As I was typing out this article, I was readying myself to bid a final farewell to my Sega Genesis, the only one I’d ever owned. Fond memories came flooding back to me every time I looked at the grocery bag holding it and the two games I was selling with it. Looking back, my history with the Sega Genesis has always been a somewhat interesting tale (or at least I think it is) and I figured I’d share it with everyone.
It was the late ’80s, and I was a wee lad of eight years-old. I remember seeing that amazing black console that just screamed “HIGH TECH!” at me every time I saw it in a store display, or in early Gamepro issues (which I used to mispronounce as “Gamepraw”). The graphics were lauded as being like having an arcade in your home, with glorious stereo sound, and it boasted a fantastic library of games. It was a pipe dream that I would ever own one of these magical machines. Even though I was happy with my NES at the time, you couldn’t deny how its presentation compared to the Genesis paled in comparison. I would actually lay in my room and imagine one in some rich friend’s or some rich relative’s living room, connected to some over-expensive, over-complicated home entertainment center, delivering theatre-quality 16-bit goodness. As a rather young video and audiophile, I was salivating.
Then in 1991, a certain blue hedgehog made his debut. If the graphics on the Genesis didn’t blow me away before, they certainly did NOW! So colorful, and almost cinematic in a sense, at that moment, I decided I HAD to own one, come hell or high water. I was one of those kids lucky enough to get a $5 weekly allowance (as long as I did my chores), so I began saving. And saving. And saving. Somehow that money ended up being spent on a Super NES instead… What can I say? Children are INCREDIBLY fickle. But never ONCE did I lose any resolve to own a Genesis. My quest continued.
At this point my older stepbrother had told me horror stories his friends had experienced with the Genesis, and why I shouldn’t bother with one. One of these stories involved it not working fresh out of its box, and in a raging fit, said friend lobbed it at his sister. Why I ever believed a LOT of things he ever told me is beyond me.
I did what a lot of kids do when a friend received the latest video game system: hang out at their house a lot more. Anyone remember those old “I heard so-and-so got a Sega Genesis for Christmas” commercials? That was pretty much it. It wasn’t the NOBLEST thing in the world, but we had a blast playing Golden Axe, so it wasn’t ENTIRELY self-serving. Even so, envy reared its ugly head every now and then, like when two classmates of mine would bring their Genesis games to class to trade. Jurassic Park. Mortal Kombat. With BLOOD! It was beginning to take a bit of a toll on me, as all I could do was continue to save money, $5 at a time.
Then it happened. Christmas morning of ’93. Under the tree was a large box. Not once did it ever occur to me that this box could be something truly magical. I was still saving my money to buy that miracle myself. But lo and behold, as the shiny wrapping was torn away, that red strip that read “GENESIS” came into view, and that’s when I had to appreciate more than ever what my mother does for me. Love ya, Mom! So not only did I get a brand new Sega Genesis, by my dad gave me $100 too, so of course, that went towards brand new games! The day after Christmas, my mother took me to the local Kmart’s electronics department (which I now work at) and chose two games, based on EGM reviews I’d read: Sonic Spinball and Shinobi III, which earned a Gold Award, if memory serves. Aging can really stink.
I slowly built up a small, dedicated collection. Jurassic Park. Sonic 3. Sonic and Knuckles. My stepbrother was friends with two other kids down the corner from our house who also had a Genesis, and we’d hang out and play rounds of NBA Jam, a surprisingly fun and addicting game to a non-sports game player such as myself. I also formed a loving relationship with their copy of Ecco the Dolphin, which I was told I could play as long as I busied myself with it while they smoked weed out back. Remember, HIS friends, not mine! Luckily for me though, in the end, they ended up selling their copy of Ecco to me, and I was one happy camper. And that’s all that mattered in the end.
One day, a different friend of my stepbrother’s offered to sell me his Sega CD. I was pretty excited! Again, the idea of a CD-based game was all part of that whole “HIGH TECH” feeling the Genesis had, and I was wowed by the then impressive FMV based games at the time. Of course I bought it in a heartbeat. I connected everything. I switched it on. Nothing. I tried a different CD game. Nothing still. It didn’t work. I got my money back. It was almost ridiculous how badly I wanted a Sega CD. After reading rave reviews for Lunar: The Silver Star, I just needed it. Again, pangs of jealousy hit when I was in a KB Toy Store and saw a kid around my age buying a brand new Sega CD system. I figured it would just have to wait, and continue saving.
It wasn’t until I was about sixteen or seventeen that I’d rented Phantasy Star IV from the local rental store, and once again, it was love at first sight. The only problem with rented cartridge-based games was that you could never just pick up from where you last left off when you rented it again. Either it was a different copy of the game or your information was erased. Real bummer, right? Thank God for eBay. I found a copy with box (sans instructions) for $17. Can’t beat that! A few years later, I was twenty, living in an apartment with a roommate, who I decided to share the awesomeness of the Genesis with. She was a total nut for RPGs, and I knew that Phantasy Star IV would be right up her alley. And she loved every second of it! Somewhere down the line I’d gotten a copy of VectorMan, but had sold off almost every game in my collection. Hey, when you’re a college student, you need all the cash you can get. I want to say I was around twenty-three or so when I’d gotten a copy of Castlevania: Bloodlines. Well, not so much gotten, as was lent by a close friend. Eventually I DID have to give that one back, which was pretty unfortunate I thought, seeing as they had two copies of the game. Damn.
From that point on, the trusty Genesis went back into the closet, where it stayed in darkness for almost four years. I eagerly anticipated the release of the Sega Genesis Collection for the PS2. Of course I was a bit disappointed in the omission of certain games, but being able to play a good-sized collection of classic games in 480p? I couldn’t pass it up! Working in the electronics department in a retail store has its perks. I get to see every game that we receive, and I saw that we only received two copies of the Sega Genesis Collection. I grabbed both of them (the only copies the store has ever gotten since then) and promptly bought them, one for me, and one for my now former roommate, as we’re still best friends to this day. She never did get to finish Phantasy Star IV on the original Genesis, and this was a great opportunity. We also both discovered other gems we never had a chance to play before, like Ristar and Comix Zone. Another friend, a different roommate, had such fond memories and mastery of Sonic 2 that he easily collected every Chaos Emerald in about forty-five minutes, by the time he reached the second zone. It was a sight to behold.
It wasn’t until a few months ago that my store got in a few copies of Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection. Of course I snatched it up. More games than the previous collection and this one had more games I wanted to play! Phantasy Star the First? Check. Beyond Oasis? Check. The Streets of Rage series? Check. The Shining series? Check! It was all here! THIS was the package that I’d been waiting for, and I for one was not disappointed.
And that brings about an end to my story. I never did ever get a Sega CD system, but I do have Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete on the PSOne and Lunar Legend on the Gameboy Advance. I never did get a chance to ever finish Castlevania: Bloodlines either, but I imagine it’s only a matter of time before its available for (legal) download. The only two games I have left for the Genesis, VectorMan and Phantasy Star IV, are both readily available on both the PS2 and Xbox 360 collections I own. And just recently I bought Wii points and began to build a brand new Sega Genesis collection from the all around amazing Virtual Console service, starting with the amazing Wonder Boy in Monster World. Somewhere down the line I plan on getting other classics I never had a chance to play, such as Landstalker.
Even though I will no longer have a Sega Genesis in my possession, I will continue to buy its games on the Virtual Console or the Xbox Live Marketplace, and it will continue to be in my video game playing life, forever preserved in digital form. So as I pass off my reliable Genesis to another’s hand, its story with me ends, and its story shall continue on. I hope it’ll be just as interesting, or more.