Mega Drive Memories

The Mega Drive turns 30 today and I haven’t felt this old since the last time someone reminded me when The Matrix hit theaters. But that’s perfectly alright, because I love that sleek black box of kickass. It was my first console and will always be my favorite. It launched me head-first into the crazy world of video games and led me on the path that I’m on today. I’ve already written at some length about the influence platformers had on me but the Mega Drive was and is such a big part of my life that I can’t help but blurt out some more words.

This issue of Gamers became my daily companion until the release of Sonic 2. Image courtesy of Kultboy

My dad told me a story. When my 4th birthday was coming up, he decided to get me a Mega Drive. My mom wasn’t too thrilled about the idea but relented; I had already been enjoying my dad’s Atari 2600, so a bigger and better console should make for a good gift, right? Then, the night before my birthday, dad was struck with a thought: What if the console didn’t work? What if there was some issue with the TV or something? Not wanting to risk a ruined birthday—and being a bit curious himself, I’d imagine—he hooked up the console, put in Sonic the Hedgehog and booted it up. He didn’t make it past the title screen—he was so struck by the audio-visual impact (remember: We went straight from Atari to 16bit) that he wanted me to experience it with him. He sensed that this was the start of something new, something big. The next day, the house was filled with 2 kids glued to the screen and a somewhat annoyed mother yelling for them to finally come eat dinner.

We played a lot and were always on the lookout for new games. I soon started buying gaming magazines and I’m almost 100% sure that they helped me learn to read. I remember bringing an issue of Gamers magazine to Kindergarten with me pretty much every day to gawk at the 4-page preview it contained for Sonic the Hedgehog 2. It was a magical time filled with excitement and wonder. And since we were always scouring flea markets and classified ads we always found cheap new games to play. In time we even got our hands on some Japanese games…I clearly remember Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair and I’m pretty sure we had a Japanese Out Run. Of course back in those naive days we didn’t know anything about region locking, so we were irked to see that the cartridges wouldn’t fit into our European console. My dad wasn’t having any of it however, whipped out a file and a few minutes later we were shooting at rainbow-colored fish. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Yeah, that game was very Japanese.

My mom did eventually warm up to these newfangled videogame shenanigans, by the way. She never got into games herself but did start supporting my passion quite readily. Oh and while she never played the games herself, we did pass her the controller occasionally so she could help us out. Wanna know why? For some reason she was the only one of us three who was able to input the level select cheat in Sonic the Hedgehog. I have no idea why we couldn’t do it or why she could, but that’s the way it was. I think she still remembers the code to this day.

It is in no way an exaggeration to say that the Mega Drive changed my life and that I would not be the person I am today if I hadn’t received that black box with the weird volume control slider on that fateful day in 1991. So happy birthday Mega Drive, here’s to another 30 years of doing what Nintendon’t!

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