Tag Archives: Nintendo

Console Memories: Sega Mega Drive…

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After the many hours of enjoyment I had squeezed from the Master System as a console virgin, I upgraded to Sega’s follow-up machine, the Mega Drive, in 1991. The Mega Drive was more powerful than its predecessor, and looked a whole lot better under the living room television as well.

It was the 16-bit era, at the height of the console wars being fought between Sega and Nintendo, and I was ready for something that would blow me away. I had started getting into monthly video game magazines at this time as well, and everything I read told me the Mega Drive was going to revolutionise the world. Granted, I was buying official Sega magazines, but you know…

Phantasy_Star_IIBy this time I was earning my own money delivering papers before and after school, so being able to buy games without having to rely on my parents was a major bonus. I bought Phantasy Star II in 1992 for the hefty sum of £54.99 – expensive even by today’s money – but with inflation that amazingly comes in at just under £112. I can safely say that is the most expensive game I have ever purchased.

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Sonic the Hedgehog was a massive hit for the system, and was the thrust of the machine’s early advertising campaign as it attempted to compete with Nintendo. I played that game to death, and all these years later the soundtrack is still bouncing around in my head.

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My only memory of my dad playing a video game with me is Landstalker – an isometric role-playing game. I have a photo of us together, huddled in front of the TV, along with a vague recollection of moving boxes in the game, but I can’t remember any more than that. Perhaps there is a deep-seated psychological or paternal bonding reason for my fondness for the system that goes beyond just the enjoyment I found with the games themselves.

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But without question, my favourite game from this era was Shining in the Darkness – a role-playing dungeon-crawler that stole a lot of my teenage time. It was crudely drawn, poorly animated, and it didn’t have a great story, but I loved it just the same. It was probably the title that got me interested in that video game genre, because I played a lot of similar games in subsequent years.

Other favourites of that era include the Michael Jackson endorsed platformer, Moonwalker; strategy game, Mega-Lo-Mania; and Sword of Vermilion, another role-playing game, that – like Phantasy Star II – also came with a massive one hundred page-plus hint book.

This wasn’t my final Sega console, but it was the one I enjoyed the most, and probably the one I had the longest.

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Console Memories: Sega Master System…

I never had a computer as a child: I was always a console kid. Back in the late eighties, if you played video games, there was no middle ground or third party – you either boarded the train for Team Nintendo or you were in the corner for Team Sega.

And I can remember the exact moment I picked my poison.

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I was twelve years old and out shopping with my family in a store called Target, where I lived in Sydney. For those unfamiliar with that name, Target is an Australian department store, not to be confused with the American store called Target that it has nothing to do with, which also sports an extremely similar logo. I used to think that I was dealing with the same company (as you would) but it turns out they are completely different entities. Anyway…

I saw that box on the shelf, with the picture of the motorcycle racing game Hang On, in full glorious colour, and I was sold. Little did I know that video game graphics in 1988 were not anywhere nearly as sharp as the representation here. Even thirty years later, we’re not there, but back then I was enthralled by what wonders awaited me in that mysterious, yet fairly nondescript, box.

My parents must have been feeling both especially solvent and generous that weekend, because they bought the console for me, and I have not been without one ever since.

It was a primitive system, but we had a lower expectation when it came to video games then. We were not spoiled by technology as we are now. There was no video footage; no voice acting. Nothing was animated with more than a few frames. Everything came on plastic cartridges, because discs were at least half a decade away, and the control pad was absolutely awful, but it didn’t matter. Nor did it matter that the games were rendered on a machine with less processing power than a pocket calculator. I was a simple child with straighforward demands. The only criteria was that the games were fun.

19038-california-games-sega-master-system-front-coverVideo games have moved on so much since then in almost every conceivable way. They have better production values; they are longer, with more depth. The stories they tell are more involved. They look, sound, and feel… better. Apples for apples, they are also a hell of a lot cheaper than games were thirty years ago.

But while all that is true, there was a purity to games in the eighties that just doesn’t exist anymore. That entire cultural shift was in its infancy, and we cannot go back to the way things were. But for gamers of my age whose formative years were spent throwing a skateboard around in California Games or playing God in Populous, it’s crazy to think that this was the pinnacle of home entertainment, and that we spent weeks saving up our pocket money to buy them. A 2019 kid wouldn’t even go near them if they were free to download on their phone.

I had the Sega Master System for a few years, until it became passé and I upgraded to something a little more powerful and cool in the early nineties. But I stuck with Sega for a few more years, at least. I don’t know what I did with the Master System once it was replaced, but for the time I had with it, I had a blast.

Simpler (but fun) times indeed…