News, Retrospectives

Finding the Hidden Palace – MegaBites on RetroCollect.com

1479228_771243449558897_1665272167_nMegaBites is pleased to announce an exciting new new development, one that sees its latest post taking place not on this site, but on RetroCollect.com.

Featuring the latest retro gaming news, reviews, guides and podcasts, RetroCollect is also home to a bustling retro community – one that allows its members to share their gaming collections through the site’s extensive video game database.

RetroCollect also features some awesome articles, which brings us neatly to the latest MegaBites update:

HiddenPalaceIn the first of a series of articles to be featured on RetroCollect, MegaBites will be exploring the mysteries behind one of Sonic 2’s greatest secrets – Hidden Palace Zone. Designed by the minds at Sega Technical Institute, the tale of Hidden Palace Zone is one surrounded in riddle and intrigue. As a level that was never included in the original 1992 release of Sonic 2, the truth behind its existence remained closely guarded for years.

From its earliest concepts, to beta releases, piracy ploys and a fanbase’s pursuit for the truth the Finding the Hidden Palace series charts the zone’s journey from obscurity, right up to its present day iOS/Android realisation.

And here’s a taster for you:

“Mid-1992 – Yuji Naka stands at Sega’s booth at a New York toy fair. Upon a stand sits a Sega Genesis, slotted into which is something rather special; the latest beta revision of Sonic 2 and the first to be available for public viewing – one that later became known as the Simon Wai Prototype

…Even though the event undoubtedly played host to a number of the industry’s leading toy and electronic manufacturers, a certain individual had only one company set in their sights – and not for the right reasons. Although exact details of what transpired at this particular toy show remain fragmented, one thing is for sure – the Sonic 2 prototype on display was stolen!”

Be sure to look out for regular MegaBites articles on RetroCollect in the near future. Who knows, I may even go cross-platform! As ever, the MegaBites Blog will be right here for all things Sega Mega Drive, with some great content in the pipeline.

You can read Finding the Hidden Palace – Part 1 in its entirety on RetroCollect.com.

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News, Retrospectives

Deep Secrets of the Dark Console

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As 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…

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When 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. Continue reading “Deep Secrets of the Dark Console”

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”

News, Retrospectives

Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works – The MegaBites Interview

fe9669b582212077de44b89c9e569e3a_largeAs you may have guessed, this site has something of a soft spot for a certain 16-bit console. Whether you know it as the Mega Drive or the Genesis, the chances are you’re equally familiar with the console’s spikey blue mascot, its blast processing prowess and its truly incredible back catalogue. But did you ever hear of its purple-buttoned prototype control pads? Have you cast your eyes upon its hand-drawn pre-development blueprints, or heard the inside story of its incredible hardware spinoffs? (Sega Neptune, anyone?) With these exclusives and more, MegaBites is proud to be amongst the first to reveal Read-Only Memory’s brand new Kickstarter campaign for its latest publication ‘Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works’.

From the Mega Drive’s earliest concepts, prototypes, mega-marketing campaigns and incredible rise to global fame, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works is set to showcase never before-seen material and industry insight from those closest to the console’s development and its biggest franchises – an indispensable resource for fans of the Mega Drive and retro gamers alike.

Fresh from the release of Sensible Software 1986–1999 and the title’s subsequent induction into the BAFTA library, MegaBites caught up with Read-Only Memory publishing’s Director, Darren Wall, for some exciting inside information on a project that is ‘mega’ in every sense of the word.

MegaBites: What can you tell us about Read-Only Memory’s new publication?

Darren Wall: It can all be traced back to the time of our Sensible Kickstarter campaign. I was in a meeting that was related to a separate work project. It was linked to a studio who conduct a lot of work with with Sony, as well as Sega. I mentioned to them about how I’d love to do a book on the Sega Mega Drive. The studio passed on the details of our Sensible Kickstarter to Sega.

Some time later, Sega contacted us and subsequently asked us to pitch a concept for a Read-Only Memory Sega publication. I think we were competing for the license against another publisher. We put together a pitch and we were offered the license.
Our next project will be a book about the software and related hardware of the Sega Mega Drive. Continue reading “Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works – The MegaBites Interview”

Developer Profiles, Memories, Retrospectives

A Quintasensible Conversation

Screen Shot 2013-11-05 at 18.29.44Earlier this year, MegaBites posted an article on the legendary British developer Sensible Software. The piece concluded by outlining the imminent release of Sensible Software 1986–1999 – a Kickstarter-funded publication that gives a pixel-by-pixel account of the sights, the sounds and the software of this quintasensibly British gaming software house. Hot on the heels of the book’s release, MegaBites speaks to Darren Wall – the owner and Editor of Read-Only Memories publishing.

