OK folks, cool your heels. The new episode of Chronsega is available for your viewing pleasure. Youtube now offers 60 fps options, you can watch a pretty darn good streaming version there. Or you can download that same file directly from Archive.org. (It's the 1.4 gig MP4 file.) More file sizes/formats will be available there soon.
Chronsega Episode 9 covers July through October 1989 for the Mega Drive/Genesis and "Fall 1989" for those increasingly rare and mysterious Master System games. One very important thing of note this episode is that the Sega Genesis was released in the US on August 14, supposedly only in NYC and Los Angeles at first. Sega of America was in an interesting position at this time. They had only recently retaken over the Master System's distribution and marketing from Tonka. From what I understand, Bruce Lowry, formerly of Nintendo before becoming President of Sega of America in 1986, had quit Sega and gone back to Nintendo in mid-1988, thus leaving SOA headless for a year. Shortly after the Genesis' launch, former Coleco/Atari/Epyx executive Michael Katz stepped in to take charge of Sega's US branch. Katz developed much of what we think about the Genesis when we consider its pre-Sonic era: The focus on celebrity sports figures. The emphasis on the Genesis' superior graphics. The "Genesis Does What Nintendon't" ad campaign.
Katz was replaced after two years by Tom Kalinske. There are two schools of thought re: Katz vs. Kalinske. One is that Katz simply failed to make the Genesis succeed in the US; it was up to Kalinske to turn things around, and that Kalinske's tactics were directly responsible for the Sega's brief US dominance over Nintendo. The other perspective is that many of the seeds of the Genesis' success had already been planted during Katz's reign (for example, Sonic.) Those seeds just happened to bloom after Kalinske took over, thus Kalinske unjustly got all the credit. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in between those two positions.
Sega of America did manage to get quite a few games on the market very quickly. The Genesis launched with five titles, then released another batch in September, then presumably kept new releases coming throughout the rest of the year. It's hard to say for sure what came out when, but this is the second Genesis ad to appear in Game Pro magazine:
Soon, Sega would launch it's own Nintendo Power style magazine called Sega Visions, release the Mega Drive in Europe, and eventually find massive success in the US, Europe, Australia an Brazil. For the moment though, we'll look at the second batch of ten games released in Summer and
Fall of 1989. Three games stand out: a port of Sega's arcade hit Golden Axe, a Sega-published port of Capcom's Ghouls 'N Ghosts, and a console original, Revenge of Shinobi.
Golden Axe and Ghouls 'N Ghosts proved once again the system was capable very accurate ports of recent arcade hits, something that was out of the question for the aging NES. Revenge of Shinobi demonstrated what console action platformers could look like in the 16-bit generation. Other new titles this episode aren't as successful. Rambo III is a poor man's Mercs clone, padded with long, maze-like levels to stretch it to console game length. Forgotten Worlds is another Capcom port which isn't nearly as good as Ghouls 'N Ghosts. Super Hang-On is a much improved version of a game that was a launch title for the Master System, with a new career mode added on.
Other titles include Super Hydlide, a port of the computer game Hydlide 3, whose Famicom version we glossed over a few episodes ago. Super Hydlide has some interesting ideas, but its butt-ugly graphics, grindy nature and overall lack of personality will turn off most folks. The music on the Genesis version is fantastic, however. Hokuto no Ken/Last Battle is yet another dull Fist of the North Star beat-em-up, which somehow ended up being a launch title in the US. We've also got a soccer and golf game.
With this episode, we've covered the first 20 Mega Drive/Genesis games released. Here's the breakdown:
7 arcade ports
4 computer ports
9 original games, of which:
3 were action platformers
3 were sports games
1 was a beat-em-up
1 was a top down run-and-gun
1 was an RPG
An interesting and varied assortment of games. As of yet we've only seen two third party publishers, and neither were big names in the videogame market. All this will change in 1990, as the likes of Namco, Taito and EA lend their support to the console.
Until then, head on over to Youtube or Archive and check out Chronsega Episode 9.