The Virtual Console for the 3DS will feature games from the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Gear, and TurboGrafx-16. For the next couple of weeks I will be releasing my Top Ten Most Wanted games for these systems and others that may potentially make the 3DS Virtual Console. Whenever a game is part of a series, I will just put the series name and the game I’m most interested in seeing. This week, I will highlight the SEGA Game Gear.
Release Date: 1994 Developer: Novotrade International Publisher: SEGA
The Ecco the Dolphin are a series of sidescrollers developed for the Genesis starring a dolphin called Ecco (obviously). It was a slower paced game compared to Sonic the Hedgehog and relied more on exploration than on rapidly getting through a level. In the first game, Ecco must rescue his pod (group of dolphins) who have been captured by an undersea vortex. The story is far more complex, but I’m not going to give anything away, in case you decide to play it. Ecco can swim really fast and attack enemies by ramming them. He can sing in order to communicate with other dolphins and he can also activate “echolocation” which generates a map of the area. Ecco also had a life meter regenerated by either eating fish, or jumping out of the water to breather air (he is a mammal after all). The second game has similar mechanics and continues the story where the first game left off, but this time it has a time traveling twist. Out of both of these games, I’m most interested in playing the first one because of the linearity of the story.
Trivia: A sequel was planned for Tides to finish the series as a trilogy. This game was scrapped and Sega released a spinoff called Ecco Jr. instead. The series was later brought back on theDreamcast with an entirely different storyline in Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future. As opposed to the Genesis version, the Game Gear included a dolphin crying "SEGA" on the SEGA screen and dolphins laughing on the title screen.
Release Date: April 26, 1991 Developer: Sega Publisher: SEGA
In 1984, Alexey Pajitnov designed and programmed Tetris in his motherland of Russia. In 1989, Nintendo was assigned the right to make Tetris for their new portable system, the Game Boy. In a stroke of genius, Nintendo decided to make Tetris the pack in for their first handheld. The rest, is history.
Columns is SEGA’s answer to Nintendo’s Tetris. In 1990, they acquired the rights from Jay Geertsen in who had developed it in 1989. Columns is basically a match 3 type of game where you have to match 3 gems of the same color in order to clear them from the screen. As in Tetris, they keep falling from the top of the screen. Every once in a while, a flashing magic jewel appears and destroys all the jewels of the same color as the one underneath it. The game becomes more difficult and faster as it goes. The game keeps going until the screen fills up with gems and the player loses.
There are two versions of Columns for the Game Gear. The first one is a port of the Genesis game. The second one is an original Game Gear version which added new blocks and the ability to rotate them. The second one seems to have better gameplay, but I’d rather have the first one. It has a better (more refined) presentation and better music.
Trivia: Columns was the first pack-in game for the Sega Game Gear. This version was slightly different from the Genesis version. The Game Gear version had different music, sounding more like a flute or woodwind. While the columns themselves were updated for the Genesis version, the overall decoration was less like a cartoon in the Game Gear version and instead more artistically designed. Lastly, the Game Gear version had a feature that allowed the player to change the jewels to fruit, squares, dice, or card shapes (clubs, diamonds, spades).
Release Date: 1991 Developer: SEGA Publisher: SEGA
Space Harrier is forward scrolling third person on-rails shooter. It is a port of the Arcade version of the same name. In the game, you play as…um…Space Harrier..I guess. You have to shoot down aliens, dinosaurs, and dragons (seriously) in a place called Fantasy Zone (I’m not making this up, I swear). The game is pretty cool. It reminds me of 3D World Runner for the NES but cooler. I hope this game makes it to the 3DS VC because it is one of the first old-school on-rail shooters. In fact, it feels like an early version of Star Fox.
Trivia: This version of the game was included as an easter egg in the Space Harrier Collection for the PS2. Space Harrier takes place in the same universe as Fantasy Zone.
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
Release Date: 1993 Developer: Compile Publisher: SEGA
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is a version of Puyo Puyo set in the Adventure of Sonic the Hedgehog Universe a cartoon series based on Sonic the Hedghog. In Mean Bean Machine, beans fall from the top of the screen in pairs of two and you must make four of the same color touch in order to clear them. In the story mode, you always play against a henchman of Dr. Robotnik (I refuse to call him Eggman). As you keep clearing beans, the opponent’s screen is filled with transparent beans (refugee beans). The more beans you clear, the more refugee beans are sent over. The first one to fill up the opponent’s screen with beans, wins.
I first played this game in Sonic’s Mega Collection for the Game Cube. My best friend and I loved playing this game against each other. In fact, I don’t remember what other games where included in the collection. I hope this is one of the first games Nintendo and Sega release on the 3DS VC.
