Since the very welcome introduction of TG-16 CD-ROM games to Nintendo’s Virtual Console service we’ve seen a steady flow of requests for the same treatment to be given to Sega’s ill-fated Sega CD add-on (also known as the Mega CD in Europe and Japan).
This much-hyped peripheral was rolled out in the early ‘90s (a few years after Hudson/NEC had released their CD-ROM attachment) and despite early positive signs never really succeeded in delivering on the promises Sega had made. Nevertheless, the format is home to some truly excellent videogames and would undoubtedly make a fine addition to the VC stable.
The key question is: would it be possible? You have to bear in mind that the TG-16 CD-ROM and the Sega CD are two very different beasts; the TG-16 version basically granted CD-ROM audio and additional storage space for things like cut scenes and extra levels. The Sega CD on the other hand contained specialised chips to enable the machine to replicate the ‘Mode 7’ scaling seen in so many SNES titles (such as Pilotwings and Super Mario Kart). Therefore it’s a somewhat trickier proposition to emulate the Mega CD hardware on the Virtual Console, but certainly not impossible – you only have to look at the latest homebrew PC emulators to see that. However, with Nintendo withholding Super FX titles from the VC, it’s quite possible that there may be issues behind the scenes that are affecting the release of more demanding hardware configurations.
Naturally we’re just thinking out loud here and we genuinely hope that the Sega CD will come to the VC in the near future. In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of some of the titles we’d like to see published on the service.
Billed as Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s Starfox, Silpheed was in fact a very different kind of game. True, it showcased similar 3D visuals, but while the ones seen in Starfox were generated in real time by the innovative Super FX chip, the Sega CD game instead relied on the complex backgrounds being spooled directly from the CD, ‘FMV’ style. The only 3D objects in the game were the ships, which tended to be on the small side. That said, Silpheed is still an excellent vertical blaster with bags of playability.
Lunar: The Silver Star Story (GameArts/Working Designs)
Many RPGs were released on the Mega CD in Japan but the sheer scale of the localization process deterred many publishers from releasing them in the West. Thankfully, Working Designs was brave enough to bring Lunar over (and its sequel, Eternal Blue) and in doing so they made Sega CD owners very happy indeed. This really is a top class release, with an intelligent (not to mention witty) English scripts and some excellent voice acting to boot. The game itself is your standard Final Fantasy-style affair, but the plot is thoroughly engaging and the anime cut scenes and music really do add to the overall effect, as opposed to merely being window-dressing. We imagine that this game will top the list of most wanted Sega CD games, and rightly so.
Final Fight CD (Sega/Capcom)
Given the incomplete nature of the SNES conversion, it’s only fair that VC gamers should be treated to this far more accomplished port. All of the characters and all of the stages are present (so you finally get to play as Guy and witness the excellent factory level – both of these items were omitted from the SNES port due to memory constraints) but arguably the most important inclusion is the two-player mode, which was also removed from the Nintendo version. An excellent ‘arranged’ soundtrack rounds off a stunning interpretation of one of the best scrolling fighters ever produced.
Popful Mail (Working Designs)
Playing a lot like Wonderboy In Monsterworld, this 2D fantasy platformer features RPG elements as well as lush anime sequences and bags of crystal-clear speech. Mercifully granted a US release by Working Designs, it’s another title that regularly tops polls for the most loved Sega CD release. Given the inflated prices of the original these days a VC publication would be very welcome indeed, although the demise of Working Designs may sadly lead to legal wrangles involving who owns the actual licence.
Sonic CD (Sega)
Widely regarded as the best Sonic game ever made, this highly polished platformer was the perfect advert for the CD format. Massive levels with bags of variety, some seriously funky music (the US version had different music to the Japanese/European edition but both soundtracks are worthy of note) and some charming anime cut scenes were all present and correct. The gameplay is tight and enjoyable, with Sonic showcasing his innovative ‘charge dash’, previously seen in Sonic 2. The biggest addition to the gameplay was the ability to travel backwards and forwards through time, thereby changing the look of the level. Also, should the player successfully destroy robot-generating machines in one level, when they reach the future of the next stage there are less enemies – a neat touch. All in all, this is easily one of the finest platform games of its generation and due to the failure of the host hardware is often sadly overlooked.
Hideo Kojima may be famous for bringing Metal Gear Solid to the world, but people tend to forget he’s created some other excellent games too. Snatcher is similar to the old text adventures you used to get on the old Western home computers. Based heavily on Blade Runner, the game sees you fighting against the evil Snatchers – robots that kill people and assume their identities. Although the game was successful enough to appear on several different formats – including the PC Engine, Saturn and Playstation – this is the only version to be translated into English and unsurprisingly fetches a pretty penny on eBay these days.
Keio Flying Squadron (JVC)
A delightfully cute shooter in the vein of Konami’s Parodious, this was one of the more irreverent Japanese titles to make the leap over to the West. Visually it’s not really anything the Genesis/Megadrive couldn’t handle on its own, but the fantastic soundtrack and improved spot effects show where the Sega CD hardware has been put to good use. Naturally, there are a few cut scenes and an animated introduction, as well as some pretty zany speech. An utterly charming little game, it received a sequel on the Saturn that introduced platforming sections as well.
Road Avenger (Wolfteam)
Ok, so we’re guilty of bowing to personal preference here but Road Avenger is still one of our all-time favourite Sega CD games. It’s similar to Dragon’s Lair in terms of gameplay; you’re basically playing a cartoon, with your interaction limited to predetermined points. Fail to press the right direction or button at a set time and it’s game over. It’s a little more forgiving than Dragon’s Lair due to the fact that on its default difficulty setting on-screen prompts thankfully tell you what to do. The action is pretty intense and the FMV, while a little grainy, is pretty decent. This was bundled with Mega CD units in the UK and therefore should have a special place in the hearts of those that were brave enough to purchase the system.
There are plenty of other titles worthy of note on the system, so why not list which games you’d like to see in the comments section below?
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