In June 1991 Sega released the Game Gear System, its first portable console. The Nintendo Game Boy had been a runaway success when it was released in 1989. Sega strove to make its portable system the more impressive of the two.
The Sega Game Gear console features a color LCD screen unlike the monochrome Game Boy. It contains the same 8-bit Z-80A processor that powered the Sega Master System. The Game Gear screen is 3.2 square inches compared to the 2 square inch Game Boy display. Sega's system is capable of exhibiting up to 32 colors at one time.
The original retail price of Game Gear was $149. Cartridges ranged from $24.99 to $29.99 each. They were molded black plastic with a rounded front for convenient removal. The original Game Gear pack-in title was Columns. It was similar to the Tetris cartridge that Nintendo had included when it launched the Game Boy. There were six software titles available at the time of the Game Gear's release.
The Sega Game Gear display is backlit allowing it to be played in dim lighting conditions. While this feature is not included on the Game Boy it does provide a disadvantage -- the Game Gear requires 6 AA batteries that only last up to six hours. The Nintendo Game Boy only requires 4 AA batteries and is capable of providing up to 35 hours of play.
In order to save players a fortune in battery costs, Sega released both an optional rechargeable battery pack that clipped to a player's belt and the Powerback, a rechargeable unit that fastens on to the back of the Game Gear console and allowed up to 8 hours of play.
Several peripherals were manufactured for the Game Gear system. The "Gear to Gear" cable linked two systems together to allow two players at once. The "Car Gear adapter" plugged into car cigarette lighters. "Super Wide Gear" was an accessory that magnified the Game Gear screen. The TV Tuner Unit converted the Game Gear Screen into a portable television set.
In Japan, Sega introduced Kids Gear. It was a repackaging of the Game Gear system in a different color case. Software advertised for Kids Gear focused more on children's game titles. Kids Gear was never released in the United States.
Though the Game Gear system featurs the same processor as the Sega Master System, cartridges for the two consoles were not compatible. Sega redesigned Master System games for better play on the smaller Game Gear screen. Eventually, a peripheral called the Master System Converter was released enabling Sega Master System cartridges to be played on Game Gear.
The Game Gear sold well for Sega but it did not become a phenomenon like Game Boy. In 1991 Sega sold over 500,000 units. In 1992 Sega sold 900,000 Game Gear consoles.
Nearly 200 games have been produced for the Sega Game Gear system.
Third party developers for Game Gear include: Playmates Interactive (Earthworm Jim), T*HQ (Super Return of the Jedi), Viacom (Phantom 2040), Acclaim Entertainment (NBA Jam) and Williams (Mortal Kombat 3)
The best games for Game Gear include: Quest for the Shaven Yak Starring Ren & Stimpy, Dr. Robotniks Mean Bean Machine, NBA Jam, Crystal Warriors and Arena: Maze of Death. ~ Dave Beuscher, All Game Guide