As a company etched in video gaming folklore, Sensible Software was headed by long-term school friends Jon ‘Jops’ Hare and Chris Yates, who went on to realise some of the late 80s and early 90s greatest gaming successes. Sensible Software provided gamers with unforgettable memories of incredible gameplay, quirky comedy and some of the catchiest theme tunes this side of the Bitmap Brothers. From the creation of Commodore 64 classics, to iconic Amiga adventures, Sensible also went on to create some of the Mega Drive’s most beloved ports, including Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder and Mega Lo Mania.

Dust off your disk drives and blow out your cartridges as we uncover the making of a book that gives an account of a software house so vibrant and so revolutionary, it was anything but sensible. 

MegaBites: Let’s start with the book itself. What is Sensible Soccer 1986 – 1999 and what were your main motivations in seeing it realised?

Darren Wall: It all started around six or seven years ago, when I made a few trips to Japan. Out there, they publish a lot of magazine-book hybrids called ‘Mooks’. There’s a large number of Capcom publications in particular, with incredible production art and paintings. I bought stacks of these books while I was out there, on Mega Man, Street Fighter II, R-Type and various RPGs.

The concept for the Sensible Book sprung from a conversation with a friend, who was in Japan with me at the time. I had a strong desire to see books containing similar production artwork for the games that I grew up playing as a kid – games by Psygnosis and titles such as Another World came to mind. I wanted to see books that documented the ‘feel’ of what it was like to actually play these games. Continue reading “A Quintasensible Conversation”

Memories, Retrospectives

The Mega Drive at 25 – A Musical Celebration

MD25On the 29 October 1988, Sega Enterprises unveiled a machine that would change the games industry forever – one that introduced us to blue hedgehogs, golden axes and castles of illusion. Its name was the Sega Mega Drive. This year marks the almighty console’s 25th anniversary since it’s Japanese release – the country where the legend began.

In a modern world where the latest mobile phone is outdated almost instantaneously, where HD TVs are rendered redundant within weeks, where fashions and trends are extinguished in the blink of an eye, the 25th anniversary of the Mega Drive marks a poignant moment in gaming history – one in which this humble console has passed the ultimate test – the test of time.

For any hardware developer, whether it be Sega, Nintendo, Atari or Commodore, the 25-year milestone is one of of huge significance. A quarter of a century is a long, long time in the world of electronics and technology. But what is it that makes the Mega Drive stand out amongst all those that came before and since?

Prior to the Mega Drive, we had console-greats such as the NES, the Commodore 64, the ZX Spectrum and the Amiga. However, what made the Mega Drive so outstanding, what made it so extraordinary was down to one key factor – it was the first console that made gaming ‘cool’.

A mega musical celebration

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Click image for gallery/tracklist

In celebrating the mighty Mega Drive’s anniversary, Mega Bites has decided not to write an account of the Mega Drive’s history, nor compile an obligatory chart of its greatest releases. Instead, I have decided to take things in an altogether more musical direction – ‘The Mega Drive at 25: A 16-Bit Cassette’. A 90 minute reel-to-reel celebration of the Mega Drive’s 25 greatest tunes, in no particular order (because they’re all so incredibly outstanding!). Although, if I had to choose a favourite, based on pure nostalgia alone, it would have to be Lemmings’ ‘Pachelbel’s Canon’. It takes me right back.

The origins of this project can be traced back to a few weeks ago, in a Twitter conversation with fellow retro enthusiast @Retrob8, who discussed his intention to commit his favourite 8/16-bit gaming tunes to cassette tape. An excellent idea I thought – and a music format incredibly befitting of this era of gaming.

My enthusiasm for the cassette project was further enhanced in a chat at the launch party of Read-Only Memory’s publication ‘Sensible Software 1986–1999’ (a truly excellent book and one that you simply HAVE to buy).

It was at this party that I was talking with Read-Only Memory’s Director and Editor Darren Wall (@romalerts) and fellow blogger Julian Hill (@JulianHillUK) of Boxed Pixels and SingStar world record fame. We reflected on gaming music and its incredible capacity for nostalgia – even more so than in playing the games themselves. More than this, we realised just how great some of these tunes were, not just in their simplicity, but also in their dynamics. 1041874394Despite the limitations of the hardware, the composers of cartridge based gaming were musical masters, with a persistent attention to detail, in a world of incredible hardware limitations.

