The Megadrive Memories
Memories can be a difficult thing. I’m not sure about everyone, but I often have a hard time remembering moments in full detail, and I often can’t quite place my age at the time of my memories, especially for my earliest ones. I have to try and work out my memories as if I am researching them, try and place it in time based on any evidence I can recall in my mind of where I was, what it looked like, and any other supplementary information. This is how I remembered how old I was when I first got a PlayStation One – I remembered the bundle we bought from Toys R Us, and through this I could search how long that bundle was on sale (It was around 2000 that I got a PS1, I was about 8 or 9).
However these are not my earliest game memories. They quite vividly consist of two entities – the Super Nintendo and the Sega Megadrive. At home, my parents owned a SNES and a few games. I played them for much of my early years, never being able to beat them but always having fun. It was then I was introduced to Super Metroid, a game my appreciation for has only grown over time, and I firmly hold it as the best game ever made. In addition we had Donkey Kong Country, Street Fighter 2, Prehistorik Man and Killer Instinct. When I first started school, all my friends has Super Nintendo’s too, it was coming down in price and was more suitable for kids than the expensive PlayStation and Saturn was. We often swapped games, borrowed from one another, and had a heck of a load of fun. That being said, I was always too scared to play Killer Instinct. The cart was black and foreboding, and I was always warned it was too bloody and violent for kids. I was somewhat disappointed later in life when it turned out to be pretty tame.
This was gaming to me. Slow, methodical experiences with sweeping orchestral style scores and cartoon style graphics, from Yoshi’s Island to Act Raiser, I was loving life. And then it happened.
When I was that age, I often stayed around my nans. This was due to a number of reasons, the first was that I liked to hang out with my older cousin whom I looked up to, and we would chill out all night whilst sleeping in the living room, and the other was to give my parents a break when they had errands to run, besides, who doesn’t like staying with their grandparents! (lots of food!). One day, my nan set up a spare TV in the living room, and beneath it was a black console. A black console, with loud white font and big red buttons, in stark contrast to the more child friendly looking SNES. It looked like something a grown up would own. It was called, the Megadrive. I couldn’t fathom it, both of those were powerful words, and it made it feel as if this was an absolute beast. Time to pop in some games.
The first thing that disappointed me was the controller. Three buttons? I was used to four face buttons and two shoulder buttons, so to just have three felt a little underwhelming. It would actually prove to be a blessing in disguise; I wasn’t particularly good at games back then, so the simpler controls made the games easier to grasp. Powering on the game.. nothing happened. For any aficionado of cart based games this is a common occurrence, and elicits a common routine – pull out the game, blow out the dust, shove it back in as hard as possible. Eventually, it started working, and we heard it in all it’s glory.
It seemed as if the console was announcing its presence, declaring itself the new king of my gaming consciousness. It absolutely roared at me, and I almost couldn’t believe the audacity of a games console shouting out its own name in such a manner. I remember this so vividly, that any time I hear that familiar jingle I get goosebumps all across my body. Sonic The hedgehog 2 was the game, and my god, was it amazing. I couldn’t believe the speed of it, it was completely different from the contemplative platformers I was used too, instead of carefully planning a route through the level, working up to jumps, you simply ricocheted across the level, destroying any enemies in your path with a puff of smoke. For lack of a better word, it was intense.
And the music. It struck a particular chord with me, the grungy, deep bass rock and roll style sound of Megadrive was a complete contrast to the more pleasant sounding tunes of the SNES. Playing more games only cemented this feeling for me, Streets of Rage 2, Alien Storm, Shinobi, Golden Axe and more. It felt like a different console, and I loved it. It also opened up a new type of gaming that I had not explored before – co-op gameplay. None of my SNES games had this feature, apart from Super Mario in which you took turns. In Streets of Rage you could play with a friend at the same time, battling your way together through the streets as a team. It’s for this reason that whenever I wasn’t playing alone the Megadrive was always preferable, competitive games as a kid tend to end in arguments, so buddying up to take on baddies in Golden Axe was far more preferable. We never managed to beat it, but we loved trying.
Looking back on both of the consoles today, I can appreciate the differences. They both have strengths and weaknesses, but in all honesty the Super Nintendo is the better console, with the better library of games. The Megadrive though holds a place in my heart that the SNES can never fill. First impressions count, and that first impression I had of Sega’s 16 bit classic will forever knock my socks off.