Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Beginning of the End

The Master System was Sega's first foray into the console market, but for me (and probably a lot of other people) the Genesis was my first exposure to Sega and 16-bit gaming.  In truth, I would never call the Genesis, or Mega Drive (as it is sometimes called), the pinnacle of design.  Rather, from a technical standpoint the Dreamcast was probably Sega's best piece of hardware.  Having said that, I feel the old adage about a console only being as good as its games really applies here.  Sega has an uncanny ability to ruin its franchises, often within the time frame of a single sequel.  Check out the history of Altered Beast or Valkyria Chronicles for some great examples.  However, during the Genesis era most of Sega's works were fresh and vibrant.

Allow me to begin jogging your memory with the names of classic brawlers like Streets of Rage and Golden Axe, JRPGs such as Phantasy Star 2, 3 and 4, tactical RPGs like Shining Force, puzzle games such as Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine, RTS precursors like Populous, Powermonger, Herzog Zwei, and Dune II: Battle for Arrakis, hardcore sci-fi side-scrollers such as Another World (or alternatively Out of this World) and Flashback: Quest for Identity.  There were all kinds of great platform driven action/adventure games like Strider, Shinobi, Rolling Thunder, Rocket Knight Adventures (that's one awesome possum!), Kid Chameleon, and Earthworm Jim, as well as genuinely fun kid-friendly Disney licensed games represented by QuackShot and Castle of Illusion Staring Mickey Mouse.  Conversely, there was no shortage of brutally challenging games; The Immortal, Target Earth, Ghouls and Ghosts, not to mention the top-down/side-scrolling shooter hybrid Thunder Force.  I, for one, was very glad I never played any of those last four in a quarter-gobbling arcade.  No shortage on the sports front either with the NBA, NHL and NFL licences all held by Sega.  Then, there were also a number of non-traditional sports titles like Road Rash, Mutant League, and Pig Skin (basically football played circa 621 A.D.).

Additionally, the Genesis library had some unique curiosities that defy easy genre classification.  Some noteworthy titles include Gain Ground, Alien Storm, Sword of Sodan, Bimini Run, Dick Tracy and the iconic duo Toe Jam and Earl.  Even horror games got some coverage in the form of Splatter House 2 and 3.  Realistic military combat sims, normally confined to PC market, dipped their toes into Sega's proverbial play pool in the form of M-1 Abrams Battle Tank, and F-22 Interceptor.  Of course fighting games were well represented with Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter 2, but there were also some excellent titles of lesser renown such as the prehistoric dinosaur duels in Primal Rage or the dismemberment obsessed, time-traveling "what if...?" versus scenarios of Time Killers.  Underwater games your thing?  No problem!  From the comical James Pond to the somber Ecco the Dolphin, Sega had it covered.  They even made a rogue-like by the name of Fatal Labyrinth.  There were ports of arcade classics such as PAC-MAN and Paperboy, as well as early computer classics like Prince of Persia and Sid Meyer's Pirtaes!  Pretty much every major 90s entertainment property found its way to the Genesis; Jurassic Park, The Lion King, X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Michael Jackson's Moonwalker and some bizarre crossovers like Battletoads and Double Dragon.  Even a few pseudo 3D titles were made in the form of Space Harrier and Super Thunder Blade.  I could go on, but I think I've more than made my point.  Sega was on top.

More than two decades later though look at what Sega has become, a broken shell of a company deriving barely enough sustenance to sustain itself off pachinko machines and the efforts of subsidiary companies.  Its franchises have long since been run into the ground and Sega's mascot, Sonic, currently has about as much dignity as a comatose quadruple amputee on life support.  The future business strategy of Sega is to layoff hundreds of employees while shifting focus further and further toward the mobile and online space.  So long was great during your Genesis days, but now I think the Apocalypse has come for you at last.                                                      

No comments:

Post a Comment