Sega Mega CD
From Sega Retro
Revision as of 12:56, 4 July 2012 by Scarred Sun
The Sega Mega CD (メガＣＤ; in North America, simply Sega CD, because the "Mega" branding was not used and in South Korea, CD Aladdin Boy) is a hardware add-on developed by Sega for the Sega Mega Drive, first released in 1991. The device allows the user to play proprietary games which shipped on compact discs, audio CDs and CD+G discs. It also acts as an upgrade to the Mega Drive hardware, sporting an extra processor and increased RAM.
In many countries the Mega CD stands as the first video game console to utilise disc-based media rather than ROM 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.
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 can 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.
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: Wolf Team's Sol-Feace and Micronet's Heavy Nova. Initially, it was a great success because of the inherent advantages of CDs (high storage capability and the low cost of media). The fact that it had a nice RPG catalog also helped.
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 1995, the last being Surgical Strike.
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 on November 1992.
In the end, the Sega CD failed to convince American gamers, mostly due to the cost of the console. There just was not enough value for the price. Moreover, the game experience was little improved.
Sound was likely to be better if it included some CD audio tracks, but on the average, conventional games looked the same. Sega wanted to showcase the power of the Sega CD, and so focused on "full motion video" (FMV) games, something which was incredibly hard to do on cartridge-based media. Sega insisted on licensing and producing primarily "full motion video" games similar to earlier Laserdisc games, that were universally panned by game reviewers. The single speed CD drive added load times to all games, and the 64-color graphics and underpowered processor (for video rendering) made these full-motion video games look terrible.
There was also more competition in the US. The CD-i by Philips, the 3DO by Panasonic, Atari Jaguar CD and the Neo Geo CD were all available by 1994 (as well as the Turbografx-CD - the North American version of the PC Engine CD). Neither system was successful, but most offered an advantage over the Sega CD due to being able to support more colours on screen at once (and therefore higher quality full motion videos).
In Europe the Mega CD was highly overpriced. It was released in April 1993 in the United Kingdom for £270. Its userbase was small as only 4% of European Mega Drive owners bought a Mega CD. Unlike the Mega Drive, which was a very successful console in Europe, only 60,000 of the 70,000 Mega CDs shipped to Europe were sold by August 1993.
Some European countries (Spain for instance), wouldn't get the original Mega CD at all, but instead would get the cost-reduced Mega CD II, which also slowed sales.
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" respectively.
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 Famicom/SNES 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
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).