Sega Megadrive (Japanese:メガドライブ) was a 16-bit video game console released by Sega.

For information on the North American version of the console, see: Sega Genesis

16-Bit personal machines like the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST, as well as 16-Bit arcade machines, were outpacing the 8-bit videogame consoles. Another problem was that Nintendo had 95% of the North American videogame market, and 92% of Japan's videogame market; Nintendo's 8-bit and 16-bit machines were not that successful in Europe. Sega knew the Sega Master System was not going to make it in North America and Japan, so they decided to make a new console.

Since the System 16 arcade games that Sega was making got very popular, Hayou Nakayama, then Sega's CEO, decided to make their new system a 16-Bit one. The final design worked great, and so they used three new arcade boards, being the Megatech, Megaplay, and the System C. Any of the games made for these systems could work on their new console.

The first name Sega thought of for their console was the MK-1601, but Sega decided to use 'Sega Megadrive' as the name. 'Mega' had the connotation of superiority, and 'Drive' had the connotation of speed and power. They went with that name for the Japanese, European, Asian, and Australian versions of the console.

When NEC released the PC Engine in Japan on 30 October, 1987, it posed a threat to Sega and Nintendo. While NEC overall did not have much of an impact in the Japanese market, the Megadrive initially had even less of an impact than NEC's system did.

The Sega Megadrive was released in Japan in 29 October, 1988 for 21,000. The European release was 30 November, 1990 in the United Kingdom, priced at 190

Unlike in the United States, the Japanese Megadrive was overshadowed by the Sega Saturn in its country. Just like its North American counterpart, however, the European Megadrive did better than the Sega Saturn in that locale.

The Megadrive initially competed against the 8-bit Famicom system in Japan and the Nintendo Entertainment System in Europe.

The Japanese audience was more fixated on the Famicom. When the Megadrive started to overtake the market, the Super Famicom came and overpowered the Megadrive in Japan. The Super Famicom had as much as 80% of the market in that country. The Megadrive ended up doing worse in that market than the PC Engine did, despite its superiority over the PC Engine and the Famicom.

The European NES market was very confusing, with different companies handling the NES in different markets. The Sega Master System, as well as the Megadrive had no problem excelling in Europe. The European Megadrive outsold all other consoles, including the Sega Saturn. The Megadrive was supported in that locale until 1998.

The Megadrive counterpart in Europe eventually competed with Nintendo's Super Nintendo Entertainment System, while the Japanese Megadrive competed with the Super Famicom, the Japanese version of the SNES.

Two add-on components had been released for the Megadrive. The Sega Mega-CD was released for all versions of the Megadrive. The Sega Super 32X came to the Japanese while the Europeans and the Australians got the Sega Mega 32X.

The Sega Megadrive 2 was the only redesign that the Megadrive got. The redesign reduced cost and size by consolidating chips, and integrated stronger region encoding (which broke compatibility with some older games.) The original console itself went through innumerable revisions, unknown to most users save the ones who owned one of the very first consoles, which had trouble playing a few of the newer games. A new version of the Sega Mega-CD, the Sega Mega-CD 2, was made to accommodate this.

One unlikely market that the Megadrive excelled in was Brazil. Brazil was also where the Sega Master System lived its absolute final days, to 1998. The Megadrive also held over until 1998 in that area. Tec Toy was Sega's Brazilian distributor and had sucess with both of those consoles. Sega had 75% of the Brazilian market.

A Sega Master System was available for the Megadrive. The Powerbase converter is on top of the console and plugs into the cartridge port. On the Master System, the pause button was on the front. All Master System accessories, including the light gun and 3D Glasses, can be used for this converter. A newer version for the Megadrive 2 was released in Europe, but the card port was removed. The Mega Master was a third party Master System converter distributed by Fire and Datel in the United Kingdom. It looked like the official Mega Drive 2 Converter, but the pause button was on the side as a toggle switch. Card games could not be played because of this.

Although Sega had talks about a Game Gear Converter, tentatively named the Mega Game Gear, Sega never made one.

Table of contents
1 Versions of the Sega Megadrive
2 Technical Specifications
3 External link

