Mega Drive did what Nintendidn't!

As you probably know by this blog, Dreamcast is my gaming system of all time. Yet, it is not my first Sega love; that would go to the Sega Mega Drive. 

Although not as yearned for as the Dreamcast, or as successful in its homeland as the Saturn, the Mega Drive, or Gensis, depending which side of the pond you are, outsold both and went on to become Sega's finest hour becoming Sega's biggest selling console ever (outselling the SNES in both North America and Europe). Well why? Sega's Mega Drive was perhaps the first games console to really capture the public eye and go mainstream and for the first time ever playing computer games was no longer the haunt of the 'geek'. It was Sega's finest hour, but sadly also it's last great success as we know, after the Mega Drive financially things went downhill fast for the Japanese company, resulting in them leaving the console hardware market altogether.

Still stunning to this today,  I love the subtle design of the PAL version.16-BIT! 

The 16-bit era for me a kind of golden era of gaming and a special time to be have an interest in the hobby. It is difficult to put it into words, and I am sure screen shots do not do it justice. The games were just so colorful and fun and to top it off  you had a special kind of devotion to your console which you don't feel with modern gaming. And as any child growing up during the era knows the Mega Drive had one serious rival - Nintendo's SNES. At school there were two main groups, the people who had a SNES and the people who had a Mega Drive. It was akin to supporting a football team, you chose which console you wanted and that was an identity you had!

The controller (especially 2nd version) is one of the comfortable controllers and perfect for fighting games

While SNES owners would tell you that their console was technically superior (although it had a slower processor), had the benefit of being the sequel to the highly popular NES console and to top it off had Mario. Yet, the Mega Drive won out in the popularity stakes, thanks to its cool ad campaign, competitive pricing and tie-ins with famous stars of the era such as "feel the world' Michael Jackson,and of course, Sonic the Hedgehog.

At last Sonic in two player, if only Tales wasn't so shit! 

Back in those days it seemed that a console needed a flagship game, or character to define it. While Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic the Hedgehog, and thankfully for Sega people seemed to prefer the Hedgehog. The Sonic series was always immensely popular, and even tended to come boxed with new Mega Drives. It was the game that defined the console, Sonic was sleek, fast and extremely cool and the sheer speed of the game made Mario look rather turgid in comparison. It also gave Sega a chance to emphasize the superiority of their processor over the SNES' with the infamous "Blast Processing/ Nintendon't" advertisements.

Sega were highly successful in their marketing of the console

The Mega Drive may be old hat now, but in it's day it was an advanced piece of kit. It had 16-bit graphics which at the time looked great, and as it used cartridges so games loaded instantly - a big advantage over computers like the Amiga or the Atari ST. The real strength of the console's architecture was its processor, The Motorola 68000 was a handy piece of equipment (for its time) and could handle processes much faster than the Super Nintendo, the name "Mega Drive" was even said to represent its speed.

Be 'Michael' and help the children.

Of course what really makes a console great is its games. Luckily, the system was well endowed in this department with loads of fantastic titles to choose from, most which are still highly playable today . Of course it was the Sonic series that were naturally very popular, and rightly so, they were good games. The Shining Force series of RPG games were immensely popular too, as were the early FIFA games by EA. (back when EA still made enjoyable games.) I remember many a weekend spent playing FIFA 95 with my friend, being undone by the corner 'cheat'.

One of my favourite games though was Micro Machines 2. While the Mega Drive only came with two controller ports, you could buy 'multi taps' that let you plug in up to eight control pads. Then came along the fantastic Micro Machine's J-cartridge which came with two built in joypad ports, allowing 4 controllers to be connected. With 2 people sharing a controller up to eight people could in theory also play at once, although that can get a bit messy! Still the game is awesome for evenings with your mates, and the four player can only be matched by the excellent Mega Drive conversion of Bomberman. 

This game made multiplayer. British engineering at its best!  

In spite of its eventual slide from its zenith the Mega Drive can't be understated. The first console to offer real 16-bit arcade action in the home and it played host of the some of the grandest games of all time. It even went on to secure the premier position both in Europe and US (some Nintendo never managed to achieve ever) and while Sega's record went on to take somewhat of a bashing in subsequent generations those who give it a go today can still sense the excitement of what made this console so appearing. Furthermore, in this age of complex modern gaming in which you need to learn your sixteenth button combination to operate your 3rd arm, there is something so relaxing and exhilarating about playing such technical, yet simple classic games like those on the the Mega Drive. Heck, you can even put the entire library on a CD and use your Dreamcast to emulate it! If you want the real McCoy though, there's a ton of enjoyable, great games which can be bought for practically peanuts and the cherry on top of the Sega cake is that the games won't take you AGES to learn how to play....see what we did there? where's that 32X!?