Memories, Retrospectives

The Continuing Future of Retro

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The eagle-eyed among you will notice this blog has had a bit of a spruce up – a touch of white here, a new logo there, mobile and iPad compatibility. How very swish!

Would you believe it’s been three years since the last post on this site? Importantly, I’d like to thank the many tens of thousands of you that have continued to pour into the site, even over its dormant period. Thank you all and thank you for the stream of comments and emails that have continued to hit my inbox.

Three years may be an eternity in the world of technology, but over that time, some of the most exciting developments in the Mega Drive’s modern history have been witnessed. It’s 2018 and the Mega Drive still lives on. Incredible.

So, welcome dear retro gamer to the all-new Megabites Blog! Come on in, blow the dust from that cartridge, hit the power button and let’s begin this new game.

So what’s changed over the past three years?…

Honey, I shrunk the consoles

In recent months, it seems Rick Moranis has been unleashed upon the retro gaming scene. Shrinking and zapping each console one by one, it seems there’s just no stopping him. The NES, the SNES, Commodore 64, the PS1, all have fallen prey to his deadly shrinking ray – including, of course, the Sega Mega Drive.

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The Mega Drive Mini was announced in April of this year. Set to be released in Japan in time for the Mega Drive’s 30th anniversary, fans of the console rejoiced… That was until it was announced that AtGames would be handling the console’s hardware.

As the (not quite so) proud owner of AtGames Mega Drive hardware myself, my heart practically sank at the thought of AtGames taking the helm. After Nintendo’s flawless NES and SNES mini units, the thought of Sega responding with clunky, sluggish hardware certainly left me feeling somewhat concerned.

By September, Sega fans rejoiced with the news that AtGames had been dropped for a Japanese developer But there was one caveat, the console would be delayed until 2019.

Certainly worth waiting for if it gives the Mega Drive mini a fighting chance of the greatness it so rightly deserves.

Night Trap to Nintendo

Let’s begin with the plot… Night Trap was set at the home of the ‘suspicious’ Martin family. As a member of the Sega Control Attack Team, you the player, are given control of a series of traps within the Martin home – each monitored through a ‘live’ CCTV feed. Your task is to protect a group of teenage guests from a relentless group of vampires (aka Augers) that roam the house, hungry for teenage blood.

Flashback to the 90s and cue uproar from the media in response to scenes such as these…

Initially scheduled for 1989 on the unreleased Control-Vision/NEMO VHS-based console, Night Trap was eventually unleashed upon the world in 1992 on the Sega Mega CD. Although the game received acclaim as the Mega CD’s first FMV title, it would be the events of December 1993, that would forever cement Night Trap’s place in video gaming history. It was in that month that Senator Joseph Lieberman would lead court hearings, denouncing what he saw as the uncontrollable rise of graphic violence in video games. At the centre of the case were Sega, Nintendo – and of course – Night Trap.

We’re talking about video games that glorify violence and teach children to enjoy inflicting the most gruesome forms of cruelty imaginable.” – Joesph Lieberman.

Taking place in the midst of the console wars, Nintendo of America’s then Chairman, Howard Lincoln, took the hearing as an opportunity to make an example of Sega’s Night Trap release, uttering the now famous words:

Let me say that for the record, I want to state that Night Trap will never appear on a Nintendo system. This game … which promotes violence against women, simply has no place in our society.

Fast forward to 2018…

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Night Trap was made available for pre-order in July 2018 for the Nintendo Switch. Distributed by Limited Run Games and remastered by the Screaming Villains studio, demand for the release was so significant that its entire allocation sold out in record time. Night Trap saw its digital release on the Switch a month later.

History in the making.

16 bit into the 21st century

In a modern world awash with high definition blockbuster titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2, Fortnite, and more mobile titles that I’d care to shake a joystick at, it’s simply incredible that the appetite for brand new 16 bit titles remains. The Sega Mega Drive may be 30 years old, but that hasn’t stopped intrepid game designers from committing new and original titles to cart.

