Four decades of being a Sega fan

WARNING - another long self-indulgent thread approaching.

It’s a companion thread to the Nintendo one:

I couldn’t tell you the exact month or anything but it was around 40 years ago that I became a Sega fan. Even at a young age, I was a weird kid that paid attention to company names on arcade cabinets. I was a huge fan of Frogger, and I think that’s where I first noticed the Sega logo. Frogger was developed by Konami but it was Sega that distributed the game in the West.

Soon after that was Zaxxon which drew me in. When you’re used to shooters like Namco’s Galaga and Taito’s Space Invaders, having a scrolling game with a 3/4 isometric view and elevation changes like Zaxxon stands out.

Congo Bongo was one of my favourite arcade games even though I thought it was kind of a fancy rip off of Donkey Kong at the time. It was interesting learning decades later that it was co-developed by Ikegami Tsushinki, the company Nintendo hired to help create Donkey Kong.

I had forgotten SubRoc 3-D’s name for years but the impact this arcade game had on me didn’t go away. This periscope shooter was in stereoscopic 3d along with smooth scaling sprites, making it one of the most high-tech games of the early '80s.

While I had Carnival for Intellivision and Car Chase for VIC-20 (a clone of Sega/Gremlin’s Head On), it was on the Commodore 64 that I delved into more ports of Sega games at home. I still have my totally legit C64 backups of Congo Bongo, Star Trek, Zaxxon, Out Run, Up’n Down, Quartet, Wonder Boy, and Power Drift seen here:

When I got Out Run on C64, I blew my TV’s speakers out blasting the music. I never bought an Emerson product again.

The second half of the '80s seemed to really establish Sega as the leader in arcade technology with souped up cabinets for games like the Hang On series, Space Harrier, After Burner, Out Run, and Galaxy Force. And these weren’t just showpieces for graphic detail. They nailed every aspect of game design: stunning art direction, memorable soundtracks, responsive controls, etc. combined with speed and intensity. Go buy this stuff on 3DS, Switch, etc. if you haven’t already. These games are still awesome!

It was probably in late 1986 when I saw the new Sega system (back before anyone really called it the Sega Master System) on display at Compucentre, a store that always had several monitors on with various games. The graphics were very colourful and detailed, moreso than anything else on console. Even in the launch era, it seemed like something futuristic and special. And like with Nintendo, I was fascinated with the light gun. The pack-in games Hang On and Safari Hunt got a lot of playtime.

Like I mentioned in the Nintendo thread, my household ended up with both Nintendo and Sega thanks to my sister being lured in by Mario and my parents having some more money that year. I’m really glad I didn’t miss out on the Master System like many people in my region did as it had some of the best games of its generation.

Despite the weak market share of the SMS, I had a good sized network of gamers for borrowing and trading games for it as well as rental access. And the largest mall near me (Metrotown in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver) had a handful of places to buy SMS games: Sears, Toy City, Real Canadian Superstore, Compucentre, and some other stores I forget the names of. Across the border in the US, places like Fred Meyer and Babbages carried games for it.

I met my best friend in grade 7 in 1987 on a school skiing trip and the first time I went to his place, he showed me his Sega collection with games like Astro Warrior, After Burner, Marksman/Trap Shooting, Space Harrier, Action Fighter, and Ghostbusters. Rambo stood out because we played the two-player co-op mode. We have been playing multiplayer games together ever since. He also won a Sega Master System in our school’s raffle that year which he exchanged to get more games. All I won in the raffle was a mini screwdriver set.

One of my younger cousins was also a Sega owner. Babysitting him and his sister was the best gig ever as I was basically getting paid to play video games with them. We played a lot of co-op Fantasy Zone: The Maze which was a Pac-Man-like spin off of the shooter series.

In one of many trades, I ended up getting the Segascope 3D glasses along with Maze Hunter 3D and Space Harrier 3D (I missed out on the best playing 3d glasses game, Missile Defense 3D). Even non-gamers were impressed with the 3d effect and colours despite the constant flickering.

Shinobi is special to me for a few reasons. Upon its release, it really stood above other ninja games on the home market with a larger variety of bosses, locations, and moves. And even though it was graphically downgraded from the arcade version, Sega re-designed the game in many ways to suit the console hardware adding in a health meter, new power-ups, and several magic abilities.

Also, when my grandma was visiting, she asked to try it. I thought she was just being polite and pretending to take an interest in my hobby until I went to her place and she had bought a Sega and Shinobi for herself. She was also a fan of Rastan and Gangster Town. I thought it was awesome as most people of my parents’ generation didn’t play video games. The odds of a posh sounding Englishwoman who lived through WW2 being interested in Shinobi and Sega seemed near impossible. My other grandparents wouldn’t touch this medium.

