Sunday, August 25, 2013

Genesis: The Unboxening

Welcome back, readers! (Both of you.) I have tidings of great gaming cheer to report. A few days ago, a member of the Talking Time forum was looking to trim down his collection, and offered his Genesis and a handful of games for the price of shipping. Being a fan of the system since... well, forever, I jumped on the chance to claim it for myself. Sure, I already own a Genny, but I could always use more games and accessories, and that stuff has gotten seriously hard to find at pawn shops and yard sales. Yesterday, I scoured a local town during an annual summer festival- peak garage sale conditions- and turned up a single Sega Genesis item, a lonely copy of Pac-Man 2. That's what I call slim pickens.

So you can understand why I'd be grateful to have a shot at a big Genesis score, regardless of how that opportunity presented itself. I sent the seller the eight dollars he requested, and just two days later, it arrived on my doorstep, as if it had been delivered by Sonic himself. Let's take a peek inside, shall we?

That's a promising start! Many of the games in the package included the box and instructions. The great thing about Genesis collecting is that the games are complete as often as not, thanks to the sturdy plastic cases they were shipped in for most of the system's life. Unfortunately, later titles like the ill-considered port of The Art of Fighting came in the same flimsy cardboard boxes that Super NES games always had, a move Sega defended as "environmentally friendly" but I'd personally describe as "a huge load of bullshit." The plastic cases might find their way to a landfill, but if my twenty-five years of collecting have taught me anything, the cardboard boxes are destined for one.

Also included in the package were two three button controllers, standard equipment for the Genesis in its early years. These joypads seem perfectly ordinary at first glance, but one of them holds a pleasant surprise. While the one on the left has the usual thumb-wrecking hard plastic D-pad with barely any throw, the one on the right is rubberized and rocks on a central pivot. It's the same design Sega used in its brilliant six button Arcade Pad as well as the Saturn's stock controller, and I had no idea that it ever found its way to the old three button controllers. I originally planned to hack both of these joypads for other projects, but now I'm having second thoughts...

Here's the system itself, a standard model two Genesis. I prefer the design of the original, with its wide frame, circle-rimmed cartridge port, and the promise of "high-definition graphics" on the front, but at least this one doesn't take up much space and plays nice with the later model of the Sega CD. Both models are a quantum leap ahead of the third model, which could nearly fit in a man's pocket but sacrifices all but the most basic functionality to squeeze into that tiny package. (You know, kind of like that Canadian Wii released a few months ago.)

Let's look at the games. Oh god, not this one! I mentioned Heavy Nova in a previous update, but never gave it the thrashing it so richly deserves, so let's open that overdue can of whoopass. What first appears to be a thrilling action game with a strong anime influence quickly devolves into a boring slog spread across two play styles... a sluggish, frustrating platformer and a versus fighter that adds the -anical to mech and puts the "ass" in molasses. After your fifth slow-motion smackdown at the hands of a "Heavy Doll" (really, Micronet? Really?), you'll want to set the cartridge under your opponent's ten ton heel. Problem is, it might take a few years for the mech to step on it.

And here now is an elusive species, the Sega Genesis RPG. Once thought to exist only in myths and rumors, this beast made a rare appearance at the bottom of this box. Enjoy this sight, for it could be a once in a lifetime experience.

Er, seriously. This is Sword of Vermillion, one of the few role-playing games released for the Genesis in its early years. I've spent a grand total of five minutes playing this, and the unflattering reviews on GameFAQs aren't convincing me to give it more of my time.

Championship Pool, endorsed by the Billiard Congress of America! Unlike our current congress, they try to sink the black one last. Anyway, this seems to be an okay adaptation of the sport, although having to switch screens to adjust your power (instead of the timing-dependent power meter in Side Pocket) takes some adjustment.

When the guy who sent me the Genesis listed "Genesis 6-Pak" as one of the games in the package, I assumed he meant the assortment of light gun games packaged with the Menacer, Sega's quickly forgotten bazooka peripheral. To my great surprise and relief, the 6-Pak actually contains six Genesis launch titles, ranging from the ho-hum Columns to classics like Revenge of Shinobi and the first Sonic the Hedgehog. The original Streets of Rage is also squeezed in there, but it shows its age next to its sequel, with limited move sets, shrimpy characters, and a smart bomb that's nowhere near as cool or useful as the special attacks in Streets of Rage 2. Nevertheless, I spent a lot of time with SOR in my teen years, and it's nice to have it back in my collection.

The package included two RF adapters. Problem is, the Amiga 1080 I use with my older game systems isn't compatible with RF. Frankly, neither am I... I was eager to leave that stone-aged standard behind the moment I bought a television set with more than one port on the back. With this in mind, I snipped the RF box from one of the cables and soldered on a couple of composite wires I'd salvaged from a Commodore DTV unit. Twenty minutes of snipping and soldering later, the Genesis was producing an image of acceptable, if not sterling, quality. The Genesis can output in dazzling, razor-sharp RGB, but the parts I'll need to make that cable are a little pricey, so that mod will have to wait.

This was a damn fine haul, especially when you consider the price. The original owner charged me a lot less for shipping than it actually cost, so the Genesis, several accessories, and a buttload of games effectively cost me negative eight dollars. Best of all, I've got a spare system, in case the old one goes belly up or I decide to mod this one. So yeah, I'm pretty happy with the way this panned out. You might even say giddy!

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