First Mega Drive/Genesis game: Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Favourite Mega Drive/Genesis game: Sonic 3 & Knuckles
My first console was the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), but it wasn’t untill I got the Sega Mega Drive that I became the gamer that I am today. What immediately caught my attention back then was the console design and aesthetics, as it just looked so cool and edgy. Everything about the Mega Drive was anti-SNES, from the console design to the software lineup, everything about it rebelled against Nintendo’s wholesome family gaming image. Sega were the rockers, the non-conformists, and they found a niche and ran with it. That very niche would attract a whole legion of gamers, and if you owned a Mega Drive at the time and were not Mario fan like everyone else, you were making a statement. This was a time when consoles had unique distinguishable identities.
What immediately turned me into a diehard Sega fan, and gamer for that matter, was Sonic the Hedgehog. That game broke away from contemporary platformers in so many different ways that once I played Sonic, I couldn’t tolerate the pace and design of traditional platformers anymore. The most memorable Sonic release to me was Sonic & Knuckles, that was an amazing cartridge as it was pretty much the first real expansion pack ever released for a home console. It was an excellent game in its own right, but the amazing thing it did was that it gave new life to all the prior Sonic games released for the console. It added Knuckles as a playable character in Sonic 2, and it turned Sonic 3 into the full-fledged epic that is Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Excellent value for money, one that rewarded fans like me for following Sonic since day one.
What made the Mega Drive exclusive library so special was that the games carried a lot of personality and coolness in their aesthetics and sound design, games like Streets of Rage, Comix Zone, Dynamite Headdy, Gunstar Heroes, Ristar, and ToeJam & Earl are examples of what made the Mega Drive so distinct from its peers. These games had a very unique flair in their aesthetics, music, and design. It’s very hard to articulate this, but it’s one of those things where you can immediately tell that a game belongs on the Mega Drive just by looking at it.
The Mega Drive defined my childhood, and without it I wouldn’t be the gamer I am today. Sega has done an excellent job in keeping their glory days alive and well, in the form of the excellent Mega Drive Ultimate Collection and the lovingly produced Sega Vintage HD digital releases. I will never grow tired of the Mega Drive, it will always be a major part of my life.
First Mega Drive/Genesis game: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Road Rash
Favourite Mega Drive/Genesis game: Toejam & Earl and Jurassic Park
My brother and I got the Mega Drive II relatively soon after it came out. That thing lived in my parents room so we’d constantly be hassling them to let us play it. They were pretty good about it, even if they thought we were dorks (and hey, they were probably right). My brother liked it but didn’t play with it as much as I did because the fool liked cricket (I have to agree with Oscar Wilde when he said cricket was ‘organised loafing’). We were both addicted to Sonic and even now my brother plays Sega emulators religiously. We had every Sonic game in the franchise, other than the lame spin offs like Doctor Robotnic’s Tetris Wannabe Clone or whatever it was called. I wasn’t satisfied until I’d got every Chaos Emerald and could turn into Super Sonic in every game. It was a pretty rad time to be alive.
I thought Toejam & Earl was the funniest thing in the world at the time, and would send myself to level zero each time I turned it on. I’d then go and get a lemonade from the stand and dive into the sauna with the hot hula babes and just hang out. When I got bored of that I’d cross to the other side of the level and jump in the other sauna, in case I had a better chance with those babes. I remember that they would spout one liners when in the tub but I can’t remember what they said.
Jurassic Park was flipping awesome too. Being able to play through as both Dr. Grant and the Velociraptor was such a cool angle. Eating Compys, tiny little dinosaurs that would latch onto you, would regenerate the Velociraptors health – a fantastic touch to help you get into the mind set of a vicious dinosaur. Road Rash is an immortal game in my book, I always wondered why that never came back as a AAA title, surely there’s a market out there for a motorcycle racer with chains and nightsticks.
So that was my childhood. I’m sure I’ve sacrilegiously left out some of the greater achievements from Sega Megadrive’s catalogue but those are the ones that still stick in my mind.
First Mega Drive/Genesis game: Splatterhouse
Favorite Mega Drive/Genesis game: ToeJam & Earl and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie
Though my experience with the Sega Master System was limited, I wholly consider myself a Genesis Kid. To understand why, I need to take you back a bit. I was around 7 at the time, and the Genesis was actually starting to fade. To a small town in Arkansas however, it was the talk of the town. Every kid was playing Sonic 2, and Sonic & Knuckles and Sonic The Hedgehog 3 just hit shelves, and those who became owners of the special cart were the envy of all. I went to a neighbors house and played Splatterhouse everyday, as well as one of the best beat em up’s on the platform known as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. I already loved the console, but it wasn’t until my friend obtained ToeJam & Earl that I was sold.
Being a co-op game with randomly generated madness, I found myself spending more and more time away from the house – just to get to sit down with the two aliens from Funkotron and my best friend. One day that summer, a new store moved into town that let people trade in their games for other used carts. Gamestop was not even a thing at the time, so this concept had me intrigued as I didn’t stand a chance at getting the black platform on my own. After packing up a bunch of my Super Nintendo games and the console itself (which I would get again one year later), I went off and traded with just enough credit for four games. Super Off Road, Sonic 2, The Aquatic Games Starring James Pond and the Aquabats, and College Slam were my choices in the limited selection, but they were just enough to turn myself into a lifelong fan. After a while, I added the likes of Ecco The Dolphin and Taz Mania to the collection, but of course a kids’ interest can only be held for so long, so after just a year, I returned to the SNES and left my Genesis to collect dust.
I know, it was a tragedy. Letting a console with so many more games to be played go to waste. Thankfully, that’s not the end of my tale. When I got my first full time job at 17 years old, I went back and purchased a Genesis yet again. This time, I snagged up a Model 3 unit, which is much smaller and more durable – and landed around 50 games. Over the next few years, I played through Streets of Rage, Double Dragon vs Battletoads, Golden Axe, and countless other classics I had missed, loving every second of it. Looking back, there really was something unique about the Genesis compared to it’s competition from Nintendo, but it was always hard to pinpoint the correct wording. Sure, in my eyes the games sounded better audio wise, but I just couldn’t find out why I loved the console more as a whole aside from my own memories from childhood. Today, I have the answer. It was the characters, and the pure drive of Sega themselves to beat Nintendo.
The Genesis, no matter what Sega says, will always be looked at as an underpowered platform that found success through luck. Sonic is the reason why it was it was a success, and without the blue wonder, Sega would be probably where Hudson is now. Sonic never truly beat Mario and had a rough patch in the 2000’s, but it was the passion of Sega that kept the publisher alive. For every success such as Sonic, there were non-successful faces such as Kid Chameleon and Ristar. Funny thing is that while these faces were passed up at the time, I found myself feeling like a kid at Christmas getting to play through those titles all those years later. Sega really tried to make every character unique, and the library holds its age better than any other platform because of it. Even today, Sega live off these faces and keep their memories alive through the likes of fan-serviced racers and sports romps, as well as the HD re-releases for nearly every modern platform. Sega may not have won the war, but they made their mark in gaming history, ensuring that no gamer will ever forget the legacy of the Genesis, the Dreamcast, and every platform in-between.
Every time I play a Genesis game these days, I feel like I just dug up a part of myself from childhood, and sitting here – staring at my old, black cartridges makes me feel proud that I was a part of the greatest console war of all time, where in my case, two little aliens took me on a ride that I will never forget.