Retrospectives

Finding the Hidden Palace Part 4, on RetroCollect.com

2017-finding-the-hidden-palace-part-4Regular visitors to this site may have been aware that, since January 2014, I’ve been compiling a rather special series of articles on RetroCollect.com. I’m now proud to announce that this epic Sega saga has finally reached its conclusion…

MegaBites Blog presents Finding the Hidden Palace Part 4, on RetroCollect.com – the Internet’s first fully compiled account of the 21-year hunt for Sonic the Hedgehog 2’s mysterious deleted level, Hidden Palace Zone.

Emerald Hill, Chemical Plant, Casino Night and Mystic Cave… Just a few of the legendary zones that make up one of the greatest games to ever be committed to cartridge – Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Yet, for every spike pit, for every loop, for each pinball flipper and hellish underwater section – unbeknown to Mega Drive and Genesis gamers everywhere – there was one vital zone that had been sorely omitted. Continue reading “Finding the Hidden Palace Part 4, on RetroCollect.com”

Developer Profiles, Retrospectives

Solving the Korean Console Conundrum

The Sega Mega Drive – one console, a thousand variants. During the 90s, amongst a host of hardware releases, the combined forces of Sega’s worldwide divisions brought us a vivid spectrum of gaming machines – the Sega Genesis, the Multi Mega, the CD-X, the Mega Jet, the Tera Drive, the Wondermega and the Nomad. From Europe, to the US, Japan and beyond, the list of licensed Sega upgrades and alternatives went on… and on. Yet, during that time, and far beyond the console war battlefield, an Asian tiger prowled its own territory. This was a land where the Sega name was all but a whisper – a video game market operating in a seemingly alternate reality, in which Samsung and Hitachi ruled the console roost, and where Sonic the Hedgehog called the mysterious Super Gam*Boy and Super Aladdin Boy consoles his home. This was South Korea – a country that also concealed one of the 16-bit era’s most obscure gems: the Sega ‘New Mega Drive’.

It was during a spot of online ‘retro’ research that I stumbled upon a website that detailed a system I had never seen, nor heard of before. “Very little is known about this product,” the website read. “It is assumed that it was released into the South Korean market quite late and was less successful than previous models. It is currently unknown who is responsible for this console or whether it had official backing.Of course, I was intrigued – even more so when I saw the image that accompanied the text. Could it be? Was this really a Sega Mega Drive? Continue reading “Solving the Korean Console Conundrum”

Retrospectives

Finding the Hidden Palace – Part 3

imageIn what is fast becoming an epic ‘Sega saga’, MegaBites is proud to reveal the third instalment of its RetroCollect.com series Finding the Hidden Palace.

Unraveling the twists, the Tails (get it?) and the mysteries behind Sonic 2’s infamous deleted level, Finding the Hidden Palace – Part 3 picks up the story in Christmas 1998. As a period otherwise marked as the death of the 32/64-bit era, the Sonic community had never felt to alive. At last, their holy grail had been unearthed – the ‘Simon Wai Prototype’, one of Sonic 2’s earliest beta revisions. Not only did this prototype reveal Sonic 2 in one of its most rough and raw forms – unveiling long lost Badniks, and unreleased zones – for the very first time, it also provided gamers their first opportunity to play the mythical Hidden Palace Zone. Continue reading “Finding the Hidden Palace – Part 3”

Demoscene, Developer Profiles, Interviews, Retrospectives

The Mega Drive Unleashed – Bad Apple

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Believe it or not, this screenshot is taken from an animated demo sequence on the Sega Mega Drive. Entitled Bad Apple, and based on the Japanese indy vertical-shooter Touhou, this demo is arguably one of the strongest examples of full-motion video and near CD quality music on the Mega Drive. That’s right, the Mega Drive! In the latest addition to the Mega Drive Unleashed series, MegaBites catches up with Stephane Dallongeville – the man behind not only Bad Apple’s 16-bit Sega conversion, but also a rather special Mega Drive port of a SNES Super FX chip classic.

More on the ‘enemy’ later… First, here’s Bad Apple:

Continue reading “The Mega Drive Unleashed – Bad Apple”

Demoscene, Developer Profiles, Interviews, Retrospectives

The Mega Drive Unleashed: Titan Demo Group

TitanIn the great console wars of the early 90s, no fight came as heavyweight as that between Sega and Nintendo. It was Sonic vs Mario, Mega Drive vs Super Nintendo, Mode 7 vs… err… the SVP chip, perhaps? Although the Mega Drive may have struggled to find an answer to the SNES’s graphical capabilities – not that it had a need to – it has recently become apparent that Sega’s 16-bit battler was a far more powerful machine than initially anticipated. In the first in a series of related posts, MegaBites uncovers the modern day pioneers who have discovered new hidden potential beneath the Mega Drive’s shiny back bonnet. First in line is Titan Group, with their incredible 16-bit demo Overdrive.

Through a fusion of fantastic graphical, audio and coding techniques, Overdrive combines a series of effects designed to push the Sega Mega Drive beyond its intended abilities. However, Overdrive is no game, nor is it a product of the 90s; it is a new breed of Mega Drive ROM – a demo to showcase Sega’s console not only as a games machine, but also as an art form. How is this possible you might ask? Take a look for yourself and read on…

Continue reading “The Mega Drive Unleashed: Titan Demo Group”

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!

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.

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”

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”