This year, the Sega Mega Drive turns 25.
For many, it was the first gaming console they ever owned and, with that, comes with rose-tinted glasses. Developed as the follow-on from the 8-bit Sega Master System, the Mega Drive boasted more - more games, more graphics, more quality, more of everything. Upon its launch, games like Sonic The Hedgehog, Altered Beast and Ecco The Dolphin were bundled with the console to help drive up sales.
What made the Mega Drive more interesting than its rival console, the Super Nintendo, was that its games catered to an audience that had all but been neglected up until that point - mature gamers. Ecco the Dolphin, despite being a game where you controlled a dolphin, was extremely difficult and had a non-linear story. It also had a strong ecological message and an in-depth storyline that, to this day, we're not really sure what it's about.
Other games for the console, such as Desert Strike, openly used news stories of the day - the Gulf War, primarily - and focused them through its prism. Critics argued that the game was propaganda material. Players got points for blowing up a thinly-disguised Arab dictator's military bases and the game ended at the White House with President George H.W. Bush commending the player for his actions.
The Mega Drive's version of Mortal Kombat was the only uncensored version of the game available for a console. The SNES version specifically removed both the gory fatalities and the pixellated blood. Moreover, the Mega Drive's marketing was specifically aimed at mature gamers. Sega took out advertisements on late night television in the US, aiming it at college students and adults who had an interesting in gaming but didn't want to play as an Italian plumber who ate mushrooms and saved the princess.
Even the cover-art for its games was way more intense than anything the Super Nintendo had. Streets of Rage's cover saw its three main characters brutally beating down tattooed skinheads in the middle of an urban environment. Golden Axe featured a scantily-clad fitness model in a bikini and an Arnold Schwarzenegger-type in just Speedos and boots. Alien Storm saw gamers opening fire in the middle of a supermarket whilst HR Giger-inspired aliens ate civilians.
When compared technically with the Super Nintendo, the Mega Drive did come up lacking. Its graphics were poorer, the sound was choppier and harsher and, admittedly, the controllers were more likely to break with a Mega Drive than they were with a SNES. That didn't really matter, though. What the Mega Drive lacked in its capabilities, it more than made up for with its personality. The Mega Drive was always the more darker, adult gaming console.
It drew controversy, protests, pearl-clutching activists railed against its violent content. It had everything a teenager could want from a game.