The original Megadrive (it was re-named Genesis for the American market and released there in September 1989) was released in Japan in 1988. The first four available games – Super Thunderblade, Alex Kidd and the Enchanted Castle, Altered Beast and Space Harrier 2 showed that the machine could handle arcade conversions far better than equivalent home computers. It was released in Europe in November 1990 and retailed for £189.99.
Western third party publishers like Electronic Arts, Disney and later on Acclaim were eager to sign up to produce games for the Megadrive, expanding the variety of titles available. These showed that the Megadrive could handle more than just arcade titles, Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse from Disney and Populous from Electronic arts being two such examples.
But is was with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog and a subsequent pack-in that
saw sales really take off.
A year later a sequel was created (Sonic 2) and backed by an imaginative marketing campaign (sonic 2uesday) and became the Megadrive's biggest selling title ever. The Megadrive caught the media attention in a really big way and Sega sponsored all kinds of sport, music events and other products, continuing to bring awareness of video gaming to a wider audience and increasing sales.
The successful sales continued and two separate upgrades were produced a CD ROM drive (the Mega CD) and a 32 bit adapter (the 32X) although due to poor software support they never achieved the same success as the base unit.
The Megadrive was the early 90's most successful console and gained a huge library of arcade conversions, sports and original titles. The machines early Success lay in its accurate conversions of popular arcade games. Later on in its life innovative marketing wide range of great software and a £99.99 price point for the Megadrive played a part in its success. The last games released were at the end of 1997 in Europe and late 1998 in America.
There were many different variations from the original format; three different versions of the Megadrive were released. These were the same basic machine, but the casing and sound outputs varied. The later versions also had auto switching RF leads.
There was the Mega PC (built by Amstrad) which was a 25MHz 386x with a Megadrive cartridge slot in the front - it also had the Megadrive pad included (all in a tasteful cream).
The specification of the Megadrive was as follows:
C.P.U: Motorola M68000 16 bit processor running at 7.67Mhz
- Sound C.P.U: Z80a running at 3.58 MHz
- Main sound chip: Yamaha YM2612 6 channel FM
- Additional sound chip: 4 channel PSG
- Palette: 512
- Onscreen colours: 64
- Onscreen sprites: 80
- Resolution: 256x224 or 320x224 (software switchable) - thanks to yerricde for pointing this out.
- Outputs: separate R.F aerial and R.G.B outputs (AUX connector - Megadrive 1 only),
- stereo headphone jack (original model only)
- 9 pin EXT port (Early original model only)
- Expansion port on the bottom right hand side for Mega CD
- 2 nine pin joypad connectors on the front of the machine.