Sonic the Hedgehog has been the face of Sega since the early nineties. The original Sonic games on the Sega Genesis – or Mega Drive, for you fancy folks – are some of the most fondly remembered titles of that decade. But what often gets overlooked are his adventures on Sega’s other major system of the time: the portable Sega Game Gear. So, let’s take a look at Sonic’s Weird Sega Game Gear Games!
While the Game Gear was certainly portable, it was only debatably practical. It could tear through six AA batteries in only a couple of hours, and it was so large that it could only fit in the baggiest of baggy pants pockets.
Nintendo’s Game Boy was often jokingly referred to as a brick, but Sega’s handheld was a slab of concrete by comparison. Yet, that’s not to say that it was not comfortable or that there were not some truly classic games for it. If anything, it was ahead of its time.
Clearly, Sega themselves have realized this in retrospect. The same month I am writing this, they are releasing the Sega Game Gear Micro. Or rather, the Sega Game Gear Micros. There’s a variety of these palm-sized mini-systems out now, each with four classic Game Gear titles on them. They are Japanese-exclusive as far as I can tell, but that does not bother me, seeing how niche of an audience they’re targeting. They pay homage to this under-appreciated system, and there are even two dedicated to the one and only Sonic the Hedgehog.
Sonic’s Game Gear adventures were filled with highs and lows, and a couple of these games most definitely fall into the category of hidden gems. A few years back, I was fortunate enough to get to do a similar article on Sonic the Hedgehog’s Weird Sega Saturn Games, and I am glad to once again dive into the blue blur’s history. So with that, let’s jump right into them!
Sonic the Hedgehog (8-bit, 1991)
The first Sonic game on Game Gear, at first glance, appears to be a portable take on the original Genesis game. But, that is not the case.
A few months after the original game was released on the Genesis, this title dropped on both the Game Gear and the 8-bit Sega Master System. For reference, the Master System was Sega’s main home console before the Genesis released, and it was very similar internally to the Game Gear. So similar, in fact, that there was an add-on for the Game Gear that allowed Master System cartridges to be played.
As for the Master System and Game Gear versions of Sonic 1, they’re basically the same game. However, the Master System version has a larger field of view and some lightly altered stage designs.
While Game Gear Sonic 1 may feature some stages that share names with the Genesis counterpart – Green Hill, Labyrinth, and Scrap Brain Zones come to mind – there’s also a plethora of new zones, too. With this also comes a soundtrack that is truly incredible. This should come as no surprise, as development of this title was spearheaded by Yuzo Koshiro, who is best known for creating the soundtracks for the Streets of Rage games.