The 25 June 2020 of Weekly Famitsu features an interview with Sega’s Miyazaki Hiroyuki and Okunari Yousuke regarding development of the Game Gear Micro.
Okunari says that the entire group wanted to make something “different from usual” for Sega’s 60th anniversary, and the idea for the Game Gear Micro came from Sega Toys. Other ideas were for a re-release of the Robo Pitcher or Zillion laser tag gun.
Miyazaki mentions that he was involved with other 60th anniversary projects, and that there are “really amazing” things planned, but they were all called off due to COVID-19. He says that he wishes they could have at least announced them, and says that he hopes that they can do a special on what got called off after the pandemic is over.
The Game Gear Micro is also being affected by the virus, as manufacturing is being done in Taiwan, but Miyazaki says that the production lines are recovering and the project is getting back on track.
When asked about why the Game Gear Micro is a “micro” and not a “mini”, Miyazaki says it is because it was approached with a different philosophy from the Mega Drive Mini. The Mega Drive Mini was made as a means of discourse for the “age of the Mega Drive”, while the Game Gear Micro was developed on the concept of “gimmicks”, where the aim is to have people be surprised at how small and cute it is.
Okunari says that it is “a miniature that you can also play”, something that can be used as a keychain. He also points out that unlike the Mega Drive Mini which aimed to stay faithful to the original, the design of the Game Gear Micro is caricaturised in ways as well such as by having bigger buttons.
The interviewer expresses concern at being able to play the games given the size of the screen, and Okunari says that M2 had the Micro playtested by people in their 40s and 50s and found it to be playable before they decided to put RPGs in.
Okunari says that they have the same staff as the Mega Drive Mini working on the Micro, who are looking at the control and display responsiveness. They are also using experience such as with the development of the D-pad on the Dreamcast’s Visual Memory Unit to make it easy to control.
The Micro itself weighs roughly 30-40 grams, and adding the 20 grams for two AAA batteries would put it at just under 60 grams.
Okunari says that they are still making adjustments, but hope to be able to make the batteries last longer than the original Game Gear’s, which got roughly 3 hours of use out of six AA batteries. The Micro will warn the player when low on batteries, and has the same four save state slots as the Mega Drive Mini which can be used to easily save the game. The Micro can also be powered by USB.
The 16 games were chosen by Okunari himself, who says he did so based on data such as sales and magazine rankings, and responses they got when games were released on the 3DS Virtual Console.
They initially planned to have one game per Micro, but figured that customers would not want to buy too many of them, and switched to having three games each on three version. This later increased to four games each on four versions.
When asked about why each version has a puzzle game, Okunari says that they originally planned to have each version focus on a single series such as having a Sonic pack or a Puyo Puyo pack, but felt that players would feel like they are just playing the same game, and decided to vary up the genres. Shining Force is the exception because the first two games are actually two parts of the same story, and having Final Conflict alone be separate felt wrong.
Okunari also says that there was also feedback from players who said that they only wanted to play Shining Force, and the fourth title, Nazo Puyo is there for players to take a break from Shining Force. He also mentions feedback from the Mega Drive Mini, where players said that they purchased it to play Land Stalker or Streets of Rage ended up mostly playing Tetris and Columns, and says that he thinks puzzle games are easy to pick up.
Sound on the Game Gear Micro works like the original’s. They were originally only going to have it come from the built-in speakers, but the opinion within the team was that because the Game Gear has stereo sound they would need headphone jacks, and so added them which ended up raising the cost of the console.
The main menu has new music this time as well. Unlike the Mega Drive Mini, which has Koshiro Yuuzou composing, the music is this time handled by M2’s sound staff Chibi-Tech, previously known for working on new music for the Sega Ages releases of Outrun and Fantasy Zone.
Miyazaki says that while Sega is now a content provider, being a hardware developer in the past is something that remains in their DNA, and the Game Gear Micro is something that they can pass on to the future. He says that personally, however, he will be satisfied if people are surprised at how small it is, because the original Game Gear was heavy and would not fit into a pocket, while the Micro is light and you could fit all four into a pocket.
Okunari says that people who enjoyed the Mega Drive Mini will surely like the Game Gear Micro, and hopes that they consider purchasing the pack including the Big Window Micro or the Sega Store’s DX pack, and that his next project will be decided on by the response to this.