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Useful Notes / Sega Genesis
aka: Sega Mega Drive

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Japanese model 1 Mega Drive on top; North American model 2 Genesis on bottom.

Genesis does what Nintendon't.
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After failing to make a dent on the NES/Famicom, at least in North America and Japan (the Master System did okay in Europe and South America), Sega decided to just top it. Nintendo were dragging their feet on a 16-bit system, which was the arcade standard at the time, and were already being impacted by the sudden success of the PC Engine in Japan, which while not actually 16-bit was a noticeable improvement from the Famicom, which was underpowered even for its time. Thus, Sega decided that they would beat Nintendo to the punch with a console based on their System 16 arcade board (codenamed "Mark V").

Enter the Mega Drive or, as North Americans refer to it, the Sega Genesis ("Mega Drive" was already trademarked in the U.S. by somebody making hard disk drives), released in 1988 in Japan, 1989 in North America, and 1990 elsewhere.

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For the most part, it worked. Outside of Japan, anyway. It was nursed along by Nintendo's region lock policy, which was viewed by some developers as a violation of anti-trust regulations. Those same developers flocked to Sega due to the latter's apparent laxity; Sega were angling toward the same kind of lockout policy until Electronic Arts broke the mechanism and then, characteristically, threatened to leak the details out to other third parties unless Sega agreed to more favorable terms. At any rate, Nintendo voluntarily dropped a lot of these policies later.

What made this console such a hit in the West was a shift in Sega's target audience early in its lifecycle. During the Master System era, Sega made a grab for the same kiddie demographic as Nintendo. The Genesis/Mega Drive initially did the same, as evidenced by their original mascot platformer Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, a sequel to the Master System's Alex Kidd in Miracle World. Its biggest breadwinners ended up being their family-friendly fare, namely the Sonic series and Virgin's Aladdin. Castle of Illusion was another early hit for the console, and there were plenty of other E-rated games coming down the pipe, like a Barney the Dinosaur edutainment game and Treasure's McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure. (The latter has no business being as good as it is.) However, Enchanted Castle was a severe critical and commercial failure in western countries.

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What really captured the public's imagination was Altered Beast, a hastily-made but fairly-accurate port of Sega's arcade hit which came bundled with most of the consoles. A few months later, the system had its first standalone hit, Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, adapted from the 1988 film of the same name and driven by the sheer star power of its lead figure at the time. It was obvious to Sega that they weren't going to get anywhere trying to appeal to Nintendo's audience, and that the answer lay in the burgeoning demographic of teens and young adults with disposable income.

Sega gathered the minds behind Alex Kidd and tasked them with coming up with a replacement mascot who could appeal to this older audience. The design process was lengthy and involved extensive market research, on-the-street interviews and polls, some of them conducted in the United States. In the summer of '91, they finally managed to come up with a Killer App known as Sonic the Hedgehog. The following year's sequel, Sonic 2, was even more successful and cemented Sega as a force to be reckoned with in the console market. The Genesis/Mega Drive sold 40 million units, with miniaturized versions and handhelds still on the market today.

Although the Mega Drive flopped in its home country, which was already embroiled in a war between the Nintendo and NEC's PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16 in the west), Sega of America's and Sega of Europe's adept marketing broke Nintendo's stranglehold on the western market, redefining the landscape for both companies and consumers and giving the Big N its first real competition in the home console business. Nintendo eventually deployed their own 16-bit console in the form of the Super NES/Super Famicom.

The SNES and Genesis had a long and fierce rivalry in the west which is the best-remembered Console War of all. Sega brazenly championed 16-bits as a marketing point over the 8-bit NES: their port of Strider was advertised as one of the biggest games of its day due to the fact that it was the first Sega game to use an 8-Megabit cartridge. After Nintendo upgraded to their own 16-bit console, Sega of America decided to change strategies and instead advertise the "Blast Processing" power of the Genesis, whatever that meant; it was actually a reference to the fact that the console had a faster processor than the SNES. Sega even planned Sonic 3 & Knuckles to be a then-staggering 34-Megabit cartridge, but when it became far too expensive for them to manufacture (along with the game being rushed down the pipeline due to a tie-in deal with McDonald's), they were forced to split the game in half; the latter release had a specialized Lock-On Technology cartridge which allowed the game to be played in its intended length.

