclear. Sure, the thing cost more money than an actual game does today (that's more like it!), but come on, that's pretty dope. The ability to watch TV on a handheld video game console all the way back in the early 90s? Say what you will about Sega, but that's one of the reasons people marvel at how ahead of their time they always appeared. Why did they stop making consoles again? Oh right, the Saturn. DAMN YOU SEGA SATURN! You are officially replacing Britta Perry as the worst.


Best Thing About It


Okay, so we're introducing a brand new section for the Cult Tribute today, and that's because I found this little factoid while researching. Let's just say I geeked out more than my first viewing of "Once More With Feeling." Anyone who knows anything about video games knows that the big companies love to release numerous designs of their consoles, in the never ending quest to make billions and billions of dollars. Most of the times, the designs aren't even that different; is it really a bigger deal to have a black X-Box 360 over a white one? Sega was no different with their systems, especially the Game Gear. There was the traditional black one (which I owned), a blue one, a red one, a white one, the list goes on and on and on. So color me (har har) surprised when I learned today that Sega actually released a limited edition Coca Cola Game Gear. Which, by my calculations, is the best thing since the last dive Angelico did.

Now look, I'm very well aware that this could just be me here. In fact, I'm pretty sure it is; when I told my brother about this earlier, he looked at me as if I was the two headed announcer from the Phantom Menace podrace. But you know what, I don't care! As a straight edge kid and an overall soda enthusiast (though I will admit to being a Pepsi fan more so than a Coke fan), I find this Game Gear design to be totally awesome. It's goofy product placement, it's got a really sick shade of red and you can now finally induct yourself into the Nerd Hall of Fame by telling your friends, "I'm drinking Coca Cola while playing the Coca Cola Sega Game Gear!". I'm strangely starting to think I enjoy this design for unintentional comedy purposes. Who knows?!


Conclusion


I loved the Sega Game Gear as a kid, just as much as I loved the Game Boy. Some of my fondest memories from that time are playing NHL 95 and Sonic the Hedgehog, even though I was never able to get all the Chaos Emeralds with Sonic (the struggle was indeed real). Looking back on it now, I say it wasn't just me being a kid and not knowing any better, which explains my love for things like Roland Emmerich's Godzilla and...well really, anything made by Roland Emmerich. The bottom line is that the Game Gear was an awesome handheld system. Better than the Game Boy? That's another column for another time, but it's close. Yes, perhaps the game library could've been stronger, Sega could've promoted it a tad better anything that needs six batteries and still only lasts five hours at the longest has some flaws. But even with that, this system was well designed, it was easy to play and was in some ways revolutionary. A handheld system that you could watch TV on and that was in color?! Unless I'm way off base, no one else was doing that. I'd go further to say the Sega Game Gear was a system ahead of its time, much like the Dreamcast was. It's further proof that Sega should still be making consoles today.


That'll do it guys. I may have to explore this topic a little bit more with a Game Gear vs. Game Boy article today. Thus, you'll probably see that and a Lucha Underground article that I promised last night. Till then, haters gonna hate, bakers gonna bake (I don't what came over me there) and I'm gonna sleep!

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    • Molly Layton profile image

      Molly Layton 2 years ago from Alberta

      Fascinating! I hadn't payed much attention to the Game Gear when it came out, but it looks cool.