Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


Sega CD

or:

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Simply Never Trust Sega Again



W
hat was I thinking?

It’s amazing how, when you’re thirteen or fourteen years old, you really get sucked into the novelty of something. I don’t remember the age I was, just more the sensation of owning some new piece of technology that I never thought would be possible. A CD-based home console? This truly was the future.

I can’t quite remember the circumstances leading up to it. I can remember buying a Sega Genesis or a Super NES, or when my parents brought the original NES into our house in the late 1980s, but my recollection of buying the thing, much like the Sega CD itself, is probably just a footnote. The final feelings, though, were of regrets. I’d like to think that was Sega’s final feelings too when it was all said and done.

Of course, at the time, you try to convince yourself otherwise. “It’s a CD, it’s automatically better!” I probably said like some idiot. “Sure, the loading times are long, and there are very few good games and that in-game video looks horrible…but…it’s a CD!” There’s nothing like an early teenager grasping at straws in desperation to not confront his insecurity of this…thing…he knows is utter garbage but won’t admit it.

Like the Genesis, the Sega CD was driven by that initial hype and marketing. It was all about “cool” and “being awesome” and having “attitude” as the early 1990s crammed those marketing ideas down our throats. Unlike the Genesis, though, it didn’t pay off, and this video game memory is one I really wish I could just forget.

 

"You have seen the games, right?" Yeah, I have. This commercial only shows maybe 12 or so games, and only three of them are any good.

 
The time I already mentioned I don’t remember getting it. I know it was the second model, the one where the CD-add-on was next to the Sega Genesis on some platform rather than below it. It looked cheap. It felt cheap. But it wasn’t cheap as it cost a few hundred bucks. I remember having to use the extra add-on of the add-on because I had a first generation model Genesis, which was the bigger than the new models, and you had to add on the add-on to the add-on and then suddenly you just want to kill yourself. Because not only did you have to do that, you also had to plug the damn thing in with giant power boxes and…you know, it was a mess. Just a big fucking mess that you can see more of here and I really don’t want to explain further.

What I do want to explain are the games. You see, we look back at it now as this gimmick and novel piece of garbage that tried to make live-action video “cool” and somehow a “video game.” Well, it was neither. But we were so amazed by it. Moving images off a disc? I was blown away by seeing these (crummy looking) videos (that were 1/8 of your screen) with (atrocious) acting.

How did we not see it? How did we really fall for it? I don’t know how I did. I saw Night Trap at a demo kiosk along with Sewer Shark and just could stay away. Then you bought it. Then you played it. Then…well it was only a matter of time.

Behold! The Future!

But not all was doom and gloom. There were still some solid games on the thing. The first game I bought that was actually good was Sonic CD and it’s still one of my favorites. It had a great soundtrack and beautiful graphics. It really showed the benefit of the Sega CD. Another I bought was The Terminator, one of the best run-and-gun games on the thing. It too had an awesome soundtrack.

Oh, notice I said the first game I bought that was actually good up there? That was after buying Dracula - the one based on the Francis Ford Coppola movie - which was the worst game I ever played up that point. No matter how much I tried, I could do nothing, and, again, I somehow convinced myself that “at least the graphics are good.”


Yeah, they're great. Just note, when you make the images this small, they actually look normal. Zoom it up to a television...all the ugly, pixelated, compressed ugliness comes out. As well as the 1990s.
 



I also bought Star Wars: Rebel Assault. Let me tell you: this game broke me. It was one of those weird rail=-shooting games that, because I had this new console and I was a Star Wars fan (especially at this time) I swore I enjoyed. But now, like the Sega CD itself, I was just absolutely lying to myself. This was when I started to see the forest through the trees: The Sega CD was all talk, no delivery.

I rented more games than actually owned, but that’s mainly because there were only 142 games released on the thing, and a good chunk of those games that were available on the Genesis already with little to no improvement being on CD (Shining Force CD was still Shining Force, Ecco the Dolphin CD was still Ecco etc…)

Not only that, there weren’t a whole lot of stores selling Sega CD games and only one that I knew of that rented them. Bad games, hard to find, gimmicky…how the hell did this thing sell nearly three million units?

