Memories

Tom Payne and the Box of Sonic 2 Development Disks – MEGABITES EXCLUSIVE REVEAL

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Thank you to Frank Cifaldi (of the Video Game History Foundation), Bob Morgan, Jessie Perez and @DickWhitehouse (Twitter) for all their hard work to reverse-engineer the Sega digitizer format.

For decades, the rumours and tales surrounding the making of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 have fascinated fans of Sega’s blue blur. From famously deleted zones such as Hidden Palace, Genocide City and Dust Hill, to discarded badniks and revelations of time travel, the early development of Sonic 2 and the beta revisions and prototypes discovered since have provided rich pickings for digital archeologist, coders and fans of all things hedgehog. To date, a total of nine Sonic 2 prototypes are in the public domain, each a fascinating insight into the game’s development process. Incredibly, the most recent of these betas was discovered as recent as February 2019.

Aside from the prototypes, Sonic fans have reveled in discoveries of concept art and the insight from the developers at the now defunct Sega Technical Institute (STI). Names such as Craig Stitt, Hirokasu Yasuhara and Yuki Naka have all shared valuable tales from behind the doors of Sega’s California HQ circa 1992.

In a 2004 interview, and later in 2009, Sonic 2 zone artist, Tom Payne, shared information on the game’s deleted zones and enemies – details that can only be described as a revelation. “You should start drooling now,” Tom explained in 2009 as he spoke of his ownership of “an ancient box with all my Sonic stuff in it”. What followed was the reveal of a floppy disk with the title ‘Sonic Enemies’ scrawled in rough biro. Portions of the disc’s contents were shared online by Sonic archivist IceKnight. Upon his website, SonicDatabase.com, Iceknight shared original digitizer artwork direct from Tom Payne’s Sega workbench. For the very first time, the deleted badniks Gator, Dinosaur and Snail were revealed to the world in their raw form.

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Utterly fascinating! But whatever happened to the remaining contents of Tom’s box of delights? Read on to find out! Continue reading “Tom Payne and the Box of Sonic 2 Development Disks – MEGABITES EXCLUSIVE REVEAL”

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Demoscene, Developer Profiles, Memories

Overdrive 2 – A Voyage to the Boundaries of 16-Bit (Part 2)

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A GIGANTIC construction moves serenely through space where, though the night never ends, there’s always enough light to see strange objects… shots of blinking instrument panels, of wildly bleeping computers, of cryptic messages clattering in square type-faces across television screens… a gothic set in space‘.

…So were the words of Vincent Canby of the New York Times in his 1979 review of Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’. Fast forward some 40 years and the same passage could equally be applicable to a work of its own groundbreaking nature – welcome to the final part of Megabites’ series, describing the behind the scenes tale of the making and release of TiTAN demogroup’s Overdrive 2 for the Sega Mega Drive.

In part one of this article we left the group on a cliffhanger. Nigh on two years had been spent by TiTAN’s members to realise a sequel to their groundbreaking demo ‘Overdrive‘, a pulverising powerhouse of a demo, whose follow-up saw its genesis with the discovery of a groundbreaking graphical technique hidden deep within the recesses of the Mega Drive’s video chip. New discoveries, new possibilities, stunning graphics, and nail-biting deadlines ensued. TiTAN had an awe-inspiring 16-bit vision. But could it possibly be realised?

Let’s dive straight in and catch up with the group members Kabuto, oerg866, Medo, alien and Neoman. Overdrive 2’s first public unveiling at Cologne’s Evoke 2016 demo party was mere hours away. Yet, a tough decision had to be made.

Continue reading “Overdrive 2 – A Voyage to the Boundaries of 16-Bit (Part 2)”

Demoscene, Developer Profiles, Interviews, Memories

Overdrive 2 – A Voyage to the Boundaries of 16-Bit (Part 1)

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Saturday 29th October 1988, a time when 8-bit was at its pinnacle, a time of the Famicom, a time of Mario – a time that was dominated by three awe-inspiring syllables, Nin-ten-do. Saturday 29th October 1988 – Super Mario Bros 3 was only seven days old, and a Nintendo console could be found in one in three Japanese homes. Saturday 29th October 1988 was the day that all of that would change – the day that saw the release of the Sega Mega Drive.

It would be two years before Nintendo would respond with the release of the Super Famicom – a machine that boasted a superior palette of 32,768 colors, advanced audio, increased RAM and pseudo-3D rotating graphics. On paper at least, the ensuing console war could arguably have turned into a one-horse race.

For years, the Sega Mega Drive simply had no viable (or at least affordable) response to the raw graphical capabilities of its Nintendo counterpart. Sure, hardware innovations such as the SVP chip, the Mega CD and 32X all brought advanced graphical capabilities to the humble Mega Drive base unit – but at a significant financial cost.

