Deep Secrets of the Dark Console

ec38a9856d304c590e0f1a14338909e7_largeAs you can imagine, MegaBites is pretty excited about the forthcoming release of Read-Only Memory’s Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works. Rocketing past its Kickstarter target within 48 hours it reached a stunning grand total of £98,725 on the 9th December last year. Simply incredible.

Since that time, MegaBites has kept a keen eye upon the developments, revelations and the quite literally game-changing secrets that the project has uncovered so far. From previously unheard of Sonic levels, to secret Shinobi bosses, Read-Only Memory has uncovered and revealed an incredible series of Sega secrets months before the book’s release. Read on as MegaBites documents some of the highlights so far.

A Sonic boom…

s1-bginfo-originimg4fullWhen it comes to unreleased levels, Sonic 2‘s Hidden Palace, Dust Hill, Genocide City and Wood Zone are right up there with the Sonic series’ legendary best. Each planned and ultimately dropped at varying stages in the game’s development, these unreleased levels exist only in reissued releases, development sketches and fragmented beta ROMs.

But what of the original Sonic the Hedgehog? Sure, we all know of Green Hill Zone, and Marble Zone, but thanks to an exclusive interview with Sonic artist Naoto Ōshima, Read-Only Memory has become the first to reveal unreleased levels GOLD WORLD ZONE and CHINESE WORLD ZONE.

Who needs Mode-7?…

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 17.03.27Short of a certain Italian plumber and his spiky blue rival, the war between the Mega Drive and SNES boiled down to two elements – blast processing and Mode-7.

As a term coined during Sega’s larger-than-life Mega Drive marketing campaigns, Blast Processing was a graphical technique that showcased console’s gaming prowess – one that enabled the speed of Sonic, the greatness of Gunstar Heroes and the verisimilitude of Vectorman (take that alliteration fans!). Thanks to Mode-7, the SNES was capable of pseudo 3D graphics, rotational background effects and conceptual games where chubby-legged pilots could jet-pack to their heart’s content. It’s hard to deny that the SNES had graphics that were admittedly beyond many consoles of its era – or so we were led to believe…

Thanks to the exploits of present day Mega Drive demo-scener – and Kickstarter project backer – Titan, it has come to light that the Mega Drive had one or two nifty tricks under its bonnet. Put simply, Sega’s 16-bit bombshell was capable of the finest jaw-dropping 3D graphics and the most incredible visuals with the potential to blow Mode-7 out of the water. Take that Pilotwings!

(Click to see the Overdrive tech-demo by Titan. You won’t regret it.)

Who’s the boss?…

BbDpjkdCEAACmMN.jpg_large

The second title in the Shinobi console series – as the name suggests – was fueled by revenge. Yet, unknown until now, it also had a hidden twist in its storyline, which unfolded as thus…

Three years on from the events of the original Shinobi, the Neo Zeed criminal organisation sought vengeance. Arriving late on the scene, our hero Joe Musashi discovered his wife kidnapped and his master fatally wounded. Musashi held his master, who in his dying breath, told his apprentice of the terror that unfolded. Before his elder can utter another word, our hero, fueled with rage, took swift action and embarked upon an epic journey to save his beloved and kill her kidnapper. A simple tale, right? Think again!

ShinobiBossThanks to an incredible revelation, uncovered by Read-Only Memory, it has become apparent that The Revenge of Shinobi’s hair-wielding kabuki master wasn’t the game’s final boss – he was a precursor to a second showdown. Had Musashi stayed with in his village just that little bit longer, he would have been witness to one final vital piece of information – that his master would re-appear as the game’s final boss, in a final battle to kill his apprentice! (cue shocking cliff-hanger music).

It’s all in the name…

Space_HarrierSpace Harrier – Is it a flying man with a gun, or a man with a flying gun? If Producer Yu Suzuki had his way, it seems that it could have been neither, as Read-Only Memory Director, Darren Wall, recently revealed in his latest Kickstarter update:

“Yu Suzuki informed us that Space Harrier was initially planned to be a Harrier Jump Jet simulator. After realising that it would take a whopping 64 frames of animation for the jet to rotate convincingly, it was decided to opt for a flying human protagonist who would fight monsters in a fantasy world, as the graphics would not need to be so animation-dependant. The only part of the initial game plan to survive would be the ‘Harrier’ part of the title.”

