Released: Dec 12, 1991 (JP), Oct 15, 1992 (US), 1993 (EU)
Units Sold: 2.24 million
Media: CD-ROM, CD+G
CPU: MC68000 @ 12.5 MHz
Sound: Ricoh RF5C164
Released in the early 90's, the Sega CD (also known as the Mega CD) was an add-on for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive to serve as an answer for the PC-Engine's CD add-on. The Sega CD has met with a mixed reception over the years. Some have argued the Sega CD was the beginning of the end for Sega as a hardware manufacturer, while others have argued it helped give developers a head-start on how to develop for the CD format. Either way, the Sega CD has its gems and its place in gaming history.
No franchise defined Sega during the 16-bit era more than the Sonic the Hedgehog series. Sonic CD introduced a time-traveling element where Sonic could travel through time and save his friends from Mecha Sonic. The time-traveling element helped push level exploring, giving Sonic more of a platforming feel. However, the time traveling can be ignored in favor of just going really fast, one of the main appealing features of the Sonic franchise. The game also debuted Amy Rose, one of the most iconic Sonic characters.
Due to using CD as a format, the Sega CD could offer FMV's. Developers could create games that served as interactive movies, which was something not common prior to the Sega CD. A perfect example of a FMV-based game is Night Trap. The game gathered much controversy for its content, which revolved around a bunch of young girls being pursued by vampiric-type beings. The controversy of this game, alongside the Sega version of Mortal Kombat, have been cited as the reason the ratings system for video games even exists.
Originally developed for the MSX2 and PC-88 computer platforms in Japan, Snatcher was one of the earliest exports to the West of the Japanese Visual Novel genre. Originally directed by Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear fame, the adventure takes it's plot and visual cues from popular science fiction films of the 1980's, specifically Blade Runner and The Terminator, with just a dash of Cold War era paranoia thrown into the mix. The Sega CD version was based on the Japanese-exclusive PC Engine CD version of the game, which added a third act to the game that did not exist in previous versions. Despite positive reviews and gorgeous hand-drawn pixel artwork throughout, the game received dismal sales upon its release, leading to it's now cult-classic status and current high price on the video game after-market. It's hard boiled characters, cyberpunk retro futurism and deft English translation and voice acting make a strong case for video games as a interactive narrative medium, and is truly one of the standouts on the Sega CD system. A must-play.
One of the most notable supporters of the Sega CD was Working Designs. Working Designs brought Japanese-centric games to the US as niche release. Their works on the Sega CD would include Lunar: The Silver Star, Lunar: Eternal Blue, Popful Mail, and Vay. They would remain loyal Sega supporters until Bernie Stolar replaced Tom Kalinske as Sega of America's CEO, but that is a story best left told for another day.
When the Sega Genesis first debuted in the US, Sega of America boasted about the Genesis superior hardware with their Genesis does what Nintendont campaign. Nintendo would later release their own 16-bit console in the US, but thanks to the Sega CD, Sega could do what Nintendont again. Final Fight CD is a perfect example of this. When it first showed up on the SNES, the game had to remove a character and remove co-op due to hardware limitations. When the Sega CD version debuted, it was much more faithful to its arcade counterpart, thus demonstrating the Sega CD's powerful hardware at the time.
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