Gaming Stories: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Game Gear)
I’ve mentioned that I was on Sega’s side during the great 16-bit console war. That’s not to say that my backpack was emblazoned with a patch declaring Genesis does what Nintendon’t or that I declared my schoolmates who had Game Boys to be heretics that needed to be smitten. However, I did own a Sega Game Gear, rather proudly at the time, and that’s probably a heavier burden than carrying a great crusade against Captain N and the N Team because the Game Gear was a bulky, battery-consuming handheld gaming device.
The size and weight of the Game Gear doesn’t strike you until you compare it against something more familiar. Maybe that’s why I was partial to the PlayStation Portable for so long; it reminded me of the Game Gear.
Of course, the Game Gear always felt like a paper tiger. For all its size and hunger for electricity, it always felt strangely fragile. The black plastic casing never felt like it could withstand a fall of more than a foot, and the screen didn’t seem that much bigger than a Game Boy’s screen, even if it could show color.
The Game Gear’s need for power meant that I rarely played it during long childhood car rides. I didn’t have a car adapter, so I couldn’t rely on the Game Gear lasting the duration of those car rides. And if the Game Gear died, my entertainment options were limited to staring at passing scenery and traffic. This meant that I usually played the Game Gear at home, where it could be comfortably hooked to a wall outlet via AC adapter, an ignoble fate for an intriguing device.
My enduring memory of the Game Gear is directly connected to one of the most infuriating gaming experiences from my childhood: Sonic the Hedgehog 2. I loved the cases for Game Gear cartridges, and the cartridges had a nice little grip for ease of entry and removal.
To this day, I have not finished Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Game Gear. I’ve watched Let’s Play walkthrough videos on YouTube, so I know what lay beyond stage 2, the Sky High Zone, but I can’t claim the satisfaction of beating the game. Sometimes, I would get stuck at the first boss. Sometimes I wouldn’t make it through that damned hang-gliding section in Sky High Zone’s second act, at which point I would have to stop myself from (spin)dashing the Game Gear upon the floor in anger. It was particularly galling to discover that stage 3 was called the Green Hill Zone. Why would they name the third stage of the game after the first stage of every other Sonic the Hedgehog game? Why couldn’t I handle the hang-glider well enough to make it through that section? The system for operating that hang-glider made no sense to me when I was a child, and the gusts of wind that would have carried me upward from the oblivion of the screen’s bottom never seemed to come in time to save me.
I’ve been tempted to hunt down a secondhand Game Gear and a copy of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. I’ve even been tempted to just download an emulator and the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 ROM. But what would I gain from beating it now? What would happen if my gaming skills have eroded to the point where I can’t beat it? The cost of the possibility of failure might outweigh the possible gain of shedding this anchor to childhood memories. For now, Sonic and Tails still stand unconquered, sometimes wagging his index finger at me, sometimes giving me a thumbs up sign.