17 October 2014

Welcome to My Dumb Project! Part 1: Sega Memories and WHY AM I DOING THIS STUPID THING?

 Hello!  This is the introductory post as to what this blog is about, why I am doing it, and all that rubbish.  Let's get started!

  It honestly goes back to Summer 1985 if I recall. Or 1986.  Close enough. As sometimes happened, my father would take me up to Riverside Amusement Park in Agawam Mass.  As would also happen, he would go and play Skee Ball in the Arcade while I played as many arcade games as I could.  As a kid this was really my only opportunity to see or experience a lot of arcade games unless Sudsy Sammy's (a local laundromat that would eventually go out of business when it was discovered it's main purpose was apparently to sell drugs), or a department store would have a game or two to play in the front.  Or a restaurant. Most of y'all know.

  Well this was the year Nintendo those Donkey Kong guys would have their VS System games taking center stage and I would see Super Mario Brothers and Hogan's Alley for the first time.

  Having only recently gotten an Atari 2600 in Christmas 1984 as a ten year old my little mind was blown by these games.  And being in a region that got New York and New Jersey stations on cable at the time alongside Boston ones I had already started seeing ads for the Nintendo Entertainment System on TV only months after finally getting my own games console.

  Well for Christmas 1986 I was basically on the way out with toys, having to leave my beloved Transformers behind due to parental and peer pressure.  (Getting insulted on your birthday by your mother who allowed you to pick the toys out will sort of do that to you.)

  So this NES thing sounds awesome since HOLY CRAP I PLAYED THESE AT THE RIVERSIDE ARCADE!!!  And you know, WPIX 11 having advertised the thing for a good year or so now.  Nobody else I knew had one or had even talked about it.  I was on the forefront as I tend to be.

(And I am notoriously unreligious about consumer products.  I like to try out and experience as much neat and cool stuff as I financially can.  My brand loyalty lasts as long as the company does right and something cooler doesn't come along.  And then I enjoy them BOTH.  My Gobots, Robotech, Transformers, and Starriors all rocked out together no problems.)

  And thus I was getting an NES that year.  Sadly I would be playing it on a crappy 8-9" black and white VHF/UHF screw TV.  It.. wasn't working properly on it.  It was getting a snowy picture and whatnot.  Probably nothing at all was wrong with it, but back to Toys R Us it would go.  And they had no more machines to sell.  I was asked if I wanted the Master System instead.  Tearfully I declined as at least at this time Sega wasn't on my radar as a maker of the hottest arcade games, and honestly their early game library wasn't something to write home about at all.

(Plus my set had a ROBOT IN IT.  And I got Super Mario Brothers as a separate pickup.  The pack in to the Master System kind of underwhelmed, you know?)

  A while later a replacement NES would come in and keep me mostly entertained for a year.  Till I got the legendary Commodore 64c the next year, turning me into a lifelong RPG and Wargame geek such as I am.  Deep and compelling games the NES couldn't do.  But the NES generally had superior action titles.

  Thanks to the general rampant piracy of the 8 bit days I would actually get my first experiences with a number of newer Sega games.  And for Eighth Grade Graduation Trip we went to Rocky Point Amusement Park in Rhode Island and I would put 75 cents of 1988 money into the sit down moving seat version of Thunder Blade.

  Between it and some of the C64 ports I was starting to become fond of this here Sega company, not really knowing they were behind a few early 80s arcade classics too.

  Well once Nintendo brought back the videogame industry with an oppressive iron fist game magazines followed.  And not just propaganda magazines like Nintendo Power.  The independent magazines of the time started talking about the next wave of systems in mid 1989.

  And for Christmas of 1989 my Sophmore ass would get the Sega Genesis.  With an ARCADE HIT PACK IN (that I had never played but it was OMG ALTERED BEAST and looked awesome) and Sega it was the clear choice over the Turbografx 16 which would eventually fail miserably in the face of Sega and Nintendo battling it out.

This Gamasutra article explains a lot.

