Back in the early '90s Sega and Nintendo were hostile enemies, and this rivalry trickled down to the people who played their products. Anyone old enough to have experienced this period will no doubt recall the heated playground debates about which console was best, and the splintered friendships caused by something as random as which games machine someone's parents decided to get them for Christmas. With hindsight it was madness, but even today this blind brand loyalty exists, with Sony and Microsoft fans arguing until they are blue in the face about resolutions and frame rates. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
As the years have rolled by Nintendo fans have become pretty adept at putting old grievances aside, and since Sega went from hardware maker to purely software, the two companies have become incredibly close, with Nintendo even going as far as handling the marketing and distribution for many Sonic titles on its consoles. Sega games are now freely playable on the Virtual Console, with the recent string of Sega 3D Classics offering Nintendo 3DS owners the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with some of the firm's most prestigious releases.
What we're trying to say here is that Sega and Nintendo are essentially part of the same exciting period in video game history. With that in mind, it's therefore incredibly easy for a card-carrying Nintendo fan to scoop up a copy of Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works and be totally and utterly enthralled. Produced by UK-based publisher Read-Only Memory — the same firm that produced the excellent Sensible Software 1986-1999 — this lavishly produced hardcover tome is a love-letter to one of the most influential gaming systems of all time.
A combination of gorgeous artwork, never-before-seen production materials and in-depth interviews with key developers, it's genuinely hard to envisage how Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works could be any better. From the intelligent and insightful introductory essay by esteemed journalist Keith Stuart to the abundant pages of sprite artwork lifted directly from some of the console's most beloved releases, this book is every Sega fan's dream come true. There are fold-out pages which show box and manual artwork in incredible detail, and production sketches and paintings which reveal some of the many alternative designs Sega had for elements such as controllers, the Mega CD attachment and even its unreleased Virtual Reality headset, which, according to the book, took its inspiration from the robot Gort in the 1951 science fiction movie The Day The Earth Stood Still.
No stone has left unturned when it comes to documenting every element of console's appeal. There are concept sketches for covers, abandoned artwork which never made it to print and even a doodle which shows Sonic's proposed human girlfriend, who was apparently based on the real-world pop star Madonna and Who Framed Roger Rabbit's Jessica Rabbit. She was expunged from the final game at the behest of Sega of America, thereby saving the gaming world from the worrying prospect of having to fathom how a fully-grown woman could have any kind of intimate relationship with a talking hedgehog. These nuggets alone are worth the price of the book, but the additional information delivered in exclusive interviews with the likes of Makoto Uchida (Altered Beast, Golden Axe, Alien Storm), Yuji Naka (Sonic), Yu Suzuki (OutRun, Space Harrier, Shenmue), Noriyoshi Ohba (Revenge of Shinobi, Streets of Rage), Peter Morawiec (Comix Zone), Masato Maegawa (Gunstar Heroes) and Rich Karpp (Vectorman) really takes things to the next level. There are even discussions with two members of the Mega Drive hardware team — Masami Ishikawa and Mitsushige Shiraiwa — whose technical and product design concerns serve as a nice contrast between those of software developers, composers and planners.
Such is the incredible appeal of Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works that even a total outsider is able to open it up and find something of interest; not only is it packed with information that will enrapture video game fans, it is presented in such an engaging style that few will be able to resist its charms, irrespective of their preference of games console or their interest in the medium as a whole. If you own a coffee table then this deserves pride of place on it, and if you don't, we urge you to go out immediately and buy one so that it can have the honour of providing a resting place for this incredible book.
Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works is available to order from Read-Only Memory.