Monday, June 06, 2016

Also in honor of Sega's 56th anniversary, let's rank and review (some of) its game consoles

As you should have heard by now (I mentioned it in my very last post, after all), last Friday marked the 56th anniversary of Sega's existence as a maker of video games.

In the write-up mentioned above, I discussed five of my favorite titles that were produced for Sega's most popular game systems. Today, I'm discussing--ranking, actually--the systems themselves.

Note: I'm leaving out the company's first two consoles, the SG-1000 and the SG-1000 II, because I have very little (if any) experience with them.

5. Master System--Full disclosure: of all the Sega systems I've spent time with over the years, this is the one I've played the least. Still, I know it well enough to comment on it. Anyway, why am I saying this is my least favorite of the company's many hardware releases? A big reason is that, in my opinion, the Master System--known as the Mark III in Japan--has the least appealing games catalog of all the products included in this post. Some gems were made for it, no question, but they are fewer in number than the gems made for the Genesis, Saturn, Dreamcast or even Game Gear, if you ask me. Also, although technically the Master System was more capable than its main competitor (the Famicom or NES), it mattered little in the face of the aforementioned library and the console's poorly designed controller.

4. Saturn--I'm sure some folks will raise a judgmental eyebrow in response to my decision to place the much-loved Saturn behind the much-maligned Game Gear. Don't get me wrong, I adore the Saturn with every ounce of my being. That said, at the moment my list of beloved Game Gear titles is longer than my corresponding list of Saturn titles. Also, this system is a bit of a mess internally. Its two-dimensional, sprite-based games are among the best to see the light of day, but its three-dimensional, polygon-filled ones are among the 32-bit generation's worst. Thankfully, the physical product, and that includes the Japanese controller, is a sight to behold--though I wouldn't have minded if Sega had shaved some fat off of it over time.

3. Game Gear--The same could be said of Sega's first handheld, of course. Still, the Game Gear's general design (ignoring its girth) is stellar--or it was for its time. It looks like something that plays video games--and I say that in the most positive way, of course. Although I love sleek-looking systems, I also like ones that appear toylike. In fact, the red, blue and (especially) yellow Game Gears that hit store shelves in various regions back in the day are among my most-coveted pieces of gaming hardware. Anyway, aside from all of the above, a few of this portable's other thumbs-up-worthy attributes are its Master System-esque chipset and its shockingly adroit software selection.

2. Dreamcast--It's fitting, I think, that the Sega's best designed system was its last. And when I say "best designed" I'm talking both about its look and shape as well as its internal architecture. Consider that the Dreamcast was an absolute beast in terms of power when it was released, yet it also was one of the smallest consoles ever to hit the streets. Admittedly, the thing can be loud as hell while playing a game, but that's a small price to pay in order to experience titles like Space Channel 5, Jet Set Radio, Crazy Taxi and ChuChu Rocket! The only criticisms I can aim at this particular piece of hardware are that its library of games is smaller than that of pretty much every other Sega system and that it was discontinued after spending less than three years on the market.

1. Genesis--I've got to be honest: I wasn't all that keen on Sega's entry in the 16-bit console wars when it was first unveiled. At the time, I found the SNES and TurboGrafx-16 (or PC Engine and Super Famicom) far more interesting. What prompted me to change my mind about this hunk of plastic and its lineup of boxy black cartridges? The 1993 North American release of the original Shining Force. It so enraptured me that I regularly used my allowance to rent both it and a Sega CDX from the local grocery store. Later carts and CDs--Shining Force II, Lunar: The Silver Star and Gunstar Heroes among them--similarly attracted my attention. Combine the Genesis' eye-popping games catalog with its iconic hardware designs and gorgeous-yet-functional six-button controller and it should be easy to see why it's my favorite of all of Sega's wonderful systems.

How do you feel about this Tokyo-based company's numerous hardware offerings? Share your thoughts, opinions and memories in the comments section below.

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