The biggest advantage that the Game Gear had over its competition was the fact that it displayed games in color. Nintendo couldn't compete with that. The Game Boy screen was an ugly green-and-black mess.
To this day, I don't know why Nintendo went with that ugly green color for their screen. A grey handheld with a green screen and pink buttons? It sounds very odd when you put it that way. My only guess is that it was a cost issue. Perhaps making a true black-and-white screen was too expensive. If anyone can shed some light on this, please let me know.
Anyway, the Game Gear had Nintendo beat on the graphics front. A lot of Game Gear games truly did look better than what was on the Game Boy. When you could see the screen, it was beautiful.
Nintendo got the upper hand, though, because everything else about the Game Gear was bringing it down. I've talked about that. No need to bring it up any more.
Nintendo managed to work around the Game Boy's limitations, making fun and iconic games that could be enjoyed immensely despite the low-tech console they were played on. The long battery life of the Game Boy was enough that you could make the hours fly by without stopping to put in fresh batteries.
Plus, they had Tetris.
Initially, Sega tried to market the Game Gear similarly to the Game Boy. They even packed in Columns with launch units, which was a clear attempt at trying to get lightning to strike twice by creating another "killer app" that was a puzzle game, similar to Nintendo's success with Tetris.
The problem was that Columns wasn't very good. If you're looking for a puzzle game to play on the Game Gear, check out Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine.
Look at that. It's all pretty-like.†
This game was originally released in Fall 1993 on the Genesis and the Game Gear. If Columns is Sega's attempt at Tetris, then Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is Sega's attempt to make Dr. Mario.
Or, Compile's attempt. Sega just stuck Sonic characters into Puyo Puyo. Nintendo did the same thing with Kirby's Avalanche.
You start by facing that red guy in the top left. Each opponent is progressively harder, until it's borderline-impossible to actually beat them. This game can get frustrating.
Speaking of Dr. Mario... Nintendo made a Game Boy version of it that was released at the same time as the NES version. It seems a little weird that Nintendo would release a black-and-white version of a puzzle game that required color to be playable, but they managed to do it. The red, blue and yellow pills and viruses were turned into black, white and checkerboard-printed pills and viruses. It kind of took the fun out of it.
Mean Bean Machine, being in glorious 8-bit color, does not have that problem. Look at it. The deep reds, the forest-y greens. The pink lemonade-y pinks. Throw in a little blue and you've got one hell of a feast for the eyes.
Basically, your goal is to match colored blobs until four of the same color are joined together. Then, they disappear, and all of the stuff above it falls down. This makes it possible to chain combos together. The more you do that, the more those little white-outlined "garbage" blocks will appear on your opponent's side of the game. In this photo, my opponent managed to get a 2-chain combo on me and thus I had a little bit of "garbage" to clean out.
As your opponent's blob pile gets higher and higher, the little avatar of your opponent will get increasingly more stressed at his situation, until...
His blob pile gets too big and he loses. Aww. He's disappointed. I kinda feel bad for him.
After that, it's another robot to play against. The blobs fall faster every time, and in some levels you'll need to do some serious pre-planning if you're going to go for big combos.
The Game Gear version of Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine has the addictiveness and simplicity that a puzzle game needs in order to thrive, and as such, it's a prime example of a staple Game Gear game.
Now, if you'll excuse me for a minute, all of those pink blobs are making me thirsty...