Guest Blog by Marco Hibbins @Cultofniche_design
I'm sitting here with my fingers hovering over my keyboard. I'm staring at a blank word document like I'm staring into an abyss. I know what I want to talk about but where on earth do you begin talking about the Sega Mega Drive whilst giving it an ounce of the importance it deserves?
I keep hearing Bane's voice in my head: “You merely adopted the dark... I was born in it! Moulded by it!”
And I was moulded by it! The Mega Drive that is, not the dark. But then the Mega Drive sort of was the dark side. And the devil's always had the best tunes! Or in this case, games!
Sure, there was the NES and I had a ruddy good time on Duck Hunt with the Zapper. The Gameboy too ...even though I was essentially just playing Tetris on a big calculator display that I could barely see in daylight! It was still great fun though and impressive for the time. But the Mega drive? Now that was something else...
I remember the first time I laid eyes on it. It was at a friend's house. His name was William and there, on the carpet just in front of his living room TV was this mysterious, black box. Somehow it looked both slick and futuristic yet rugged and imposing at the same time. Like if Honda had designed a tank. William switched the TV to channel 00 and we were met with static. But then... he reached for the power button on the mysterious console. He slid it to the On position. The static disappeared from the TV screen and for a few seconds... nothing happened. Then all of a sudden, the screen turned white and flooded the darkened living room with light! “SEEEAAAGGGAAAA!” screamed at me from the lo-fi TV speakers! The next thing I know, there's a certain blue hedgehog waving his finger at me and the sound of one of the most glorious chip tune songs ever programmed! Where had this been all my life?! I mean I was only 7, but still!
Sonic The Hedgehog was just the beginning! What else did William have? What's this? Batman? Wait a minute, a game based on the 1989 Batman movie?! The one where he kills people?! Fire it up, godammit! Within minutes I was punching a number of identical looking purse snatchers in the face and hurling batarangs at pixilated goons! Oh but it gets better... This one has a ninja on the cover! The Revenge Of Shinobi? Out went the Batman cartridge and in went my new best friend, Joe Musashi! Surely it couldn't get much better (or more bloody difficult) than Shinobi? Oh it could! William had one final ace up his sleeve: the box art hit me with that same excited intrigue I got the first time I saw the VHS sleeve for Sylvester Stallone's Cobra in a video shop. Or the more forbidden fruit of the tapes on the shelves I couldn't reach – No! Not the scud! I can't believe your mind went straight there?! I meant the horror section, your A Nightmare on Elm Streets, your Fright Nights, or absolutely anything on the Medusa label (seriously! Check them out! Incredible artwork!)
Just who was this furious looking blonde lad doing a flying kick on a stereotypical looking thug complete with micro uzi? Who was this raven-haired, femme fatale also doing a flying kick to the face of a thug, albeit one with a Jason Voorhees mask? Well it was none other than Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding! I was staring at the box art for Streets Of motherfucking Rage! ...It's actually just called Streets Of Rage. There's another character, Adam Hunter who is mysteriously missing from the box art. Not sure why? He should be on there! He's on the title screen, so why the hell is he not on the box art?! Okay, fine. I can put up with that glaring error. But only because the game is absolutely incredible! Seriously! It is absolutely incredible! A lot of people will argue Streets Of Rage 2 is where the original series peaked and I agree that the larger sprites looked good but I'm sorry, once again poor Adam has been whacked with the brown end of the shit stick! He's nowhere to be seen! They brought in his brother, Skate who is basically useless! Nobody has ever won a fight in rollerblades! The music was nowhere near as good as the first game and really, to be honest, Streets Of Rage 2 is really just a reboot of Streets Of Rage 1 with bigger sprites and not quite as cool levels. Don't look at me like that! It's good! I'm not saying it's not good! I'm just saying the OG Streets Of Rage will always be superior and I will fight anyone who says different!
I think one of the biggest problems I have with SOR2 over SOR1 is the unexplained lack of police backup? In SOR1 I could call in the cops, who'd then proceed to do a drive-by on a boss with a bazooka or a minigun! Instead, in SOR2 I can do a special move that doesn't do a great deal more damage than a combo already can and I have to sacrifice my health to do it?! That's insane!
Anyway, there was nothing else for it, I needed a Mega Drive and I needed it yesterday! Later that same year, for Christmas, I was lucky enough to get my own Mega Drive. Not just any Mega Drive though, the newer, more refined, stealthier looking Mega Drive II! And what was that bad boy bundled with? Only Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and Mega Games 3! Arguably the best Sonic game AND Shinobi, Streets Of Rage AND Golden Axe all on one cartridge in one foul swoop? Golden Axe I was aware of, having tried it in the arcades but having an almost perfect port of it on a home console was mind blowing!
I think it was when I finally got my hands on Robocop Vs Terminator that my attraction to the Mega Drive began to make sense. I came to discover that it was only on the Mega Drive version of the game that I could reach the dizzying heights of ultraviolence that were so integral to the satire of the actual Robocop movie. It was only on the Mega Drive that you could perform proper fatalities in Mortal Kombat ...even if it was a total bastard to do with only three buttons! It was only on the Mega Drive that you could compete in illegal superbike races and wallop a cop just trying to do his job around the head with a length of chain! Yes I'm talking about Road Rash 2 and no I've never played Road Rash 1. To this day I've never seen a copy of it in the wild! But I digress...It was only on the God damned Mega Drive that you could don a skull-shaped hockey mask and lay waste to demons and other abominations straight out of a Clive Barker novel with a chainsaw! Where else was a seven or eight year old going to get their hands on stuff like this?!
The reason the Mega Drive sucked me in like a tractor beam is because it was the alternative. It was the path less travelled. It was that song with the heavy guitars in it with the words I knew I wasn't allowed to say. If it could of, it would have wore a leather jacket covered in patches. It was dangerous.
Even Sonic, on the surface, when your parents were looking, he was just a cute blue anthropomorphic Hedgehog. But in reality he travelled at ridiculous speeds, smashed shit up and was a freedom fighter! Mario, no offence, you have earned your place but I'll take a maverick, vigilante hedgehog over a plumber who punches bricks any day!
Sure, the Mega CD didn't exactly go to plan and sadly the Saturn bombed. The Dreamcast... I'm not really sure what went wrong there? But that seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. But regardless of all that, at one point, Sega fought their way to the top, leaving their competitors in a heap, bleeding from cyber razor cuts and admitting to their eternal shame that Sega does what Ninten-don't. I'm just so glad I was there to experience it as it happened!
Long live the Mega Drive!
Guest Blog by Marco Hibbins @Cultofniche_design
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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