After the roaring success of Donkey Kong Country and the Super FX chip put the SNES over the top, Sega were spooked into green-lighting Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island and Vectorman, along with a console port of Virtua Racing. The latter came with the Sega Virtua Processor, Sega's own take on the Super FX chip, which allowed for more-complex polygonal rendering. It was in fact more powerful than the Super FX chip. Virtua Racing also happened to be the most expensive cartridge ever produced for the console, and the disappointing sales convinced Sega's marketing department that there was no future in it. Also, the Sega CD/Mega-CD came about because Sega heard rumors of Nintendo's deal with Sony to develop their own CD add-on, and also because NEC had just released their own CD attachment. Sega jumped the gun and pushed out their own attachment as a countermeasure: it allowed the console to perform otherwise-impossible tricks similar to the SNES, such as Mode 7 effects and sprite rotation. However, both the CD add-on and the later 32X were commercial failures, which is ominous in hindsight. Ironically, the SNES CD-ROM wound up becoming an albatross and never saw release.

Aside from the Sega-Nintendo rivalry, there was also a Sega-NEC corporate rivalry going on: See Johnny Turbo for more.

Not to be confused with the band Genesis, the web game Ge.ne.sis, the Genesis Device, the book in The Bible, or the Genesis game based on the book in The Bible with a soundtrack by Genesis.


Specs:

Processors

  • Like the Sega Master System, the Genesis/Mega Drive has a master clock speed of 53 MHz, which is divided down to different clock speeds for the various processors and components.
  • The console has a 16/32-Bit Motorola 68000 that runs at 7.68 MHz (varies per region). The 16-bit part was prominently used as a marketing point over the 8-bit NES. Its arithmetic and logic unit is 16 bits wide, but its registers are 32 bits wide. This CPU uses microcode to emulate 32 bit instructions in hardware slower than a full 32 bit processor, but faster than emulating the 32 bit instructions in 16 bit software.
    • Along with the TurboGrafx-16, the consoles brazen marketing of the 16 bit mantra (even proudly displaying it on the first model of the console) started the rather unfortunate misconception that "Bits=Better Graphics/The Power of the Console". While it does have a grain of truth in it, it's also a gross oversimplification of how bits work.
  • Graphics generated by the Video Display Processor (VDP), more advanced than the one used the Master System. The Genesis/Mega Drive VDP is clocked at 13 MHz.
    • The system was heavily marketed for its ability to render objects faster than the SNES, a feature for which the Sega marketing division coined the term "Blast Processing". The higher performance allowed the console to be able to render 3D polygons even without any special chips, like with Hard Drivin' and Star Cruiser.
    • Like the NES and SNES, it could expand through chips on the carts. Unfortunately, incorporating it was a lot more expensive than an SNES chip, and it was only ever used by the Virtua Racing port. The SVP version of Virtua Racing was supposedly a beta product; Sega had plans to spin the SVP off into a separate console add-on if VR was successful. That never came to pass, but it didn't stop Sega's R&D from trying again with the 32X, however: Sega’s accountants probably deduced that the problem was due to the SVP chip being totally proprietary and thus expensive to manufacture. Unlike the SVP Virtua Racing cartridges, the 32X was built using off-the-shelf components and had lots of kludges to balance out the price.
  • It also has a 2nd CPU, a Zilog Z80 running at 3.58 MHz, used for the Sound chips's CPU and Master System play back.

Memory

  • 64 KB of main Random Access Memory and 64 KB of Video RAM (VRAM). The main RAM bus is clocked at 5.26 MHz and the VRAM bus is clocked at 8 MHz.
  • 8 KB of sound RAM. The sound RAM bus is clocked at 3.58 MHz.
  • 8 KB of extra RAM for backwards compatibility with the Master System, although that requires an adapter.
  • Games ranged from 128KB (Columns, Ms. Pac-Man) to 5 MB (Super Street Fighter II). Keep in mind that these were advertised by their bit size, not their byte size, so they would be listed as 1 megabits to 40 megabits. The largest homebrew game is Pier Solar and the Great Architects, which has an 8 MB (64 megabits) cartridge.

