Ah, I remember the good old days, sitting in front of the TV, playing the old Sega Genesis, awesome games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Shining Force 2, and the NHL series, spectacularly losing my battle against video game addiction.
The Sega Genesis broke new ground when it was released in 1989 with it's 16-bit engine, and it killed it's only 16-bit competition, a popular Japanese system called the Turbo Grafx 16 (which, coincidentally, was my first home gaming system. My parents were too cheap to get me a Nintendo.). But sales for the Genesis didn't really begin to take off until 1991, with the release of their new mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. With the introduction of Sonic, the Genesis began to overtake the Nintendo Entertainment System, and Nintendo was forced to launch their own 16-bit system, the Super NES. The two systems then engaged in a legendary neck and neck race for 16-bit supremecy which lasted until the very end of the 16-bit era.
Alright, enough history. Let's get right down to the core of what made the Genesis a great system. I would like to start with the hardware, but I don't know anything about that, except that it had significantly more power in it than it's 1989 16-bit competitor, the Turbo Grafx 16, which was not much more powerful than an 8-bit system (this is not to degrade the Turbo, as it was a good system in it's own right. I'll try to write about it sometime soon.). It's 1993 16-bit competitor, the Super NES, packed more of a punch in that area, but the Genesis still prevailed. But all I really know is that it displayed a lot of great graphics onscreen, and played some catchy music. We didn't hear a lot of voices, though. The boys at Nintendo claimed that the Genesis didn't have the capability, but I think it was just laziness on the part of the programmers. As for the controllers, they were nice, simple things that fit comfortably and snugly in your hands and didn't have l and r buttons on the top. They had a directional button, a start button, and three action buttons. A great layout for most games, but if you were into fighting games, it downright sucked. Fortunately, there were 6 button controllers available, and no, they didn't have l and r buttons, either. The Genesis also had a lot of add ons, but these hurt it more than they helped it. It was the second system to realize the potential of cd technology, and therefore the second system to have a cd attachment (betcha can't guess what the first system to have a cd player was... yep, the Turbo!! The Genesis, however, was the first system to make good games for their cd player. Just a piece of useless trivia from the Baron.). Later, they introduced another add on, the 32X, which was supposed to increase the power of the Genesis to 32-bit, but that turned out to be the biggest mistake Sega ever made. Even Sega admitted they screwed up with that one. Said one representative, "We promised but we didn't deliver". The 32X broke no new ground, and was being sold cheaply (read: from $150 to $19.99 in a year) in flea markets only a year after it was introduced, if that. It did have a few redeeming games, though, like Doom and an outstanding translation of Virtua Fighter.
Now we get to the good stuff. The stuff that makes or breaks the system: The games! And the Genesis had lots of 'em! You name the genre, Sega delivered the goods. The Genesis was the reigning king in the sports arena, with games like the NFL, NHL, and NBA live series from EA Sports. I can't name all the other companies that produced sports games for the Genesis, but among the non-EA Sports titles are Prime Time NFL Starring Deion Sanders, a great translation of the 2 on 2 arcade basketball classic NBA Jam, and the Mutant League games, which featured bloodthirsty mutant players and nasty plays-throw a bomb in football, it's the real thing! Strategy or puzzle games? You'll love Columns and Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. As for the action games, there are plenty of those. To begin with, you have the Sonic the Hedgehog series, starring Sega's plucky blue mascot, who runs through levels at high speed, freeing the animals of Mobius from the evil Dr. Robotnik. Earthworm Jim stars an earthworm who gains super powers from a space suit and uses them against the evil Psy-Crow. You also have Aladdin, the best movie to game ever, and the best Contra game, called Contra: Hard Corps. And I dare not forget the Shinobi series, which started the whole ninja craze back in the day. Shooting games included Forgotten Worlds and Space Harrier. RPGs on the Genesis were few and far between, but when one came out, it was remembered forever. The Phantasy Star and Shining Force games are among the most influential in RPG history. There were no original fighting games, but the Genesis does have the better version of the original Mortal Kombat. If you're like me and consider the beat-em-up genre and the fighting genre to be the same, then you can include Golden Axe and Streets of Rage.
If there is one downside of the Genesis, it is that the games Sega rushed out for it at the end of the 16-bit era reek of the fact that they were rushed out. I can't tell you anything about them, as I never played any of them, but from what I heard, I'm not missing anything.
But those without a Genesis are missing something. This is a gaming system that no household should be without. If you happen to find one these days, buy it. You won't regret it.
Would have been my favorite system of the 90's had ithe games not begun to take a dive in quality. But make no mistake, there are some gems for the system that still hold up until now. Shinobi 3, Revenge of Shinobi, Gaiares, and the Thunder Force series. Classic system.
Out of spite this one gets a lower score even though it did give Nintendo a run for it's money for the short run. Impressive early on but it's raspy sounds and grainy colors were outclassed once Super NES hit the scene.