Lately, I decided to finally upgrade my Mega Drive. I have owned and played that console for twenty years, but I had never gotten myself a Mega CD, since the library available had never really appealed to me and never beckoned me to get one. Still, I finally decided to gradually get the complete set (I already got a Power Base Converter, and I’ll eventually look for a 32X as well). So, after browsing around, I finally found a Model 2 Mega CD for a reasonable price (it was pretty cheap because it was made for an UK power outlet, but since I have an adapter for that it didn’t pose a problem for me). However, I had failed to properly read the item description. When the package arrived, it contained both a Model 2 Sega CD… and a Model 2 PAL Mega drive, also with an UK power adapter. It wasn’t the second Mega Drive in my possession, however. It was my Mega Drive number six!
Over the years, I’ve come to collect quite a number of different consoles and personal computers. I proudly own at least one console and one handheld out of every single generation of video gaming, without any preference of brand or manufacturer, be it Sony, Microsoft, Atari, Nintendo or Sega. But the Mega Drive/Genesis is the only console I have several versions of. Funny enough, it was never my intention to become a collector of Genesi, nor did I specifically seek out certain iterations of the hardware (with a few exceptions). However, in the twenty years since I got my very first Japanese Model 1 Mega Drive, it just so happened that many different incarnations of the same console came into my possession – all of them officially licensed.
I got my first Genesis when I was nine years-old. Officially, the Mega Drive didn’t reach Europe until 1990. Thus it was a very special and exciting event when on Christmas Eve 1989, my parents decided to get the brand new 16-bit machine as a gift for me and my younger sibling. It was not that my parents had much of an idea of why this console was special – in fact, they weren’t much interested in computers or consoles at all. The machine was introduced into the family courtesy of my sister, who is eight years older than me. To be precise, her then-boyfriend had an import business and had recently imported a number of those brand new and advanced consoles from Japan. It was they who convinced my parents to get this as a gift. My parents never had much of an understanding of computers and consoles. Their only knowledge of video games was limited to Breakout and the pinball simulator Davy’s Midnight Magic for the C64, and later they would accidentally buy a NES game for the Gameboy, thinking it would be all right since it was “a Nintendo” (and never even wondering that the NES-cartridge was about the same size as the Gameboy handheld itself!)
Even though I had never heard of a Mega Drive before, I was overjoyed! The games looked so much better than anything my friends had (my two best friend owned a Master System and a NES respectively), and they were instantly envious once I showed them games like Golden Axe or Burning Force – one of them would later get a Mega Drive himself. Only many years later I would learn to categorize this as a pre-TMSS Model 1 Japanese Mega Drive and would even know of its superior sound capabilities.
Then came 1993. For four years I had enjoyed my console, though the selection of my games was very limited. Most titles I played were rentals, since the only way I received new games was by getting them as a present or by trading in the ones I already had. It had become something of a tradition, however, that every Christmas I got a new game for my Mega Drive, and the game I wanted most around Christmas 1993 was Disney’s Aladdin. By then I was thirteen and an avid reader of gaming magazines, definitely shaping my interest in terms of what I wanted and what not.
So, on Christmas Eve, there was the game I had wished for. Hyped by the screen shots I saw and the praise I had heard, I lost no time and popped the game into my console immediately. Only, it didn’t work! For the first time I encountered something my siblings my parents and me had never heard of until then: region locks! Being the thirteen year-old brat I was, I was immensely upset. Here I was with the game I wanted most, and I wasn’t able to play it. Had I thought about it for a while and consulted my magazines or asked a couple of friends, I may have realized the cause and the solution, and it may have sufficed to get an import adapter.
My father was faster, however. I thought when he went shopping a few days later, it was to return the game and exchange it for a different one. Instead, however, he returned with a Model 2 European PAL Mega Drive. He didn’t know of import modules and thought it to be a fact that from now on, to play games bought in Germany you had to have a console bought in Germany as well. So my old Mega Drive was shelved, and for many, many years, I completely forgot about it.
1996 was the year the Saturn was released, and since Mega Drive support was dropped, I also changed ships and switched to the more advanced console. I never grew to like the Saturn, however, and the fact that there weren’t that many good games around that I was interested in made it even worse. My main source for games was still our local rental store, which always carried more Mega Drive than Saturn games, but by 1998 the store closed its doors forever. By that time I still only had four Saturn games and a handful of Mega Drive titles, and I had completed them all. I was heavily disappointed, and with my most reliable (and cheapest) source for new games having closed down, I stopped gaming. Besides, I had turned eighteen, and my interests shifted in other directions. I still kept my Model 2 around, mainly for nostalgic reasons, but I hardly played it any more.
Years passed. I graduated from high school and went on to study at the university. I met a new girlfriend and went steady, later even became engaged. While still occasionally gaming on my PC, my interests had shifted, first to video and film, later to theater. I joined a student’s theatre and later even formed my own group. Except for some emulation on the PC, I hadn’t played any Mega Drive games for seven years. In 2005 I had formed my own theatrical group. Most of them were RPG and video enthusiasts, and our first production together was a film we had adapted for stage ourselves. Of course, we were working on a very limited budged (we were all students after all), so many of our costumes and props were acquired via late night shopping sessions on eBay.