Trivia: This is the first western release of Puyo Puyo. In Japan, the game was released for the first time in Sonic’s Mega Collection for the Game Cube in 2002. The beans sprites are also used in the game Kirby's Avalanche, a Super NES refitting of Puyo Puyo by HAL Laboratory.
Release Date: April 26, 1991 Developer: SEGA Publisher: SEGA
There were two Shinobi games released for the Game Gear, and they were both great. In the first one, Joe Musashi, the Red Shinobi, must free his fellow Ninja from a Dark Force. As you free your fellow ninjas, you can switch over to them and use their unique skills in comabat. In Shinobi II: The Silent Fury, Joe must once again free his fellow ninjas in order to defeat the evil Black Ninja. The gameplay for the second game is basically the same. Since both games are very similar, I would like to play them in order, starting with Shinobi.
Trivia: When debuting in the Shinobi series, Musashi was designed with an outfit that would be described by IGN as "thoroughly traditional", whereas Sega would coordinate later characters with a post-modern aesthetic. Musashi's primary weapons in most games are shuriken or kunai-like throwing knives. He also has a sword named Hazy Moon that he can charge for a powerful special attack. Joe Musashi was critically received so well, that he has continued to be often featured in retrospective top lists even many years after he has last starred in any game. As such, he was included in many lists of the ten best ninja characters in video games.
Release Date: November 1, 1991 Developer: SEGA Publisher: SEGA
The Ninja Gaiden series started as an Arcade Game beat’em up in the vein of Final Fight (before Final Fight). The series was later adapted to the NES and Game Boy before it made its appearance on the SEGA Game Gear. In the Game Gear game, Ryu Hayabusa must try to stop an evil organization from starting World War III.
The Game Gear version of the game plays similarly to the NES games. Ryu runs from left to right and attacks enemies with his sword and subweapons. It also features cutscenes like the NES games. While not as good as the NES games, Ninja Gaiden for the Game Gear is still a fun game.
Trivia: This was the first time a game in the series was released bearing the Ninja Gaiden label worldwide, and not being retitled neither Ninja Ryūkenden in Japan nor Shadow Warriors in Europe, as was the series usually known in both regions.
Release Date: 1995 Developer: Freestyle Publisher: U.S. Gold
Mega Man is the only game of the series to be released on the Game Gear. Even though it is named Mega Man, it is not a remake of the original game. The game features both Dr. Cossack and Dr. Wily and elements from Mega Man 4 and 5. I have always loved the Mega Man series, especially the NES games. I hope that we are fortunate enough to receive this rare version of the series once Game Gear games start to appear in the 3DS VC.
Trivia: Even though it's shown to be Skull Castle before fighting Dr. Wily, it’s Cossack Citadel that's exploding at the end of the game. Dr. Cossack is also never mentioned. On the stage select, Star Man's icon is miscolored green. Given the smaller screen size, players often must do a leap-of-faith, hoping to land on another platform, as you often cannot see what is below. Unlike most other Mega Man games, you're only allowed to have two buster shots on-screen at once, instead of three. Also, a fully-charged buster shot does 4 units of damage instead of 3 in this game. The Robot Masters act and move considerably faster and more aggressively than their NES counterparts. The styling, but not the color palettes, of the Robot Masters and level tiles in this game is similar to that of Mega Man: The Wily Wars.
Most of the weaponry in this game is simplified to "(Robot Master name) Weapon" when you gain it. The Napalm Bomb and Rain Flush weapons are called "Bomb" and "Rain Weapon", respectively. The exception is the Star Crash, which is just called the "Crash Weapon." A Robot Master's weakness does 4 units of damage. Wave Man's theme was changed to Gravity Man's theme for this game. Wave Man also has no weakness outside of the Mega Buster. Skull Castle consists of Quick Man's stage and a hallway which leads to the final battle with Dr. Wily, as well as a small final Wily stage that was taken from Mega Man 5. When Mega Man defeats Dr Wily, he does a final move, like he is getting a weapon, which is unnecessary.
Streets of Rage Series
Release Date: 1992 Developer: SEGA Publisher: SEGA
The Streets of Rage series is the SEGA equivalent of Final Fight. The Game Gear versions are ports of the first two games in the series. The first game features two playable characters Axel and Blaze (it doesn’t feature Adam). The second game features all three characters from the second Genesis game, Axel, Blaze, and Skate. I am most interested in playing the second game because the graphics and animation are better, plus all the playable characters are there.
