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Ecco 2

Golden Axe

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Puggsy

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Mega Drive/Genesis Models Gallery

The Mega Drive or Genesis was without a doubt the best 16-Bit console of its time. It was the console that managed to break Nintendos monopolies on the console industry by inspiring the first great console war and winning a substantial market share.

It was this battle that brought the status of console games out from its somewhat limited audience out to the masses where it is today.

The Mega Drive was the platform in which the world was introduced to the phenomenon that is Sonic The Hedgehog.

History

Segas first foray into a home games console - the Master System did very little to dent the massive market share that Nintendo had. Their grip of 8-Bit machines was solid but these machines were fast becoming way of the dinosaur. For Sega to be successful they could not simply try again to steal Nintendos market. They needed to create a new market of their own. The time was right to create a new console based upon 16-Bit technology.

Newer computers of the day like the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST were of new 16-Bit design and the potential for them to play games and recreate the arcade machines of the time were bringing a new experience in gaming. Nowhere at the time a console could compete. Segas edge was to provide quality arcade conversions on a cheap, fast loading cartridge system based on newer 16-BIT technology.

Sega had already a rich arcade heritage thanks to the System 16 cabinets which drove titles like Afterburner 2, Space Harrier and Shinobi. As the name System 16 implies these were 16-BIT arcade machines. The plan was to being these games straight from the arcades into the home.

The internals of the system was basically derived straight from a System 16 arcade board. The CPU was slowed down from 10 Mhz to 7.87Mhz presumably to keep the price down, the ROMs were moved to a plugable medium - i.e cartridges rather than being burned into ROMs on the board and the monitor outputs were replaced with standard AV connectors for connecting to a TV. There was a little more tweaking inside but essentially that was it. The design was then encased in a sleek black case and the Mega Drive emerged. Its official in house name at that time was MK-1601. The name Mega Drive was derived from the use of the word mega to denote superiority of the newer games Sega were making compared to their old ones and drive conjured up images of an engine.

The advantage to this design was that System 16 games could be ported to the Mega Drive very easily since there were very similar in design getting some games for the new console relatively quickly and easily. The second inherent advantage to this design came from Segas engineering approach. Sega developed arcade boards by including newer components and technology to the already existing designs. Once the newer components had been proven a new board was derived entirely from the new components only removing the legacy built within them. The System 16 Arcade board contained remnants of the Master System design and thus the Mega Drive inherited an 8-Bit compatibility mode. With the Master System BIOS ROM that then instantly made available the entire software library of the Master System, Segas previous console. The ROM was put on an oversized cartridge and the first Mega Drive accessory was done.

The half moon controller design was the first of its time. Until that point controllers had usually been rectangular and generally had two buttons for character actions. Arcades machines already had more than 2 buttons. As the Mega Drive was to essentially be a home arcade machine 3 buttons were a must. In the future this would go onto 6. The pad design and its inherent curves made playing for hours much better.

There were other planned accessories such as keyboard, disk drive and graphics drawing tablet which eventually never came to market.

The design of the Mega Drive was to be then go on to become 3 more arcade boards, these being MegaJet, MegaTech and System C. These would be the platforms for taking some Mega Drive titles back into the arcades.

The core system itself managed to survive the two upgrade plans for it. Both the Mega CD and 32X were add-on units for the original Mega Drive design. You can read about them here. Needless to say these were in no way as successful as their base machine.

The system was in retail for 10 years in total and may well be the most remodelled and redesigned system ever. Check out the model gallery for more.

Japan

The Mega Drive launched in Japan 28th October 1988 for an initial price of 21000 yen. Titles available on launch on were Alex Kidd: The Enchanted Castle, Altered Beast, Space Harrier 2 and Super Thunder blade which were both ports of arcade games. Punters were initially amazed by the high definition graphics and stereo sound.

The system was received well but consumers soon went back to Nintendo who still had loads of third party developers making games for them locked into exclusive contracts.

The Mega Drive ultimately went on to achieve reasonable sales across Japan. Although never matching the runaway popularity as the western markets enough consoles were sold to make sure Sega were a serious threat to Nintendo.

US

The Mega Drive was renamed to Genesis for the launch in the US. This was because the name Mega Drive had already been trademarked by another company and in Hebrew the word genesis meant in the beginning which is what exactly were doing with their new console.

The system launched 15th September 1989 for an asking price of $190 which included the packaged title Altered Beast. The system launched with the titles Tommy Lasdora Baseball, Space Harrier 2, Thunder Force, Super Thunder Blade and Last Battle.

