Recently, there has been talk between Sony and Microsoft about implementing cross-platform gaming. Though no sort of agreement has been reached yet, and there is only speculation as to what these talks have consisted of, even the slightest notion that these two video game giants have taken the idea into consideration is HUGE! The climate for console developers has drastically changed over the course of time, and while Nintendo still goes its own way, it does so without feeling the need to get into squabbles or spend millions in advertising to inflict insult upon its competition. But, as we all know, this hasn't always been the case.
As a child of the 80's, I remember these targeting ads well and can look back today and see their overt influence over the console choices made by my classmates and I. The feud that Nintendo and Sega started was hotly contested and equally debated on the playground in my day. Nintendo's dominance in my community was so pronounced that no one dared to admit to owning a Sega console for fear of ridicule. What gaming system you owned or didn't own could have socially ruined you among your peers. If you owned a Sega, no one wanted to come over to your house because they couldn't bring their games over, and there wasn't a chance that you could swap games for a few weeks (...sometimes to never have your games returned, but that's another matter all together). In reality, it was a somewhat milder form of bullying, and let's be honest, it still exists among some fanboys/fangirls today.
I've mentioned on several podcasts and in our forums that I purchased my first Sega console (a Genesis) around 7 years ago. I remember purchasing it at a family yard sale and how much I paid for it ($10 with two controllers, all the hook-ups, and some loose games). The father, probably my age, said that it had been his when he was younger and being a little worn, I could see that it had traveled around with him for years. I could tell that he didn't want to let it go (it was hard to get him down from $15), but the glaring and disapproving eyes of his wife told a different story and thus made negotiations quickly more agreeable. It's funny, but almost every weekend, I pass the small community where I bought the Genesis when taking my kids to soccer games, and every time I go by, I replay that day's interaction in my head and smile.
I'll be honest, at the time, I really didn't want the Genesis. I was out that day scavenging yard sales for NES games (and the every elusive Atari 2600 titles), which were the only systems I was collecting for at the time; we had very limited space at our old house. I figured if I could get it cheap enough, it would be worth "toying" with and I wouldn't get too much of an eye roll from my own significant other and her oh so witty,"So now you're collecting for this?" remarks. What I didn't know at the time, was that this purchase would completely change the way I felt about collecting and change my perspective on how I viewed the video game culture as a whole.
The Genesis consisted of 3 games: Sonic the Hedgehog
(of course), a roughed up copy of Golden Axe
(which I remember fondly from the arcade), and Joe Montana Football
(meh). Not a bad start for the price, but still, I wasn't overly excited about my purchase and the console and games were subsequently put into a box and shoved under my bed almost instantly when I got home. They sat under that bed for almost 2 years and it wasn't until our big move around 5 years ago that they surfaced again and at that time, actually found a place on the shelves in my new game room. My Genesis and a handful of games (I had picked up a few more common titles on the cheap that I heard were good) were now visible, but it would take another 2-3 years for them to get the attention they deserved.
Let me break the story here and add that I had indeed played a Genesis before. I knew a few people who had them growing up and I got the rare glimpse of one during my first few years of college around the time that the PSX and N64 started taking over the scene. Having been accustomed to the NES and SNES, I always found the Genesis controls uncomfortable, a bit clunky, and the 3-button layout was perplexing and unnatural. It was pretty tough for me to get use to the rounded D-pad and I felt that it lacked a bit of precision as compared to its counterparts. It's funny, but I don't have these issues now and other than the occasional D-pad mishap, I genuinely like the feel of the Genesis controller.
Another part of my issue with the Genesis was that everyone raved about Sonic and always wanted you to play it when you came over. Sorry to my friends that love the series, but it's just not one that ever appealed to me....and actually still doesn't. I prefer the adjustable speed play of the early Super Mario series to the frantic pace and BOOM!-you-just-uncontrollably-hit-something-at-90-MPH style of Sonic. To me, Sonic defined the Genesis, and whether true or not, it was a big reason that I continued to show disinterest in the system for many years.
Fast forward to around 2 years ago.... I met a rather tall and somewhat quiet, metalhead working at a local game store. Dressed in my deceptive, daily business attire, we soon struck up a conversation and not long after we were hanging out together with our significant others who also enjoy food, movies, and board games (perhaps you noticed that I didn't include "video games"). Our weekend hang outs soon turned into weeknight co-ops where we typically got together and played through some of the games we recently picked up and tried out many other games that maybe one or both of us had never experienced before. It wasn't long before he revealed to me that he's a big fan of the Genesis, but other than shmups, my collection lacked several titles, which he assured me that I woould love. It's not long before he's showing up with a plastic bag, usually consisting of Genesis games, at my door on a weekly basis. And I haven't been able to get rid of him since....
