Hard­ware Heaven: Mega Drive

» Man­u­fac­turer: Sega » Year: 1988 » cost: £190 (launch), £15+ (today)

Retro Gamer - - CONTENTS -

The Blast Pro­cess­ing-pow­ered men­ace has in­vaded our pages in this hard­ware spread

Sega lever­aged its ar­cade her­itage for its next-gen­er­a­tion suc­ces­sor to the Mas­ter Sys­tem, util­is­ing the same pro­ces­sor setup as used in its ver­sa­tile Sys­tem 16 board. Al­though the pro­ces­sors were run­ning at a lower clock speed in the home, the Mega Drive was still a fast ma­chine for its time, ca­pa­ble of mov­ing many sprites with­out slow­down. What’s more, the Mo­torola 68000 was a fa­mil­iar CPU for pro­gram­mers due to its use in pop­u­lar com­put­ers world­wide, in­clud­ing the Ap­ple Mac­in­tosh, the Sharp X68000, the Com­modore Amiga and the Atari ST. A cus­tom graph­ics chip of­fered mul­ti­ple in­de­pen­dently scrolling graph­ics lay­ers, a clear ad­van­tage over the ri­val PC En­gine. How­ever, its lim­ited colour pal­ette would prove to be a weak­ness in the long term. Ex­ter­nally, the Mega Drive’s black cas­ing aped the de­sign of ex­pen­sive late Eight­ies hi-fi sys­tems, aided by the pres­ence of the head­phone jack and vol­ume slider. Gold let­ter­ing boasted of the ma­chine’s 16-bit power, and text on the cir­cu­lar rim around the car­tridge slot touts high-def­i­ni­tion graph­ics and stereo sound. Aided by clever mar­ket­ing and stel­lar soft­ware, the Mega Drive would be­come Sega’s most suc­cess­ful con­sole and briefly made the com­pany a mar­ket leader.

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