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volume 1, issue 41

Today in loonygames:

New!! The Archives have been cleaned up, fead links fixed, and printable versions restored! Also, don't miss the new comments on the front page!

Livin' With The Sims: theAntiELVIS explores the wild and wacky world that is Will Wright's The Sims, asking the inevitable quesiton, "is The Sims the first step toward a virtual life where everyone is Swedish?"

Pixel Obscura: Josh Vasquez on Omikron: The Nomad Soul.

Real Life: Check out our newest comic strip, Real Life! Updated daily!

User Friendly: Updated daily!

Related Links:

Game Boy for President: Nick F's love for the Game Boy.

Game Programming in the 21st Century: James Hague's look at the future of the industry, and how the GameBoy will affect it.

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Artwork: Hey, dig the artwork on loonygames? We're selling some of the original art.

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Random Feature :

Inside Raven Software: Our definitive history of the company behind Hexen, Heretic and other classics.

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Put a Little Love in Your Pocket!

By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman

 

While there have been many various GameBoy systems over the years, it's important to remember that there were a multitude of would-be handheld consoles that simply didn't sell well enough to compete. It's currently estimated that the GameBoy system holds more than incredible 99% of the handheld market. But, there have been attempts to overthrow the king.

When the GameBoy first debuted, Atari was banking their comeback on a goofy looking system called the Lynx. This system, which was far more sophisticated technologically, allowing for SNES-style scaled graphics (in color!), and a sound chip that more than rivaled the 16-bit systems of its day, was pretty much doomed by poor sales. The Lynx was pretty strange to look at. In a somewhat odd design decision, Atari gave the system the ability to be flipped upside down so left-handed gamers could easily play. What this did, was require every system to have twice the controls…jacking up the price well above the GameBoy (which has always been relatively inexpensive).


While the system never took off, games like Slime World were definitely great.

But, despite the high price, the Lynx did have its moments. Its multiplayer capabilities were extremely advanced. Because it used a daisy-chain method for linking systems (as opposed to the peer-to-peer system employed by the GameBoy) you could theoretically hook up an unlimited number of systems together. No game ever supported more than eight players…but the technology was there for more. The system had some decent games available as well: Todd's Adventures in Slime World, a great port of Gauntlet, and an arcade-perfect translation of Klax (that was far better than its Genesis sibling) were just a few. And all of those supported multiplayer. It's a shame more people didn't buy the system…it was rare to actually find anyone to play against!

Sega, always one step behind Nintendo, released their Game Gear system shortly after the GameBoy and Lynx hit the market. The Game Gear was basically a portable Sega Master System (an adapter was later available that allowed Game Gear owners to play SMS titles). The system had a full color screen, and a nicely contoured case. It was noticeably heavier than the other systems out there, and like the Lynx, it wasn't exactly "pocket sized" (even the GameBoy couldn't really claim that until the GameBoy Pocket was released years later…but it was the smallest of the initial crop). The Game Gear had a few decent titles available, but many of them were cheap ports of better Genesis and Sega Master System titles (most notably the pretty good version of Sonic the Hedgehog that was available). One other interesting thing about the Game Gear was its TV Tuner add-on. As Sega was always the gizmo company (the 32X, SegaCD, and failed Genesis Modem being a few lame examples), they released a TV Tuner add-on for their portable system. The add-on worked fairly well, but the screen was sort of blurry, and the tuner too expensive to make it a truly successful accessory. Ultimately, the Game Gear managed to succeed mildly on the coattails of Sega's success with the Genesis, but it never really developed as its own system, despite its several years of existence. Since such a large portion of the software released were ports of existing games, it just never got the audience it could have.

 

(Continued on next page)

 

Credits: Illustration © 1999 Michael Krahulik. This article is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't try it, or I'll sick my Pikachu on your ass.