Versions of the Sega Megadrive

  • Sega Megadrive 1 in Japan
    • Japanese-language settings
    • Headphone jack
    • AUX Port
    • Supports Sega Mega-CD and Sega Super 32X
    • Had a cartridge lock
    • Gloss Black Finish
    • On the circular molding is the text 'High Grade Multi Purpose Intelligent Terminal'. At the bottom of the circle is a purple square section.
    • Cooling vents are located on the left side.
    • 'Sega Megadrive' is printed in white on the lower right of the console.
    • The reset button and start button on the joypad are blue.
  • Sega Megadrive 1 in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand
    • Converted to display Pal 50HZ Signal
    • English-language settings
    • Cannot play Japanese Megadrive games due to shape of cartridge and console
    • Cartridge lock removed
    • The text 'High Grade Multi Purpose Intelligent Terminal' located behind cartridge port.
    • The reset button and the start button are white.
  • Sega Megadrive 1 in Asia (variant to European Megadrive and often mistaken for a Japanese Megadrive)
    • No text printed around circle
    • Larger '16-Bit' logo used
    • 'Start' and 'Reset' button are blue
    • Identical to European Megadrive with PAL Output
  • Sega Megadrive 2 in Japan
    • New squared shape
    • No headphone jack
    • 1 Custom multi output for picture and sound
    • Red Coloured flaps on Cartridge Port
    • The text 'High Grade Multi Purpose Intelligent Terminal' located behind cartridge port.
    • Packaged with 6-button controller standard.
    • No power LED
  • Sega Megadrive 2 in Europe
    • New squared shape
    • No headphone jack
    • AV Port switched to 1 Custom multi output for picture and sound (Previously, only Mono sound was used, as the Stereo Sound came to the headphone jack)
    • Push Button Power Switch
    • Power port smaller, different AC Adapter used
    • RF Out port removed
    • Auto-switching RF Lead Included
  • Wondermega (named Xeye for the North American Release) - A combined Megadrive and Mega-CD by JVC - Never released in Europe
    • Improved sound capabilities
    • MIDI Connexions
    • 2 Microphone Inputs
    • SVHS Connector
    • Packaged with a CD called 'Game Garden' that had 'Flicky' a (quiz game) and 'Pyramid' (a puzzle game.) The CD is compatible with CDG (CD and Graphics) enabled CD Players.
    • Later Japanese pack had a platform game called 'Wonderdog' by Core.
    • Supported the 'Wonder CD' pheripheral that allows someone to create music and connect to MIDI-enabled devices.
    • Supported a music keyboard called the 'Piano Player' that allowed you to create music and learn to use the keyboard.
    • Later given a redesign with a softer, more curved look. Some of the extra features were removed, and the joypads were remodeled infra red joypads.
  • Sega Mega LD (Japan)/Multimega (Europe) (named CDX in North America) - A Megadrive and Mega-CD console with portable CD Player abilities, aimed at the more affluent market. The British release came at a whopping 350.00.
    • No built-in screen.
    • Could double as a portable CD Player. CD Control buttons (Play, Stop, et al)are on the front of the console. A backlit LCD provided the track number. An extra outline port was provided for stereo equipment.
    • Charged by 2 AA batteries that can only run the CD Player. The unit must be plugged in to play video games.
  • Megatech - An arcade machine that featured 10 interchangeable Megadrive games in an arcade style cabinet.
    • The games were supplied on a Japanese Megadrive cart, although they are slighty heavier.
    • First released in 1989 with some of the best titles at the time, such as Thunderforce II, Altered Beast, Tetris, Last Battle, Space Harrier 2, and Golden Axe.
    • Games could be changed at any time, and more titles, such as Sonic the Hedgehog, were made available. The games were identical to their original counterparts, and the cheats also worked.
    • Games were supplied by a Japanese-shaped Megadrive cart, although slightly heavier. The labels were silver and red and only had 'Megatech' printed on them. These carts are not compatible with a regular Megadrive/Genesis due to the extra information on them stored to run the second monitor, a different length edge connector, number of pins, pinouts, and spacing.
    • A second, smaller 9-inch monitor is located at the top of the cabinet. It displayed instructions for each of the games. The user pays to play for a certain length of time. When time was starting to run out, the screen flashed green to notify the user that additional credits are needed should he or she want to play more of that game.
  • Mega Jet - see Sega Mega Jet
  • Laseractive - A laser disc player from Pioneer that can plug in modules. One of these modules allow users to play Megadrive and Mega-CD games. It can display Megadrive graphics over streamed video from compatible laser discs.
    • The Mega LD format only had a handful of games using that format.
    • 3D Glasses have been produced for compatible discs.
    • Other modules could play the PC Engine games and the karaoke.
  • Terra Drive (Mega PC in Europe) - A personal computer that allows a user to play Megadrive games and to use normal computer applications. The Terra Drive was released in Japan with development tools, but Sega was cooperating with a different company in that case. The (equivalent to) $3000 dollar price tag did not make the system attractive to the Japanese. The Mega PC was released by Amstrad in Europe.
    • The Terra Drive/Mega PC was a 386xs running at 25Mhz. It had 1MB RAM and a 40MB IBM Compatible Hard Disk Drive.
    • It was released in the UK in 1993 and the casing colour was changed from dark gray to cream.
    • The Terra Drive/Mega PC can also be used with a Mega CD.
    • The Mega Plus was an updated version of the Mega CD. It used a 486, with a 33Mhz and 4MB RAM.
  • MSX - A name for two machines released only in Arab countries by a company named Universal. The machines were capable of playing Megadrive cartridges.
    • The A330 MSX had a cartridge port on the top of the machine. It has 'Painting', 'Calendar', 'Arabic Writing', and 'English Writing' as its programs.
    • The AX990 had 50 programs. They are likely to be an unofficial multicart or other MSX programs.

Technical Specifications

  • CPU: 16-Bit Motorola M68000 16 bit processor running at 7.61Mhz
  • Sound CPU: Zilog Z80a running at 3.58 MHz (not present in Model MK-1631)
  • RAM: 64 Kilobytes
  • ROM: 1 MBytes (8-MBIT)
  • Video RAM: 64 Kbytes
  • Graphics: VPD (Video Display Processor) dedicated VDP for playfield and sprite control
    • 3 Planes: 2 Scrolling Playfields, 1 Sprite Plane
  • Main sound Chip: Yamaha YM2612 6 channel FM
  • Additional sound chip: 4 channel Texas Instruments PSG (Programmable Sound Generator) SN76489
  • Palette: 512 Colours
  • Colour RAM: 64 x 9 KBit
  • Onscreen colours: 64
  • Maximum onscreen sprites: 80
  • Pixel Resolution: 320 x 224, 40 x 28 text display mode
  • Signal/Noise Ratio: 14 db
  • Sound RAM: 8 Kbytes
  • Outputs:
    • Separate R.F aerial and R.G.B outputs
    • (AUX connector - Megadrive 1 only)
    • Stereo headphone jack (Original Model only)
    • 9 pin EXT port (Early original model only)
  • Expansion port on the bottom right hand side for Sega Mega-CD
  • 2 nine pin controller ports in the front of the machine.

External link