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WHY WE ALL LOVE THE MegaDrive/Genesis – Part 1

January 10, 2017

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Hi guys & grrrls, this time it’s all about the glory SEGA 16-bit system the Mega Drive/Genesis, the MegaCD/SEGA CD and the 32X. About the 32X I have already written an article, so if you want read my opinion about it, please click link.

https://xanafalgue.wordpress.com/2016/05/21/the-32x-incident-a-mushroom-in-the-sega-universe-was-nintendo-behind/

But now it’s time to talk why we all love the MegaDrive/Genesis … yes ALL love the MegaDrive/Genesis!1 There’s no exception accepted … submit to SEGA 16-bit!!  😉

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On part 1&2 I start with some gossip around the system and will continue from part 3 on into the games. This will be a longer term project divided in many parts. Don’t know how many … we’ll see …

I simply love the SEGA 16-bit universe till today and the machine has a massive fanbase out there … so we’ll show the reasons why the system is still today so popular by so many gamers. I love the SNES really too … but I had and have a special crush to the MegaDrive/Genesis aka SEGA 16-bit!

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THE SYSTEM – THE 16-bit PIONEER

The MegaDrive/Genesis was the first real pioneer of the 16-bit era, it was not only a couple of weeks or months before the SNES on the market, but whopping two years before!! I think many gamer forget that when discussing these both systems.

Despite of the early release date the MegaDrive/Genesis (end 1988 jp/1989 US/1990 EU), the software developed great over the years and delivered many classics, especially in the golden 16-bit time, which I would date from beginning 1991 to end 1994!

It does not matter that the SNES came whopping two years later after the MD and so has better graphic capabilities … or the Mega Drive with its fast main-processor outperforming the SNES in case of pure CPU power. Both have their strength and weaknesses and a great library … both systems have their fans … and I’m one of the Mega Drive/Genesis guys 🙂

Another competitor was the PC-Engine (aka Turbo Grafx aka Tubo Duo), launched at the end of the 8-bit lifespan October 1987 on the Japanese market, so exactly one year before the Mega Drive in October 1988 started. The PC-Engine was a mix of 8 and 16 bit technology. It has a 8-bit CPU, but a 16-bit video color encoder and a 16-bit video display controller. It was a machine between the two worlds. Cause of the 8-bit main CPU some regard it as a 8-bit machine, others count it to the 16-bit gen cause of its release date and 16-bit components … and from its capabilities it was for sure a next gen console of its time and not a competitor of the “last gen” 8-bit systems, but for the upcoming Mega Drive … and later SNES … but the SNES not so really, it still lasted full three years after the PC-Engine release for the Super Famicom/SNES to come. So it was more a competition between SEGAs 16-bit machine and NEC/Hudsons PC-Engine.

But back to topic … lets take a look onto the first real 16-bit machine and so also known as the pioneer of the 16-bit era.

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Here I want insert some local infos. While the Mega Drive/Genesis was very successful in the USA, South America and the UK … Germany was SNES-land! The Mega Drive had a suggested market share of 30% here. But that was no problem, the availability of hardware and games was everywhere, no matter to purchase something or to rent for a weekend from a video shop, and thx to the success in the other markets and the really good support from Japanese developers the Mega Drive stayed through the 16-bit era a serious competitor for Nintendos 16-bit machine. Thx to the massive success on the US and UK market, many western games were also released on the system … hmmm, but the western games are a mixed bag, the best software for the machine are Japanese games (!). But there are of course also some real important releases from western developers on the system like the Strike series from EA, Mega Turrican, Micro Machines, the Vectorman games and others. Especially in the sound-department many of the western Mega Drive/Genesis games are often a mixed bag up to odd (not all, but many) … while so many Japanese games shines with a great sound! But the games we will start to discuss in a later part …

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As written above, the Mega Drive/Genesis came two years before the SNES, again … I think many people forget this in the discussion of the two consoles. But it is a certain point! The hardware-developement was so much faster and more impressive than today … with the result of serious graphical jumps nearly in annual cycle! Especially younger people maybe don’t know how fast the developement back than was … older gamer who had a PC in the 90’s know what I’m talking about 😉 I will show some examples about that in part 2 of my MegaDrive story.

Additional … most SNES games running of course purely on SNES hardware, but many forget how many SNES games were supported by internal chips inside the cardridge to push the slow main CPU or other specs … I don’t want criticize the SNES/Nintendo for that, it was simply part of the hardware strategy by Nintendo, and it was a clever one imo … but regarding the pure hardware power means, many games wouldn’t run on the system we know them without the additional hardware build in the cardridges … and Big N simply had the money to do/support the system in that kind. The MegaDrive games had no chips in it, its pure MegaDrive/Genesis power! Except Virtua Racing supported by SEGAs SVP-chip and of course the 32X games.

The most know only the Super FX-chip (e.g. Starfox, Yoshis Island, Doom), but the SNES enhancement chips was a much more complex theme. Here’s a link, scroll down the chips descriptions to see all the games released with an enhancement chip. Very interesting topic!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Super_NES_enhancement_chips

The Mega Drive/Genesis was a real powerhouse for a console of its time. And two years was technically a big time-span back the time, Nintendo knew that. Nintendo, the absolute dominant world market leader of the 8 bit times, knew they had to deliver.

Why Nintendo reacted so late??? It’s was simply the Famicom/NES cashcow Nintendo was not willing to stop – so they took the risk to enter the 16-bit era 2-3 years later after their competitiors (PC-Engine/MD).

Damn … I want later to write an SNES article ^^ … but lets fly back  …

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This time-gap gave SEGA the long awaited chance to break into the totally Nintendo dominated marked of the mid to end 80’s/beginning of the early 90’s. Nintendo was so mighty back then in the 8-bit era and was able to control the third party developer and publisher market with gag contracts … to force them to sign contracts to release games exclusively for Nintendos hardware … or to be out of business. With a market share of around 90% in the 8-bit era, most publishers had no choice but to submit.

But milking their Famicom/NES cashcow to the end … gave their competitors an open flank and NEC/Hudson Soft and SEGA tried to break the market with their new machines.

End of part 1 – next we will still discuss the system and anything around, before we step with part 3 into the games.

Sry that I do my posts so unregular, I do it when I have time and I’m in the mood to … it’s simply a fun project.

Happy gaming

Cheers

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