It was my discovery of the mighty OutRun in the arcades of Torquay that first brought the Sega name to my attention and my subsequent acquisition of their splendid Master System console endeared them to me further, but it was when the MegaDrive arrived on the scene that I truly became ensnared by their magnificence, twenty long years ago now.
I didn't know which game was 'slotted' into the shiny console, it didn't matter. The 'Sega' logo appeared on the screen in a new and exciting way. The screen flashed .... a figure jumped up out of sight, a shurikin flashed across the screen accompanied by a sound effect, another followed it .... EXPLOSION!! Lightning ripped across the sky. A sword appeared. It expertly deflected the shurikins. The person holding the sword is seen .... It is Joe Musashi - master ninja! All this while amazing music coincides perfectly with the action. The title appears: The Super Shinobi! It was unlike anything that had ever gone before it - even outdoing most arcade games of the time, and nothing from the actual game had yet been seen!
The events of this day remain the most a new console has impressed me upon seeing it for the first time. My friend and his brother had some other imported games as well but none were quite as dazzling as this first one. A few months went by and the MegaDrive has finally been launched here in the UK so my friend decided to switch his Japanese console for an official PAL one. Until, that is, he discovered that it ran slightly slower than a Japanese machine so he decided to sell it and return to his imported one again. This was shortly before Christmas so I seized the opportunity to take it off his hands by 'suggesting' to my parents that it would make an ideal Christmas present for me, and to my not-inconsiderable delight - they agreed! It was then a long wait until Christmas morning of course, but when it did arrive it was a moment to behold. I played each game as I unwrapped them and can remember phoning my good friend (and fellow MD-admirer), Luke, so he could hear the awesome music as I played! Ah, what a great day that was, and the beginning of a long relationship that still holds up today. My friend and his brother had bought five games for their UK MD before reverting to its Japanese forebear and they were:
Altered Beast (1988)
Revenge of Shinobi (1989)
(full review here)
Thunder Force 2 (1989)
(full review here)
Mystic Defender (1989)
Spellcaster! The first game was an arcade adventure with some RPG overtones but this game was very much of the platform/run 'n' gun variety featuring a nimble character who could collect and use a variety of magics over the large and atmospheric game-world. It's a bit like a mystical, ogre-filled version of Revenge of Shinobi or, as I recall a magazine of the day cruelly putting it, "a poor-man's Ghouls 'n' Ghosts". Whatever you want to compare it to, it's an underrated and enjoyable adventure if you ask me, and one I was pleased to have as one of the earliest parts of my MD collection.
Golden Axe (1989)
So there we have it - my first five MegaDrive games but certainly not my last. Sega's 16-bit wonder would go on to dominate my free time over the coming months, cause some arguments with fellow games, solve some others, and even now is still by far the console I've spent the most time on. At my peak I had around 70-80 games for it and, unlike some consoles I would go on to own, all the games were played thoroughly. It's also a console that's aged extremely well in my view - many of its games are as playable now as they were the day they came out and that must surely be a testament to Sega's awesomeness when they were at their absolute best!