It is only recently, through stereo sound and high definition re-releases that I have come to truly appreciate what these musicians achieved with their electronic masterpieces – something that my RF cabled portable mono Mitsubishi television could never hope to do justice, back in the day.

It’s on this note (no pun intended) that I leave you, with an analog homage to 25 of the Mega Drive’s greatest musical moments – a fitting tribute to a console that not only looked and played superbly, but also sounded absolutely fantastic. Happy birthday old friend.

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Click to hear ‘The Mega Drive at 25 – A 16-Bit Cassette Celebration’ on YouTube.

Memories, Retrospectives

Food for Fought

Aladdin AppleFor us mere mortals, when hunger strikes, a tasty treat from the refrigerator, café, restaurant, or local supermarket is usually enough to satisfy most of us. Not in the gaming world – a place where chicken is typically sourced from trash cans, fruit is found suspended in mid-air and pot roasts can be extracted from wall cavities. Tasty. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the weird and wonderful world of game-based food.

Pixel-based foodstuffs provided much more than nourishment for gaming’s protagonists. Amongst its many properties, it could revive health, enable power-ups and supply bonus points. Best of all, an otherwise innocent-looking snack could easily be used as a projectile with murderous consequences.

Join us now as we explore some of the Mega Drive’s culinary highlights. Let the food fight begin!

Pot RoastPot Roast
As seen in: Castlevania Bloodlines, Golden Axe series, Final Fight CD, Streets of Rage 1, Chuck Rock series
Function: Health / points

Who needs a band-aid, when you can have beef? Or is it lamb? Chicken? Dinosaur, even? One thing that we do know of this mysterious meat is its incredible power to heal. Whether it’s discovered within the walls of centuries-old castles, or in the sacks of little green imps, this particular foodstuff is a welcome treat for any gaming warrior – even if the inevitable food poisoning isn’t. Continue reading “Food for Fought”

Memories, Retrospectives

The 90s Cheat Survival Guide

debugCheats, hints, tips – call them what you may, but us Mega Drive gamers couldn’t get enough of them. From invincibility codes, to extra lives, and debug modes, if we weren’t playing a game, we were feverishly hunting down that illusive cheat, the one to – quite literally – take our gaming to the next level.

Those of us who remember the early-to-mid 90s will also recall one glaring factor – there was NO internet! Back in ye good olde 1990s, if we wanted a gaming cheat or strategy guide, our options were severely limited. More often than not, we had to rely on word of mouth – gaming secrets handed down from friend, to friend in some obscure alpha-numeric Chinese whisper.

I was recently thrust back into this mindset on a recent holiday, in which time I became re-acquainted with Sonic CD on iOS. A browse through the game’s menus revealed a number of unlockable extras. But how to enable them? A quick Google search would usually reveal all, but not in this case, not on this holiday. On this occasion I’d chosen to spend my vacation in a place beyond the far reaches of civilisation, a location where the concepts of wifi and 3G are as alien to its locals as a decent phone reception was to E.T. That’s right, I was in Cornwall.

Stuck as I was, I swiftly became aware of one key fact – I was back in the 90s, to a pre-Internet era, where I’d actually have to work to unlock Sonic CD’s deepest, darkest secrets. But how did we do it back in the day? Kids, read on… Continue reading “The 90s Cheat Survival Guide”

Memories, Retrospectives

Through the Pages of Time

IMG_3521In the Mega Drive’s early to mid-90s heyday, my fascination with the console was matched by one other obsession – gaming magazines. From Games Master, Sega Pro to Sega Power and Mean Machines Sega I couldn’t get enough of these publications, their glossy covers, freebies, and not forgetting those all-important cheats sections.

As much as I loved these magazines, they ultimately lived a short life, either damaged by younger siblings, lost through the loan to school friends, or cut up and stuck upon my bedroom wall. Although, as you can tell from the image above, a lucky few managed to make it intact.

Despite my regrettably throw-away attitude to my magazines back in the day, my 10 to 11 year old self was still aware of how treasured the contents of these magazines would be in the months and years to come. This in mind, I began compiling the best (and some of the more obscure) features, reviews and listings from the height of the era.

It began on a summer holiday visit to Italy in 1995, where I picked up a hardback Photo 02-08-2013 11 41 36 (1)diary from a local market. What was to follow was an entire summer, leafing through my gaming magazines, hand writing and copying out articles related to some of my favourite Mega Drive news and releases. Do not be fooled by the cheesy 90s footballing nature of this book’s cover, contained within its covers is total retrogaming gold, as a glance over its contents page reveals. Continue reading “Through the Pages of Time”