**Console Specific details further down in the text
In 1988 SEGA released its fourth generation, 16-bit, ROM cartridge based, game console, the 'Mega Drive' to the Japanese market and then two years later to Australia and Europe (and other PAL regions). SEGA launched the console in North American in 1989 under the title 'Genesis' due to not being able to secure the rights to the name 'Mega Drive' in the US.
The Mega Drive was to replace the SEGA Master System as SEGA's new home games platform. While SEGA did re-release the Master System as the Master System II in 1990 the Mega Drive was their new baby.
It sold amazingly well, clawing back market share that SEGA had lost to Nintendo in previous years and is listed as SEGA's best selling console to date (2011).
It also reignited the SEGA / Nintendo consumer war and brought the battle to a new, bitter high.
You were either a SEGA or a Nintendo console owner, rarely both and most gamers would be ready at a moments notice to argue the facets of 'their' console edging it to superiority. SEGA went with a more mature approach, hoping to entice older gamers and tempt younger players wanting to feel more adult with edgy titles and marketing. Whereas Nintendo, for the SNES, stuck with predominantly bright colours and solid game design. Nintendo's main win was to secure the home release of CAPCOM's massively successful arcade title 'Street Fighter II' which took almost a year later to appear on SEGA's the Mega Drive. Nintendo did try to get a little 'edgy' by releasing the game title 'Killer Instinct' in a console and game bundle with the game cartridge plastic being dyed black.
The SNES was a 'family' console and often thought to be laughably so by SEGA gamers. This was mainly due to the high level of censorship controlling the release of US and as a result most English language version titles. A prime example of this was the release of 'Mortal Kombat' on both systems. The Nintendo release was highly censored while the SEGA version retained all the juicy gore and the sales figures showed the result with the SEGA version outselling the Nintendo release four to one.
Once regulatory bodies had been created to govern game title censorship Nintendo dropped their self censorship policy(s) and released Mortal Kombat II with all the gore intact. A little too late however to save them from having a 'kid safe' image for many gamers.
Another draw card for SEGA owners was that the Mega Drive is backwards compatible with the SEGA Master System titles with use of a pin converter. The Master System's CPU and sound chips (Zilog Z80 & SN76489) are included onboard in the Mega Drive as coprocessors and when a Master System game is inserted the Mega Drive switches to those and leaves its 68000 chip on standby. See other listing on this site for the Master System Converter. The backwards compatibility is pretty good, but not perfect. That said, the Master System title 'F-16 Fighting Falcon' is the only non-backwards compatible title with the Mega Drive and there are only a very few Master System games that you need to insert an original Master System controller into the Mega Drive for them to work properly.
Graphics wise the Mega Drive can output 80 sprites in 320 pixel wide display mode or 64 sprite in 256 pixel wide display mode. Colours are chosen from a pallet of 512 with 64 on screen at a time in normal mode and 183 in what was named shadow/highlight mode. The tight colour pallet forced game developers to be creative with their graphics often leading to impressive, vibrant and arcade-styled visuals.
Sound on the Mega Drive was bright, very capable and in stereo. Well, oddly, it was only in stereo via the headphone jack, not through the RF out port which almost everyone used. The Mega Drive II was updated to output stereo sound via the television via a proprietary cable. See the separate page on this site for the Mega Drive II variations.
The Mega Drive has a secret expansion port which, when opened, contains a number of PCB connector pins with a red cover over them warning you not to remove it; which of course almost everyone does. This was later used to connect the Mega-CD or Mega-CDII to the Mega Drive. See separate page on this site for the Mega CDII.
**Specifically relating to the console below; the Mega Drive was looking dated and SEGA wanted to keep producing it while cutting costs. Enter the Mega Drive II. Game play wise the Mega Drive and Mega Drive II are identical in function with the main, consumer beneficial difference being that the Mega Drive II is able to output sound to the television via its proprietary audio/video out cable. The Mega Drive one only output stereo sound via the headphone jack, whereas the Mega Drive II did away with the headphone jack altogether.
Cosmetically the Mega Drive II was smaller and more boxy which lead to the creation of the Mega-CDII. Basically this was done because the smaller Mega Drive II wouldn't connect to the original Mega-CD without looking silly and this gave SEGA the chance to come up with a cheaper version of it for the Mega Drive II. The Mega-CDII was release with a chunk of extra plastic base so that the larger Mega Drive could by used with it.
Due to the inclusion of the new combined AV out cable the RF out port was removed. A smaller power jack was used as well as a different AC power supply; 10V-1.2A on the Mega Drive VS 10V-850mA on the Mega Drive II.
Personal Note: As a kid I had an Atari 2600 then moved to a C=64, completely skipping the Master System and NES altogether. But when, as rebellious youth of seventeen I looked for a game console, it was a SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis hands down. So the marketing worked.
From its black casing, impressive game advertising on TV and in cinemas it looked like the way to go. Nintendo's SNES advertising in Australia seemed to be almost totally Mario and Mario game related making the SNES look like a child's console. Blip-boop sounds, cutesy graphics and sod all death and destruction to be seen. In stark contrast the SEGA marketing showed fast paced racing games, death and gore filled screens and mind pummeling shooters. Also... Star Fox looked like junk. Wooo, clunky 3D.
The SNES was of course a great console with an array of fantastic titles but with your hard earned money it was a big risk to jump the fence and see if the grass was greener on the other side. The marketing also didn't make me want to care about how many princesses were kidnapped or what Kirby had for breakfast.
Another thing: until recently I'd always thought that the Mega Drive was a renamed Genesis. People online are so quick to correct you whenever you say Mega Drive("ugh, you mean Genesis") that it sounded like the Mega Drive was the Genesis' poor cousin. Turns out that the US version is the odd one out.
|Unit pictured has been sold and its location is unknown.|