My Recent Experiences of SEGA Mega Drive

I recently stumbled on a nice deal. I found that SEGA Mega Drive Mini was on sale. Its price was 59 euros. Of course my living, or gaming, room is full of consoles. So I had to buy also a new HDMI Switching Console to get some more devices connected to my television. I forgot to buy one more HDMI cable so I ended up unplugging my PlayStation Classic. I’m getting a new cable some time after the holidays. Anyways I got my “retro nostalgia” on again. Played a game of Streets of Rage II with my wife. She usually doesn’t play so much but this game inspired her a lot. We played some time maybe an hour or so. Mega Drive has so many great games.

Some might say that SNES is better than Mega Drive. In my opinion there isn’t “the best console” or “better console” just a different type of console. If someone says Mega Drive doesn’t have any reasonable, decent or good games, I believe is wrong. There is always this comparison. Mega Drive and SNES were competing hard. SNES seemed to capture younger audience with games and characters like Super Mario or Donkey Kong or Zelda. Mega Drive brought fighting and violence in the form of hockey games with fights and blood in games like Mortal Kombat. I’m not going very deeply in the technological differences of these two. Let’s just say that Mega Drive was released, in Europe, 1990 and SNES was released 1992. So I believe SNES was slightly better in purely technical view.

As I am saying these consoles were not bad or good. They were different. For me it was always Mega Drive. I remember getting it in maybe 1993. I still have the original box it came in. It is a bit worn out because I took my Mega Drive with me at times when spending time outside our homes living room when I was a child. It has so many memories. I played hours and hours. At that time games wouldn’t take ten to thirty hours to complete. They were smaller and often more difficult to play. So there really was no room for SNES inside my gaming hobby at that time. I have got to know SNES better as I grew more older and understood better its meaning as one of the most popular gaming consoles of the past.

Music and graphics are a bit old but at the same time very nostalgic. I don’t know if it’s reasonable to spend some hours to play these old games. Why do I keep coming back to Mega Drive? Because I like also about the fact that it was a part of history. It was part of my history and it was part of the history of gaming. The price for this purchase I made was low. If you consider that the price was about 100 euros, and 59 euros was the price I bought it,  and that this device had 42 games installed I think this was a very good deal and it brought many great memories to my mind. It is a reflection of the times of the 90s.

I am saying Merry Christmas for all the readers of this blog. Take a break. You have earned it!

Return to Golden Axe II

Golden Axe II has been one of my favorite games that I used to play back in the 90s with my Sega Mega Drive. I didn’t own a copy. I borrowed this game several times from a friend. I played it. I played it a lot. Today I have a Retro Trio that can be used to play NES, SNES and Mega Drive cartridges. So, some time ago I figured that I definitely should get a copy of this great game. Finally I made the purchase and it wasn’t even a pricey game. I bought it for 30 euros.

Golden Axe II was released 1992 as a PAL version in Europe. You just have to admire how well this game was made. It is an old game. I think there’s just the right mixture of fantasy and realness. There are dragons, axes and swords, magic and different kinds of monsters. Graphics were good when the game was originally released and they still feel pleasant considering it is a retro game. Playability seems nice. It is a beat-em-up game but you still find a rich environment that includes lots of fantasy elements. This game could have even some role playing game features but I think it wasn’t a time for that kind of a game to be released back in 1992. I think this combination of action, adventure and roleplaying was reached later when games like Diablo became very popular.

I have always been a bit doubtful on fantasy and roleplaying. I haven’t got in to this kind of material so much. I like FPS and racing games more. I just like to concentrate fully on the game and get rid of my everyday worries and stress. So, games involving deep fantasy elements aren’t so appealing to me. I also find fantasy books not so interesting. Maybe some day I pick up one of those Tolkiens books and start reading it. You may like roleplaying, stories and fantasy elements. It just isn’t for me.

One thing I haven’t really written about here in this post is that the first Golden Axe was a kind of a pioneer in artificial intelligence of enemies. It was among first games that used this kind of programmable variety of different kinds of actions. You can clearly see these elements when you are playing also the sequel. In the beginning of the game you have to make your choice about which player you wish to begin your journey with. You have a hero with a powerful axe but not so effective magical attacks and a hero with a sword and very powerful magical attacks. And I think the third hero is something in between of these abilities.

I finished the game in the roughest difficulty setting with the hero that had a sword and more powerful spells. I finished the game in maybe two hours but you have to take into consideration that I have played this game a lot. It is still one of my favorites when there is a conversation about Mega Drive’s best games. It’s a bit sad that there hasn’t been a modernized version of this game. I think it has a lot of potential. I can clearly see it to be improved a bit. It would be so cool if someone would include some elements of character development when for example experience points would be gathered. The levels could be larger. And if graphics and sound effects and music could be updated that would be almost surreal. I have to mention one more time that the world that Golden Axe brings is very interesting and pleasant in all of its details. In every way it would be amazing if a proper remake of this classic would some day be made.

Creating the sound of Mega Drive

Music has always been a big part of video games. From the earliest soundtracks of Commodore 64 to the CD quality output of the first Sony PlayStation this genre of video game music has been developing as time has progressed. PS1s sound cannot be classified as chiptune. We are here going to concentrate to earlier sound worlds of consoles and especially to Sega Mega Drive. If you didn’t already know I am going to also mention that Mega Drive and Genesis are basically the same. The name Genesis was used in USA. But the consoles are the same.

