(Note, this review doesn't compare much to the Super Nintendo, as when the Sega Genesis was released, the Super Nintendo didn't exist yet, and was a competitor primarily to the Nintendo...
Excellent resolution, arcade like sound, and backwards compatibility.
Low color depth.
(Note, this review doesn't compare much to the Super Nintendo, as when the Sega Genesis was released, the Super Nintendo didn't exist yet, and was a competitor primarily to the Nintendo Entertainment System.)
It's October 29, 1988, and Sega of Japan just released the MegaDrive. A new contender in the gaming market, which is waiting to be upgraded from the 8-bit NES. Sega wastes no time by converting their tried and true System 16 hardware to the home market, which will only become in America on August 14th 1989, the Genesis.
Complete with a 3-button controller, and a matte/glossy black finish that sports "High Definition Graphics" around the ring, the original model 1 is sure to surprise any gamer waiting to try classics like Altered Beast, Golden Axe, etc. But will it hold up to gamers expectation of arcade like graphics in the home? Let's fine out!
The primary sound chip of the Sega Genesis, is the Yamaha YM2612, which is an OPN2 class FM synthesizer with 6 channels. Arcade machines of the time were using the Yamaha YM3812, which is a OPL2 class FM synthesizer. The YM2612 has more operators, and also includes the ability to playback PCM sound, which already gives it a competitive edge to arcade machines using FM technology.
Complimenting the YM2612, is the Texas Instruments SN76489, which primarily is for Sega Master System compatibility, however it can be used in conjunction with the YM2612, to extend the sound capabilities of the system. The PSG contains 4 channel sound, and with the YM2612, can have up to 10 channels of sound, and with the stereo output capability, you will enjoy blasting classics like Lightning Force 4 on your home stereo system!
Where it lacks however, is the quality of the PCM capabilities. While the DAC in the YM2612 can sound good for digital samples, it doesn't always sound as good in certain situations.
Arcade classics of the time, use a raster screen resolution of 320x224. The Sega Genesis uses the same resolution, which allows more accurate porting of video games to the platform, so you need not worry about games needing to be redesigned to fit the screen. The system does allow up to 320x480 interlaced graphics, which at the time, is the highest any home game system has ever done, without any loss in color depth or detail. As for colors, while the 64 colors limitation may be a problem for some, it can be extended in certain situations, like Toy Story does. It extends the colors past the 64 color limit, and proves that just because the system was designed for 64 colors on screen at once, doesn't mean it can't be extended. As for video output options, there's only 3 options available. The first option is RF, which if anyone here knows, is not only old school, it's really not that great. This is provided by default to help get gamers started. The next available option is Composite, which is a step up from RF, but is still low quality, however you don't need to deal with RF interference though. The best option though, which will surprise and entertain many, is the included option for RGB. With this, if you have a TV or monitor that is compatible with RGB input at 15KHz, you will be able to enjoy arcade quality pictures on your screen, as arcade machines also themselves use RGB.
See Genesis in RGB:
Included with the Genesis, is a 3-button controller to help you get started. The controller actually has the same amount of buttons as the Nintendo Entertainment System, if the select button was the C button. The D-Pad on Genesis allows for easy 8-way directional control, and the large controller fits easily in your hand. Sega later released the 6-button controller, which allows fighting games like Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter II, to feel like it's the arcade, with all the precise control you would come to expect, from a system designed to bring the arcade experience home.
Arcade machines of the time, used the popular Motorola 68000 processor which is 16-bit, but programmed as 32-bit, whereas home consoles, generally use the 6502 and Z80 processors, which are 8-bit. Gamers will be pleased to know, that the Sega Genesis not only includes the 68000 for amazing heart pounding games, but also includes a Z80 as a co-processor to help unload some things like sound processing, allowing the 68000 to have more resources available.
While the System 16, the platform the Genesis came from, also has a 68000 which is clocked at 10MHz, the Genesis is clocked at around 7.6MHz. This drop in clock speed is not something to be worried about though, as the 68000 is still an amazing CPU and has many great features. Other systems like the NES are clocked at 1.79MHz, and don't have quite the power.
The Genesis comes equipped with 64KB of system RAM, 64KB of VRAM, and 8KB of RAM for use with sound (like PCM samples, etc). While this may seem small, a lot of things can be read directly from ROM, so having a lot of RAM isn't much of an absolute requirement, and because it's a ROM cartridge design, games load instantly with no wait time whatsoever.
So, are you a Sega Master System fan also? Don't worry about it! The Sega Genesis, tied with the Power Base Converter, allows all your 8-bit Master System classics to play on your Genesis without a hitch! This is achieved as the 8-bit Z80 CPU in the Genesis, is clocked the same as the Sega Master System, and can become the primary CPU, when an 8-bit game is inserted. Existing 3-button and 6-button controllers primarily work just fine with all of the games. Some games however, will not work well and will require the use of a regular Master System controller to work correctly. This is ok though, as the controller ports remain the same between systems. Accessories like the 3D glasses and light phaser work as well, so you don't need to through out any of your old accessories.
One note for the system, is not only it's backwards compatibility, but it's forward compatibility too. With an expansion connector on the side to allow a Sega CD, the cartridge port also can act as an expansion connector to allow other optional upgrades too.
Think that just because the system only has 2 controller ports, that you can only play with 2-people? Not at all! The system supports multi-tap adapters, which can add up to 4 gamers, which can permit you to have entertaining parties.
Want to play with someone not in your house? It can be done! The early modem Genesis systems include a port on the back which is for a modem that can be attached, and you can dialup to your friend, across the country, and play some Genesis games with them too, if the game supports it. Even in this day and age, this actually still works. Other options are the X-Band, and Sega Channel, however these options are no longer supported as the service has been discontinued. In the case of the X-Band, while it was dialup (whereas the Sega Channel was a cable modem), the X-Band connected to a central server. The original Genesis modem (labeled Mega Modem), is peer to peer.
Sega knew what they were doing with the Genesis, and there's a reason why it was based off the System 16. With a system based on arcade hardware, the Genesis really can allow the arcade experience to be brought to the home, and it was done well. A 4.5 star rating is awarded because let's face it, it's a classic, and it still means something today. Color limitations though being the primary con, is the only thing holding it back from a solid 5 star rating.