**Points specific to the unit photographed below are found at the bottom of the text.
SEGA in 1991 wanted to tackle the Japanese CD ROM game market share that was currently held exclusively by the TurboGrafx-16; enter the Mega-CD, an add-on hardware device for the SEGA Mega Drive. The Mega-CD was launched in the United States in 1992 then in Europe and Australia in 1993.
The Mega-CD was released in two versions, the Mega-CD and the Mega-CDII. The former sits below the Mega Drive and offers a motorised CD ROM draw whereas the Mega-CDII sits on a tray beside the Mega Drive or Mega Drive II. An additional section of base was supplied with the Mega-CDII to accommodate the extra width of the original Mega Drive as seen below. No version of the Mega-CD is compatible with the Mega Drive 3/Genesis 3.
Both Mega-CD versions give the Mega Drive the ability to load CD ROM disc software, play audio CDs as well as access CD+G discs.
The Mega-CD added additional CPU, RAM, sound and graphics abilities to the Mega Drive but in all honesty, it really was junk.
It had great potential but with the Mega Drive's aging colour pallet of 512 colours and a maximum of 64 on screen at any time it really needed to enhance the Mega Drive in ways it just didn't. The CD ROM ability did upgrade the possible storage from the 16 megabits on cartridges to 640 megabytes but bar CD audio, what developer is going to make use off all that space on a console that just can't output any more than what cartridges were already offering? After all, that's how the Mega Drive had been designed.
SEGA then got the idea that with all this space they could use it to play Full Motion Video (FMV) games which were surprisingly popular for a very limited time on a number of consoles and in the arcades. 'Space Ace' and the 'Dragon Slayer' series were exceptions to the rule but on the whole, FMV games were novel but terrible.
Real life footage FMV games played on a system that could only output 64 colours simultaneously were disastrous; grainy, dithered and horrible to look at. They were fine on laserdisc, for the most part, but not on the Mega-CD. Even the anime/cartoon games like the pack-in 'Road Avenger' is so horrible that at times you really can't see what is going on. 'Time Gal' is much the same.
The Mega-CD did have one famous or more so infamous title which was 'Night Trap'. This title involved probably the best FMV of all Mega-CD titles and centres around the player trying to unravel a mystery where a group of girls went missing from a house..... by watching another group of girls go missing from a the house. Night Trap was banned and pulled from shelves in the US due to its content, which by today's gaming standards is laughable tame. It was later released on the 3DO with much higher quality FMV.
If I sound bitter about this piece of hardware it's because I sadly bought a Mega-CD when they were near new, and paid for it... then kept on paying for it with next to no titles being released in Australia and terrible ones at that. The only plus side was that some of the Mega Drive magazines started offering CDs with demo games on their covers and more than once it was in fact the entire game on the disc and if you used a level skip cheat you could get past the 'demo level' and play the whole thing. 'Keio Flying Squadron' comes to mind.
**Relating to the unit below, you will see that there is a smaller, brown PCB soldered to the mainboard and I'm not sure what it is. My first thoughts were that it's a mod chip of sorts to possibly allow this Mega-CD to play other region titles but after seeing other examples of the same board online it might have been factory added to convert the NTSC Mega-CD to PAL. If anyone knows, drop me an email and I'll update the page.
|Unit pictured has been sold and its location is unknown.|