The system was well received and gamers instantly could tell the difference between Sega and Nintendo. The system did receive a little dent when the shortness of the games began to show through. This was soon rectified but the main driver behind the Genesis was sports games.

Titles from Sega Sports and EA kept the system riding high and the arrival of Sonic marked explosive success for the console ranking sales up further and managing to fight off the SNES which was expected to own the market.

The US was the main battlefield between Sega and Nintendo.

Europe

Sega were already popular in Europe thanks to the Master System with Britain being the stronghold. Nintendo were busy marketing their newly arrived Game Boy at the time.

The Mega Drive launched November 1990 with an initial price of 190 which included Altered Beast. Other titles available on launch were Alex Kidd: The Enchanted Castle, Space Harrier 2 and Super Thunder Blade.

The Mega Drive sold well initially and sales continued as more games came. The Sonic Boom also ripped through Europe driving sales up further and further.

The Mega Drive went on to be extremely popular and become the dominant console. It was still popular even after the launch of the Saturn and it continued in retail up until 1998 where it could be picked up with 6 games for around 60 in most high street stores.

Hardware

| Specifications |

CPU

Motorola M68000 16 bit processor @ 7.67MHz

Graphics

Sega Custom VDP
Colour Palette 512
Onscreen Colours 64
Maximum onscreen sprites 80
Resolution 320x224

Sound

Z80A running at 3.58 MHz
Yamaha YM2612 6 channel FM
4 channel PSG
14dB Signal to Noise Ratio

RAM

Work RAM 64Kbit
Video RAM 64Kbytes
Colour RAM 64 x 9bits
Sound RAM 8Kbytes

ROM

1Mbyte (8Mbit)

Outputs and Ports

Seperate RF and R.G.B output jacks. Also supports composite video
Stereo Headphone Jack 3.5mm (original model only)
9 Pin D RS232 socket (early original model only)
x2 9 Pin D sockets for Control Pads
AC power inlet
Expansion Edge Connector

The design of the Mega Drive was taken almost straight from Segas System 16 arcade boards. It is also a reasonably simplistic design being a CPU and VDP so programmers were not faced with daunting complexities.

The main CPU of the Mega Drive is a Motorola 68000 running at 7.67 Mhz which was the same as the original Apple Mac. This sounds like nothing today but consider that a ZX Spectrum and even the Super Nintendo only ran at 3.5Mhz!. The 68000s were some of the best performing chips of the time and were widely used.

The 68000 had a dedicated 64K of memory available to it for storage of variables and execution.

The VDP is Sega custom design. It is designed mainly for sprite functions. It can manage 64 onscreen colours at once from a colour palette of 512. Later programming techniques evolved that would allow for more colours on screen at once. It provides a standard operating resolution of 320 x 224 and can handle 80 sprites on screen at once. It has 64K of memory for its own work and 64x9Kbit of dedicated colour RAM.

Onscreen the VDP can create a total of 6 layers. 3 graphics planes, 2 scrolling playfields and a sprite layer.

The sound system consists of a Yamaha YM-2612, a PSG (programmable sound generator) from Texas Instruments controlled by a Zilog Z80 cpu (which was used almost everywhere in those days) with dedicated 8K of RAM. This CPU is mostly used for control of the sound system but can be programmed for other tasks.

The Mega Drive has territorial lock outs. Some of the early games, however, were not protected. The lockout code was introduced as part of a method of preventing unlicensed games being made for the machine. A change to some of the proprietary code in the boot up ROM was made.

The original system had a 9 pin RS232 serial connector on the back for connection of a modem.

The Mega Drive is also probably the most redesigned and remodelled console ever. There are about 10 designs for the system some of which include the Mega CD. For some of these models check out the Models Gallery for some pics.

Accessories

Power Base Converter - Play all Master System titles on your Mega Drive with this converter. The original model allows you to use both cartridges and card games. This was redesigned with the advent of the Mega drive 2 and had the card slot dropped.

Menacer - The very bulky Menacer light gun for he Mega Drive. Came packaged with 6 Games.

6 Button Pad - Highly recommended yet essential for the best beat em ups for the system. Street Fighter is not the same as the arcade without 6 buttons.

Multi Tap - Increase the competition for those sports games. Expand your pad potential for your Mega Drive and host a joy pad party if you wanted to. EA made their own version of the multi tap for use with their titles.

Mega CD - This is a CDROM drive add-on for the Mega Drive and was the second only CDROM system on the market when it launched. Check it out here...