  Well I was entranced.  When you compared Super Thunder Blade, Altered Beast, and Last Battle to anything the other computers or consoles were putting out there was NO CONTEST.  Only my friend Dave's Turbografx came close and that is mostly because Splatterhouse is such an amazing and fantastic game.  Of course the more recent NES converts really disliked me for switching over to the point they would give me dirty looks when I mentioned it.  Seriously.

(Brand whores are idiots.  Consumer products are not religion.  I'm not fond of religion anyhow and even less when stuff made to separate you from your money is your object of blind devotion.  You can like Thing just don't... liiiiiike Thing.  Otherwise you end up like the Bronies.  Don't do that. )

  Well that year renting such classics as Ghouls n Ghosts and Golden Axe would tide me over as games were hard to get and expensive especially compared to C64 games that would honestly engage me for longer periods of time.

  But then THE GAME happened.  A game that would entrance me like few others.  A game whose company in the coming decades would do little more than constantly and repeatedly break my heart.

Phantasy Star 2.

 While not perfect as any JRPG generally isn't, the game would utterly blow my mind and completely consume the week after my Sixteenth birthday which was also the start of Summer Vacation.  Yeah later on Final Fantasy would come out and be pretty fun for a week, but Phantasy Star 2 was SPECIAL.

  The graphics.  The music.  The gorgeously for the time animated combat.  The fantastic looking monsters and heroes.  The Sci Fi setting which I hadn't seen much of in RPGs since Ultima 1 started me on the road to Loserdom back in early 1988.  And the story with it's utterly bleak ending.  (Also to HELL with Aeris from Final Fantasy 7.  We lost a far more interesting and compelling heroine in Phantasy Star 2 in 1990.  Hell, a huge percentage of FF7's story elements were in PS2.)


  And there was a prequel on the Master System?  Well I had borrowed my cousin's Power Base Convertor for a while but it wasn't mine and Maze Hunter 3d and Monopoly didn't exactly wow, especially without the glasses or any instructions that may have turned said game 2d.

  So my  Junior or Senior year I would choose to get a used Master System and hopefully get Phantasy Star.  Sadly the place I got mine didn't have a copy of the game but I did get Mickey Mouse & the Castle of Illusion which really impressed me in spite of me not being a fan of Disney or the Mascot Platformer genre.  And Y's: The Vanished Omens gave me a pretty decent RPG fix and that final High School Christmas had most Master System titles at 15-20 bucks so I got a lot of the tastier titles I could get at the time.  (By Christmas 1991 the C64 was basically DOA in the USA.  I could see the writing on the wall back in my Freshman year but it kept getting worse and worse here in the States.)

While I hadn't made a mistake going the NES and C64 route I feel like I had missed out on a lot of great games.  I had let a good company trying hard down.  Not as much of a let down as they would do to me over the following decades mind you but.. I DID WRONG MAN.

(I would eventually get Phantasy Star but whenever I review that game I can cover my memories then.)

Luckily unlike other systems I never sold off any of my Sega games nor did I take them with me in the Navy meaning my collection only grew, albeit super slowly over the years, mostly when Ebay got going.

So now we are up to date.


Well.. WHY NOT?  I have a pretty decent collection already:

(Not shown: Black Belt)

  And most games are cheap, generally fun and nice looking outside of the "Great" Sports titles and there are only around 111 games.  With the machine's success in Europe and Brazil plus no real lockout or PAL/NTSC difficulties in most cases there are plenty of fantastic and inexpensive games to play!  Plus with the quality plastic cases it isn't too hard to get boxed copies.

  If a game is hard to get in the US, it is pretty much common in the UK or Australia and shipping is my only issue.

  So money permitting I am gonna see how close I can get to a complete list of US released games, though I may have a foreign release of it if it is cheaper and easier to get a hold of.  

  The hunt is FUN.  And having been a kid basically picked on and abused my whole life, I have always appreciated the underdog and the Master System in specific and Sega in general have always been the scrappy bum punching meat.

Sega was one of the few good memories I had in High School.

It is a project I can probably complete in a year or two.  

And since I love to talk and share things plus want to get value for these silly wastes of time, space, and money, I am going to review them all and share my thoughts with you!


Shall we see where it takes us?

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