With the arrival of Miracle Warriors and Phantasy Star in English in 1988, the SMS quickly became the system to own for JRPGs in the West. I rented the pair within a week of each other and was fascinated by both of them. Phantasy Star was easily the superior one and I was in awe of its smooth 3d dungeons, Star Wars-esque sci-fi/fantasy theme mixing, and overall ambition. The nearly $100 CAD price tag was brutal but I ended up buying that rental copy for much cheaper. Having a female lead character was also very cool at the time, too. Sega did that on SMS previously with Quartet but Phantasy Star was the system’s flagship title and its most critically acclaimed game at that point.

On my 14th birthday, the Berlin Wall was being torn down but I was busy going to the mall to buy Rastan, a port of one of my favourite arcade games at the time. It wasn’t available so I looked at screenshots on the back of SMS boxes to find something similar. The samurai slasher Kenseiden caught my eye. It felt a little risky buying it since I never saw any magazine reviews of it but it was well worth it. It somewhat resembled Konami’s Castlevania with its deliberately stiff movements and horror atmosphere but it had plenty of its own style. Its character upgrades and optional areas to explore offered more depth than most action games of the era.

The SMS had quite a few other franchises I loved that have become forgotten. Penguin Land was a puzzle-platformer with physics ahead of its time and a neat level editor I spent many hours with. Zillion was an anime styled action-adventure inspired by Epyx’s Impossible Mission. Global Defense was like a super detailed scrolling Missile Command. Kung Fu Kid was a short but sweet platformer that introduced me to wall jumping in games.

I remember some debates in the 8-bit era about who was considered Sega’s mascot. With Nintendo, it was obvious by this point it was Mario. With Sega, it wasn’t so clear cut pre-Sonic. The company didn’t really promote Alex Kidd over Wonder Boy or vice versa (Alex Kidd in Miracle World wasn’t a pack-in title in NA until 1990 as far as I know). And one could argue a case for Opa Opa from Fantasy Zone as it had cameos in other Sega games.

I think most will agree that Wonder Boy was more consistently good than Alex Kidd. Miracle World and Shinobi World were well received Alex Kidd games while Lost Stars and High-Tech World, not so much. All three SMS Wonder Boy games in the '80s were generally praised. I still consider Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap the pinnacle of 8-bit platform-adventures.

Late 1989/early 1990 was the launch window of the Sega Genesis. Not every new game was a winner but I was very impressed with what I saw of games like Sega’s port of Capcom’s Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Mystic Defender, Rambo III, etc. Even Altered Beast wasn’t the butt of jokes back then; it was quite the visual showpiece for the system.

Revenge of Shinobi was the exclusive that mattered most to me in Genesis’ first year. How did this Yuzo Koshiro guy master the sound chip already?

Sega’s publishing of Thunder Force II also marked Technosoft’s debut in the West, a name I quickly took notice of. Sega buying Technosoft years later felt like a natural fit. That was another great thing about Sega: their partnerships via converting or publishing other developers’ games was very strong and helped give more niche Japanese companies worldwide exposure. Sega versions of games like Golvellius, Power Strike, Ys, and Time Soldiers made me take notice of Compile, Falcom, and Alpha Denshi.

I got my Genesis in July 1990 around the time one of my friends got a TurboGrafx-16. We both started buying and renting niche games from a local store called Encore Video Games.

Encore was awesome because it carried Japanese Mega Drive games. Not only did these import games usually come out earlier but they had superior box art and, for some reason, they sold them new for $60 CAD, around $10 less than domestic Genesis versions. Some of the earliest first-party MD games I bought were Strider, Shadow Dancer, Castle of Illusion, ESWAT, and Super League. It cost me $30 to modify my Genesis cartridge slot to play Japanese games. Had I know they were just filing down a small bit of plastic, I would have done it myself.

Golden Axe was the biggest multiplayer game for me in the early part of the 16-bit era for co-op and versus. It was a notable step up from other home beat 'em ups, and not just visually. They did a stellar job on the timing of the weapon collisions and the deep thuds of the sound effects to make the attacks feel so satisfying.

Here are some scans from a PC Engine magazine I still have over 30 years later. What stood out the most for me in this issue was the Sega arcade section as it showed a giant holographic-looking shooting game. It made me want to visit Japan even more than before. This was a bit before my school offered Japanese classes so I couldn’t read the katakana yet but it says Cyber Dome Super Shooting System.