…I still maintain that it’s a flying gun.

SWAT do you mean?…

DSWATConnoisseurs of steel pipes and street meat rejoice! The hidden origins of Sega’s side-scrolling stunner have been revealed!

In Japan it was known as Bare Knuckle, for the rest of the world, Streets of Rage – but, as it turns out, things could have been far more different.

With exclusive access to Sega Japan’s original Bare Knuckle design documents, the sleuths at Read-Only Memory have uncovered the game’s early prototype alias – DSWAT. (Not to be confused with the similarly named Mega Drive side-scroller ESWAT – although, it does contain a number of notable similarities).

But, what do you suppose the ‘D’ could have stood for? ‘Death’, ‘Deadly’ or ‘Donovan’ perhaps? (Poor guy). No, whether you knew it as Streets of Rage, or Bare Knuckle, the truth is that the full title of Sega’s metropolitan masterpiece was in fact Dragon Swat.

I’d treat myself to a slice of trashcan chicken to celebrate, if only I hadn’t lost my knife in that phone box.

Hellfire…

ABFor all of Sega’s triumphs, it’s hard to ignore the fact that its history was littered by a series of tragedies – the fall of the 32X, the demise of the Saturn, the death of the Dreamcast… and Shaq Fu. But did you ever hear of the greatest tragedy of them all? THE GREAT FIRE OF SEGA OF AMERICA.

Although the use of block capitals may suggest otherwise, we’re not talking devastation of 17th century London proportion. Nevertheless, this event was enough to see the destruction of some of Sega’s greatest and most iconic original box art compositions, as Darren Wall, revealed in a recent podcast interview with SegaBits.com:

“It’s a well known fact that there was a big difference between the Mega Drive’s US and Japanese box art – the originals of which were paintings that were much larger than what you saw on the box. Sega of America looked after much of these original compositions in a large storage facility that caught fire, meaning that many of the pieces of art were damaged beyond repair. It’s a real pity because a lot of it is now gone and lost forever. For the purpose of our book, we have managed to acquire a large amount of surviving box art originals for games such as The Revenge of Shinobi, Altered Beast and Alien Storm. I think it’s important to archive this artwork, to put it in one place, and preserve it in the best possible way.”

The console conundrum…

SegaNeptune

You won’t need a telescope to see this Neptune, but you’ll need a whole lot of luck to find it!

As any Sega fan will be aware, the Mega Drive produced a number of spin-offs – the Mega Drive 2, the Mega CD 1 & 2, the Multi Mega, the Wondermega, the 32X… the list goes on. Those with a keen interest will no doubt be aware of Sega’s plans for the Sega Neptune – a hybrid all-in-one 32X/Mega Drive console. Although it was never realised, what does remain of the Neptune is a single hollow-body trade show mock-up, which rather unusually, has the under-base of a Mega Drive 2. As intriguing as the prospect of the Neptune may be, what’s really interesting is the fact that Read-Only Memory recently unveiled its prototype – and no one seems to have noticed!

Although it has subsequently been removed, a play-through of the video embedded upon Read-Only Memory’s Kickstarter page revealed a sequence full of incredible imagery – including a slightly unusual piece of hardware attached to a Mega CD 2 prototype. At first glance, the hardware had all the hallmarks of a Japanese Mega Mega_Drive_2Drive 2 – a square shaped design and purple buttons – but with one major difference; the number ’32’ was emblazoned upon its surface. This was no Mega Drive, it was the prototype for the Sega Neptune, which raises the question – is the trade show mock-up really the Sega Neptune, or is its purple-buttoned proto a more accurate proposal of how Sega envisioned the console to be? Intriguing.

Although the Mega Drive reached its 25th year in 2013, it seems that 2014 will be the year when we the lid is finally lifted on some of the console’s deepest secrets – bring it on!

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2 thoughts on “Deep Secrets of the Dark Console

  1. To be this good takes ages (20 years) !
    Glad after all this time people have a managed to get the MegaDrive to begin to compare to the all mighty SNES!

    But as always great read and I am of course being rude about your beloved machine to mask my envy that the fantastic Rom are writing about Sega’s 16bit machine rather than Nintendo’s!

    Does D Swat have any connection to E Swat?

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