The other day, I went into the garage and took a large cardboard box into the house. At first glance, it looked like any old box, nothing special. Yet, opening it revealed this collection of treasures:
Of course, I knew exactly what was in that box. Alhough my Mega Drive gaming collection has grown over the years, beyond the contents of this box, what I saw before me represented something no eBay or car boot purchases can never replace – memories. Each piece of hardware and software contained within this box is a piece of me, a piece of my childhood, of birthdays, Christmases, of endless summer holiday afternoons. Memories of after-school evenings with friends trying out the latest cheats, reaching the highest scores, discovering the highest levels, before the arrival of the all-too-familiar game over screen.
If you read my previous post, you’d be aware this Mega Drive II will be twenty years-old this Christmas, so I felt the time was right to give the contents an airing.
For those of you who may not know, the 32X was a hardware add-on for the Mega Drive. Following a European release in December 1994, the unit was intended to convert the console from 16, to 32-bit. Although it was lacking on the release front, I was actually a big fan of the 32X at the time, and still maintain my loyalty today. Sure, the graphics and sound were pretty awful, but the ever-looming arrival of the Sega Saturn the following year meant the 32X never had the opportunity fulfill its true potential. This clip gives an interesting insight into what the console was actually capable of.
Retrieving an old TV (it just doesn’t look right on modern HD TVs), I plugged in the Mega Drive and set to tune-in the console. After an eternity of television static, I came upon a black screen. I powered-up Sonic 2. Black screen. A few blows on the console’s cartridge slot. Black screen. I blew on the cartridge itself, powered-up and…
“Produced or under license from Sega Enterprises”.
Bingo! With that familiar phrase, came the title screen and the even more familiar landscape of Emerald Hill Zone. The control pad wasn’t as responsive as I remembered, either that, or I’ve become accustomed to the responsiveness of modern-day pads. The ‘C’ button in particular took a few presses before is came back to life. Even though, the pad felt right at home in my hands, almost as if I’d never put it down.
Next up was Micro Machines Turbo Tournament ’96. This edition in the popular series saw the release of the J-Cart, a modified cartridge with 2 built-in control pad ports. Pioneered by Warwickshire developer Codemasters, the J-Cart was also present on titles such as Pete Sampras Tennis, Super Skidmarks and Micro Machines Military.
Connecting controllers into the cartridge ports allowed up to 4 players to compete, without need for any extra hardware. A stroke of genius. Having said that, the sheer amount of cables on the table meant for a scene reminiscent of an Indiana Jones-style snake-pit.
Next up, I fancied a power boost. It was time to unleash the 32X.
Now, I realise this is a blog based strictly on the Sega Mega Drive, but the 32X still falls within this category. Besides, for the majority of its daily use, I had the 32X unit connected to my Mega Drive console, due to the fact it allowed for the play of Mega Drive cartridges whilst attached. My game of choice for this bulbous 32-bit piece of kit? Virtua Fighter.
I remember one afternoon, going on a trip to the local newsagent. The Sega Saturn had just seen release and I used my pocket money to buy a copy of Sega Saturn Magazine. This issue came complete with a VHS containing demo footage of upcoming releases, one of these being Virtua Fighter.
I’d sit in my bedroom, Mega Drive pad in-hand, pretending to play along with the VHS demo. The incredible graphics, the smooth life-like animation had me absolutely captivated. Of course, when the 32X conversion saw release in November 1995, it was the first item on the birthday list. I still rate this early edition in the Virtua Fighter saga as one of the finest video game fighters to ever hit a home system. A few quick battles in 1-player mode and it was time for more 3D-based gaming, in the form of…
I’ll admit, by today’s standards, this game is pretty atrocious. Blocky graphics, terrible draw-distance, ear-drum piercing music, impossible controls. But I still love it, simply for the memories – the most prolific of which being the Christmas morning I got the game, eating my way through a multi-pack of Time Out chocolate bars as I went. I’m proud to say there were no sugar-induced hardware failures that year.
So, there ends my nostalgia fest. What I’ve written about is just a sample of the games I tried out that afternoon. Feel free to look at the pictures below for further games I played. Forgive me, for leaving but I’ve got a copy of Sonic & Knuckles that’s screaming out to be played. Where did I leave the chocolate?♦