Little did we all know, that under the Mega Drive’s sleek exterior sat dormant hardware capabilities with the power of equaling, and possibly surpassing the SNES’s graphical wow factor. Even now, some 30 years after the console’s release, the Mega Drive is still revealing its true potential – all thanks to modern day programmers, coders, composers and artists such as the TiTAN demo group. Continue reading “Overdrive 2 – A Voyage to the Boundaries of 16-Bit (Part 1)”

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?… Continue reading “The Continuing Future of Retro”

Developer Profiles, Memories, Retrospectives

Cart Wars: The Evolution of the Cartridge – MegaBites on RetroCollect.com

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Mega Drive fans, for what you are about to read, I sincerely apologise. MegaBites Blog has written about Nintendo. Shock, horror, blasphemy! I know, I know… But it’s for a good cause; my latest contribution to RetroCollect.com – Cart Wars: The Evolution of the Cartridge – Episode One. Despite such treachery, you’ll be glad to hear that the piece is evenly balanced with a heavy dosage of Sega goodness, and a brief appearance by our Lord and saviour, Mr Tom Kalinske. Phew!

During the console generations spanning the 8-16 bit era, no matter if your allegiances sat with Sega, Nintendo, SNK or NEC, as gamers we all shared one thing in common: the cartridge medium – video gaming in its most physical form. Continue reading “Cart Wars: The Evolution of the Cartridge – MegaBites on RetroCollect.com”

Memories, Retrospectives

Sega and the Console from Mars

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Misaligned, mistimed and ultimately misunderstood, sadly, the Mega Drive 32X will forever go down in history as one of the greatest failures in video game history. Although the tale of the 32X’s release and its rapid downfall remains a well documented piece of gaming folklore, much less is known about the hardware’s earliest conceptions. Read on as MegaBites takes a tantalising glimpse behind the closed doors of Sega of America’s development labs, to reveal a previously forgotten piece of hardware from a time before the 32X as we knew it – the Sega Mars Development Aid System.

It was the evening of the 8th January 1994 – the eve of that year’s Winter CES – as Hayao Nakayama (Sega CEO), Tom Kalinske (Sega of America President), Joe Miller (Sega’s Senior Vice President of Product Development) and a host of other top-level Sega personnel gathered in a Las Vegas hotel room. The night’s discussion centred around Sega’s strategies of introducing the gaming public to the brave new world of 32-bit gaming. Continue reading “Sega and the Console from Mars”

Memories, Retrospectives

Finding the Hidden Palace – Part 2

Finding-The-Hidden-Palace-Part-2As this humble blog continues to expand its horizons, fans of Sonic the Hedgehog can read the latest episode of MegaBites’ Finding the Hidden Palace on RetroCollect.com.

In a continuation of part one’s epic tale, the second chapter in the series picks up from the events following the fabled ‘Sonic2s Day’ – the North American and European release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. After months of publicity, previews and speculation, the 1992 release of Sonic 2 hailed the release of what is arguably the series’ finest release.

Homing in on the period 1992–1999, part two continues to document the myths, unravel the cryptic clues, and decode the conundrums, behind one of Sega’s greatest hidden enigmas; Sonic 2’s unreleased level – Hidden Palace Zone.

And here’s a little taster for you:

It was early 1999 and Canadian Sonic fan Simon Wai embarked on an online Sonic beta hunt. As far back as 1992, in Hong Kong, Simon had been one of the early few to play a black market copy of the Sonic 2 toy show beta. Now, seven years later, he had a renewed determination to rediscover it.

Beginning his journey on Chinese ROM sites, Simon soon came upon a lone Geocities page. It was here where he located the rather a inconspicuous file named ‘MD8123.smd’ – uncovering the syntax of which provided valuable insight into the file’s origin and identity.

‘MD’ stood for Mega Drive, ‘8’ represented an eight-megabit file, ‘123’ identified the file as the 123rd in its sequence and the ‘.smd’ extension identified it as a file created by a Super Mega Drive – a piece of hardware with the ability to extract a Mega Drive cartridge to floppy disk. It was only when he came to load the file that its true identity was revealed. Simon Wai’s memories came flooding back in an instant.

(Read more on RetroCollect.com.)

Be sure to visit MegaBites soon, as we have a further set of ‘mega’ exciting posts lined up, which you simply will not want to miss!

Memories

Greg Martin – A Tribute

MegaBites has just learnt of the passing away of Greg Martin, who died on the 21st May 2013. As a prolific and gifted artist, Greg was the man behind the EU/US box art of Sonic 2, Sonic 3, Sonic CD, as well as a host of countless other multi-platform video game classics.

Beginning his career at Hanna Barbera, Greg worked on shows such as the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Yogi Bear and numerous other shows by the US animation studio. He was also credited as the creator and illustrator of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series’ characters. Amongst numerous high-profile colleagues with whom he worked, most notable was Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame.

In his later career, Greg worked for Sega, Nintendo and other video game developers, where he was responsible for some of the early-to-mid 90’s most iconic cover art designs. Each artwork was painted and airbrushed, measuring a huge 24–30 inches in height, taking just a week to complete – some in only 3–5 days!