Sprites

  • Sprites up to 32x32 pixels. As on other systems, multiple sprites were placed side by side to form the large characters in games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat.
  • Up to 80 sprites on screen, not including background layer textures which could also appear animated, with a maximum of 20 sprites or 320 sprite pixels per scanline.
  • Two background layers in addition to the sprite layer. Due to the GPU offering very precise control over individual scanlines, however, it was possible to simulate the appearance of many more background layers, something which is very noticeable in the mainline Sonic titles.
  • Could not do scaling and rotating sprites in hardware, but the faster CPU could allow developers to program the effect in software by resizing sprite data.
  • While the main console had no dedicated 3D hardware, it was just barely powerful enough to create real time polygons in-software without the help of add-ons or enhancement chips, as proven by the games Hard Drivin, Res Q and Star Cruiser, among others.

Display

  • 320x224 resolution.
  • 64 colors on screen (divided into four 16-color palettes), 512 total.
    • There is a hack called Fantom Bitmap(*sic*) which allows an astonishing 4096 colors on screen. This is achieved through precision-timed DMA writes of only the background color to the color RAM with the RAM increment pointer disabled, effectively allowing the software to "stream" the graphics pixel-by-pixel to the screen, and then combined with color-flipping (i.e. a pixel is flipped between two different colors 60 times a second) to mix two colors and achieve the unbelievable color fidelity. However, it was really cumbersome to set up as it relied on the precise timing of the Genesis'/Mega Drive's clock crystal; Sega's use of cheaper crystal oscillators as a cost-cutting measure also meant that no two Genesis/Mega Drive consoles run precisely at the same speed (nevermind 50Hz PAL region consoles), necessitating a "tuning" process before the game can be played. As a result, it was only used in demos and never in real games.
    • There is another method used in the Overdrive demo that uses a similar method to achieve access to all 512 colors, this is done again by precision timing and blasting a new color palette every scanline.
    • Likewise, few emulators support both features (they were undocumented, and while they were well known of since the early 90s, they were never used in commercial games, as such no emulators supported these modes until recently when accuracy became an important factor in emulators).
  • Video cable support is identical to the first model of the Sega Master System, allowing for RF, composite, and RGB, with support for standard SCART/JP-21 cables in the latter's case as opposed to competitors' usage of proprietary cables.

Audio

  • Yamaha YM2612 (OPN2)
    • Six concurrent FM channels (voices).
    • Four operators per channel.
    • Two interval timers.
    • Stereo sound.
    • Sixth FM channel can switched to PCM mode.
  • Texas Instruments SN76489
    • 4 Analog generators.
    • 3 squares one noise.
    • modded for stereo sound (the chip's standers can only do Mono)
  • Because there was no hardware timer to help the Z80 that controlled the audio hardware keep time, it could generate clean PCM audio without music, clean music, or a mix of music and distorted PCM sound.

Addons and peripherals

Power Base Converter: An add-on which allowed the console to play Master System games, either of the cartridge or the card variety, and included support for the SMS's SegaScope 3D glasses. This was initially marketed for the first model Mega Drive, but a small quantity was made for the redesigned, compact Mega Drive (but only in Europe). Also, it can not play SG-1000 games (or Master System games that use the system's video modes like F-16 Fighting Falcon) or use its Japan only FM chip (the YM2413, which was also used on the MSX under the name MSX Music and was cloned by Konami as the VRC7 chip for the Famicom in Japan) unless the unit is modded. It also won't work with a 32X unless it is modded.
Sega CD/Mega-CD: A CD-based add-on which would allow it to take advantage of a higher-capacity storage medium, enabling features such as Full Motion Video and Red Book CD sound. Unfortunately, the Genesis'/Mega Drive's own processing power wasn't quite enough to take advantage of these features to the fullest. Commonly believed to be a flop, the add-on actually sold well enough to be incorporated into some models of the console (the JVC Wondermega/X'Eye the CDX/Multi-Mega), though it never found the sort of popularity that NEC's CD add-on for the PC Engine did in Japan. Since the system was bound by the Genesis'/Mega Drive's palette limitations (except for the few CD games that also supported the 32X add-on), live-action footage was reduced to "the most horrifying, blurry, reduced-color-palette mess imaginable", to quote Digital Pictures co-founder Ken Melville.