Then, on one of those sprees on eBay, it suddenly happened. I had already concluded all my shopping and was just aimlessly browsing, when I stumbled upon it: a Sega Nomad, including seven games! It had one hour remaining and was still at a considerably low price. All of a sudden, I remembered some of those gaming magazines I read in my teen years. The Nomad never officially came to Germany, but back in the day, I had always imagined getting one. I had always believed that if Sega had still produced Mega Drive games, the Nomad handheld would have been a major success. Like so many dreams I had in 1996, this one was shattered as well. But here I was, almost ten years later, and even though I didn’t play my Mega Drive any more, I saw a console I ever wanted, and without thinking, I entered my bid.
It was one of those moments. Immediately after entering my price and sending it off, I thought “My God! What have I done?” I somehow wished someone would counterbid at the last moment. But this was one of those cases where there wasn’t a sniper entering at the very last seconds. I had placed the highest bid. The Nomad was mine.
Now I had the Nomad, but hardly any games to play on. Most of the few I had I had given away by then. But as I played the games that came with the handheld, I felt a wave of nostalgia rush over me, a youthful joy I had never realized that I missed. So, the decision was made: I had to get more games! Of course, my (ex-)girlfriend noticed this, and wondered what the fuzz was all about – she never was much into gaming herself. So I dusted off the old Model 2, hooked it up on a TV (the NTSC-Nomad didn’t produce an image on our PAL-TV that one could properly played with), and we started playing some games together. It would become one of our most favourite pastimes.
This hit upon a minor snag in 2006, when my Model 2 broke down. One day, it simply refused to turn on. I never had much of a talent for fiddling with electronics, and I quickly realized that repairing it would be beyond my capabilities. So, once again, I turned to eBay to look for a replacement. I quickly found what I was looking for: Someone sold a PAL Model 2 Mega Drive. Interestingly enough he sold it as being defective (the RF adapter was broken!). I quickly realized that the console itself was probably in perfect working order, and I could just use my own video cable! I only wondered about the high postage fee listed: It was about twice the amount it should be for a package the size of a Mega Drive. Still, I could get a machine in perfect working order for a single Euro, and even with higher postage this was still way cheaper than anything else, so I went for it. I was in for a major surprise.
The package that arrived was gigantic, and I was truly puzzled. When I opened it, I came across not one, but TWO Mega Drives! Apart from the announced PAL Model 2 with the broken RF cable, there was also a Model 1 NTSC US Model (post-TMSS) sitting in there. It had a broken Power Cable and some of the pins on controller port 1 was bent, but it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed easily, even with my limited repair capabilities. Apparently, The guy selling off these things had even a worse technical understanding than I had, and had thought this auction to be an easy way for getting rid of broken electronics – the box also contained two regular controllers (that just had to be opened and cleaned to get them working properly again) and even two wireless Genesis pads including the receptor (unfortunately, it seems that battery acid had leaked inside them, and the interior was heavily corroded). I fiddled around a bit and got the Model 1 working again. I now had three Mega Drives.
Theatre would not only lead to me gaining the Nomad, but also led to an amazing rediscovery. My parents, as well as my late grandparents, were notorious for one thing: They never threw anything away. Over the years, my fathers attic became storage for toys, sporting goods and clothing dating way back. I regularly made excursions to the attic in order to look for some costumes I could use for my theatrical group – I even discovered a silk dress out of the nineteenth century up there once, something that practically blew my mind.
It was during one of those excursions to the attic that I found an old, dusty box. After thirteen years, I finally found out what had become out of my very first Mega Drive: It was just sitting there, in its original box, in my fathers attic, collecting dust. I already owned three different models… but after cleaning it off and realizing that it still works properly (though the sound is crackling a bit at times), I figured I would just take it with me. I found it to be a nice curiosity to own four different models of the same console. Besides, it wouldn’t do the Mega Drive any good to remain stored away in the dusty attic.
Early 2007, my girl and I broke up. This, coupled with the fact that I finally graduated from the university as well, led to a couple of drastic changes. I mostly craved a change of scenery. Even before our breakup, I had toyed with the idea of going to South America for a couple of months – I had an opportunity of doing an internship there. As soon as I graduated, I went ahead with this decision, and headed off for a four-month stay in Argentina.
I have already told of my discoveries there in an earlier tale. Long story short: I went there without the intention of playing any Genesis at all. I returned with a whole bag of strange bootleg and having bought a Model 3 Genesis.
Now, this chance acquisition of my latest sixth Mage Drive prompted this walk down memory lane. I didn’t quite realize myself how many precious (and also some painful) memories are connected with all these different models. Now I got a second Model 2 PAL; aside from the fact that it came with a Mega CD attached, there’s no difference to my other Model 2. So now I got my first real duplicate. Maybe I should sell it. What sense does it make to have two of the same? But then again, who knows? I already have five Mega Drives… I might just as well end up keeping it.