While the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console service has brought some great (and a few forgettable) Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy titles back for an encore, today marks the first time that a non-Nintendo system has debuted on the handheld retro gaming service. Sega is launching three Game Gear titles today in North America — Sonic Triple Trouble, Shinobi, and Dragon Crystal — and has gone the extra mile to not just release the games, but to recreate the original Game Gear experience. 1UP's Retronauts blog details the many options available to players.
Want the original pixel resolution? Rather than having to hold down a button at start-up, Game Gear emulation allows you to swap between three different looks on the fly with the press of a button on the lower screen: Standard, a full-screen style that stretches graphics to fit the 3DS upper screen on both axes, and "dot by dot," the 1:1 pixel mode. Like the Game Boy emulation option, this gives you a tiny true resolution look surrounded by a simulated system -- but even here M2 takes it up a notch, offering three additional colors for the system frame beyond basic black.
The game graphics themselves can be forced to look as faithful to the original Game Gear screen as you like as well. M2 has added even greater fidelity with the ability to emulate both the blur of the Game Gear's screen and the slightly hollow look caused by the screen's backlighting. It's entirely possible to play an incredibly faithful rendition of Game Gear games on 3DS... though most people will likely elect to keep the blur and backlight effects off, because they're murder on the eyes. In fact, there's no reason not to play in the default view, since the quality of the graphical upscaling means that the default view doesn't feel like the compromise that it does with Game Boy and Game Boy Advance titles. But even if the bumper crop of options M2 has incorporated into the wrapper for these games is ultimately superfluous, it's a nice touch for fans of the classics -- a brief jolt of nostalgia to remind you how far handhelds have come in 20 years.
While I don't see myself using the blur or backlight simulation options regularly, I have to admit that I'm glad they're there. While preserving classic games is in style these days, maintaining the actual experience of playing those games is not. That's largely a good thing. Would you want an option that causes the Gear Gear Virtual Console games to fade out and die after two hours of play due to a battery drain emulation option (3DS battery life jokes notwithstanding)? Being able to play these older games on a bright, clear screen is one of the best parts of retro services like the Virtual Console. Dipping a toe into the past for a moment to see how things used to be, however, is also appreciated and encouraged. Nostalgia for some, history lesson for others.