As a kid at school, at some point video games become a point of interest for a lot of people. At the time I knew some that had a Nintendo Game Boy, but Christmas 1991 one of the presents I got was a Sega Game Gear. I think the colour screen and some of the games I read about at the time in magazines made me want that one more.
Looking back, in theory the Game Boy was superior as a handheld in rather major areas: It was notably more compact and the batteries lasted a lot longer (it also needed less: only 4 instead of 6 AA batteries). To me, that didn’t pose much of a problem as I hardly used the system “on the go” anyway, mainly at home or when I was on holiday (and then pretty much only inside the house, the outside had enough other activities thanks to the good weather). Otherwise I probably would have tried to get one of those rechargeable battery packs, even though that would have made the system even more bulky.
The first two games I had for the system were Columns (naturally, as it was the pack-in title) and Castle of Illusion. Columns is really well suited for a handheld as you could just select a higher setting at the start to suit your play/skill level (as well as some cosmetic & audio selections, which was neat).
Castle of Illusion was a good title to get me introduced to the world of Jump’n’Runs as it had a “Practice” mode, which gave you short and easy versions of the first three levels. Going to “Normal” mode after those three levels, you’d find rather different versions of the levels, far longer, filled with more enemies, more challenging platforming and even a boss at the end of each level. The number of gems you need to find also increases from 3 to 7, most to be found after beating the boss of a level. So that game kept me occupied, challenged but rather entertained for quite some time, being an absolute newcomer.
Over the following years that I had the system, several other games were added to the collection, most of which were good, thanks to my parents for their mostly good choices there 😉
Overall, Wonder Boy and the Jungle Book adaptation were the worst games, but both not REALLY bad at least. Wonder Boy mainly had a lot of repetition in the level design and Jungle Book had some unfair passages, from what I remember of it.
Shinobi was one of the most challenging games I played, but also one of the best ones. Lucky Dime Caper (surprisingly challenging at times for a Donald Duck game), Sonic 1 and Taz-Mania were also platformers I had fun with. Lucky Dime Caper and Shinobi both gave free choice on which levels to tackle at first, so you could practice independently (though Shinobi also had the added challenge of different abilities on each character you had to unlock), very nice on a handheld. Later on, I also borrowed Sonic 2 from a friend, but that wasn’t really a good experience on the system. Challenging yes, but for all the wrong reasons (badly adapted for the small screen).
Another good way to handle longer games on a handheld is passwords, which thankfully Wonder Boy: Dragon’s Trap supported, an overall really nice game (that recently got a very faithful remake), this was my favourite game overall on the system and still holds up relatively well, even if it doesn’t make it into my top 10 anymore.
One game that was not well suited for a handheld was Dragon Crystal, but the way I was using the handheld, it wasn’t a big issue for me. And boy did I spend a lot of hours with this game… its design is very rogue-like, so it took me a long time to finish it even once. This game was pretty much what started my love of RPGs I think… or at least it sparked my interest in the genre.
Halley Wars and Fantasy Zone Gear were the only shooters I had for the system, both pretty good. Fantasy Zone had really nice comic-like graphics, but did not pull any punches. If you didn’t buy the shield-extra, one hit meant you lost a life. Halley Wars had an interesting mechanic that punished you for letting enemies through by increasing a counter signifying damage to Earth (from 0-100%).
Overall this collection of games (plus a few that I borrowed in between) made the system a very entertaining experience for me until it died after 3-4 years (display malfunction) and a nice entry point for me into the world of video games.