Specs

Sprites

  • The sprites have identical specs to those of the Genesis/Mega Drive console, but can now do sprite scaling and Mode 7 effects.
  • Like the main console, the CD add-on has limited support for real time 3D, such as the main fighter and enemies in Silpheed (with the backgrounds being pre-rendered full-motion videos) Stellar Fire and the port of Starblade.

Processor

  • A 2nd 68000 chip running at 12.5 MHz, the main 68000 chip becomes the sound chips's CPU.

Memory

  • 512 KB of main RAM and 256 KB of video RAM.
  • 64 KB of sound RAM.
  • 16 KB of CD drive cache.
  • 8 KB of back up RAM, with memory cartridges going at 128 KB

Display

  • Same as the Genesis/Mega Drive, but has a extra chip that can do scaling and rotation effects like the Super NES's Mode-7 chip (the Super NES has 2 PPUs, 1 for modes 0 to 6, and the other for mode 7) with the DPS1 chip and playing FMV video.

Audio

  • Because of the additional memory of the discs, Sega CD/Mega-CD games can play pre-recorded CD quality music for the main games. The drive also doubles as a standard CD player. Discs are multi-partitioned, with track 1 carrying game data and track 2 onwards carrying Red Book CD audio.
  • Ricoh RF5C164 note  16 bit 8 channel PCM chip running at 32 KHz (44.1 KHz for CD-DA), also it's own CPU running at 12 MHz.
  • On Model 2s, the console can receive audio from the CD add-on internally and output the audio mixed. However, on Model 1 machines, a passthrough cable must be hooked into the console's headphones jack to connect it with the add-on, and audio from then must henceforth be received from the add-on instead of the console. As a result, while the Model 1 can be installed on the Sega CD/Mega-CD 1 with a base extension, the Model 2 is incompatible with the Sega CD/Mega-CD 2.


Sega 32X: Originally conceived as the "Neptune", a cartridge-based 32-bit system to go along with their second CD-based system, the Sega Saturn. The add-on boasted two 32-bit processors and primitive 3D graphics capabilities, and was marketed as an opportunity for consumers to get a head start on the 32-bit generation. Unfortunately, both consumers and developers saw that the superior Saturn was just around the corner—although Sega deluded themselves into believing the 32X and Saturn could co-exist, with casual gamers gravitating towards the cheaper 32X while the Saturn was reserved for the hardcore crowd. Titles for the add-on were few and far between. Some earlier CD games were also re-released on the 32X to take advantage of the system's improved processing; those games require both the 32X and CD accessories to be present to be playable. Madness.

Specs

Processors

  • 2 Hitachi SH-2 chips, just like the Saturn. But unlike the Saturn, the chip are a bit slower and are running at 23 MHz each.

Memory

  • 256 KB of main RAM and 256 KB (128 KB X 2) of video RAM.
  • 256 KB of sound RAM

Display

  • 2 frame buffers with 2 layers (sprites and backgrounds) each (4 in total) and can be set up as just backgrounds or a large amount of sprites or ect.
  • 32,768 Colors, no on screen limits.
  • 50,000 sprites with their blocks going up to 512 X 512; Polygons like the Saturn are done with sprites, if all 4 layers are sprite layers, it can go up to 200,000 sprites. This gives the 32X the most advanced 3D capabilities of any home gaming system released prior to the Saturn, surpassing even the Atari Jaguar and 3DO, albeit with those systems being more capable 2D-wise.
  • Stuff like Scaling, Rotation and 3D Engines are done with software with said software running on the second SH-2 chip.
  • Screen resolution is still the same as the Genesis/Mega Drive.
  • Most noticeably, however, is that the hardware has no internal access to the console's video hardware output. Instead it has a compositor chip which genlocks an s-video input signal and then draws it's 3D on top of that, much like how early Voodoo 3D accelerator cards work on the PC. Consequently, the add-on requires a connection to the S-Video out port on the Genesis/Mega Drive, and as a side effect, may degrade the video output of the latter a bit due to the additional cabling.

Audio

  • 2 10-bit PWM Channels.
    • Sega's apparent intention was for programmers to perform software mixing of music on one of the SH-2 chips, and use the PWM channels to play back the music, much like the Game Boy Advance several years later. While a few games attempted this (Kolibri in particular), the vast majority of games just used the console's existing audio hardware for music, and the 32X's additional channels for sound effects.
  • Like "Display" above, the 32X could not access the output of the PSG and OPN2 chips within the console internally. Consequently, to link the audio of the Genesis/Mega Drive to the 32X, you need to connect the latter to either a) the audio-out RCA jacks on a Model 2, b) the stereo headphones jack on the original model, or c) the audio out of the CD add-on.