Developed by Matt Phillips (previously of Traveler’s Tales, Crytek UK, and Dambuster Studios) Tanglewood is the real 16-bit deal. Successfully funded by a Kickstarter campaign in 2016, the platformer was built from the ground up using traditional assembly language and original Sega Mega Drive development kit hardware. Best of all, the title is available on cartridge. Can it really be 2018? Or is this 1992? Pinch me.

Few in the retro gaming community can fail to forget RPG Pier Solar, developed by WaterMelon Games. Released in 2010 for Dreamcast, Mega Drive and modern formats, the game sparked a revival of retro games released on their original formats. Pier Solar saw the Mega Drive pushed beyond the realms of its considered hardware limitations, utilising a 64-megabit cartridge and finding a nifty way of combining the Mega CD’s high fidelity audio on Mega Drive cart.

In 2017, WaterMelon announced the release of Paprium – a spiritual successor to Streets of Rage:

After more than 4 epic years of development, WaterMelon Games is proud to present its new 16-Bit game: Paprium (code-name: “ProjectY), a post-apocalyptic, outrageous, street brawler. Paprium has been crafted at WM’s Magical Game Factory using Investor’s votes and suggestions. Paprium has been developed by a team driven by true passion and 16-Bit excellence”.

Though the release has been plagued by delays, my Mega Drive is ready when they are!

Oh, did someone say Streets of Rage?

Although not strictly a Mega Drive release, nonetheless, Streets of Rage 4 IS something to get VERY excited about. Developed by DotEmu and Lizardcube (the team behind the recent Wonderboy: Dragon’s Trap reissue), Streets of Rage 4 is something that no doubt every Sega fan has dreamed of following Streets of Rage 3’s release in 1994. Featuring new combos, special move life regains, smooth illustrated graphics (and a rumoured pixelated graphics mode), one very significant question remains… will the music of Yuzo Koshiro return? Fingers firmly crossed.

Print for the people

In recent years, one of the most notable facets of retro gaming has been the fans’ appetite for published books – notably of the type that documents the scene’s history through the words of the developers, executives and professionals who were there. Through titles such as Console Wars by Blake J Harris, art books from Cook & Becker, visual compendiums by Bitmap Books, new life has been breathed into video game printed media. Not one to be biased (but in this case, I can absolutely make an exception), the most exciting of all these publishers in my opinion is Read Only Memory.

Waaaay back in June 2013, this very blog featured Read Only Memory’s first publication ‘Sensible Software 1986-1999’ in an article about the Kickstarter boom. I remember receiving the Sensible book in the post and absorbing it in not less that two sittings. As a huge fan of the Cannon Fodder series, the tales of Sensible Software and the stories of the games from my youth on the Mega Drive, Amiga and beyond were utterly compelling.

When I was invited to the book’s launch party, the opportunity to meet the members of Sensible Software and Read Only Memory’s Darren Wall is something I will never forget.

BONUS FACT: I was later invited by Read Only Memory to work on ROM’s ‘Sega Mega Drive Genesis: The Collected Works’ and ‘Britsoft’ publications. Search the credits. You’ll find me there. Incredible, remarkable stuff.

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Since that time, Read Only Memory’s catalogue has expanded significantly to include ‘Bitmap Brothers: Universe’, ‘500 Years Later: An Oral History of Final Fantasy VII’ and the upcoming ‘Sega Dreamcast: Collected Works’, ‘Sega Arcade: Pop Up History’ and ‘Japansoft: An Oral History’. Find the collection at readonlymemory.vg.

It’s the growing popularity of publishers such as Read Only Memory, dedicated developers such as Matt Philips, Screaming Villains and WaterMelon, and even the willingness by Sega, Nintendo and Sony to re-issue their consoles that truly tells that the gaming of yesteryear is here to stay.

Formats, franchises and mascots that may have been considered ‘bubble gum’, discardable, out of fashion, expendable consumables of their day, today, we as gaming enthusiasts look back on these with fondness. These are forms of art, monuments to a time of youth, representations of a time and a place, representations of who we were, what we aspired to be and still aspire to become.

Although there’s arguably so much more I could have written about the recent years in retro gaming, importantly, there’s still so much to come.

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