The Mega Drive Mini is Sega’s first official in-house console launch since 2001. Bringing the Sega Mega Drive back to the masses in miniature format, the release has also resurrected a cult hardware combo — the awe-inspiring ‘tower of power’. Read on as MegaBites dives in for a close-up aesthetic comparison of the 2019 ‘tower’ and its mid-90s original.
Name a famous tower — the Eiffel Tower, the tower of London, the leaning tower of Pisa perhaps? Ask the same question to a retrogamer and the answer is likely to be Sega’s ‘tower of power’.
But what was the ‘tower of power’? In essence, it was a 32-bit CD upgrade of the Sega Mega Drive — a powerhouse made possible by combining the Mega Drive with the Mega CD and 32X. In essence, it was the Mega Drive at its most potent and powerful, if not a tad cumbersome.
Sega’s towering hardware combo promised so much — advanced 32-bit gaming, 3D graphics, smooth FMV, CD audio and the unique ‘Mega CD 32X’ disk format. For all the expectation, sadly, this tower toppled.
While the Mega CD had been available since 1991, the tower was only made possible following the release of the 32X in 1994 (Japan/USA) and 1995 (Europe). By this time, however, the Sega Saturn had already become Sega’s 32-bit showpiece, and the gaming industry at large was singing to the tune of Sony’s shiny new Playstation 1 release.
Requiring a combined investment in the range of £400 (!), young Sega fans at the time were looking at a lifetime of paid household chores to afford the ‘tower of power’ unit and its compatible titles.
With all these circumstances combined, Sega’s almighty tower was simply unrealistic and unattainable for the masses. Even today, the hardware remains an obscure anomaly to track down — until now.
Well, sort of…
Mini by name, mega by nature
Fast forward to 2019 — a miniature replica of the ‘tower of power’ has been made available as an add-on for the Mega Drive Mini.
At the time of writing, the accessory is only available to the public as a Japanese variant… at least for now. However, Sega has unleashed European and US formats of the mini tower to a select few social media influencers and members of the press.
With my own full size European ‘tower of power’ in tow, and the odd piece of Japanese hardware thrown in for good measure, how do the elements of the ‘mini’ shape up against their 90s counterparts?