The Sega Genesis celebrates it’s 27th year on this island Earth and my world was never the same.
Hit the jump to read about the launch game lineup and join in the celebration!
The Launch of the Sega Genesis
The Genesis was launched on August 14th, 1989 in North America, following it’s Japanese release on October 28th of the previous year.
Sega had some limited success with the Master System, but could never gain much ground against Nintendo’s NES. When it came time to launch the new hardware, they put all of their might into it. The marketing began to improve almost immediately, which really got the attention of gamers across America.
Sega had originally planned to partner with a third-party to distribute and market the Genesis in America. They went to Atari and Jack Tremiel turned them down, stating that it was too expensive. Jack and company would put their efforts behind the Atari ST, which obviously became the dominant platform over the following years.
Yeah, we can laugh at them now, but hindsight is always 20/20.
Sega ultimately took matters into their own hands and began to build a monster out of their Sega of America branch. On August 14th, 1989, the Sega Genesis was pushed to retailers in the New York City and Los Angeles markets. The rest of the country would see the $189.99 hardware roll out during the following months.
Launch Game Lineup
So if you picked up a Genesis on day one, what games were available?
Obviously, the pack-in Altered Beast is the first game to come to mind. Most people were blown away hearing the game scream “Rise from your grave” at them as soon as the action started up. The sprites were relatively large and featured a good amount of detail for the time. It was clearly more visually impressive than anything available on the Nintendo NES and it was experiences like this that won over early adopters.
Last Battle is a divisive game. Some people adore the Hokuto no Ken adaptation that was stripped of it’s identity when localized for America, but I always found it too simple of a game and monotonous. It did feature large and impressive looking sprites like Altered Beast, but the game was simply too bland to find love at my household.
Space Harrier II
Space Harrier II is the sequel to the classic arcade game, featuring gameplay very similar to the original. We all remember the first game welcoming us to the Fantasy Zone and telling us to Get Ready. Digitized voice samples returned once again and impressed early Genesis gamers.
What didn’t impress me even as a kid was the sometimes lackluster framerate SH II possesses.
Super Thunder Blade
Super Thunder Blade is another sequel to a Sega arcade classic that was developed for the Genesis hardware. It’s also a bit choppy and likely would have benefited from being created later after Sega’s developers had more time with the hardware and ROM sizes increased.
Thunder Force II
Awww yeah, Thunder Force II. Technosoft’s shooter mixed both horizontal and vertical scrolling stages, something that didn’t please everyone. Still, it’s great soundtrack and challenging gameplay provided some fun.
This entry in the series introduced the CRAW addon system, which would remain a series staple.
Tommy Lasorda Baseball
Oh, 1989. It’s amazing that Sega decided to get the endorsement of the Brooklyn Dodger’s coach for their first big American sports game release. Later on, they would adapt and choose more widely recognizable names like Joe Montana to endorse their games.
Still, as a game, Tommy Lasorda Baseball is solid. It was originally known as Super League in Japan and features clear, distinctive voice samples that set it apart from it’s 8-bit counterparts on the NES and other platforms.
What Came Afterwards?
By the end of 1989, gamers could pick up a plethora of awesome titles such as Ghouls `n Ghosts, Golden Axe, The Revenge of Shinobi. The game library and marketing continued to improve and Sega ultimately clawed it’s way to dominant market share in the early 1990s for quite some time.
The Genesis would see two hardware expansions in it’s lifetime, the Sega CD and Sega 32X. The Sega CD saw some limited amount of success by offering games that required more storage, but the 32X was an immediate flop due to very few software releases. The public were able to see almost nothing on the horizon, so very few people purchased the system add-on at release.
This lack of support was the result of Sega of America and Sega of Japan’s internal struggle for the direction of the company. This struggle would cause the company a large amount of problems in the mid-1990’s. Their inability to unite and share a common vision would hurt Sega more than any single market flop could. Millions of dollars were squandered and Sega of America would ultimately see it’s branch greatly reduced in size by 1998.
Ultimately, the Sega Genesis was supported in America from 1989 to 1998, with the last licensed commercial release being Majesco’s Frogger in the Summer of 1998. 9 years and roughly 700 games later, the Sega Genesis left it’s mark on America and a strong impression in the public’s mind.