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Sega Nomad

From Sega Retro

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Fast facts on Sega Nomad
Manufacturer: Sega
Release Date RRP Code
Sega Mega Drive
US
1995-10 $179.xx MK-6101

The Sega Nomad, codenamed Venus, is a handheld video game console manufactured by Sega. It is a portable Sega Mega Drive (Genesis), and Sega's second handheld system after the Sega Game Gear. The Nomad shares a similar concept with the semi-portable Sega Mega Jet, and only saw release in North America.

Hardware

The Nomad is a handheld video game console, held horizontally, that is designed to play North American Genesis games. It has a feature set identical to a model 2 Mega Drive paired with a Six Button Control Pad, including sharing the same AC power adaptor and video cables (allowing it to be hooked up to a regular television). Also included is a D-Pad and six face buttons (as well as Start and Mode buttons), and even an extra DE-9 port for a second player (though player 1 must always use the controls built into the Nomad unit).

As a portable unit, however, the Nomad offers a high-quality backlit 3" passive-matrix LCD screen, and can be powered by six AA batteries for theoretical play on the go, but this also means it is not compatible with add-ons such as the Power Base Converter, Sega Mega-CD or Sega 32X. Also included is a mono speaker and an LED indicating when the batteries are low.

The Nomad comes from the same school of thought behind the Game Gear, and sadly suffers from many of the same flaws seen in Sega's earlier system. While Mega Drive games can boast at running at a higher resolution than their Game Boy or Game Gear rivals, early LCD technology means that fast action scenes suffer from "ghosting", a blurry graphical effect caused the screen not being able to referesh fast enough. Ghosting was a recurring problem with all early 90s handhelds, however the problem is exacerbated on the Nomad, as more pixels means intricate details (such as small text) are harder to see, even when no movement is occuring (similar problems occur when attempting to play Sega Master System games on the Game Gear via the Master Gear Converter).

Perhaps the most pressing concern, like the Game Gear before it, is the fluorescent screen back-light, which rapidly drains battery life and leads to approximately three to five hours of play. The expense of resupplying the unit with AA batteries can be mitigated with the Nomad PowerBack, which is charged via an AC adapter, and can extend play time by a couple of hours.

Though never released in PAL regions, the Nomad can be modified to play PAL games in a similar manner as the Genesis/Mega Drive consoles.

History

The Sega Nomad was designed by Sega of America, likely as another attempt to extend the shelf life of the already successful Sega Genesis (Sega Mega Drive in all other regions). At the time of release, home consumers were geared up for a new generation of video game consoles, namely the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, but with an established game library of over 600 titles at this point and vastly improved hardware over the competition (mainly Nintendo's Game Boy), it was presumed that there was still a place for the Nomad, particularly when Game Gear sales were on the decline.

It is rumoured that at one stage, the Nomad (or Project Venus as it was still known as) was due to be a true successor to the Game Gear sporting a touch-screen interface, some years before the concept was pioneered with the ill-fated Game.com by Tiger Electronics. However, at the time, it was thought that a system utilising this technology would cost roughly $289 to manufacture, and so the idea was scrapped for a handheld Genesis instead. Even in this form the Venus project was held back for several months due to its perceived high cost[1].

The Nomad debuted on North American store shelves in October 1995 for an asking price of US$179. It was a slow rollout at first, distributed in limited quantities until a wider release in early 1996[2]. Though the handheld received praise from critics, sales were sluggish, even after a US$100 price drop in the months which followed. It was discontinued shortly after. The Nomad never made it to other regions of the world, however it appears at one stage plans were made to bring it to Europe.

It is estimated that in total, roughly one million Nomad units were sold.

Game Issues

The following Genesis titles are known to have difficulty with or not to work at all on the Nomad:

Note that Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage's incompatibility issues can be worked around by running their 6-Pak counterparts.

X-Men is also not fully compatible with the Nomad - at one point in the game the player is forced to reset the console to continue, but the Nomad lacks a reset button.

Magazine articles

Main article: Sega Nomad/Magazine articles.

Promotional material

Physical scans

Nomad, US
Sega Nomad box back.jpgNospine-small.pngSega Nomad box front.jpg
Cover

References

  1. File:GamePro US 068.pdf, page 158
  2. Press release: 1995-08-22: Sega Genesis Nomad Embarks On It's Debut Voyage
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