Picture this: you're a nostalgic '90-buy Gamer Kid, and the word 'Compact Disc' sends a rush of adrenaline through your entire being, producing an electric excitement comparable only to finding an entire untouched birthday cake or discovering Monday is a public holiday. Those beautiful, reflective circles of promise whispered tales of data-filled expansive worlds, scores of real-life music, and animated cutscenes that made your ’80s TV look like a Gameboy screen.
Things, however, turned out to be a little less glamorous in reality. The PC Engine CD, circa late ’80s, sparked a CD-ROM frenzy, although it didn’t quite have the wherewithal to back up at the time. Sega, ever the trooper, hopped on this bandwagon with the Sega / Mega CD add-on for Genesis / Mega Drive in the early ‘90s, hoping this might quite literally 'game' the competition with SNES.
Predictably, the hype waves soon came crashing down. Key exclusives the likes of Sonic CD, Final Fight CD, and Snatcher didn't quite cut it, and the add-on drive sold a rather modest 2.24 million units. Critics were quick to brand the experiment a 'failure.' Nintendo, who was in the midst of crafting its own CD drive with Sony, quickly pulled the plug on the project, realizing it was likely more of a pipe dream than a game-changer.
But hold your joystick, there's more to it. Yes, Sega CD was arguably ahead of its time, yielding a great deal of less than perfect FMV titles. However, that doesn't exclude the existence of true gaming pearls that came forth from this era.
A quick flick through the Sega CD book brings us to the pages of “Sonic CD”, hailed by countless fans as the best of 2D Sonic titles ever. This game alone sold a whopping 1.5 million copies and was even reincarnated in 2011 by Christian Whitehead using the Retro Engine, making it the most commercially successful game on the system.
We then stumble upon “Snatcher”, Hideo Kojima's cyberpunk masterpiece. Although it was available on several platforms including PC-Engine CD, Saturn, and PlayStation, the Sega CD version was the only one that was localized in English, making it one of the standout Sega CD games.
Next comes “Shining Force CD”, a remake of Shining Force Gaiden and Shining Force: The Sword of Hajya, which were originally released on the Game Gear handheld. This game was split into four sections, two based on earlier outings and two exclusive to the Sega CD platform.
Fast forward to “Keio Flying Squadron”, a wacky horde of eccentric enemies, exciting levels, robust bosses set against an exceptional CD-quality music. This game and others like "Android Assault: The Revenge of Bari-Arm", "Batman Returns", "Vay", and "Silpheed" showcased the Sega CD’s capacity for unique gameplay and engaging storytelling.
Sure, Sega CD may not have lived up to the towering expectations or the next-gen hype, but it's a classic example of a plot twist from the world of gaming. The system may not have stormed the sales charts, but it went on to release games that would eventually attain legendary status in the gaming world, proving once and for all, sales aren't the ultimate measure of success. So let’s give a little respect to this overlooked and underappreciated piece of gaming history. Its legacy may be checkered, but it definitely isn't forgettable.
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