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Old 07-06-2012, 05:36 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Sega CD (20th Anniversary)

The Eric Corp Gamer's RU Exclusive Review 35

Sega CD
1992 - 2012 (20)
NOTE: Wow, was this a mouthful to say. This review took me about a week to write, much longer than my previous Console Anniversary reviews.




My Console Anniversary series (as of 2011):
NES (25th Ann.) (Pilot) - http://www.retrouprising.com/video-g...02/#post140055
Sega Nomad (15th Ann.*) - http://www.retrouprising.com/video-g...72/#post142018
SNES (20th Ann.) - http://www.retrouprising.com/video-g...08/#post177658
*- I realize it now that it had been the anniversary between the release date of the handheld and the review

Today, I will now keep on my little Console Anniversary series by talking about one of the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis add-ons, the Sega CD (U.S. only) or the Mega CD (anywhere else but the U.S.). The CD add-on will reach its' 20th anniversary in North America (October 15, 1992 - October 15, 2012).

The Sega CD was the first major CD based system created by (of course) Sega themselves.(there was the TurboGrafx-16 CD that predated it about 2 years, but it was largely unheard of or ignored). It was an attempt to bring the video gamers to "the next level" of gaming with new and improved features like video capabilities, Redbook audio (CD music), internal memory storage to save games, and new graphical enhancements like scaling and rotation of graphics in the game (as shown in the Sega CD / Mega CD BIOS, and you know, what the Super Nintendo already had without add-ons), but like most add-ons created by Sega at this time, it failed to make an impact due to the Mega Drive / Genesis' limited color palette which made video really grainy, the overall less than stellar and/or lack of original games (most were either FMV games that were already on other CD-based consoles and ports of Mega Drive games that enhanced certain things), and the hefty price tag of $299. As a result, it only sold about 6 million, compared to the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis' 38-41 million sales (<15% of people who owned a Mega Drive / Genesis bought the CD add-on).

People who were there during that time will probably remember this commercial:
Sega CD Ad from 1993 - Angry Black Guy - YouTube

And/or this in-store promo in retail stores:
And/or even the episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd of the same name back in 2007, whom he criticized it for numerous reasons (unable to post it due to forum rules, find it on YouTube or whatever else yourself).

History:

REVIEW

Console Design/Reliability:
Model 1: B
The CD unit's design is rectangular-shaped that is black and looks really beautiful and elegant to look with that 16-bit Sega feel to boot, and it looks even better under your Model 1 MD / Genesis (looks horrendous under the Model 2 MD / Genesis). This model is really reliable, and can be guaranteed to remain working for quite a long time, as long as it is under care. The loading times (compared to most CD gaming consoles at the times) are rather short and sweet, usually ranging from 3 - 8 seconds. However, there are some blemishes with reliability like the problem that plagued most early CD-based consoles, which is the prone to disk reading problems that can either lead to either jumpy performance or even freezing, though that can be easily fixed. Also, the tray that loads the CDs can be a problem if not taken care properly like unable to close properly, though that's usually the least of your worries. Probably your choice of the Sega CD, if you are able to spend the money to get one, new or used.


Model 2: C+
The design is slightly different from it's earlier Model 1 counterpart. Unlike the Sega CD Model 1, this one goes to the side of the system, in this case meant to the Model 2 MD / Genesis (also works with Model 1, but looks awkward with it). The design is not as well crafted as the earlier model, but it still look sleek and still retains that 16-bit Sega feel. This model is not quite as reliable as the Model 1, mainly due to the lid that closes the CD tray can at times not close, as you have to force it in to close (until you hear that click sound), but as long as it is kept under care, the chances of that happens lowers (though not as much as the Model 1). Like with Model 1, it suffers from the same issue with disk reading that it can lead to the game acting jumpy or even freezing up, though it can be fixed easily with cleaning the laser, as well. The only plus is that it seems to read CDs much faster than the Model 1, though differences aren't as obvious, since the load times are rather tamed here. Though it may not be as well designed as the Model 2, this is only real good if you have a Model 2 MD / Genesis or are looking for a possible cheap buy to get this CD add-on.


