I suppose I was lucky. I could have taken the dip and bought a 32X as well – as it was I just shelled out £199 (!) for a mark 2 Mega CD from John Menzies and proceeded to gape in awe at some of the atrocities that were released on this much-maligned system. I bought this Mega Drive add-on (or add under?) a few months after it’s launch – long enough for the releases to begin to die out and Sega to realise they’d made a bit of a blunder, but not enough time for the games to have become significantly cheaper. I also had a MD mark 2 so had to settle for the plasticy ugliness above. The mark 1 version below at least looked more high tech and just a little bit sexier.
Back to the games, and in those heady days before the mass ubiquity of pre-owned software and on-line sources such as Ebay, I remember paying £44.95 for Ground Zero Texas and £29.95 for Night Trap before the failure of the Mega-CD as a system hit home and the games collapsed in price. Electronics Boutique in Lakeside, Essex, valiantly maintained their Mega CD, um, shelf, until the Playstation came along and pretty much signalled the end for Sega hardware in general. This was the time for the bargains, and I acquired most of the rest of my Mega CD games for under a tenner.
Yet despite it’s failure, I still have some fond memories of the Mega-CD, so here’s a rundown of the games I owned and what I thought of them.
First of all the game I got with it: Road Avenger. This was a truly appalling reaction style game, almost an interactive movie with occasional input required from the player and no real control whatsoever over the events on screen. Some people like it; I think I played it for about half an hour before deciding it was total pants and moving on. Ground Zero Texas was an early purchase that I’ve covered before; it’s a gallery shooter dressed up in an alien invasion plot as the player switches between cameras, trying to weed out the little green men. I recall playing it for quite some time back in the mid-nineties, but it really is a terribly limited game that bores very quickly these days. Long, grainy FMV clips detract rather than add to the experience.
The infamous Night Trap gained much controversy at the time and looking back at it now it seems so harmless and quaint that it’s hard to understand what the fuss was all about. Like GZT, I remember wasting many an hour on it, desperately flicking between cameras and trying to save those lovely girls, but it was actually laughably atrocious, frustratingly frantic in some places and yet quite yawnsome in others as you hung around waiting for stuff to happen. An interesting historical curio if nothing else.
I know the Sherlock Holmes games are well thought of in some circles, but I found them deathly dull; loads of trotting around and trying to wheedle clues out of NPC’s as grainy FMV had you squinting at your TV Screen. I was never in the mood to work out all the puzzles, but I guess it could have been quite rewarding if you did manage to solve one of the mysteries.
So it wasn’t the greatest of starts, but once FMV was dispensed with, however, the games improved. Pitfall was an upgraded version of the Megadrive game, and great fun. The graphics were neat, the sound and music excellent and I spent hours guiding my man through the massive jungle. Star Wars: Rebel Assault was an on-rails shooter that boasted the real music from the films, the first time I had experienced this in a Star Wars computer game. This added some much-needed atmosphere to the game, but it wasn’t a shooter you’d want to return to time after time simply because of it’s very nature.
Much better was Thunderhawk, a superb helicopter blaster that offered much more freedom although ultimately it was still quite limited, especially after having completed it. Better still was Silpheed, a classy 3D shoot ’em up that boasted impressive visuals and a magnificent soundtrack (although this was a given for many Mega CD titles). I recall some tremendous explosions and other pretty effects wowing me at the time, although the game was a tough beast to play.
The Mega CD version of Prince of Persia was excellent as well – I never played the Mega Drive version but assume it’s a port from that or the PC; in either case, the famous rotoscoping animation is a joy to behold and the gameplay not bad as well. On the other hand, the movie license Dune was a bit disappointing; the graphics were accomplished and the soundtrack awesome, but it involved too much traipsing around (like Sherlock Holmes, to which apart from the Sci-fi setting, it was quite similar) and this sucked a lot of the fun out of it.
Finally my favourite Mega-CD Game: The Terminator. I never liked the Megadrive version, but the Mega-CD offered up a game, that whilst basically the same (a side scrolling platform run and gun), was tremendously playable and again featured some superb music as well as the de-rigeur cut scenes. Unlike many Mega CD titles, it still fetches a few quid on Ebay which is a testament to it’s quality.
So what of now? Well, I’m acutely aware I missed out on a number of classics for this failed add-on: Snatcher, Double Switch, Final Fight CD and Shining Force CD are all pretty good games and alas pretty pricey too. My mark 2 Megadrive is long gone with a bigger but sleeker mark 1 my console of choice now, so should a Mega CD mark 1 comes along then who knows…