Is that a SEGA arcade in your pocket?

A little over a month ago I went to my family cabin in northern Minnesota. It had been nearly seven years since I had last been there, and yet when I went back to the same bargain warehouse that I had been to back in 2003 I found the exact same SEGA Tiger LCD handhelds that I had seen hanging on the pegs all those years ago. Guess nobody wanted them.

The Tiger SEGA Pocket Arcade line hit stores during the Saturn years at a time when the clunky old Tiger handhelds were on their way out. Tiger, it seemed, was struggling in a world of Game Boy Colors and was attempting to use the names of big name SEGA Saturn console titles to sell cheap little flip open handhelds. I’m going to assume Tiger failed as a good number of these were found at an overstock warehouse, marked down from $15 to $8 to a final $4.79.

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6 responses to “Is that a SEGA arcade in your pocket?

  1. Centrale says:

    Great write up! Just one thing, though… those are LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), not LED (Light Emitting Diode).

  2. Thanks!

    d'oh, my bad! making the change. I blame drinking. 🙂

  3. ImSmartUrDum says:

    Some of these games were also released as plug-in carts (screen included) for Tiger's interchangable 'R-Zone' console.

    I myself own the Panzer Dragoon cart 🙂

  4. Nice! Gagaman did a great write up of the SEGA R-Zone games over at SEGA Memories, check it out: http://sega-memories.blogspot.com/2010/04/tigers-

    I'd prefer portable Panzer Dragoon to crap like Bug!

  5. Kori-Maru says:

    Cool article, I use to own the Virtua Fighter LCD game.

  6. ibnelson says:

    Thanks for the post.

    Those games pictured are not the first generation of the Pocket Arcade: The first generation button configuration was much more simple. I was the designer of the first LCD Pocket Arcade games series (character design and animation layout), working on Eternal Champions, Sonic, Ecco, Baseball and Football.

    Some of the original artwork is posted at my Website at:
    http://ibnelson.com/eternalChampions/eternalChamp

    As time permits I intend to post more of the original art.

    The product interface had to be redesigned because there was a problem with the 1st chip: it would not support enough UI elements and the sound at the same time. If I remember correctly, the case also had to be reworked because of the chip change. Half the team was from the USA and half from Japan. The American side wore shorts and t-shirts and the Japanese engineers wore dark suits and dark ties. We met on the 3rd floor of the Sega building in Redwood City in a corner room with a great view. Sega toys were everywhere as we were not the "Game Division", THAT was in another building a few blocks away and was ultra top secret. I accidently stopped at the wrong floor one day and came face to face with a 4-foot Sonic. Security quickly closed the door. I never found out what went on at that floor.

    We only had a couple of weeks to get Eternal Champions up and running for the New York Toy Fair, but made the impossible deadline. Eternal Champions was a huge success and afterwards I was hailed as a "hero" and given a large raise in pay but was booted from the project only weeks later for some unknown reason. Politics.

    The game was set up in New York as a large Pocket Arcade mockup, with the small screen replaced by a television monitor. Another artist replaced me and the tiny tiny tiny figures were slightly reworked before the production games came out. I later met the replacement artist at a job fair and when he realized who I was he went white as a sheet, thinking that I was going to leap over the table and kill him (as he told me). But I told him it was OK, I wasn't mad at HIM: he had nothing to do with the way the project was operated. my termination was rather rude. I showed up at the regular weekly design meeting (we were working on Ecco) and was told I "wasn't supposed to show up unless invited". I went downstairs and that was that.

    No regrets though except one: I had to buy my own copies of the game. I had a great time with a good story to tell people in later years. I used to give art/cartoon presentations in schools and take my games to show until some kids broke them.

    The first Sonic handheld had a major flaw: the company did NOT include the gold rings. I got a copy to test and found that kids played the game once put it down and never picked it up again. Company did not like what I reported back. I did a redesign that was the special moves rings and balls only, on a left and right curved track with Sonic moving left and right to catch rings or avoid deadly balls, but the idea was rejected (it was super hard to design in LCD – I thought it was my best design of the series – oh well).

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