The Sega Game Gear was Sega's entrant into the handheld gaming market which was ruled by Nintendo at the time (and still is) with their Gameboy.
Sega wanted to blow away the competition and decided that they would go for a colour handheld rather than a mono display. Rather than designing a new machine the Master System that had proved to be more popular in Europe than the other territories was redesigned to be the size of a hand held.
The price of the unit was slightly more than that of the Gameboy because of itís obvious colour advantage.
It was released in Europe in 1992 with an initial retail price of £89.99 which included the game Columns. There was another package available with Super Monaco GP and later upgraded to a 4-in-1 cartridge.
The Game Gear is essentially a portable Master System with a colour LCD screen. It does though have a slight tweak to itís VDP which allow for a larger colour palette of 4096. Game Gear games can probably be played on a Master System but when this is done through an emulator colour distortions appear.
Virtually all Master System games are backwards compatible with the system but there are a few exceptions when using the adapter. There was talk about an adapter that would allow the playback of Game Gear games on a Master System but is was never released. The only technical difference between the two systems being the extended colour palette of the Game Gear.
A full set of batteries lasts for around 6 hours but this can be extended with the volume turned down some.
The games for the Game Gear tended to be almost direct ports of many Master System titles and later both platforms had simultaneous releases of the same game with no difference between them. When a game was due for release on Master System it was inevitable that a Game Gear version would follow, usually at the same time.
There were a few good titles from Sega and some of their third parties. The Game Gear received all of Segaís 8-Bit Sonic titles as some of them never made it to the Master System. Games like Sonic Drift and Sonic Triple Trouble are some examples.
Unfortunately the Game Gear only enjoyed limited success. Not being able to provide a strong library of original games that you wanted to play on the move meant that it could never match the popularity of the GameBoy.
The colour LCD screen was a nice idea, however, the short battery life attributed to this piece of technology was a drawback.
Perhaps if the Game Gear came a few years later with some more thought behind the games library then perhaps this could have become more popular.
Game Gear Today
As the Game Gear never became very popular itís presence today is virtually none. If you owned a Master System then there is no real difference. There are of course the large amount of fan sites on the net and the best 8 Bit Sonic games came out on the Game Gear instead of itís console counterpart.
As usual the unit is long gone yet the games live on. Sega are supplying games for mobile phones and other hand held devices.
The unit has received a small lease of life and was recently made available again selling in chains of Electronics Boutique and Game. These systems retailed for £44.99 with several games available for £10 each.
Emulation Click Here for Downloads
As the Game Gear is essentially a Master System almost all Master System emulators can do Game Gear games and even some Mega Drive emulators also. Check out emulation of the Master System Page.