Commodore 64 wasn’t as powerful as Mega Drive. It still plays a big role in the development of video game music. Many good principles of making music were first introduced to music producers when there were C-64 games soundtracks created. Back in 80s the music was generated with applications called trackers. It differs in many considerations from music production today. Today it is common for a musician to have a fairly powerful personal computer, software and a keyboard and a microphone. At some times producers used hardware synthesizers and even samplers (mainly hip hop). Today it is common to have virtual intruments that are called VST instruments or to put short VSTi’s. There is also effects which are called VST effects.

So how does modern music production relate to retro games music? It is interesting because many artists or hobbyists are still interested in the worlds of sounds that were created over 20 years ago. They still sound freash. Even if they have this sort of a retro feel. It is still interesting how they actually managed to get quality sound out of these primitive devices. This sound is actually a genre that is called simply “Chip Tune”.

I am going to tell you how you can basically build this sound and compose as original chip tune artist. You first need a VSTi host app. I prefer free one so you can download a program called LMMS (Linux Music Making Studio) that runs on both Windows and Linux. I prefer also Linux and VSTis don’t even work today on Linux. Then you will need a proper free VSTi. We are going to use a synth called Genny. You can see this posts featured image. That is the GUI of Genny. Don’t be afraid of the look of this image – it has many ready-made presets so you don’t necessarily have to make your owns.

In LMMS you load a thing called VeSTige. That’s the actual host for VSTis. Then, if you have already Genny’s .dll-file downloaded, you can load it up to VeSTige. It’s that simple. Feel free to change presets and play sounds from your MIDI- or even regular keyboard. Nice! If you have any difficulties just try to search with Google for additional tutorials and tips. I am not going to tell you everything about VSTis and LMMS, but I am very sure that you will find information about these if you proceed to create your own tunes with these tools. This was just a few words about generating some chip tune music. Bye, for now!

Service Games – The Rise and Fall Of SEGA (Book review)

Sam Pettus wrote a book about “the rise and fall” of Sega. This book was published in 2013. Sega has been releasing some games but the latest console was DreamCast. And it was released in 1998. So the book is some years old but if you think of this subject, how Sega conquered and commanded the markets first with Mega Drive and later with other consoles, you find out that this content is not outdated. It might be currently relevant as being part of console gaming history. And in my opinion – this is something that every gamer should know about. So what was and is Sega and what kind of an impact it made on gaming and how it can be seen even today?

This book begins the journey to Segas history from the beginning to the fall. The first console released was SG-1000. I have never seen this console. The breakthrough for Sega came as Master System, a well-known gaming system, was released. This was the beginning of console war between mainly Sega and Nintendo. This happened in 80s as there first appeared to be two greatly popular gaming consoles on the same market. Atari 2600 was already considered older console and it was replaced with these newer consoles. Atari had its consoles but they couldn’t compete with Sega and Nintendo.

Sega was active and brought many machines to use in arcades. As Mega Drive was released at the end of 80s Sega promised to bring, finally, arcade quality gaming to mainstream consumers homes. The war raged on and the battle continued. Nintendo brought SNES to markets a few years later. These systems all failed to compete with PlayStation that conquered home gaming console markets from the middle of nineties to the end of the decade. But that’s enough of 3D gaming and PlayStation. Let’s get back to what happened inside gaming world in late 80s and 90s.

So Sega had Mega Drive, that was called also Sega Genesis in some parts of the world, and Nintendo had to compete with its NES that was not as powerful as Mega Drive. NES challenged Sega by making some quality games as Super Mario was the main character to lead Nintendos effort to beat Sega. Sega later came up with Sonic that was the main character and represented Sega in this battle. Nintendo tried to make games that were more propriate for children. Their main focus was to bring high quality games and make them be as non-violent as can be. And in some way they succeeded in this. Sega released games also that had violence in them.

Sega had its success with Mega Drive. They had a bad strategy with pricey products that consumers weren’t so interested in. So there was SNES released by Nintendo. Sega released 32X and Sega CD that both failed to gain popularity. After that Sega came up with Saturn that had a tough job to compete with PlayStation. And after that Sega gave its very strong effort to bring to the markets potentially the best console ever made. And some definite fans of Sega are saying that they accomplished just that.

DreamCast did sell but it didn’t sell enough as Nintendo had released N64 and PlayStation 2 was on it’s way. DreamCast ended up selling “only” 9 million consoles worldwide. For a comparison I can tell that PS2 sold more than 100 million consoles. So PS2 sold more than ten times more. So it clearly was a failure for Sega. They ended manufacturing the console as it had only been in the market for just a few years. At the same time PS2 sold steadily and continued in producing. There are many reasons why Sega failed. And many of them were not that they made mistakes but in fact the case was that they had to compete with some very good console manufacturers like Sony and also Microsoft that released also their console at the beginning of the century.

This book is very good. I had fun reading it. It tells you the whole story of Sega as a company and opens up some ideas of how they succeeded and finally failed badly and left the gaming console industry. If you are a Sega fan this is an important piece of gaming history. I am myself a big Mega Drive fan beginning from games and music that was made with and for it. This is not, I repeat, a paid or other type of commercial but more like a recommendation for gaming and Sega fans around the world reading this blog. We will be back, soon, with the next article.

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