I also had imported issues of the UK magazine Sega Power. Chapters bookstore carried it in Canada. While some of the fanboy-ish Nintendo bashing in it was eye rolling, Sega Power gave a good glimpse of what PAL-exclusive games I was being deprived of in the early '90s.

My anticipation for Sonic 1 on Genesis was huge. I lived for mascot platformers like Mario and Bonk, and since Sonic had been development for years, I was hoping for something special. It lived up to the hype and then some, quickly becoming my favourite game so far. The graphics looked incredible in motion, and rolling ball physics of whizzing through tunnels and loops was quite novel. It was the most impressed I had been with the genre since Super Mario Bros. five years earlier.

I was an early adopter of a Game Gear in 1991 (I already had a Game Boy and was still waiting on a price drop for the Lynx). I was just about to buy the SMS version of Sonic when I noticed Sega advertising that you could get a free copy of GG Sonic if you sent in the bar code from the Game Gear box. I was worried I bought my system too early to qualify, and I didn’t know if Sega of America would exclude Canada for the promotion, but Sonic soon arrived in the mail.

Game Gear remains an underrated format for games to this day. Japanese-made strategy RPGs and rogue-likes were rare in the West but games like Crystal Warriors and Dragon Crystal helped fill the void. I also bought the Master Gear Converter to play SMS games on the go.

The exclusive Shinobi games were the highlight of its line up for me, and for my cousin as he would frequently borrow them from me. What I loved about these games is that they didn’t just downport Genesis Shinobi or re-release Master System games. These new games took some influence from Capcom’s Mega Man series with non-linear design and unlocking new ninjas with different abilities to use. There was nothing comparable on competing handhelds.

In early 1992, I was at home recovering from surgery and played through a rental copy of Wonder Boy in Monster World and loved it (it was also the same day I bought my Super Nintendo). It baffled me how Sega didn’t even really advertise such an important title. The atmosphere of the game really stuck with me, especially the haunting music of the underwater area:

November 24, 1992 was Sonic 2sday, the launch day of Sonic 2 on Genesis. It was exciting because it finally felt like Sega had hit mainstream success on my continent. I always wanted to see Sega share in the type of large audience Nintendo had.

1993 continued the first-party Genesis hits. Neither myself nor my parents were able to find Streets of Rage II for Christmas '92 but I got it early in '93.

Shinobi III expanded upon Revenge of Shinobi with added variety: horse riding, surfing, dashing, etc.

I also bought Ranger-X and the newly released 6-button controller. Why hasn’t Sega re-released it? I know it was developed by Gau/Nextech but I don’t think they have any ownership of it.

Gunstar Heroes put Treasure on the map for me and provided Sega with a Contra-quality run 'n gun.

It was around this time that I went searching for the Sonic arcade game. I had seen magazine screenshots, and someone told me it was at a nearby arcade. I think it was called Lazer Illusions. When I got there, Sonic was nowhere to be found but they did have Sega’s R-360 (a 360 degree rotating cabinet you sat inside of) and I remember video footage with Michael Jackson giving flight training. As the years went by, I couldn’t even find evidence of its existence or any tie-in to R-360 machines. I think the R-360 unit I came across had G-LOC for the game but Scramble Training on a separate monitor.

I’m thankful I got to experience major moments in the history of fighting video games. I was there for Data East’s Karate Champ, System 3’s World Karate Championship, and Capcom’s Street Fighter II. Sega’s arcade game Virtua Fighter was the next big step in their evolution. The realistic fluidity of movement was unlike anything else in the genre before it. The polygon graphics had some resemblance to a PC boxing game I played called 4D Sports Boxing but that was much more clunky and slow.

VF also brings back memories of staying up late, sneaking in alcohol into arcades, and playing it and Golden Axe: Revenge of Death Adder multiplayer with friends.

A friend sold me his model 1 Sega CD in 1994 as he wanted money towards getting a 3DO system. One weird quirk of the machine I got is that it wouldn’t run games made by American Laser Games for some reason. Still, it was cheaper than buying a unit elsewhere and I could live without Mad Dog McCree. I quite enjoyed buying and renting Sega CD games but I think many of the best ones were third-party.

Sonic CD was the standout game by Sega itself. I appreciated how its art direction was closer to Sonic 1 than 2 except much more psychedelic. Gamefan magazine bashed the soundtrack of the North American version but with no access to the Japanese original, I was quite pleased with what we got domestically. The “Sonic Boom” intro is pretty iconic. The exploratory design and time travel mechanics made the game feel fresh. It was kind of weird seeing so much hate for the game years later as it was pretty much universally loved among the Sonic fans that played it back then.