In short, the Genesis/Mega Drive could at least come close to the SNES in total power, and could match it with extra chips. The only major limitations that the system faced, no matter what, was its limited color output and smaller sprite size.


Notable Games/Series:

    open/close all folders 

    Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Games A-D 

    Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Games E-H 

    Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Games I-L 

    Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Games M-P 

    Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Games Q-T 

    Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Games U-Z 

    Sega CD/Mega-CD Games 

    Sega 32 X Games 

    Sega Genesis Mini Games 
  • Darius (originally a fan-produced ROM before being adopted by M2.)
  • Tetris (more specifically, a port of Sega's 1988 arcade version. Not based on the unreleased Mirrorsoft prototype as claimed by the info screen for the game, but rather made from whole cloth by M2.)

Tropes Related To The System And Its Add-Ons:

  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: The reason behind the Big Word Shout ("SEGA!"), plus the passive-aggressive marketing push in North America. It was all meant to appeal to that edgy 90's gaming market. Japan went for a less in-your-face ad campaign.
  • The Artifact: In the early days of the Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega kept the Master System's Alex Kidd around as their mascot. But when Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle flopped with critics and retail, Sonic turned out to be their real cash cow. Sega mostly retired Alex Kidd from their Genesis/Mega Drive, Saturn, and Dreamcast libraries, with Alex being relegated to very-sporadic cameos in later works, such as Mascot Racers and the comics.
  • Big Word Shout: "SEGA!" in the ads. A digitized version can be heard in a handful of consoles games, with the harmonious choir singing it in the Sonic titles, and the T-Rex hilariously 'speaking' in the first Genesis/Mega Drive Jurassic Park tie-in.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • Sega was much more lenient with what content could be included in their games, as hinted by SNES Aladdin vs. Genesis/Mega Drive Aladdin. (Chucking apples at guards, parkouring off their heads, and sliding down clotheslines is a lot truer to the spirit of the movie than Al hacking them to death with a scimitar the whole game.) Nintendo famously edited out the gore in Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, whereas Sega didn't, at least not entirely (see below). However, Sega did draw the line at nudity. When the computer game Stormlord was ported to the Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega forced Razor Soft to give the fairies clothing (in the original game, they were nude). Oddly enough, Mystic Defender, an early game for the console, had a very brief bit of female nudity at the end.
    • With the brief adoption of their Video Game Rating Council system in 1993, Sega started bringing down the axe on certain content. Rise of the Dragon and Snatcher had some mature images edited out despite both games getting an MA-17 rating from Sega.
  • Copy Protection, This is actually averted with the Sega CD. If you're able to burn a Sega CD ISO file to a CD-R and pop it into the system, the system will play it like it would any legitimate copy of the same game. To be completely fair, most early CD-based systems were in a similar boat, since CDs were expensive and difficult to copy at the time - but one suspects that this would've still massively bitten Sega in the ass if the Sega CD had actually taken off.
  • Country Switch: It was found that many early region-free games actually does this. Depending on the game, changes may be as subtle as removing or adding a trade mark symbol to a complete overhaul (for example, Mystic Defender revealing itself to actually be a Peacock King game and reverting certain elements to its uncensored state).
  • Dueling Works:
    • Super Mario Bros. 3 vs. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, which ended very poorly for Alex.
    • Super Mario World vs. Sonic 1.
    • Art Alive!, Sega's (very) weak answer to the then-upcoming Mario Paint, minus a mouse. Even the cameos by Sonic, ToeJam & Earl couldn't save this one.
    • Final Fight (Capcom) vs. Streets of Rage.
    • Fire Emblem vs. Shining Series.
    • Killer Instinct vs. Eternal Champions.
    • Different games made by different companies under the same title were quite common in that era. You wanted a game on multiple platforms, but the team you wanted only knew how to develop for one platform. So you contracted other teams to develop the game for other consoles. With little-to-no communication between developers, you wound up with very-different games that still kept to the brief given by the owner of the IP. It still happens to a degree in the modern day, albeit for different reasons. Many cross-platform games have levels that might differ from other consoles quite a lot (as was the case quite often during the transitional period for the PlayStation 2 after the PlayStation 3 came out), or games that differ completely due to different input methods (Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii).