 

 

Hold on...it's how much? And I have expendable money...and I like Sega more than Nintendo at this point? You have my attention.

 

So there it is. I’m willing to think that, aside from the amazing “power” of the CD format, it was the price point. It was just under $200 dollars when I bought it around 1993 or 94. It stuck around for a while until I saved up enough money to buy the Super Nintendo and wash the bad taste of the Sega CD out of my mouth.

But the thing is…I hadn’t quite learned my lesson. By 1994, there was already talk of what was going to be the next big thing. Well, Sega had the next big thing that was totally going to be the next big thing…


It gets worse... "Arcade upgrade." Screw you...



Now we have this. And this I actually got on sale rather cheap. And this…this is the biggest piece of shit to ever be released in the videogame market. Say what you want about the short-lived Virtua Boy from Nintendo, Sega’s 32X was the true abomination of everything wrong with video games. From the corporation screwing you out of money, to over hyping to the utter failure in the end. I suppose that, even after I was still holding out that the Sega CD was actually “good” but starting to come around, I still had a little faith in Sega.

I mean, I was a Genesis kid. Now eventually I owned both consoles, the SNES and the Genesis, but I made the Gensis leap first and never regretted it. I bought into the hype of the Sega Genesis and that satisfaction of something new and "cool" continued on because Sega could pretty much do anything they wanted and everyone followed their lead.

But then the Sega CD came along. I was probably thinking “wow, such innovation” but now I know it was a mistake and no matter the price or the promise, I realize I was just an idiot and fell into the marketing machine of hype. A few years later, along came the 32X.  I think I was still holding out for Sega to deliver something. I wasn't pessimistic enough yet. Then it all just landed with a thud. Actually more of a “splunk” as it’s less a piece of electronic hitting the ground and more just a messy pile of shit.

 

 

This picture is the entire 32X library. Maybe two or three games on the 32X were actually good, but that's not much worse than the 12 or so good games on the Sega CD.
 

The Sega CD and 32X, their powers combined, made me lose complete faith in Sega. Though I would eventually give in and buy a Dreamcast five or six years later, I skipped the Sega Saturn completely. I was burned. Two add-ons to a console and neither could deliver a solid library of games nor could you legitimately say that either was a vast improvement on the Sega Genesis. They were just kinda…I don’t know…”there.” They just happened, and people like myself got suckered in because Sega was still rolling that hype train that began with the original Genesis and stoking the last coals of that fire.

All the Sega CD ended up being as a piece of corporate shit we ate up. After struggling through only a handful of games, I eventually got rid of the thing. Probably alongside my Sega Genesis itself in a garage sale along with the 32X. Overall, we’re looking at all that costing, at least at the time, $500 bucks (not including extra controllers and games).

 

Then they had the audacity to release an entire new console six months later. If that's not proof of a company absolutely abusing its consumers, I don't know what is.

 

I was a sucker. I fell for it. A lot of people did and as a result, resentment towards Sega grew and grew. Even when they did something right, people no longer had faith in the brand. I know I didn't. When Sega announced they were going to stop making consoles and focus only on games, I was happy. I felt a little vindication for spending hundreds of dollars on pieces of shit because, at the time, there wasn't anyone really accountable. It just came and went like a fart in the wind...

I don't know of any company that had their fanbase turn on them so quickly. To this day, there are still people angry over it. Hell, I'm writing this blog in 2014 so that should tell you something.  Hundreds of dollars spent on bad console peripherals and bad games that were promised as the next great thing.

I probably sold the whole thing for $50.

Now that I don’t regret.

My memories of the Sega CD and the 32X taint my otherwise fond memories of the Sega Genesis. It’s kind of like how you don’t talk about a legendary athlete who leaves his long-standing team he won everything with and plays for a few years well past his prime…you just ignore it because everything is far better if you do. The Sega CD will go down as the “Jordan playing for the Wizards” of video game history.

 

For past Not/Quite Remembering Videogame articles, click here


 

  

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