Sega of America’s Spencer Nilsen was in charge of Sonic CD’s NA soundtrack. Let’s bask in some of his other excellent productions on Sega CD:

Batman Returns

Ecco the Dolphin

As for the 32X add-on around this time, I always thought it was a horrible idea to release it but I still think it had some quality games. In the name of saving space, I will skip over it but here’s a gif from Tempo.

RPGs like Game Arts’ Lunar: The Silver Star on Sega CD and Square’s Final Fantasy III on SNES really upped the production values for the genre. Sega showed they could still hang with the best with Phantasy Star IV which returned to a setting more like SMS game except with PC Engine CD-style cinemas.

The Saturn’s surprise launch in NA was an odd one. I didn’t have money to buy it then anyway but it was exciting playing the demo units at Electronics Boutique and Microplay, and playing it at a friend’s house. Early ports of games like Virtua Fighter and Daytona may have been far from perfect but coming from playing 3DO and Jaguar games, the Saturn felt like the proper beginning of a new console generation.

Panzer Dragoon was particularly impressive. Its surreal alien landscapes and lock-on shooting shared some DNA with Galaxy Force but this was a fully polygonal game at home with an orchestral soundtrack back when that wasn’t a common thing.

Anticipating a Saturn price slash in the near future, I opted to get a Playstation first but I did get a Saturn for Christmas 1996. It remains one of my favourite holiday memories. Both my cousin and I got the bundle with Virtua Fighter 2, Daytona USA, Virtua Cop + gun, and Sega Rally. What an incredible package with some of the best games on the market.

Turkey dinner and VF2 matches made for a memorable night. I also got NiGHTS into Dreams and an issue of Next Gen magazine with Christmas NiGHTS.

The Saturn era also coincided with the rise of the emulation scene on PC and the internet becoming mainstream. This was a big era of discovery for me. Learning that Sega had a console before the Master System was mindblowing. I had seen the SG-1000 name in books before but I had assumed it was another name for Japanese Master System/Mark III. It wasn’t until I tried roms with the year ‘1984’ on them, that I clued in. And thanks to ebay, I was able to buy so much obscure Sega stuff I didn’t have access to before such as the Mark III’s paddle controller and games.

That Saturn Sega Ages compilation with After Burner, Space Harrier, and Out Run was amazing. This was before emulators like Final Burn existed. I remember putting the disc in my CD player and making a mixed tape including Out Run music for a road trip with a friend. He wasn’t really playing video games anymore at the time but he found it pretty nostalgic to drive to. Who can resist Magical Sound Shower?

Compared to the Genesis and even the Master System, there were less options for me in terms of renting and borrowing Saturn games. But at least there were some options. I did have that cousin to borrow games like Fighters Megamix and Dragon Force from.

And I rented and bought Saturn games from Microplay such as Lunacy, Panzer Dragoon Zwei, Guardian Heroes, Astal, and Clockwork Knight 2.

Electronics Boutique was my main source for the really limited stuff like Panzer Dragoon Saga and Burning Rangers as well as some Japanese imports.The Saturn excelled in many areas but Panzer Dragoon Saga remains the game with the largest impact on me rivaling epic Playstation RPGs like Xenogears, Final Fantasy VII, and Suikoden II.

I wish I could remember the name of an import store that existed in my area in the late '90s/early '00s. If anyone knows what it was called, that would be cool. It was at Metrotown in Burnaby and might have had “Star” in the name. That’s where I first saw the Dreamcast in person.

I didn’t get a chance to buy a domestic DC on 9/9/99 but I did buy it the next day with no customer line ups.The DC may not have lived as long as some other Sega consoles but its first couple years were pretty stacked. Crazy Taxi captured all the style and intensity of the arcade version. Space Channel 5 and Samba de Amigo innovated in the music games department. Rez was like a modern take on Tron visuals and old school arcade rail shooters but enhanced with rhythmic audio. I never did get to try the trance vibrator peripheral for it, though.

Jet Grind Radio remains one of my top action games to this day.

I enjoyed playing Dreamcast action games like Outtrigger and Alien Front Online but Phantasy Star Online was easily my favourite of Sega’s online multi-player games. Back on the angry message boards of twenty years ago, I recall some PC-centric gamers dismissing it as a Diablo rip-off but I didn’t think that was a fair assessment. Yuji Naka did mention Diablo’s influence on it but its 3d environments and classic Phantasy Star elements made it stand out. I’m glad I bought PSO day one because a month later the game was infested by fucking hackers that ruined the experience.

Here’s my PSO character from January 2001 (sorry it’s so blurry; I couldn’t find my Dreamcast VGA adapter and all I have is a dying Commodore monitor at the moment for composite). I never played as a female character ever again online. I don’t need my avatar getting hit on all the time.