      1. Virgin Games produced a pair of Aladdin games that were pitted against each other.
      2. Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose! (SNES) versus Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster's Hidden Treasure (Genesis), both developed by Konami.
      3. Two Action RPGs based on Shadowrun. See the dedicated article.
      4. Jurassic Park was the same way: completely-different games on separate platforms.
  • Embedded Precursor: The system's hardware was specifically designed to be backward compatible with the 8-bit Master System, so Sega included the hardware of a fully-functional Master System inside the original Genesis/Mega Drive model, with the only lockout being the difference in cartridges. Sega released an adapter called the Power Base Converter which allowed Master System games to be played on a Genesis/Mega Drive to compensate. Unfortunately, it was incompatible with the model 2 Genesis, and although Sega did release an updated Power Base Converter which fit snugly onto a model 2, it was only given a limited release in Europe. Said update also lacked compatibility with the Sega Cards, therefore no SegaScope 3D support.
  • Fan Nickname: A Genesis/Mega Drive with every possible add-on: Power Base Converter, CD add-on, a 32X, a lock-on Sonic & Knuckles cartridge with Sonic 2 or 3 hooked in, the cleaning cartridge, and possibly (if you're feeling bold) a Game Genie (as seen here). Nicknames for this setup include the "Tower of Babel", the "Tower of Power" or the "Doom Tower."
  • Fun with Acronyms: The commercials (including the one for Sonic the Hedgehog) featuring Denita Stokes, the president of "Humans Against Genesis".
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The Mega Drive was never a big success in Japan compared to the PC Engine or the Super Famicom, but the console was popular in the rest of the world, especially North America and Europe. It was released two years before the SNES and outsold it in the U.S. and U.K. The only reason the SNES was able to outsell the Genesis in North America during its dying days was due to the release of Donkey Kong Country. In Russia, the Mega Drive was (and in many cases still is) the only 16-bit console. The Russian video game market in the '90s was mainly based on bootlegging and piracy, and the SNES was nearly impossible to clone at that time; it was much easier and cheaper for video game stores to import countless unlicensed Mega Drive clones and cartridges. Before the rise of the internet, many people in Russia didn't even know the SNES existed.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: After Sega tried to match Nintendo with the Sega Master System (to great success in Europe and South America, but falling flat in Japan and North America), they decided to go in the opposite direction and become Nintendo's antithesis.
    • One of the 32X commercials had a console laying on a bed as the 32X descended and plugged itself into it. "All right, baby..."
    • "Can we see that again?"
    • Sega absolutely loves this gimmick. Quoth an ad for the Mega Drive in the UK, whose headline is The more you play with it, the harder it gets:
      You sit there, eyes glued to the writhing, arcade quality graphics, pulling and squeezing your knob. Now you're breathing heavily over the digital stereo sound. Now you're shooting all over the place, but it's no use... "GAME OVER."
    • Sharp-minded readers will note that the default controllers are gamepads and not joysticks (although they did have an arcade stick controller available), thus the only logical conclusion is that the ad was aiming for an erection/ejaculation joke.
  • Late Export for You: The Mega Drive was first released in Japan in 1988, but it didn't reach U.S shores until 1989 (and didn't go international until 1990).
  • Mascot with Attitude: The console was more-known for its big-name sports titles and arcade ports before Sonic gave it a face in '91. He kick-started an entire trend in the nineties (anybody remember Jazz Jackrabbit?). Sonic isn't the only example on the console either, as he had many shameless imitators such as the similarly eco-friendly Awesome Possum, ToeJam & Earl, Treasure's Dynamite Headdy, and Sparkster the Rocket Knight.
  • Meaningful Name: The North American name came about from being not only the "genesis" of 16-bit home consoles (at least in America), but also the fact that Sega were determined to establish themselves as a big player in North America—the genesis of their success.
  • Moe Anthropomorphism:
