Sega Mega CD
From Sega Retro
The Sega Mega CD (メガＣＤ), known as the Sega CD in North America and Brazil, and CD Aladdin Boy (CD 알라딘 보이) in South Korea, is a hardware add-on developed by Sega for the Sega Mega Drive. As the names suggest, it allows a Mega Drive to run compact discs, be it proprietary Mega CD software, audio CDs or CD+G discs. It also acts as an upgrade to the Mega Drive hardware, sporting an extra processor and extra RAM. The Mega CD was first released in 1991 and was supported alongside regular Mega Drive cartridges.
Development of the Mega CD was kept secret from the public and developers alike, with game programmers not knowing exactly what they were designing for until the Mega CD was revealed at the Tokyo Toy Show in Japan in 1991. The Mega CD was primarily aimed to compete against Sega Japanese rival, NEC, whose flagship video game console, the PC Engine had both a CD add-on device and was largely out-performing the Sega Mega Drive in terms of sales.
Sega's plan had always been to release add-ons for the Mega Drive, and had in fact tested this concept with the earlier SG-1000 II and Sega Mark III consoles, however in 1988 it was widely believed the console's expansion port would be used by the unreleased Mega Drive Floppy Disk Drive, not something reliant on compact discs. The Mega CD turned out to be one of the first systems to utilise compact discs, a form of media considered at the time to be far less expensive to produce than cartridges, while sporting a higher storage capacity. With several hundred megabytes of space as opposed to less than four, there was enough space to allow for quality audio in games at the expense of greater load times.
The Sega Mega CD was released first in Japan on December 12, 1991. Its retail price was ¥49,800 and had two launch titles, both third party and both Sharp X68000 ports: Wolf Team's Sol-Feace and Micronet's Heavy Nova.
Sega initially pushed the Mega CD by calling for developers, especially X68000 and other home computer developers, to bring their games to the system. Third-party support was dominated by Telenet Japan and its web of subsidiaries during this time period, with other computer developers or developers with notable titles like Micronet, Sur de Wave (Nostalgia 1907), Kogado Studio (Mega Schwarzschild), Compile, and Game Arts stepping on. Game Arts went a step further by releasing Lunar: The Silver Star as an exclusive for the system. Sega themselves tried to bring a mix of original titles (Panic!, Pro Yakyuu Super League CD) and home computer ports (SimEarth, Mega Schwarzschild) to the mix as well.
The Mega CD was not particularly chosen as a target by arcade developers for ports, even by Sega themselves; only Taito really supported the system (and even then, only with a handful of ports, half of which were done by Wolf Team). Namco and Data East, two of the biggest contributors to the Mega Drive library, hardly released anything at all on the expansion (Namco only released StarBlade, Data East only had two, both by Wolf Team).
Victor Musical Industries turned out to be one of the most important Sega third-parties by also dedicating themselves to supporting the system hardware. They developed the Wondermega unit, which not only combined a Mega Drive with a Mega CD, but also added features such as MIDI support, as well as special software like Wonder Library and Wonder MIDI that took advantage of these features. To promote their Wonder-branded Mega CD ecosystem, Victor created a mascot, Wonder Dog. Victor also brought many overseas games to Japan, going so far as to work with British developer Core Design on a Wonder Dog game for the system (which was also ported to the Amiga, Core Design's main release platform).
By mid-1993, however, it became clear that the Mega Drive was on its way out, and the Mega CD's popularity started to wane with it. Telenet Japan dropped all Sega support outright, and though a proliferation of other third-party publishers followed, only Victor Musical Industries continued to release many games. Sega's own first-party support also started to wane; despite big releases like Popful Mail, Sega wound up spending the last year of the system's life releasing its American FMV games en masse.
The system sold 100,000 units during the first year of release in Japan. However, cost issues prevented more units from being sold. Despite these, the system was supported and received games until 1996, the last being Shadowrun.
Sega of Japan did not speak to Sega of America about their Mega CD plans for that market until a few months after the Tokyo Toy Show in Japan. The renamed "Sega CD" was announced at the Chicago CES in Summer 1992, seeing a release in October of the same year.