Shenmue was one of my most anticipated games ever and I bought the NA version day one, just before my 25th birthday. I didn’t know what to expect. Magazine interviews kind of misled me to think it was going to be a very open-ended game and possibly a new genre entirely. It turned out to be a fairly linear game in the existing graphic adventure genre but that didn’t matter. It was such a fresh and ambitious take on it. The attention to detail was insane. It’s one of very few games where my memories of it feel almost like a real place.

I had a brief glimpse of the Japanese DC version of Shenmue II at that import store and bought the PAL version in early 2002 when EB got it in. For some reason my VGA adapter didn’t work with it but other than that, it was everything I wanted in a sequel with more locations and considerable story advancement.

I’m going to stop this post with the Dreamcast but please discuss any Sega stuff you want beyond that as well and share your memories.


This may become my favourite thread, thanks for getting it started @NeoZeedeater … oh, and what a way to start it, your post is amazing!

I fell in love with Sega when I was around 8 years old. We had an NES, but my older brother wouldn’t allow me to play it much, so once I caught wind of the competing Master System, it became the only thing I really wanted. My parents got me the set that included the phaser and the 3D glasses for Christmas and I became a SEGA fan for life.

I loved what the Master System had to offer, but funny enough the Genesis is the only SEGA system I didn’t own during its time (I ended up choosing the TG-16, then SNES as my main consoles that gen). I would however play the Genesis at friends places and bought one later on to enjoy all the SEGA goodness I’d missed out on.

When the Saturn came, I jumped back on the SEGA train. Even though I also enjoyed the PlayStation that gen, I was mainly gaming on the Saturn. Even then, it felt like an underrated system that nobody was talking about, but the games didn’t lie… Some of my favourite games of all time were on the Saturn.

I bought the Dreamcast on launch and spent more money on that system than any other. I think SEGA sold dozens of Dreamcasts thanks to me, I would take it to friends places and demonstrate how awesome it was. I really felt SEGA was at its best during those days, so I was pretty disappointed when I learned that they would pull out of the hardware business.

Ever since, I’ve played most of SEGA’s offerings on the various consoles from Xbox, GameCube, PS2 and on… I still do today, currently playing Yakuza 5 and I am loving it.

Can’t wait to hear other stories/memories from you all!


Another great write-up, Neo! Thanks for sharing that. I especially like the story of your grandmother buying a Master System and Shinobi. I wish I had such a hardcore family member, haha!

I’ve been a huge Sega fan all my life, so a lot of what you have posted rings true for me as well. My very first encounter with Sega was probably when I played Up 'n Down at an arcade when I was just a little kid. I was very bad at the game, but I loved the bright colours and the twisty roads. A few years later, at the age of seven or so, I discovered Wonder Boy and I was instantly hooked. To my young mind, playing that game felt like going on a grand adventure.

The first time I got to play Sega games at home was when I got a Commodore 64. I bought Wonder Boy (of course), Space Harrier, Out Run and Turbo Out Run, and while they weren’t as impressive as the arcade versions, I loved those games all the same (especially Wonder Boy!). Also, the SID chip renditions of those classic tunes were pretty damn good. Magical Sound Shower and Space Harrier’s theme quickly became two of my favourite video game tunes.

Flash forward a couple of years and I got my hands on a brand spanking new Sega Master System with Hang-On and -gasp- the amazing Shinobi! What a great introduction to the SMS that was. Games like Dynamite Dux, Kung Fu Kid, Rampage, Wonder Boy in Monsterland and especially Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap further cemented my love for Sega’s magic 8-bit machine.

But then, just a few years later, my whole world got flipped upside down when I got my hands on the mighty Sega Mega Drive. It nearly felt like having the arcade at home! To me, Golden Axe, Ghouls 'n Ghosts and Strider seemed almost indistinguishable from their arcade counterparts! The list of excellent games that demanded my attention was impressive: Sonic and its sequels, Streets of Rage and its sequels, The Revenge of Shinobi, Shinobi III, Gunstar Heroes, Rocket Knight Adventures, Mazin Wars, Castle of Illusion, World of Illusion, Quackshot and countless others. Those games have supplied me with hours upon hours of joy and I must say it’s one of my happiest times in gaming.

I have very fond memories of the Saturn and Dreamcast as well, but I’ve been harping on about Sega for long enough now. Perhaps another time :wink:


Well, obviously, because SEGA does what… Nintendon’t!

There’s a good episode of the Netflix video game series High Score about SEGA in particular:


She also bought a Game Gear for herself. She had The Majors: Pro Baseball (she was a fan of the Montreal Expos team) and Pac-Man.