Remember the cover for Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Sonic Spinball and that giant fold-out Sonic poster that came with numerous Mega Drive/Genesis releases? They were all Greg Martin. Continue reading “Greg Martin – A Tribute”

Developer Profiles, Memories, Retrospectives

Sega’s Soccer Secret – Revealed

world-championship-soccer-2-cover-secretIn July 2008, the metaphorical hammer went down on a rather unique eBay auction – one in which UK collector Stewart Greenwood parted ways with precisely £751.99 for, what has now come to be regarded as, one of the Mega Drive’s most sought after PAL releases. You’d be surprised to hear that this title was no limited edition box set, nor was it encrusted in gold. As a game that was originally pushed by Sega for a lightning-fast release, it sadly faded into oblivion at an equally rapid pace. As such, key information about this title has since been lost or shrouded in the utmost secrecy – until now. With exclusive input from the game’s Artist, Stoo Cambridge and Producer, Wallace Poulter, MegaBites presents the secret story of World Championship Soccer 2.

Released to coincide with the 1994 US football World Cup, World Championship Soccer 2 provided the gamer with a tournament-accurate choice of 32 international teams. With options for fully customisable tournament lineups and team formations, the game also provided a 16-bit-tastic menu soundtrack and the very best in 90s in-match music. In a rather interesting touch, World Championship Soccer 2 also provided the opportunity to go back in time to relive the past glories/disappointments of the 1990 and 1986 World Cup tournaments.

A little known fact…

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Although World Championship Soccer 2. Was branded under the Sega Sports name, it is a little known fact that the gaming super-giant had very little input when it came to the game’s development. A quick glance over it’s contributors reveals a credit for the ‘Mystery Chefs’ – a pseudonym that hides the true identity of the creative minds behind the game. But who were they?

World Championship Soccer 2’s development process was conducted by one of the era’s most successful British software houses, one that had firmly demonstrated its capabilities in producing pixel-perfect football titles, quite literally from the top-down. The ‘Mystery Chefs’ were none-other than Jon Hare and Chris Yates. The developer – Sensible Software. Continue reading “Sega’s Soccer Secret – Revealed”

Memories, Retrospectives

MegaBites vs BoxedPixels.co.uk – A Christmas Challenge

Xmas MB BPWhat do you mean it’s Christmas 2013? Where did 2012, 2011 and 2010 go? More to the point, whatever happened to the 90s? I was only just getting started!

As fleeting as time may be and as swift as the passage of time may pass, Christmas 2013 marks a significant milestone here on the MegaBites blog – my 20th anniversary as a Mega Drive gamer.

The 25th of December 1993. It my first day in ownership of the Sega’s black-boxed bombshell – a day overloaded by pixels, platformers and gaming perfection. Such a shame that my little brother got carried away with the sweets and vomited down the cartridge slot. But let’s not dwell on that little saga.

As I pondered how I might celebrate this Christmas on the MegaBites Blog, I received a rather interesting Christmas request from a fellow blogger – one with a passion for a console that evokes such venomous rivalry, I can barely bring myself to write its name in full-sized text. This blogger was Julian Hill, the owner of BoxedPixels.co.uk – a website dedicated to the Super Nintendo. That’s right, the Super Nintendo. .

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Boxed Pixels: MegaBites, my Sega-gaming nemesis, it’s Christmas once more – a time of goodwill and cheer to all. This in mind, I thought I’d transform you into Kris of Super Play fame. How do you like your new look?

MegaBites: Kris? Super Play? Wasn’t that a Super Nintendo magazine?

BP: It’s what people had instead of blogs twenty years ago. Although, it was much more effort as you had to turn these things called ‘pages.’

MB: Perfect, just perfect. Happy Christmas to me and a Merry Mode-7 holiday to you!

BP: I see that this Christmas marks your 20th anniversary as a Mega Drive gamer. Any intention of getting your younger brother to mark the occasion as he did in 1993?
MB: You’ll be happy to know that Christmas 2013 has every intention of a being vomit-free affair. That is, unless you plan on bringing the SNES over…

BP: You leave my majestic white box alone!

MB: You see, although the unfortunate events of that Christmas still haunt me to this day, I fondly remember Saturday 25th December 1993 for one thing – the day my obsession for all things Sega Mega Drive began. That entire day was an epic 16-bit odyssey, one that ultimately shaped my future as a gamer and all round Sega obsessive. How was the 90s Christmas experience from across 16-bit enemy lines?

BP: For me, Christmas was the one time I got to see my games on the big-screen TV – if you indeed consider 22″ to be ‘big’. Donkey Kong Country looked fantastic on it. You’ve heard of Donkey Kong Country right?

MB: Donkey-who?

BP: You know, it’s that game with pre-rendered graphics that would never have been possible on your beloved Mega Drive.

MB: I’m sorry, I must have been too busy eagerly anticipating the blast-processing prowess of Ristar. That’s right blast-processing!

BP: I’ll let you in on a little secret MegaBites, Donkey Kong Country was the last thing I ever got from Father Christmas. For that reason alone, it holds a special place in my heart. Why don’t you give it a go?

MB: MegaBites? Nintendo? Are you mad?… Only if you promise me one thing.

BP: Name it.

MB: I’ll play your Donkey Kong if you play Ristar and write all about it on this blog. Deal?

BP: Deal.

MB: Where’s the sick bags? Continue reading “MegaBites vs BoxedPixels.co.uk – A Christmas Challenge”