Heh, apologise for the tardiness, but it's still September somewhere, so it counts.
When most gamers think of their first handheld, thoughts go to the Game Boy. Nintendoís grey block dominated the market when I was very young. Despite this, I was given a different gem. Iím not quite sure why, but until the advent of our familyís vacation to Tampa and my subsequent introduction to the N64, I lived in what you would call a Sega household. We owned a Sega
Genesis, and whenever we hit the road, the biggest must-have was our blue Sega Game Gear.
I would be the first to admit, the Game Gear isnít the prettiest thing out there. Itís more of a brick than the Game Boy was. IT also required six AA batteries just to get the thing running. At home, the game gear was a money sucker, but on the road, it was a life saver.
Conveniently, our family owned an AC charger that went into the car lighter, a good use for something our family never needed. This guaranteed unlimited playtime as long as the car was moving. There is no greater solace when driving the eleven thousand mile journey from Chicago to Orlando than being able to play games whenever you wanted.
One of the greatest features about the Game Gear was its backlit screen. It was amazing, the Game Boy wouldnít have anything like that until the SP over ten years later. While this didnít help the battery situation, as Iíve said, on the road that wasnít a problem. Come rain or snow or darkest night, we could play it non-stop.
What is a console without good games, right? The PS3 despite all its good qualities was an unlikeable choice until it bumped its library up. However, when it comes to the early portables, it wasnít that important. Most of this is probably chalked up to my bad memory, but there were only a few noteworthy games, and they really were good. First off to remember was the incredibly unforgiving Sonic the Hedgehog. This wasnít anything like the original, the landscape was much tougher to navigate and the boss battles, oh the boss battles. You know how in the genesis games, you fight the boss at the end of an act with all of your rings? This game seemed to look at that model and said ďReasonable difficulty? Fuck that.
Ē In the boss levels you get no rings, meaning any misstep requires you to start the fight over until you win or run out of lives. Out of which I did entirely the latter.
The second notable would have to be X-men. The X-men game was pretty close to that of the console version in terms of gameplay, you had an HP meter and a Power meter for your mutant abilities. I really liked how they kept Wolverineís berserker mode, which allowed him to continue using his power in exchange for hp. What was cool about the game was, while you start out with only Wolverine and Cyclops, each level you beat gained you a new playable character.
However, the grand master of our family road trips was always World Series Baseball. It is by far the most fun portable game from that era that I have ever played. For those like me who were only familiar to the three division system, this game might confuse you. It takes place in the era immediately preceding it, yet with a league of 28 teams, the same year my beloved Florida Marlins were added as well as the despicable Wild-Card destined Colorado Rockies. Itís great to have a game that remembers the time that Gary Sheffield actually used to bat for the Marlins, but that was two World Series and two firesales ago.
The premise is simple, but incredibly unique in execution. You can play an exhibition game with no strings attached, or, using the in-game battery, play a season, ranging from thirty two games to an entire 162 game season. The ability to save after any game and come back later was what made it great for the roadtrip, what with meals or sleep or actually making it to your destination interrupting your play time. For all the praise I throw at this game, it did have some noticeable problems. For one, pitching was one of the easiest tasks ever. Go to the batterís opposite side and throw a curveball outside and then ease it in right at the strike zone, and youíll get a strike 90% of the time, a ball 5% of the time, a playable ball 5% of the time, and of those an actual hit 1% of the time. Secondly, while the controls for catching flies were pretty straight-forward, throwing could be sketchy, and if a hit landed sometimes just grabbing the ball was a challenge. However, positively the most glaring flaw comes in how the field is represented. Basically, World Series Baseball exists in a strange world where the major leagues are played on T-ball fields, and the outfield is just as short as the infield.
Let me give you this scenario for example: Say you have a sort of slow runner, and he gets a hit. Cool, right? Always a good thing. Next guy comes to the plate, and you get a single to short center. ďNice,Ē youíd think, ďnow I got a man on scoring position. Oh wait, the guy going to second got thrown out on a force from the outfield?
How the hell does that work?Ē
Even when that doesnít happen, this is a game of singles and patience. You just have to hope the curveball strategy keeps the other team scoreless and you can either get four men on base for a run or a home run.
Still, despite these faults, whenever my Game Gear comes into sight, I pick it up, and the first thing I do is play a game of World Series Baseball and you know what? Itís still fun. I still cannot fathom whatever it did to deserve it being lost in the first place, but every time it is found, I remember when I was a little kid on the road to Disneyworld, because for God knows what my parents decided not to just fly there. I didnít mind, because I had my big blue brick, and that was all I needed. read