Get ready to feel old, Genesis kids, because Sega’s legendary 16-bit console recently turned 25. Like many kids who first cut their gaming teeth on the NES, I briefly betrayed Nintendo and joined Sega’s camp during the 16-bit wars. The Sega Genesis (or the Mega Drive to those not from North America) just seemed so much fresher and, dare I say it, more rude, crude and full of ‘tude than the stodgy old Super Nintendo.
But the SNES did narrowly outsell the Genesis, and winners write the history books, so the Genesis’ accomplishments tend to be downplayed these days. Well, we’ll have none of that nonsense here! Here are 12 facts you may not know about the best console of the 16-bit era (yeah, I just threw down that gauntlet)…
1) The Genesis was actually Sega’s third console. Most people know that Sega had an 8-bit console before the Genesis in the Mega Drive, but they actually had yet another console before that called the SG-1000. The SG-1000 launched in Japan on he same day as Nintendo’s Famicom (July 15, 1983) and, well, I bet you can guess how that battle went for Sega — the SG-1000 was such an immediate flop it was never even considered for an American release. So, the Mega Drive/Genesis was a real “get a hit or go back to the bench” situation for Sega.
Oh, you don’t own an SG-1000? And here I thought you were a Sega fan.
2) The console’s internal hardware was a mashup of an Apple Macintosh and a Game Boy. Sega wanted the Genesis to be easy to develop for and port games to, so it was built out of the most common chips and components possible. The system’s main processor was a Motorola 68000, the same chip that powered the original Apple Macintosh five years earlier, and its sound chip was a Zilog Z80, the ancient chip (it first hit the market in 1976) that powered the Game Boy.
3) The system was a flop in Sega’s home country of Japan, but a huge success in Brazil. The Genesis/Mega Drive may have been the product of a Japanese company, but the machine tanked hard in Japan. In fact, the Mega Drive was a rather distant third place in Japan, trailing both the Super Famicom and the Japanese version of the TurboGrafx-16.
On the other hand, the console was a rousing success in Brazil (and the rest of South America for that matter) with the system continuing to sell there well after it was a dead system in the rest of the world. The 8-bit Master System was also a major success in Brazil. This was mainly because Tectoy, the company with a complete iron grip on the South American video game market, was oddly loyal to Sega. Tectoy could have brought in Nintendo products if they had wanted to, but they never bothered, sticking faithfully to Sega and its machines.
Want to buy a brand new, weirdly-colored Genesis in a super ugly box? Brazil is the place for you.
4) The console had a super-confusing name in Korea. Due to Korea and Japan’s centuries old simmering blood feud, Japanese companies were barred from selling their products in South Korea until fairly recently. Most Japanese products still ended up in Korea, but they had to be sold by local company under a different name, which led to Sega teaming up with Samsung. The Master System was the first Sega console Samsung sold in Korea, and they renamed the system the Gam*Boy, and what did they call the Mega Drive? The Super Gam*Boy, naturally.
So, if you say you want a Super Game Boy in most of the world, you’ll get this…
…but in Korea, you’ll probably get this.
Yup, totally a Samsung creation — no devious Japanese companies involved here.
5) There were wireless controllers for Genesis. Think Nintendo’s Wavebird for the Gamecube was the first wireless video game controller? Nope! Sega released wireless infrared Genesis controllers back in the 90s, and by all accounts, they worked better than you might think.
6) It also beat Nintendo to motion controls by around 20-years. Yup, decades before Nintendo let you flail your way to sports supremacy, Sega sold this baby…
Swing the bat and your guy in the game would swing his bat. Simple, but then again, most Wii motion controls never advanced much beyond this stage. Then of course there was the Sega Activator, which was essentially the 90s version of Kinect.
Is that kid wearing like, three layers of sweater over shorts?
Your controller’s various buttons were mapped to a big plastic hexagon you put on the floor and activated by punching and kicking. Once again, the comparison to modern-day motion controls is depressingly apt.