Monday, June 20, 2011

Another Sizzlin' Sega Summer

For about the last 12 years - starting right after the death of the 16-bit era and the rise of 3D capable 32-bit systems like Sony's PlayStation and Sega's Saturn - the soothing, searing heat of the summer brings with it my renewed obsession with Sega's Genesis/Mega Drive and its many failed add-ons. During summers past, I've found myself playing through the Phantasy Star series one year at a time; immersing myself in mediocrity with the likes of Cosmic Carnage, the lazer-blasting humming bird Kolibri, and the forgettable "action" RPG Sword of Vermilion; and basking in the warm glow of the Sega CD/Mega CD's many, many full motion video games. Perhaps my greatest pro-Sega project spanned the length of four summers: I created back-ups of the entire North American Sega CD catalogue, spanning about 250 CD-Rs. The madness even included Bug Blasters, Citizen X and all the other nostalgic crap Good Deal Games resurrected in the early and mid-2000s.

Middle: My Sega CD back-up collection.
Top Left: Some Good Deal Games releases.

This summer greets me with limited access to my collection thanks my clever cousin taking up temporary residence in the "Sega room" and my preoccupation with finding a more suitable job. (By the way, did you know that a Master's degree will get you 50 cents more an hour at Best Buy than a Bachelor's? THANK GOD FOR ALL THAT COURSE WORK I DID.) But despite these factors - and my best judgement - I've got Sega on the brain yet again. You can thank the PlayStation Network re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for getting this little gem stuck in my head for the 6000th time in my life:

In case you've never experienced it, that's theme of the Hidden Palace Zone, the most publicized of myriad cancelled levels in Sonic’s second adventure. I used to sit and listen to this song in Sonic 2's sound test for hours on those lazy summer days, thinking about the "zone that never was." I’d seen a few pictures of a shimmering underground world, mysterious and alluring. What could it have been like? Why was it cut out of the game? Would it ever be finished on the Sega CD?

I guess I was the introspective type even at 10 years old.

This year, my cousin and I recently raged our way through the streets in Sega’s seminal Streets of Rage 2, bringin’ back memories of ass-kickings of old; seeing the manual to Altered Beast right now is making me want to travel back in time and "Wize from [my] Graweve," and I'd like nothing more than to jam out in the nearest graveyard with the killer robot version of Michael Jackson in Moonwalker. As the sun sets over the lush trees in my quiet neighborhood and the birds tweet their greeting to the coming summer season, I know there are epic battles yet to be fought in Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side, freaky buttons to be pushed and madcap consequences left to pay in Panic! and a plethora of cross country races left to win in Outrun.

I've never understood what it is about warm weather and the sweet scent of 10,000 flowers pouring gently through my window that gets me revved up about Sega's little black box and its uninspired upgrades, but like clockwork every year, the house that Sonic built takes center stage in my gaming world. This summer, grab a cool drink, take up the mighty 3-button controller and  find out for yourself just why the Sega Genesis once again does what Nintendon’t.

Long live Sega's 16-bit battles and the sun's spectacular rays!

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