Though initially a success, an expensive launch price of $299.99 (far more than a Sega Genesis console during this period) saw the Sega CD be largely ignored by American consumers over its lifespan. Contrary to the Japanese approach, Sega of America focused heavily on full motion video (FMV) games, a genre "invented" by the advent of the compact disc, which ultimately proved unpopular due to the forced restrictions on player interaction. More "traditional" games did little to justify their inflated price tags - the CD version of Ecco the Dolphin for example is almost identical to its cartridge counterpart bar an improved soundtrack.
The Sega CD's later-than-planned release was also met with other problems - competition from the CD-i, 3DO, Atari Jaguar CD and the Neo Geo CD all emerged during the early-to-mid 1990s, and when combined with the already trading TurboGrafx-CD and more modern IBM PCs starting to utilise CD technology, the Sega CD lacked an edge. Furthermore, the 64-colour graphics hindered the FMV craze - better versions of games could often be found elsewhere.
For about half a year, "model 1" Sega CD complete with disc tray was made available. To help justify its large price tag, Sega of America bundled the system with reportedly $300's worth of software - a two disc set containing Sega Classics Arcade Collection (with Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, Columns, and The Revenge of Shinobi) and Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol. I and a separate box for Sol-Feace, totalling what Sega of America called "five games". Also included were two CD+G discs; Rock Paintings and Hot Hits, used to merely demonstrate the CD technology.
As prices for the system dropped and the redesigned Sega CD "model 2" hit store shelves in mid-1993, the bundled games changed, Sewer Shark being the most common pack-in. Systems such as the X'Eye and CDX were also made available during 1993/1994.
CD technology as a whole was hindered in the early 90s by slow disc reading speeds, the side effect being long loading times. CD-based games did not catch on in North America until late 1995, with the advent of the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation.
Similarly to the Mega Drive, the Mega CD was delayed, arriving in Europe sixteen months after the Japanese model. In the United Kingdom the system launched in early April 1993, selling for a pricy £269.99 (putting it well ahead of the Mega Drive's launch, which in late 1990 went for £189.99 (and included Altered Beast). In the UK, Sega Classics Arcade Collection and Sol-Feace/Cobra Command were included as pack-ins. Italy which launched around the same period, did not include Sega Classics Arcade Collection.
The delays in both hardware and software caused numerous problems, most notably conflicting with events in Japan, where the cost-reduced Mega CD 2 was announced before the older Mega CD models hit European shores. As the Mega CD 2 (Mega CD II in Europe) was expected to be less expensive, many held out for a cheaper deal towards Christmas 1993, and as a result, out of the 70,000 Mega CDs initially shipped to Europe, only 60,000 had been sold by August 1993.
Further delays caused countries such as France, Germany and Spain to be given the redesigned Mega CD II during summer/autumn 1993 instead of the original Mega CD. Spain in fact received the Mega CD II "early", getting it before the redesigned Mega Drive II (whereas the rest of the world recieved both redesigned units at the same time). Eventually other countries caught up and the Mega CD II became the de facto Mega CD unit, but the naming scheme and differing looks caused many problems, with users worried that software would be incompatible and that their hardware, having been out for less than six months, may already have been obsolete.
It is estimated that only 4% of European Mega Drive owners bought a Mega CD, mostly due to price. Games were also delayed and arrived less frequently than releases for the Mega Drive, leading to the Mega CD being largely written-off by 1994.
Another factor for this was the launch of the Amiga CD32, which although ran into its own problems mid-way through the decade, was able to secure a large percentage of the CD games market in the UK during its run. Those desperate for CD technology opted for the Amiga system, a then tried-and-tested brand which had been succeeding in Europe since the mid-1980s. Furthermore, IBM PCs were beginning to come equipped with CD-ROM drives, so users could see the technology being put to better use elsewhere.
The Australian release for the Mega CD was April 19, 1993.
Like other Sega consoles, the Sega Mega CD was distributed in Brazil by Tectoy. The original Mega CD model did not reach the region (aside from imports), so the Mega CD II was released in Brazil under the name "Sega CD".
Again like other Sega consoles, both the Mega CD and Mega CD II were distributd in South Korea by Samsung. They were renamed "CD Aladdin Boy" and "CD Aladdin Boy II" and released in March and July of 1993, respectively.
Despite its initial hype, Mega CD is not considered to have been a huge success, being held back by price, technology and in many cases, confusion as to what the system actually was. Almost every rival CD-based system was able to output higher quality full motion video, and despite adding new features, the add-on largely failed to justify its price tag.