Before long, I started to notice that wow, other than being the early 90's king of the shmup consoles (real shmupers know it's true) there are some really great platformers, action platform shooters, RPGs, and beat 'em ups on the Genesis. I start to realized that I'm completely hooked on my Genesis, and with a more recent playthrough of Shining Force
(possibly my favorite RPG now) in early 2015, the courting was over and the honeymoon had begun. **Bow-chicka-wow-wow**
Instead of raving about how far superior Nintendo was to Sega as I did in my younger years, I had reached a fork in the road to where I was unsure which path to take. While greatly nostalgic and a big fan of the former, the latter had succeeded in revamping my love for classic video games. In all honestly, how f@#king cool is it to full on experience a "new" retro library in your late 30's?! I suddenly felt like a really lucky guy. It seems that even today, people want to poll or debate back and forth about which system/manufacturer is the best or had the best library. Many will champion their nostalgia, while others may simply take the underdog to be a little different. However, I can say for a fact that I can't choose one over the other. Heck, throw Sony into the mix and it furthers my difficulty to decide; I have fond memories of and love the PSX and PS2 libraries just as much. With that said, the overwhelming question I have is, "Why do I have to decide and why does this question even deserve answering?" To you, my friends, I say, when you hit that fork in the road, stop, breathe, have a seat on the path, and enjoy it all. Traitor? Maybe, but a happier gamer for it.
As a result of my more recently sparked interest in the Genesis, I thought it might share a few titles that have become some of my favorites:Alisia Dragoon
Ghouls 'n Ghosts
Mazin Saga: Mutant Fighter
Mutant League Hockey
Rolling Thunder II
(and probably Shining Force II
, though I haven't played it yet)Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
Streets of Rage & Streets of Rage 2
If you liked Shining Force, you'll definitely like the sequel and the SEGA CD game. I didn't see Revenge of Shinobi on your list, but that's one of my favorites as well. You should give Phantasy Star II & IV a whirl at some point.
I'd definitely say that Genesis whoops SNES when it comes to shooters, but I may have to give the crown to PCE/Turbo.
Great stuff, Rich. TRAITOR! Just kidding.
I was never had to choose when I was a kid, due to my best friend owning both a SNES and Genesis. Although I would have been characterized as a Nintendo Fanboy back in the early to mid-nineties, I got to enjoy the fruits of the Sega Genesis, though there are still some things I just don't understand. Sonic? Castle of Illusion? Don't get it, despite going back to the well many times over the years in an attempt to do just that. Still, there are just so many great and unique games on the Genesis. And your list has some great ones. I second what Duke says about the Phantasy Star games (though I wouldn't leave out part III if you have the spare twenty-five hours), and also suggest El Viento (a little like Alisia Dragoon, but not as visually flashy, great music though) and Slime World (really fun co-op that easily turns into competitive thanks to friendly fire).
Awesome article, man! Replace, "So now you're collecting for this?" with "Yeah, like you really need more video games" and that's my wife! She tries to encourage my hobbies, but she gets tired of constantly having me bring in bags of games from the pawn shop and Goodwill, or a bag full of Game Boy games when we go to the "big city". Still, she understands. As for the whole traitor thing, I get it. I was a Nintendo kid vise vi my friends, who all had NES consoles when we were younger, and remained loyal to Nintendo with my Game Boy. When I saw the Genesis, however, I was instantly enamored with it, and knew I had to have one. After Sonic came out, that sealed the deal and I made it happen. After that, I became a PSX guy, and once I started actually branching out and collecting, I found that between buying a Saturn, scoring a boxed NES Action Set, and later picking up a SNES, it didn't matter what system I played - as long as I was enjoying myself with the hobby. Console wars are fun to think about and sometimes participate in, but at the end of the day, I just want to have fun with my games. I love reading stories like this, though, where folks discover the Genesis and fall in love with it.
I don't remember much console war talk as a kid. Most of us had Nintendo systems, but we'd still plan that night once and a while to go to someone's house to play Road Rash, Sonic or Golden Axe.
Definitely got neglected by me in comparison though. Did own one for a while after our NES, but traded it for an SNES after a while and was quite please with the switch. Still need to dig a little deeper into the library as I'm sure I'm missing a ton of great games on it.
@Duke.Togo: Yeah, Revenge of Shinobi is good, but out of the Shinobi games, I think that III is the best. Genesis has the better shooters for sure and though there are some great RPGs, I'd have to hand that title to the SNES.
@bombatomba: Yeah Sonic is way too fast and uncontrollable for me. Not my cup of tea. I actually own El Viento and agree that it's a fairly good title (not sure it's worth the price). However, Renovation is probably my favorite overall developer for the Genesis.
@MetalFRO: I get the "Yeah, like you need more video games" response too, but I just respond in kind with "Like you need more clothes/shoes." It's all joking and half-hearted between us though and we both chalk it up to what ever makes the other happy.
@Crabmaster2000: The big draw with the NES/SNES was being able to loan games to and from friends, since that is what most people had. I think I probably only had one friend with a Genesis and he soon switched to a SNES for that very reason. If you are looking to get into the Genesis library, I can over some more great suggestions.
My favourite Mega Drive games would probably be Haunting Starring Polterguy, Phantasy Star IV, Streets of Rage 2, Streets of Rage 3, Cool Spot, Sonic 3 + Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic 2, Sonic, Chakan: The Forever Man, Splatterhouse 2, Splatterhouse 3, X-Men, X-Men 2: Clone Wars, and Dune II: Battle for Arrakis. About Sonic games... I wonder if my enjoyment has anything to do with the PAL systems running at a lower speed.
@Cobra: Interesting take on the Sonic speed. Never knew that. I've seen Chakan in the wild quite a lot. Love the cover art, but always wondered how it played. I'll have to pick it up. I'll also check out Dune.
Got really sick for a few weeks when I was young and one of my friends lent me his Genesis with Dune. Played it like crazy until I had to go back to school.