Graphics:

Standard Mega Drive / Genesis graphics: B
Since the Sega CD does not improve on the graphics much (other than adding the ability of scaling sprites and rotation), most of the games that utilizes sprites look exactly the same as it would on the MD / Genesis. Let's not to say that the standard graphics are still great to look at, despite it generally doesn't look as good as their competitor Nintendo's SNES, mainly due to its' limited color palette.

Comparison of color palette:

Genesis / Mega Drive & Sega / Mega CD (Sega)
64 simultaneous colors
512 total colors

Super Nintendo / Super Famicom (Nintendo)
256 simultaneous colors (4x as much as the MD / Genesis')
32,768 total colors (64x as much as the MD / Genesis')

Despite that, many developers still manage to overcome this setback to produce some thrilling and vibrant visuals with them. As for the new enhancements, I don't seem to notice them being used as often as it should, but there are occasions to this being used to its full extent like the special stages of Sonic CD, and the cinematic shots in Batman Returns, and the better scaling effects in Road Rash. Overall, while it's not much different from what people saw 3 years ago, that still doesn't mean it can still produce some neat looking visuals that are a treat to look at.






Full Motion Video: F

Due to the Mega Drive / Genesis' limited color palette, the quality of FMV looks really bad and unbearable to look at. The video looks grainy, dithered, and badly pixelated due to the MD Genesis' limited color palette, and it doesn't help either that the FMV are usually about 1/2 the TV screen you are using (especially the TVs that were being made during this time, it will be that small). Full motion videos on gaming consoles came a long way since the Sega CD, and long it has, because this is a rocky step in that direction and not indeed ready for such a possibility, yet.







Sound: B

Since Sega CD is of course, a CD add-on, it provides the opportunity to make use of the compact disc's capabilities with sound like Redbook audio, added voice work, clearer voice samples in the ports of the previously released games on the MD / Genesis. However, this can be hit or miss, depending on the game. In terms of Redbook audio, there are some really solid soundtracks that really make use of it (or not, but even still sound good) like the Japanese (and European) version of Sonic CD, Lethal Enforcers, The Terminator, Snatcher, Lords of Thunder, the Lunar series, Road Rash, and so on. The majority of the games that make use of Redbook audio sound really good, but with some of them I prefer the chip-generated music of the Genesis instead. As for the clearer voice samples, they are mainly used in ports of games that were also released on the MD / Genesis. Most of the voice samples and the overall voice work sound crisp to hear without any notable issues with them, but there are some that are just laughable, which I preferred the scratchy voices or even text of the MD / Genesis over these. For the most part, the Sega CD does a satisfactory job in the sound department with the advantage of CD audio in music and voices, and while it is still far from perfect, it is still no slacker in that field.

Controllers:
The Sega CD uses the same MD / Genesis controllers as the normal system would, so no special controllers are required to play any of them (at least to all the Sega CD games I've played).

3-button (MD / GEN Model 1): B-
The controllers themselves are really reliable and both the D-pad and the 3 buttons (A, B, C) work like they should. However, I feel that the controllers feel a little too big and doofy on your hands (buttons and all, in my opinion), and the START button is placed awkwardly on the right side of the joypad. Also, it doesn't help that you shouldn't play games that require 6-button like fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Samurai Shodown with this pad, due to its rather confusing set up when using it. But for the majority of the games, it's not a huge problem. Overall, while they aren't the priority controllers you'll want to get for your system, the 3-button still does their job well and it's still worth it for a possible backup for the later developed controllers, when something's wrong with them.


