Sega Game Gear

The Game Gear was Sega's response to the Nintendo Gameboy, the Monochrome handheld designed by Nintendo's Gunpei Yokoi, and released in 1989. Sega had taken note of the general publics criticisms of the Gameboy, and wanted to make a handheld console "everything that the Game Gear wasn't".

The Game Gear was released late 1989 in Japan, 1990 in North America and as usual, us Europeans had to wait even longer, until 1991!

The most obvious different between the two consoles was the 4096 colour palette of the Game Gear, with a maximum of 32 different colours on screen at any time. The screen size was larger than the Gameboy, and was back-lit which meant that you could play it pretty much anywhere, unlike the Gameboy which needed good light.

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The console itself was held lengthways, with buttons on either side. This ergonomic design change made the Game Gear much easier on the hands - one criticism of the Gameboy was that it had a very cramped feel it, and many people complained of sore wrists & hands after extended game play.

The Game Gear was, in essence, a portable Sega Master System. This meant that many Master System Games could be easily ported onto the handheld console. Indeed, a Master System Converter add-on was released, which allowed any Master System Game to be plugged into the Game Gear.

Another add-on which proved to be a popular selling point was the TV Tuner. A small device which clipped to the back of the Game Gear turned the handheld console into a small portable TV, not unlike the Sony Watchman. Other add-ons included a rechargeable battery pack, screen magnifier & multilink cable, to allow two Game Gears to be connected in versus play.

With all these add-ons and advantages over the Gameboy, you would expect the Game Gear to have been the more popular of the two consoles. Unfortunately for Sega, it was not - they had overlooked one very important detail. Battery Life. In the end the deciding factor in the latest chapter of the Sega vs Nintendo war was how long the batteries lasted.

While the Game Gear did indeed have everything the Gameboy lacked, it had to pay a price for these luxuries; the average lifespan on the batteries was between 3 and 5 hours, whereas the Gameboy could easily exceed 10 hours. This was a problem suffered by many other handhelds such as the Neo-Geo pocket and the Atari Lynx - while they may have been superior in every other way, it was the simplest of factors that made the Gameboy the overall winner, and eventually the best selling console of all time.

As with all good things, the Sega Game gears came to and end in 1997. In the end, there were over 200 games released for the console, although many of them never made it out of Japan, such as the excellent Sonic Drift & Sonic Drift 2, and take-on of Super Mario Kart which included a multi-link option. Thankfully these can all be played on any Game Gear as there is no region lockout, due to there being no TV compatibility problems.

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