16-bit Game Console - Dismantled for reference and curiosity
**Details specific to the China and Malaysian versions photographed on this page are at the end of this text.
In 1988 SEGA released its fourth generation, 16-bit, ROM cartridge based game console the Mega Drive to the Japanese market. Two years later the Mega Driver was distributed in Australia, Europe and other PAL regions. SEGA launched the console in North American in 1989 under the title 'Genesis' as they couldn't 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 SEGA had lost in recent years to Nintendo and is listed as SEGA's best selling console to date (2011).
It also reignited the SEGA vs. 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 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' that took almost a year later to appear on SEGA's console. 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 cast in black.
The Super Nintendo 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 titles and as a result most English language versions. A prime example of this is 'Mortal Kombat' sold for both systems. On the Super Nintendo the game was highly censored while the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive version retained all the juicy gore. The sales figures showed the result with the SEGA version out selling Nintendo's 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. Unfortunately it was a little too late to shake the kid safe image for many gamers.
Another draw card for SEGA owners is that the Mega Drive is backwards compatible with most SEGA Master System games 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. When a Master System game is inserted the Mega Drive switches to those and leaves its 68000 chip on standby; see other page 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 totally non-backwards compatible title. A few titles did require connecting a Master System controller to 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 sprites 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. As a byproduct this often lead to impressive and vibrant arcade-styled visuals.
Sound on the Mega Drive is bright, very capable and in stereo. Well... oddly it was only in stereo via the headphone jack and not through the RF out port that almost everyone used. The Mega Drive II was updated to output stereo sound to 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 that when opened reveals an edge connector on the PCB with a red, slip off plastic cover warning owners 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 consoles below, there are a number of differences to the casing and the motherboards between the Chinese and Malaysian manufactured versions. Casing wise one has '16-BIT' printed in gold while the other is silver. The white section below that text is a while topped black plastic on one and a solid white piece of plastic on the other. Internally there are a number of component and design differences, while functionality is essentially identical.
The Malaysian version is an earlier model and has the words "HIGH DEFINITION GRAPHICS - STEREO SOUND" printed in white on the top side of the glossy, black ring. This can be seen in the photo with the Mega Drive connected to a Mega-CDII. Arguably the earlier versions with this printing produced clearer sound than later models including the Mega Drive II.