Trivia: The Game Gear version of the first game suffers from poor color palette and gameplay. It also omits Adam from the game and does not have the sprite animation for kneeing enemies. It features 2 players support by cable link. It also has only 6 rounds instead of 8. The Master System version has a different graphic engine and gameplay mechanics, not being a port from the Game Gear version as was used to be in the late years of the system. It also features a boss on Round 6 which is not found in any other version of the game. It lacks 2 player support.
Sonic Drift Series
Release Date: March 18, 1994 Developer: SEGA Publisher: SEGA
The Sonic Drift Series is a spin-off of the Sonic the Hedgehog games in which the characters race in carts just like in the Mario Kart series. The original game features Sonic, Tails, Amy, and Dr. Robotnik. It was only released in Japan, until recently where it has appeared in compilations. The sequel features new characters Metal Sonic, Fang the Sniper, and Knuckles, in addition to the characters from the first game. This game was released internationally. The objective for both games is the same; you race to obtain the chaos emeralds. Even though the first game is rarer, I am most interested in playing the second game, which features more characters.
Trivia for Sonic Drift: The invincible theme is an 8-bit sped up version of "Sonic - You Can Do Anything" from Sonic CD. This is the first time Sonic is driving a car. He has since driven cars in Sonic Drift 2, Sonic Adventure 2, and Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing.
Trivia for Sonic Drift 2: Despite the fact that the original Sonic Drift was only released in Japan, this game was still released in the US as a sequel without any change in the title whatsoever (probably confusing many American gamers). Knuckles' name was spelled "Knucles" on the character screen due to space limitations. Tails' car is based off various Caterham models. Knuckles' car is based off of AMC General's Hummer H1. All of the vehicles, with the exception of Blue Devil and Marvelous Queen, are named in relation to wind or air. All character's are seen on the box art exept for Fang.
Sonic the Hedgehog Series
Release Date: December 1991 Developer: Ancient Publisher: SEGA
The Sonic the Hedgehog series started on the Genesis. As was common with many Genesis games of the time, Sonic the Hedgehog got 8-bit versions released for the Sega Master System and the Game Gear. The games feature similar gameplay and stories to the Genesis games. Sonic runs from left to right collecting rings and fighting robots with little animals trapped inside.
Sonic Triple Trouble was a much more ambitious game. It is bigger in size like the Genesis games Sonic and Tails can use a “Flying Spin Attack” and Tails can fly. It also featured Knuckles and Nack the Sniper, in addition to Robotnik.
Sonic Chaos is the last 8-bit Sonic game. You can play as either Sonic or Tails and they both handle differently. For the first time in the 8-bit series, both characters are able to perform the Spin Dash introduced in the 16-bit version of Sonic 2. Sonic can also use rocket boots while Tails moves slower but has more lives and continues.
All of the Sonic games for the Game Gear are awesome, but I am most interested in playing Sonic Triple Trouble, since it is the game that comes closest to the Genesis experience.
Trivia for Sonic the Hedgehog: The background music for the Bridge Zone was, years later, remixed as Tails' theme music in Sonic Adventure, "Believe in Myself". The credit's theme bears resemblance to the day theme of Savannah Citadel.
Trivia for Sonic the Hedgehog 2: The music for Green Hills Zone was later used as the theme song for the Japanese and European versions of Sonic CD, where it is called "Sonic: You Can Do Anything". A remix of the tune is also used for Mecha Green Hill Zone in Sonic Chaos.
Trivia for Sonic Triple Trouble: In August 1995, a 48-page comic titled and loosely based on Sonic Triple Trouble was released. The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog image of Dr. Robotnik is seen in the front box cover. The theme of Sunset Park Act 3 is actually an unused track from Sonic Chaos except with a lower pitch. In the "special thanks" of the credits, an "H. Kojima" is credited. It is unknown if this refers to Hideo Kojima, the famed creator of the Metal Gear series. Sonic Triple Trouble along with 19 other Game Gear and Master System games were released on the Coleco Sonic. Playing as Tails in Tidal Planet, you can use a submarine that would latter appear in Tails Adventure.
Trivia for Sonic Chaos: This is the first Game Gear / Master System game in which Tails is playable. Since it wasn't possible for the player to make Tails fly in the earlier Mega Drive game Sonic the Hedgehog 2(where he only was seen flying automatically to catch up with Sonic in the levels), this is the first game in which his flight can be controlled by the player. This was the first game in the series to actually show how fast Sonic was moving through zones with a Km/h Speedometer sign post at the end of each act. Only two other Sonic games have adopted this: Sonic Labyrinth and Sonic Unleashed. In the Cast part of the credits, Tails' name is written as "Miles Power" instead of "Miles Prower".
