Retrospective: Sonic’s Weird Sega Game Gear Games

Well, Sonic Blast is the textbook definition of boring.

This was the final Sonic game released on the Game Gear and features both Sonic and Knuckles as playable characters. Both play exactly as they did in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, albeit a bit slower. As for Tails, he is nowhere to be found.

The game is also presented in a pseudo-3D art style, clearly taking inspiration from the then-new Sonic 3D Blast on home consoles. However, unlike that title, Sonic Blast’s art style comes off as feeling lifeless instead of cutting edge.

This game is ridiculously easy. The music is ridiculously blah. The entire experience feels ridiculously mundane and lifeless.

Also, the Zone names are painfully generic. Along with the return of the iconic Green Hill Zone, there are also the likes of Yellow Desert and Red Volcano. For comparison, some previous Game Gear titles featured zone names such as Robotnik Winter, Scrambled Egg Zone, and, most epic sounding of all, Atomic Destroyer Zone.

Sonic Blast (Master System)

For all the Game Gear version’s flaws, though, this at least has nothing on the god awful Master System version. Along with being the final Game Gear Sonic game, Sonic Blast was also the final Master System Sonic game, with that port coming out exclusively in Brazil in 1997. Unlike in North America, where the Master System had never caught on, the Sega Master System had been massively popular in Brazi. New versions of the system with built-in games are still being sold there to this day.

Sonic Blast on Master System is quite obviously a straight port of the Game Gear version, with the title screen and special stages running in a cropped-in Game Gear-esque aspect ratio. There are also many graphical glitches, caused by this appearing to just be a hastily made port.

It’s just a depressing end for Sonic’s run on Sega’s 8-bit line of systems. The Master System port is terrible and the Game Gear version is sleep-inducingly boring. Despite having gotten not just a 3DS port but also a dedicated plug ’n play console featuring it, Sonic Blast is a game so un-memorable that it’s best left as a footnote in gaming history.

This is apparently worth at least $20, which is expensive for a Game Gear game!

The Rest of Them

With all that said, these would not be the last of Sonic’s handheld adventures. I mean, seeing how popular Sonic Mania Plus is on Nintendo Switch, I think that’s a given. But, there were also a few other Game Gear releases as well.

Both the puzzle game Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and the virtual pinball adventure Sonic Spinball got Game Gear ports. The former is fairly solid and the latter is a pretty miserable experience. The Game Gear just didn’t have enough blast processing to handle Sonic Spinball properly. Both, however, don’t hold a candle to their Sega Genesis counterparts. Feel free to pass on both of these.

There was also a European-exclusive cartridge titled Sonic 2-in-1, which featured both Game Gear Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Game Gear Sonic Spinball. Despite both the games on it being rather lacklustre, it’s a sought after cartridge by collectors, with its rarity being due in part to its European-exclusive release. 

It should also be mentioned that, before development was fully underway on the 8-bit version of Sonic 1, Sega had considered simply attempting to port the Genesis game to the Game Gear. However, Yuzo Koshiro and his studio, Ancient, made it clear to the higher-ups at Sega that such a task would be impossible, hence why their unique version exists as it does. This wouldn’t be the first time a full port of Sonic 1 was axed either, as around the same time a soon-to-be-cancelled version was being planned for the Commodore Amiga computer. 

Really, if you can only play one of the Game Gear games, either go with the original or Triple Trouble. While only Triple Trouble fully stands on its own, the original 8-bit Sonic 1 is a fun enough adventure that fans of the Genesis Sonic will at the very least be able to appreciate. Plus, it has a Game Gear Micro that features it! If you must try out 8-bit Sonic 1, though, definitely check out the fanmade ROM patch Sonic 1 FM, which gives it a soundtrack that can take advantage of the Japanese Master System’s FM sound chip! 

Sonic Pocket Adventure

To end off on a positive note, I’d like to note the final 8-bit style Sonic game developed by Sega. This would be Sonic Pocket Adventure, which was released in 1999 for the Neo Geo Pocket Color. Created by the team that would later form Dimps – the studio that would create the Sonic Advance titles on the Game Boy Advance – Pocket Adventure is like a “best of” of the Sega Genesis titles.

All the zone themes, layouts, and music are based on zones from Sonic 2 and 3 on the Genesis. Yet, all the bosses are fully original and Sonic’s design is based on that from Sonic Adventure on the Sega Dreamcast.

It’s absolutely a strange title, sure. But it’s also incredibly fun. And like many of the games we’ve looked at today, it fits the bill of being weirdly cool!

My own Game Gears!

I’m really glad I got to take a look back at these games. Whether or not you get a Game Gear Micro, these are just unique pieces of gaming history that are often overlooked in favour of Sonic’s much more iconic Sega Genesis titles. And that’s fair, as those games are incredible. But, the Game Gear titles are still worth remembering nonetheless!

Good games, bad games, all are worth talking about in some way, shape, or form. While some have more lasting appeal than others, the weird factor alone makes a lot of these absolutely fascinating to me. There’s something about odd and obscure games that I just find to be strangely gripping. Sometimes being weird and retro alone is what makes things worth remembering.

About Jamie Christensen 12 Articles
Jamie Christensen is a writer, content creator, and social media marketing nerd currently residing in Victoria, British Columbia. He’s written about people, technology, and the environment, along with creating the online documentary series “The Art of Failure”. Feel free to check him out on Twitter and on YouTube!