6-button (MD / GEN Model 2): A
As the name suggests, 3 extra buttons (X, Y, Z) were added above the standard 3 buttons, giving you more possibilities you could do for control. Now, these are the priority controllers you'll want to get for your system, because they also improve it a lot from the earlier 3-button model. The controller was made smaller, but it was enough to fit better in the palm of your hands more with better grip and it is easier to reach and press the buttons easier (especially the START, moved to the middle of the joypad), but at the same time not feel cramped up on the buttons. Unlike the 3-button where fighting games (or others) will be a hassle to deal with, this controller can be used for pretty much, all games on the system with better results overall. If you want a proper controller for your system, this is all you will need to
satisfy your gaming on the Sega CD (or the MD / Genesis).


6-button (MD / GEN Model 3): B+

Similar to the earlier Model 2 controller, but with a few differences. The joypad was made even smaller, but kinda to the point where you will feel like it's more cramped together than it needs to be. Also, I seems this is during a time where Sega's success was starting to dwindle, because the controller looks more cheaply made with the buttons feel much looser and the D-pad is slightly more awkward to use due to how it's made on the controller. The only real nice addition is the ability to use TURBO (any of the 6-buttons when one is hold down, that button rapidly press without the need to actually do so) and SLOW (the START button keeps repeating, usually turns pause on and off). However, despite it's quirks, this is still a great controller to make use of, but think of this as a secondary joypad you can use if you could not find it's earlier Model 2 controller.

Games: C+
Unlike its cartridge counterpart which had a huge assortment of games that are generally of high quality, the CD add-on is more lacking in terms of that. Nonetheless, they are still more than a handful of games that make a Sega CD worth owning. The great games on the platform include Earthworm Jim: Special Edition, Final Fight CD, Flashback, Lethal Enforcers, Lords of Thunder, the Lunar series, Popful Mail, Sonic CD, Snatcher, The Terminator and even the newly developed Sonic 1 Megamix etc. However, the main problem is that many of these games on the Sega CD were either ports of its' MD / Genesis counterpart or FMV games (most of them were also developed games on other consoles like the 3DO, Sega Saturn and even the PC). The enhanced MD / Genesis' ports of games can sometimes range to simply changing the audio to CD quality or actually adding new content, though most of the time, there isn't any real need to play the upgraded version of the Genesis game. However, most of these ports and the very little assortment of original games it had, they generally hold up much better than the FMV ones. As for the games that utilizes FMV, they hold limited appeal in my opinion. While some may acknowledge them for its' part in history or the FMV's really bad (or laughable) acting and its' bottom of the barrel budget, most will arguably admit they are terribly developed and are not really worth spending hours and hours sinking into with the little gameplay they have. Overall, while the Sega CD library is more of a mixed bag than the MD / Genesis' and the very little original games developed on the platform, they are still a decent assortment of games that people can enjoy on the CD add-on that still hold up and that many can still enjoy.

Collector's Value: D+
For the most part, there is really no need to owning a Sega CD system, as the majority of these games had already been developed on the MD / Genesis or other platforms. Also, trying to find a Sega CD are usually quite expensive (even used), as both models can range from $100 to even $2,000 (on eBay, at least). Plus, it can be really hard to find a working Sega CD system, since its' reliability can be a factor into buying one. I was lucky to find a working Model 2 system for $30 at a local shop! Unless you're either a collector of nostalgia or Sega, or want to grasp some of its games that remain worth getting the CD add-on, chances are you would not bother trying to get a Sega CD, unless you really want it, that is.

Overall: B-
For being the first major CD based system, the Sega CD still manages to score more hits than misses, (especially compared to the TurboGrafx-16 CD, despite the fact it was still released when CD technology was still at its' infancy, and it doesn't help that the tech specs of both the MD / Genesis and CD weren't meant for full-motion video. While most people who owned a MD / Genesis would mostly not need it due to a number of factors of the add-on, it remains an interesting piece of history of bringing CD technology into video gaming consoles, with an above average library to back it up. Whether it's the horribly laughable FMV games, the mixed bag of enhanced Genesis ports, or the very little originally produced games that it has, the Sega CD will still remain a good add-on to the brilliant MD / Genesis console. To be this good takes AGES, to be this good takes SEGA!


2012 Eric Corp Incorporated

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