Many saw the Mega CD simply as being a way to play Mega Drive games on a new format, with the important caveats being that it cost more to maintain and there were fewer games to chose from. Ultimately, with news of the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation coming out in late 1993 and throughout 1994, there appeared no reason to invest in the product. It did, however, enjoy more success than the ill-fated Sega 32X, Sega's second attempt at extending the Mega Drive to meet more modern standards.
The Mega CD comes in many forms, but in all cases the hardware adds the capability of reading compact discs, technology which in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was becoming a more affordable storage option than the traditional video game ROM cartridge of previous console generations.
A traditional Mega CD does not act as a stand-alone unit, and needs to be hooked up to a Mega Drive via the expansion port located on the right hand side of the console. Mega CDs do, however, require their own AC adaptor, meaning that in order to play Mega CD games, two sockets will be occupied by the upgraded console.
Though one would expect the Mega CD to simply give the Mega Drive access to compact discs, it in fact adds extra processors, memory and audio features as well, all of which can only be utilised by CD software. The Mega CD does not, however, solve the issue of graphics, which aside from the ability to scale and rotate sprites on the fly, remain identical to the standard Mega Drive system.
The Mega CD also offers stereo sound RCA connectors. The Mega Drive on its own will output a monaural audio signal to the television, with stereo only being available through the headphone port located at the front of the console. An external connection from the Mega Drive to the Mega CD will allow all games to play through the television in stereo.
Like the Mega Drive, there were two major revisions of the add-on by Sega and several special combination units.
The original Mega CD utilises a CD tray, and sits underneath the Mega Drive (or Mega Drive 2). It is a reasonably large add-on designed to be permanently attached to the console at all times.
Mega CD 2
A cost-reduced model of the Mega CD was produced and released around the same period as the cost-reduced Mega Drive 2. This version sits on the right hand side of the Mega Drive, though continues to act as a new base for the console, and is a top-loading device. Fewer mechanical parts means less is likely to go wrong with a Mega CD 2, and is designed to look sleeker and more appealing. The Mega CD 2 is designed primarily with the Mega Drive 2 in mind, however various plastic spacers mean that the original Mega Drive can be attached without problems.
Mega Drive Combos: JVC Wondermega/X'eye, Pinoeer LaserActive, Sega Multi-Mega, and Aiwa Mega CD
Combination Mega Drive/Mega CD units were developed over the course of the Mega CD's lifetime. The Wondermega and LaserActive are standalone consoles; the LaserActive also plays Laserdiscs. The Multi-Mega is a portable audio CD player that can play Mega Drive and Mega CD games when plugged in to wall power and a TV. The Aiwa Mega CD is a Mega Drive/Mega CD packed into Aiwa's consumer-level portable CD stereos.
Cross Products SNASM Mega CD
The SNASM Mega CD is a fully featured debugging system developed by Cross Products and officially licensed by Sega for Mega CD debugging and development. Its features include a debugging interface through a port on the rear of the system as well as CD-ROM emulation through a proprietary SCSI card. The system contains a modified boot-rom which includes all used region combinations for localized debugging. Also available to developers are a number of controls for both the main and sub 68000 CPUs in the Mega CD. The SNASM Mega CD is used with the SNASM2 family of development programs and Cross Products's SN Server.
Psygnosis PsyQ Mega CD SDK
Psygnosis, a prominent 3rd party developer, developed their own tools for use with the systems which they developed for, including the Mega CD. The PsyQ development software includes the popular ASM68K and can be used with the Cross Products Mega CD.
Main CPU: Motorola 68000 16-bit processor running at 12.5 MHz
(Same as the Mega Drive/Genesis. Acts as a coprocessor along with the Genesis CPU. One must note that the Genesis clock speed is slower (7.67 MHz))
The Mega CD also features sprite enhancement effects such as scaling and rotation, similar to that of the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom "Mode 7".
(Above specs prior to compression)
1 The ZIP file contains two dumps, a "good" dump and a "bad" dump. The "bad" dump has an incorrect HINT vector, but is otherwise identical to the "good" dump. The CRC32 listed here is for the "good" dump.
The Mega CD adds 10 sound channels to the 10 provided by the Mega Drive's sound chips.
Dimensions: 301mm x 212.5 x 112.5
List of Games
The five games marked with an asterisk(*) were later released in enhanced form, requiring both the Mega CD and 32X to be played, and taking advantage of the latter's improved graphics (see Sega Mega CD 32X).