    • From the Neptunia franchise, Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory introduces the planet Pururut/Plutia (depending on the region) a.k.a. Iris Heart. Pururut is a cute girl who speaks very slowly, is very lazy, but is a sweet girl... but when she transforms into her goddess form Iris Heart, she becomes a Dominatrix who punishes foes and allies alike (the latter only when they disagree with her). Iris Heart's violent personality might be inspired by Sega's attitude towards Nintendo in the mid-90s.
    • The Mega Drive is one of the Sega Hard Girls, a group of girls based on Sega consoles and handhelds. A Cute Bookworm with her trademark 16-Bit Book which contains information of anything regarding the console and its games. Her unpopularity references the console's middling success in Japan. Both Pururut and Mega Drive appear in the crossover game Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls as each other's rival/counterpart. Mega Drive has also an "American" counterpart, the cowgirl cousin of Mega Drive named SEGA Genesis, a girl who has studied overseas and become an Americophile.
  • Porting Disaster: The Sega Genesis Flashback. The library was solid but lacked the top-drawer titles like Earthworm Jim, Flashback, or Gunstar Heroes; the rest were plagued with slowdown and mangled soundtracks.
  • Product Facelift
    • The Mega Drive went through the most redesigns of any video game console in history barring the competing PC Engine.
      1. First, you have the original model, which also has a link port (meant for the cancelled Meganet) in the very earliest models.
      2. The more famous, streamlined Model 2 Genesis.
      3. The Genesis CDX (Multi-Mega in Europe) which was a clever but expensive hybrid of the Genesis/Mega Drive and its CD add-on.
      4. The JVC X'Eye/Wondermega which was similar in concept to the CDX and also had enhanced sound capability (and a $500 price tag to match).
      5. The Model 3 Genesis from Majesco (released only in North America), which was as big as the controller.
      6. And then there's the Mega Jet and Genesis Nomad (see below), both of which are portable Genesis consoles.
      7. There is even a licensed version of the Mega Drive, first released in Europe, the AtGames Sega Mega Drive 20-in-1 Game Console, which contains 20 games built into the console and is fully region- unlocked. It's even smaller than the Model 3 Genesis, and has unofficially been dubbed the "Model 4 Genesis". This version made it to the United States shortly thereafter, and comes packed with 80 games.
      8. The Sega Pico contained pretty much the same main components as the Genesis/Mega Drive, save replacing the OPN2 synthesizer with a uPD PCM DAC. A later Yamaha-made spinoff of the Pico reinstated the OPN2 synthesizer.
    • There were two different types of Mega Drive controllers. The first is the standard three-button control pad, and the second is a six-button control pad (known as the Fighting Pad 6B in Japan and the Six-Button Arcade Pad in North America) made specifically for fighting games, of which there plenty in the mid-nineties. The Arcade Pad later got a redesign by Majesco released in conjunction with the Genesis 3 console (same button layout, but with gumball joysticks and turbo options).
    • Other peripherals include the Menacer light gun (Sega's answer to Nintendo's Super Scope) and the Activator motion sensor pad (which did not work as well as it was advertised).
    • The Sega Nomad. While it's a near-fully functioning portable version of the Genesis/Mega Drive, it suffers from a truly horrific battery life (six AA's, from which you'd be lucky to get two hours of playtime), lacks a reset button (which makes certain games such as X-Men impossible to complete, as they require pressing the button at certain points), and is incompatible with the CD and 32X add-ons. Not to mention that if you shake it too much while playing, your game will freeze. And you can pretty much forget about playing on the Sonic & Knuckles lock-on cartridge without a mishap at some point. An official chargeable battery pack was made for the handheld, and the Nomad is also compatible with the same AC adapter as the Sega Genesis model-2 and Game Gear. It was actually quite a powerful handheld for its time, featuring a backlit screen and the ability to connect with a TV to function as a traditional Genesis/Mega Drive. The concept of having a screen on your controller while also playing on the television would ironically become the main gimmick of Nintendo's Wii U more than a decade later, and the idea of a unit that could function as both a portable and home console would become the gimmick of the Nintendo Switch.
    • The success of the NES Classic was followed by the Sega Genesis Flashback. The 2017 model failed to impress. Sega authorized AtGames to develop Genesis plug'n'plays many years earlier, but they later teamed up with developer M2 to produce the Sega Genesis Mini.
  • Rated M for Money:
