Sunday, January 12, 2014

A partial defense of the Sega CD

“Hey! You still don’t have a Sega CD? What are you waiting for, Nintendo to make one? You have seen the games, right?” Thus goes the “angry black guy” ad from Sega. Sadly, the games he proceeds to “show off” are all horrendous FMV (full motion video) games. Don’t know what an FMV game consists of? Well, imagine that instead of playing a game, I smash your controller with a brick and you’re forced to watch a movie made by Satan and Pauly Shore. That’s about the gist of it. Live-action video does not belong in video games… unless it's Wing Commander (Hey, Mark Hamill’s in it!).

So, rewind to 1992. CDs were cutting edge, to the point that even a full year later, the girl in Jurassic Park had her mind blown when she saw them, “It’s an interactive CD-ROM!” During this time, the Sega Genesis had, with the help of brilliant, in your face marketing, usurped Nintendo in 16-bit sales. Sega must have been pretty sure of themselves, to the point that they decided to make a radical new expansion… by creating a CD add on for the Genesis.

The main problem for the lazily titled Sega CD was this: It really wasn’t needed. Not only did Sega not need to push it financially, but consumers didn’t want to spend an insanity inducing 300 dollars on something that wasn’t even a stand-alone console. To make things worse, the pack-in game, Sewer Shark, was literally as much fun as playing in a real sewer. The death-knell for the Sega CD came quickly. People realized that, above all, the Sega CD did not provide a next generation experience and couldn’t produce 3D visuals. Later, Sega shot themselves in the foot again by releasing yet another Genesis add on, the Sega 32X.
Well, things sound pretty bad here, huh? Yes, the Sega CD never should have been released at such an early stage, but since it was, there are quite a number of great things about it. See, Sega marketed the thing completely wrong. Quite simply, you were not going to get a computer experience with this product… However, you were going to get super improved versions of Genesis games, with Redbook quality music and, if done in moderation, cutscenes and voice acting that accentuate the story.

It’s really unfortunate that folks are unaware of so many hidden gems on the Sega CD. Sonic CD is one of the best Sonic games, with a jazz and funk inspired soundtrack (Sonic Boom is sick). Snatcher is a cyberpunk, Blade Runneresque adventure game that lets you pick different branching paths. Lunar: Silver Star is an RPG with anime influences and copious amounts of legitimately decent voice acting. Heart of the Alien combines the highly acclaimed cinematic platformer, Another World, with an entirely new chapter. Finally, Final Fight CD offers a sort of director’s cut to the arcade classic, optimized for the CD format.

While the Sega CD may be a historical curiosity, the real reason to pick one up now is the games… and isn’t that how a system’s legacy should end?


  1. I have a SEGA Mega-CD, and I love it. When you cut down to the bone, there are actually dozens of good, great, and even excellent games for it. If it had been maybe $100 - $150 cheaper, and they hadn't highlighted the bad FMV games, and instead highlighted the good ones like "Sonic CD", "Silpheed", "Batman Returns", "Thunderhawk" etc., it could have had a good run, but no, instead they decided to load it with interactive B-movies, shoveled on with little to no thought.

    You should have mentioned the CD 32X games, the ones that took advantage of the Mega-CD's digital audio and space, and the 32X's higher resolution and colour palette (it's 32-bit graphics).

    CD - CD 32X

    They should have had something like "Doom CD 32X", that would have been awesome, they could have ported PC games for those who weren't PC gamers, but no, they pick things like "Corpse Killer", "Fahrenheit", and "Night Trap". Both the Mega-CD and the 32X had a great level of potential, but ultimately, they were killed by poor decisions.

    1. Thanks for reading, man! Yeah, it's true... if Sega used the graphical power of the 32X combined with the Sega CD format, maybe they could have had something. Sadly, by 1995 Sega quite honestly didn't know what the hell they were doing anymore. The Saturn, while awesome for original and quirky games, was not programmed very well. To this day, the Sega Saturn is notoriously difficult to emulate.

      Still, I love Sega. While I may have been a Nintendo guy back in the day, I'll always respect Sega's resolve as the scrappy underdog.