It's fair to say that Nintendo's erstwhile rival Sega shocked everyone when it announced that it was creating a teeny, tiny version of its Game Gear handheld to celebrate its 60th birthday. Actually, we should back up a little there; the fact that the company was choosing to refresh a classic system wasn't surprising in itself – after all, we've had the NES Classic Edition, PC Engine Mini and Mega Drive Mini over the past few years – but it was more the manner in which Sega was resurrecting the console that dropped jaws.
The ¥4,980 / $50 / €50 Game Gear Micro really does live up its name – it's even smaller than the almost unacceptably dinky Game Boy Micro and the screen is around the size of a postage stamp – and it's available in five colour options which each come with their own selection of games. So, to experience the entire range, you've got to stump up the cash for all five. Crazy enough for you yet? How about the fact that the Game Gear Micro is totally exclusive to Japan?
Now, before we dive too deeply into Sega's seemingly deranged business practices, it's worth noting that the Game Gear Micro is, on face value, a lovely little product that is clearly aimed at a Japanese audience which loves tiny collectable trinkets. The packaging – which is smaller than a Game Boy Advance box, for reference – is utterly adorable and the unit itself feels solid enough. Even the minuscule 1.1-inch LCD display is better than we were expecting; it's pin-sharp and colourful, although staring at it for any length of time is likely to give most people an absolutely blinding headache.
There's no internal rechargeable battery, so you'll either need two AAA batteries or a Micro-USB cable to play it, but there is a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top, as well as a volume dial. Not that you're likely to actually play this thing all that much; sure, the buttons and D-Pad are enlarged (at least in terms of scale) and they're reasonably responsive, but that's about it. This is not a comfortable piece of hardware to use for prolonged periods of time, even if you do somehow decide that the display is acceptable (perhaps by using the optional 'Big Window' screen magnifier).
And don't get us started on the game selection. Splitting the available titles across all five units is understandable when you take into account that this is very much a collectable item and the Japanese sure do love hoovering up collectables, but it's also a really, really dumb move. Sega could easily have included all of the available games on each unit (and then some); the way things are, if you want to experience the best titles on offer here, you've really got to stump up the cash for every single unit, which could cost you anything up to $400 when you consider that the Aleste-focused system is A) more expensive than the others and B) has sold out everywhere and is now changing hands for way more than its RRP.
Sure, an effort has been made to add at least a little value – for example, the red unit we got also comes with 'easy' versions of two of its games, Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible and Megami Tensei Gaiden: Last Bible Special – but four games per variant really isn't anywhere near enough when you consider the asking price.
For example, Sonic, Shinobi GG, Gunstar Heroes and GG Aleste II – four of the best Game Gear titles known to mankind – are all on different variants of the Game Gear Micro, so if you're after any of those, you're almost certainly going to have to buy a unit which also features at least one game you're either totally uninterested in or can't play because it's all in Japanese. We should perhaps be thankful that Sega included four games on each, as there were plans for it to be even less.
Had Sega opted to release each colour variant with 40 of the best Game Gear titles, then we'd be able to cautiously recommend this odd piece of hardware, despite its Lilliputian proportions. An even better outcome would have been to release a new Game Gear that's only slightly smaller than the bulky original model (say, the size of the original Game Boy Advance) and pre-load that with titles as well as the ability to run original cartridges. Given that Nintendo hasn't pounced on the idea of a Game Boy Classic Edition as yet, it would have been the perfect opportunity for Sega to steal a march on its former adversary and produce a portable that truly celebrates one of its most iconic pieces of hardware – and just in time for the lucrative Christmas season, too.
But alas, we're dreaming now. What we have instead is an impractical trinket that will look amazing on our shelf but does a pretty dismal job of highlighting Sega's amazing handheld legacy.
Thanks to Richard from Game Boy Shack for kindly loaning us his boxed Game Gear for use in this feature.