    • Sega aimed more towards the 13+ crowd, and were much less-strict with censorship than Nintendo (to say nothing of Sega's more-genial Master System). Ironically, Sega briefly started their own rating system (the Video Game Rating Council) to combat bad PR from the raunchy games they tended to release. It was quickly phased out in '94 in lieu of adopting the ESRB rating system.
    • To show they weren't bluffing, instead of a colorful, kid-friendly platformer like Alex Kidd being the console advance man, the first pack-in game, Altered Beast, was an arcade Beat 'em Up with muted colors, ghouls, and a slightly-disturbing transformation sequence which would never fly on the NES. This would be followed up with games like Techno Cop, which showed blood spraying from enemies and victims you shot (including children), and the ultra-violent Splatterhouse trilogy.
    • Their port of Mortal Kombat also kept the arcades' beloved blood and gore intact—kind of. You needed a cheat code to turn them on. (The Genesis/Mega Drive port got an MA-13 rating while the Sega CD/Mega-CD version, which had the gore uncensored right off the bat and needed a code to turn the gore off, got an MA-17 rating instead.) The SNES port, by comparison, was heavily-censored with blood being replaced with 'sweat' and most fatalities being changed to the point where you're never quite clear on how you killed someone.
    • Even their advertisements were a stark contrast from Nintendo's carefully stage-managed, wholesome image.
  • Scary Black Man: The most famous of the Sega CD commercials had one. "HEY!! You STILL don't have a Sega CD?!"
  • Spell My Name with an "S": In Europe (particularly within the U.K.), Mega Drive is sometimes spelled as one word (Megadrive) rather than two.
  • Sprite/Polygon Mix: Some of the later games for the system.
  • Tag Line: The console had several.
    • "Welcome To The Next Level" (sometimes stylized as Welco metot henex tlevel when the lines were stacked vertically).
    • "Genesis Does What Nintendon't" in North America.
    • The "SE-GA ♪" chime and the "SEGA!" scream. The former is easily the most famous of Sega's classic taglines.
    • "To be this good takes AGES, To be this good takes SEGA."
  • Take That!: The ad campaign in America took heavy pot-shots at Nintendo, whether by comparing the Genesis' Blast Processing (represented as a drag race car) to a broken down ice cream truck with Mario Kart playing on it, or comparing Nintendo to a bloodsucking mosquito because they charged an extra 10$ for certain games on the SNES. They also took a swipe at the 3DO in one of their 32X ads.
  • Troubled Production: Sega went through a lot of grief when producing a CD add-on. Technical hurdles involved getting it to work with the console, as well as paranoia about the capabilities of competing hardware. The dev team were pressured to continually beef up the specs to the point where it became too exorbitant for most gamers. Adding to the mess was the competition between Sega's eastern and western branches, which would go on to derail another console (the Saturn): Sega of Japan refused to send prototypes to Sega of America or Sega of Europe, which neutered their ability to promote the add-on prior to release. When units finally arrived at Sega of America's doorstep, they found it plagued with manufacturing defects, up to and including spontaneous combustion. They scrambled to get the hardware out the door, which meant that Sega couldn't properly solicit game developers for the system; the CD library consisted mainly (though not entirely) of laughable FMV games, with only a few titles making innovative use of the system specs, such as Lunar and Snatcher.
  • Video Game Long Runners: It was launched in 1988 and wasn't formally discontinued until '98. But there are still versions of the console on sale today (and impressively, many of these clones are made under official license from Sega), and there were actually a few new unlicensed games released for it in the last decade, the most recent of which came out in 2012.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • The Genesis/Mega Drive was going to be the first console to receive a VR headset accessory. Sega's lawyers put a kibosh on the plan after it was found that the beta testers were getting motion sickness due to the console constantly lagging. The technology wasn't ready yet.
    • The console originally had an internet modem designed for it called the Sega Meganet, though it was rather short-lived. Sega tried it again with the Sega Channel in the mid-90s with modest success. There were also plans for an online multiplayer peripheral called the Edge 16, which was designed with fighting games like Ballz in mind, but it never saw release.
  • World of Ham: Pretty much anyone who appears in Sega's commercials.
  • "X" Makes Anything Cool: The Sega CDX, and the Sega 32X.

"SEGA!"

Alternative Title(s): Sega Mega Drive, Sega CD, Mega Drive

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