Tune in next time for my last Top Ten 3DS Virtual Console Wishist which will focus on the Sega Genesis. I know it's not officially announced but, I honestly think it's an inevitability. Even though the next one will be my last 3DS Virtual Console Top Ten, that doesn't mean I'm done with the retro consoles on the 3DS. Remember after all, there's still a little something called 3D Classics which will feature NES and SNES games.
Coming up next...
Top Ten 3DS Virtual Console Part 6: Genesis
Top Ten 3D Classics Part 1: NES
Top Ten 3D Classics Part 2: SNES
Honorable Mentions: Tails Adventure, Shinning Force: Sword of Hajya
You got a few of your videos mixed up, # 5 and #4 aren't the videos for those games.
Otherwise, great list! I remember playing me some Columns back in the days!
Thanks. I checked the videos, but I don't see any problems. Ninja Gaiden and Mega Man seem to have the appropriate videos on my end. I was editing the page while you were reading, maybe that was the problem.
I've played a little bit of the Sonic Drift games on the Sonic Adventure DX collection...meh. Pretty standard old-school sprite racing games. Definitely nowhere near Mario Kart quality.
As for the other Sonic games, definitely get their Master System ports on the Wii's virtual console if portability isn't a concern. The increased screen space is a pretty big deal, especially in Sonic 2 where the first boss is madness inducing when you can't see where its attacks are coming from. I think Triple Trouble is the only one that wasn't also a Master System game, the other three should all be on the Wii's VC.
Shinobi, Mega Man, and Ninja Gaiden all look pretty interesting. Not terribly good, but interesting! Shinobi taking on a helicopter is sweet, I like how you can run and slash in Ninja Gaiden, and Mega Man...well, it looks like Mega Man 5 on a tiny screen, but hey that's kind of impressive when considered by Game Gear standards I guess!
There had to be some quality games for the GG outside of just Sega and one Mega Man game that wasn't even made by Capcom.
Sadly, not many. Unlike the other consoles and portables of the time, the Game Gear is one of those systems that you have to stick mostly with first party. The games I enjoyed the most that were not first party were Lion King, Mortal Kombat, and Batman Returns. The Mortal Kombat port really wasn't that good, Lion King was much better on the Genesis, and Batman Returns wasn't good enough for the list. I almost put in the Shining Force games, but they are really not my cup of tea. The Genesis, on the other hand, has a lot of great third party games. In fact, I'm looking at my list right now, and it's about 60% third party developers and 40% SEGA, even though SEGA published some of the third party games.
Speaking of the Genesis list, I'm writing the blurbs right now. I might have it out by tomorrow, if not Tuesday or Wednesday. By the way @chrisbg99, you mentioned that you were expecting a Nomad list next. I told you I wouldn't release it until it was officially confirmed by Nintendo. But then I thought, what the hell, I'll just do it now and have a Genesis (Nomad) 3DS VC wishlist before every other site out there.
Man, these games look rough. While it seems logical to segregate downloadable classic console games to the Wii and classic portable games to the 3DS, it seems silly to me, the consumer, to buy games that are generally inferior. The 3DS is capable of emulating the games on the Wii VC (heck, my phone can play SNES games), and I'd always take a NES or SNES version of Mega Man over a Game Gear version, for example. I guess if it's all that's being offered, people will settle for the these classic portable games, but I'm not going to get excited about a marketplace that's purposely limited in such a way.
Very insightful! I once owned a Game Gear back in the day, I loved Sonic the Hedgehog, and I simply could not resist the bright colors on the portable system. I saved up my money for a long time to add the system to my collection (I already had the Game Boy as well).
But I didn't own the Game Gear for long. I can't remember the exact circumstances, but I ended up selling the Game Gear, perhaps in an attempt to solidify and expand my growing library of Nintendo games, which I had discovered were really my favorite games.
But! I will never forget the memories of owning the Game Gear for that brief period in my youth, and I anticipate being able to play some of the Sega classics I missed out on.
And going through the list, I must say a lot of this is new to me. I really wasn't aware of Ninja Gaiden or Mega Man even existing on the Game Gear.
@roykoopa64 I also sold my Game Gear back in the day and focused on Nintendo. I have to say, this was actually the hardest list to make, being that there aren't too many quality titles for the system. The Genesis, however, has a lot of awesome titles and it was fun settling on the final 10. The 3D Classics for NES and SNES were fun to whittle down too, but I want to revisit them to make sure that the games I chose are my final 10, on both systems.
I completely forgot that there was a Mega Man game for the Game Gear! I read about it a long time ago, but since I don't have a Game Gear I never had the opportunity to play it. I'd like that to come to the 3DS Virtual Console (along with the rest of the Game Boy games too).