32X - The ill fated 32-Bit upgrade for your Mega Drive bringing you Virtua Racing Deluxe, Virtua Fighter and Doom. Check it out here....

Games

The Mega Drive has an outstanding library of games. There are 500+ made for the US market alone. There have been estimations of around 900+ games in total. A game of almost every conceivable genre exists on Segas 16-Bitter.

From the start there are Segas arcade conversions. There were pulled almost straight of the arcade during the system conception. These were proven popular in the arcades but the criticism from the home gamers were that they were too short for a console game. This was quickly rectified as games that were in development specifically for the console were beginning to be released.
Afterburner 2 Altered Beast

| Afterburner 2 |

| Altered Beast |

Games like Streets of Rage and Revenge of Shinobi had the arcade feel to them but were made specifically for a console game experience. Streets of Rage 2 was the first ever 16Mbit cartridge - thats 2MB for PC people.

Other original titles from Sega included Ecco the Dolphin - the first ever swim-em-up. Ecco embarks on a mission to save his pod from an alien invasion.

Perhaps the ultimate conversion from the arcades was Virtua Racing. Although it needed an extra chip to drive the game it was still mighty impressive. Check out the SVP Page for more info.

EA had great success with their games for the Mega Drive predominantly sports based. They were the first to use real sports people in their games.
Urban Strike Fifa 97

| Urban Strike |

| Fifa 97 |

The strike series were very popular and when they debuted were a revolution in graphics and gameplay. This went on to improve as the series went on. Eventually 3 games existed; Desert Strike, Jungle Strike and Urban Strike. Other classics from EA included Road Rash and James Pond.
Street Fighter 2

| Street Fighter 2 CE |

Mortal Kombat 2 Fatalities!

| Mortal Kombat 2 |

Capcoms infamous Street Fighter II came to the Mega Drive after first appearing from the arcades on SNES. The arcade version had 6 buttons for the fighters to perform their moves. As such the Mega Drive was commissioned with a 6 button controller also. The game was upgraded to Special Champion Edition for the Mega Drive adding new modes of play, ability to play as the bosses and the infamous Turbo option. Ultimately this was upgraded to Super Street Fighter II which was a mammoth 40Mbit cartridge and the biggest game for the Mega Drive ever.

Plenty of other games included support for the 6 button pad ultimately almost phasing out the standard 3 button controller.

Another beat-em-up famous for another reason caused quite a stir when it arrived. Mortal Kombat from Midway was one of the first beat em up games to feature gore - blood and body parts. The characters in the game were digitised sprites of real people - real people, real blood!. Well the best for 16-BIT anyway. Coupled with this the infamous fatalities and you have one of the most controversial games ever released. The Sega version was straight port from the arcade whereas the Nintendo version had all the offending graphics taken out siding with outraged parents and going for the clean image. The original Mortal Kombat was only out done by the future games in the series which became even more bloody.

Other games of note include those from UK developer Zyrinx whos games demonstrate incredible graphical skills. Also in this category are Blue Sky with the visually stunning Vectorman series. Hardcore game developer Treasure had some excellent titles. Gunstar Heroes was an outstanding title and Alien Soldier amongst others. Both titles are pretty rare to find these days.
Gunstar Heroes Alien Soldier

| Gunstar Hereos |

| Alien Soldier |

Without a doubt the most famous games on the Mega Drive are the Sonic Series. From the original all the games are packed with excellent graphics, sound and speed. It was these games especially when they became packaged with the console that made the system popular. These were the games to have when the Mega Drive was popular - that is if you liked Sonic.

As the life of the system went on there is a very noticeable improvement in the graphical quality of the games from the beginning of the machines life towards the end. The newer techniques for creating onscreen effects seemed to be no problem for the Mega Drive to handle. Excellent examples are from the afore mentioned Blue Sky and Zyrinx.

Round Up

Without a doubt one of the best consoles ever made. Many people will be upset by this statement claiming that the SNES was better. That may be so but without the competition of the Mega Drive the SNES may not have been as good as it actually was. The competition between Sega and Nintendo at the time bought out the best in both companies. The two attempts to upgrade the system did dents Segas reputation but for people who stuck with just the Mega Drive there were no complaints.

The Mega Drive is an essential part of gaming history and has so many great games that are still playable today. That is probably why it was one of the first consoles to be emulated.

Mega Drive Today

Whilst the Mega Drive may not be instantly viewable in shops it is still very much with us in a variety of forms. It has since been remodelled into a 52-in-1 games machine. It is one of those control pad designs which plug directly into a TV with a set of games built in which can not be changed.

