The Sega Handhelds: Game Gear & Nomad
What Happened To All of the Batteries?
Sega was going head-to-head with Nintendo in both hardware & software sales. However, Nintendo pretty much still had an iron-grip on the handheld market. In order to combat this problem, Sega unleashed their own "Game Boy" in the form of the Game Gear. Featuring a color display with backlight, the Game Gear was the most powerful handheld on the market at the time of its release, not only in terms of the fidelity of the gaming library but also in terms of expansion & additional features. The Game Gear was essentially a Sega Master System in a more compact, handheld form.
8-Bits of Power
While Sega's home console market was dominated by the Mega Drive/Genesis packing a whopping 16-bits of "Blast Processing", the handheld market was still owned by Nintendo. 8-Bits of processing power was still impressive in a handheld device. Add color & back-lighting to that and you have a recipe for a technical marvel. One of the drawbacks to all of this power in your hand was the rapid consumption of six (6) double-A (AA) batteries. I don't really take an issue with this, especially now when the AC-adapter & car-charger are relatively cheap, but I can see how this may have been an issue when the platform was commercially relevant.
- Play Master System quality games on-the-go.
- Color, Back-lit screen
- Capable of tuning TV stations
- Adaptable to several accessories & expansions
- TV Tuner - An add-on that allowed the GG to pick up free-to-air TV stations. Fitting into the cartridge slot, the user could use the GG as a portable TV. It might have been useful during power-outages or for road-trips.
- FM Tuner - Similar to the TV tuner, this device allowed the GG to pick up radio airwaves & allowed the user to listen to FM music on-the-go. I can see it being useful in power-outages, or when jogging.
- Screen-Magnifier - The Wide Gear & Super Wide Gear allowed users to view an enlarged, easier-to-view screen while playing the GG. It doesn't enhance resolution, but it does make the image easier to see and possibly clearer or if your device in good condition.
- Car Charger - An adapter that allowed the GG to be powered by your car's lighter port. Useful for long road trips or overnight stays.
- Battery Pack - A clip-on device that allowed the user to power the GG through a rechargeable pack. What's funny is that Sega assumed that kids & teens would be wearing belts in order to accommodate this hilariously chunky design.
- Game Genie - Similar to Game Shark for future consoles, the Game Genie allowed users to utilize cheats or codes in games to gain advantages or experience titles in a new or unique way.
- Gear Master/Master Gear Converter - Similar to the Power Base Adapter for the Genesis, this add-on allowed GG owners to play Master System titles.
- Gear-to-Gear Cable - Allowed the user to connect another GG to their existing GG in order to play multiplayer in games that supported this feature.
- PowerBack - Another charging device for the console. It featured the ability to latch directly on to the GG, eliminating the inconvenience of the original Battery Pack.
- Carrying Cases - The GG had a large number of carrying case accessories available during its life span. The Carry-All, Deluxe Carry-All, Gear Bag, Standard Carrying Case & others allowed the owner to more easily transport the system & accessories.
The Game Gear has one of the stronger gaming libraries in handheld console history, packing titles (many of which were Master System ports) such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Drift, Sonic Labyrinth, Streets of Rage, Columns, Galaga '91, RoboCop 3, Shinobi II: The Silent Fury & many others.
While certainly not more successful than Nintendo's Game Boy, and eventually Game Boy Color, the Game Gear was a lukewarm project for Sega. One might argue that it was a failure since Sega never went on to make another original handheld platform. The Nomad eventually came about, but it was essentially a handheld Genesis.
The Sega Nomad was Sega's second attempt at entering & winning the handheld market. The Nomad was the 'spiritual' successor to the Game Gear. I say this since the Nomad is merely a portable Genesis. It also suffered from the same battery-consumption problems as the Game Gear, but actually managed to sustain less game play from a set of six (6) double-A (AA) batteries than the GG was capable of with the same set of batteries. Two-three (2-3) hours were all you could get out of the Nomad, presumably due to the higher-end hardware & more complex games running on the handheld. Again, this isn't a deal breaker when there are plenty of battery-packs & AC adapters that can be (affordably) purchased on eBay or at a local retro gaming store.
- Plays Genesis games on-the-fly.
- Can connect to a TV monitor via the A/V connections.
- Color, back-lit display
That's really about all there is to it. I don't particularly like this system & it doesn't really have any special or exclusive features that make it worth owning.
[My Final Thoughts]
If you're a huge Sega fan like I am, do yourself a favor & pick up a Game Gear. It has way more features than the Nomad. It has ports of Master System games, supports Master System games directly with the add-on, has original games designed specifically for the platform & is also lighter with a longer battery life than the alternative.