Remembering The Sega Game Gear

I got a Nintendo Gameboy in the early 90’s for free. At the time, my mom worked at a Tae Kwon Do school and my brother and I had to accompany her to work each day. The best way she found to keep us entertained and quiet was to lug the 19 inch TV and our Nintendo back and forth to the Tae Kwon Do school each day. She’d set everything up in this unused office and me and my brother would just play away.

Well one day one of the adult students saw my mom struggling with this TV and Nintendo set up, so he offered her a Gameboy. I think he had bought it and just didn’t play it. So my mom delightfully presented my brother and me a practically brand new Gameboy along with Tetris and Castlevania. You could see the relief her in eyes that she didn’t have to worry about carrying the TV back and forth anymore.

I liked the Gameboy, but preferred my NES. I wasn’t a big fan of the monochrome screen and I think because I was limited to just two games I got bored with it fast. I was terrible at Castlevania, so that pretty much left Tetris for me to enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, Tetris was awesome, but my first experience with a handheld video game system wasn’t my fondest.

A year or so later, I caught Sega fever. Sega claimed to do what “Nintendon’t” and I bought it hook, line, and sinker. I got a Sega Genesis that Christmas, and for a short while Sonic became my favorite mascot. I loved the bright colors and awesome sound. I played the system pretty much non-stop when I was home, but that wasn’t enough for me. I just wanted to play it all the time, anywhere we went. Enter the Sega Game Gear.

The Sega Game Gear, like the Genesis, was the opposite of what Nintendo offered. The console was sleek, black, and looked like something an adult would own. The screen was bright and vibrant and it really put the Gameboy to shame if you were to compare them side-by-side. Plus it had all sorts of games that really appealed to my interests as a growing young lad, like Star Wars and Beavis and Butthead.

Sega also introduced a cool looking blue sports edition that included a TV antenna with it. Not only could you play color video games on the go, but now you could watch TV too! It was everything you could wish for in the early 90’s, and I just knew I had to have it. Christmas was coming up, so I appealed to the one person who was most likely to fulfill my Sega wish- my grandma.

My parents had divorced the year prior and finances were stretched then. My grandmother was known for spoiling us grandkids, and always over did it with the Christmas presents. As Christmas approached, she presented my brother and me with our traditional Sears Wish Book and JcPenny’s catalog to circle some of the gifts we were interested in. Instead of littering the book with all sorts of bright red circles like I normally did. This time, I just made one huge circle and dog eared the page. It was the page that contained the Sega Game Gear.

I highlight a few games also found in the catalog and I’m sure I probably showed them to her while we were out as well. I wanted Sonic, Beavis and Butthead, and Super Return of the Jedi. If possible, I wanted the unit with the TV antenna as well so I could accomplish my dream of having a television in my pocket. Little did I know, fifteen years later I’d have a TV, computer, and video game machine in the fancy phone I carry around.

The previous Christmas when I got my Sega Genesis was an emotionally rollercoaster. I thought for sure I was getting it, but then I was positive I wasn’t. In the end, I ended up with a Genesis, but the stress that had put on me wasn’t worth going through again. So, as much as I wanted the Sega Game Gear, I wasn’t going to freak out or expect it. I’m pretty sure this is when I stopped getting my hopes up for things, and always expected the worst.

So come Christmas morning, I tear through the traditional boring presents like socks, underwear, and knowing my grandmother, some hideous sweater that she would demand I dress in so she could take a Christmas photo in. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I had hoped that I would stumble upon a Sega Game Gear. Sure enough, once she stopped handing me the boring presents, I got a box that looked like it might contain a Sega Game Gear. It took me just mere seconds to see the familiar Sega font emblazoned on the box. It wasn’t the TV antenna version, but it did come with Sonic The Hedgehog, which I’m pretty sure I got way more use out of than a lousy TV antenna.

The Game Gear was fast and colorful, everything the Gameboy was not. Was it perfect? Oh heck no. It was bulky and didn’t fit well into my child size hands. It took six double A batteries and ran through them in just a few hours. My grandmother was smart, she went ahead and invested in an AC adapter when she bought the system so I never had to worry too much about that. But if you ever see someone talking about the Game Gear you’ll no doubt hear jokes and complaints about the battery life.

I went to Best Buy with some gift cards and cash I got for Christmas and purchased Beavis and Butthead and Super Return of the Jedi. My dad gave me an old camera bag to lug my Game Gear and accessories around with, so it was very easy to take with me anywhere that I went. He even bought me a rechargeable battery set so I would stop bugging him for batteries when we took road trips. It was perfect.

I’ll be honest though, my game selection was not the best. Both Super Return of the Jedi and Beavis and Butthead were difficult for me. I haven’t played them in twenty years, but I think the size of the system had a lot to do with it. I also don’t think either game was really known for being all that great to begin with though. So, while I did spend a lot of time playing both Super Return of the Jedi and Beavis and Butthead, Columns became my go to game. To this day, I like Columns better than Tetris. It was a blatant knock off, but I really dug the music and I always associate the cool backgrounds and colors with the game. With Tetris, I recall the good music, but dull graphics.

The Game Gear doesn’t get a lot of love these days. Online you’ll mostly find people making fun of the size or the lack of battery life. That really disappoints me, because I dug the system. It didn’t have the great game library like the Gameboy, but it did offer us Sega fanatics something different. Sega took a look at the Gameboy and asked themselves, “What can we do to make this better?” Then they attempted to do so. They may have overlooked the simplicity and long battery life that the Gameboy was known for, but I think it was a worthy effort. It’s hard to go head-to-head against Nintendo, especially in those days. I’m just glad Sega had the guts to try.

History is always written by the winners. They are the ones that are better remembered. Had Sega survived past the Dreamcast, the Game Gear might be remembered a bit more fondly.

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