Shinco 868 DVD player has a built in Mega Drive emulator and pads. The unit comes with a set of CDs containing Mega Drives ROMS. This can be picked up from online retailers like Twocom for around 230.

The latest incarnation from Sega was the Genesis Nomad. A fully portable system with a colour LCD screen about the size of a VHS tape. The final official version although not actually made by Sega themselves but licensed to a company called Majesco Sales, was the Genesis 3. A smaller, more squarer version that plugged into a TV. Check both out on the Models Gallery.

For those people wanting a real life piece of gaming history then a Mega Drive is still relatively easy to obtain. You can find a machine for as little as 10 and sometimes thats with a game. Opt for an original style unit rather than the remodelled Mega Drive 2 because you have the extra ports and the country and video switches are very to easy to fit making it universal.

For the real enthusiast like myself then you may want to keep a watch out for the original style jap unit which runs in PAL. Ascetic changes are the badge with the power led in the centre is burgundy and the raised 16-Bit characters are twice the size and are in gold. On the bottom of the case will be Model No MK-1601-11 and PAL-1.

Expect to pay anywhere between 5 and 10 for a game. Typical titles in this category will be Sonic, Sonic 2, Road Rash, Eternal Champions and Ecco 2. The later and rarer titles such as Mega Bomberman, Streets of Rage 3 and Sonic and Knuckles will cost around 15. These are typical prices for games boxed in mint with instructions.

A 6 button controller is a must. The smaller Sega versions are so much better to play with and some of the best games need 6 buttons.

If you have a CEX in your area then they are well worth checking out. They usually have great range of Mega Drive titles.

Also Check out Funhouse and Kart Klub for some great prices.

With the arrival of the Game Boy Advance many Mega Drives titles are set to make a return. Confirmed titles are so far

Emulation

Emulation of the Mega Drive has been around for years yet there are always little improvements that programmers are putting into their emulators. With the advent of Mega CD and 32X emulation it is more and more important that the core Mega Drive system is emulated as closely as possible.

In addition to emulators of the Mega Drive for a PC there are now emulators on Dreamcast. Sega also have wrote and emulator.

Dos Emulators

Full speed Mega Drive emulation can be achieved in DOS with a little as a Pentium 133 and a decent PCI video card.

Kgen and Kgen 98 by Steve Snake

Currently the best DOS emulator and possibly the best ever. Simple to use with excellent speed. Best used with a VESA 2 video card and a genuine Sound Blaster 16.

Genecyst by Bloodlust Software

Not as fast as Kgen but has tons more options to play with such as WAV logging and dumping individual parts of the system to a file.

Windows Emulators

Emulation of consoles under Windows seems to be the natural development of these programs as DOS is gradually phased out. These tend to require a substantially more powerful system usually a Pentium III class cpu and a good video card to achieve decent frame rates. All emulators require Direct X.

Gens

An excellent emulator. This emulator started off as Mega Drive only yet overtime has come to include both Mega CD and 32X! The speed is good as well as compatibility.

Gens running Golden Axe 3

Kega - By Steve Snake

From the author of KGEN now comes this excellent Windows based emulator which not only emulates a Mega Drive but also Mega CD, Master System and Game Gear.

Kega Mega Drive Emulator

Dreamcast Emulators

There are a few emulators for the Mega Drive on Dreamcast. Some are written by programmers in the emulation scene but one is written by Sega themselves. For all Dreamcast emulators check out DC Emulation.Excellent site.

Sega Smash Pack

This was a package sold by Sega of America. It included an emulator written by Sega and a number of ROMs. These were Streets of Rage 2, Golden Axe, Shining Force, Vectorman, Altered Beast, Sonic the Hedgehog, Revenge of Shinobi, Phantasy Star 2 and Wrestle War. Not exactly the core of the Mega Drives best times but some classics in there. Unfortunately the emulator its self is not the best which is ironic considering the programming talent they must have as well as all the documentation of the consoles that was ever needed.

This was packed with the Dreamcast for a short period of time. It was planned that future edition would include more classic Mega Drive titles but the idea was never taken any further. Perhaps the emulator would have improved also.

The Sega Smash Emulator is capable of running other ROMs. Distributions on the net can be found with no ROMS allowing you own to be placed on the CD along with the program.

Dreamcast Smashpack

DC Generator

This is a currently in progress Mega Drive emulator written by Atani Software. Looks very promising.

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