Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sega CD Video Game Console Review

The Sega CD was a CD add on for the Sega Genesis (Sega Mega Drive outside the US) first released in December 1991 in Japan, October 1992 for the US and 1993 for Europe. Sega thought that they would release a CD add on for the Genesis between releasing the Sega Saturn to bridge the gap between the two. The add on was able to sell 2.7 million copies which was just under 10 percent of the amount of Sega Genesis' sold. The Sega CD, along with another Genesis add on the 32X, were considered failures by Sega.

When it was released the Sega CD was one of lowest cost CD gaming consoles available at the time even after factoring in the cost of the Sega Genesis. The games being on Cd's allowed the games for the Sega CD to have up to 320 times the capacity compared to the Genesis cartridges. It also allowed Sega CD games to have red book CD quality audio. Many of the games on the Sega CD that were ports of regular Sega Genesis games usually have superior audio to the cartridge version.

Whenever you bring up the Sega CD the first thing on everyone's mind is Full Motion Video or FMV. When it was launched Sega heavily promoted FMV games as the future of gaming. When it came out that was the reason I bought mine. Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo games looked good but they were cartoonish where as the Sega CD FMV games looked amazing. I don't care what people say about it now but they looked good. It's true that because of the abilities of the Genesis the videos could only use so many colors on screen at a time and it washed out the video but it was leaps ahead of what was possible at that time, at that price point. There were other consoles available at the time that played good quality videos like the 3DO and the Phillips CDi but they also cost much more than the Sega CD, even when factoring in the cost of a Sega Genesis. The issue with the FMV games is that because the games would show a prerecorded video it didnt' give you many options to play. Unlike real 3D games you couldn't look where you wanted or do whatever you wanted, within the limits of the game. FMV games basically played like this, a video would play showing you the story and then you would be given a choice on how to proceed. You do not get many choices so replayablitlity wasn't the greatest for these games.

Sega CD Model 2

Another issue is that these FMV games, while some had good ideas, were not programmed very well and it hurt playability. One example is the FMV game Night Trap, the game play revolves around you watching over a slumber party with different cameras having to switch from one to another. When you see one of the people in the house get attacked you had to trigger traps to catch the bad guys and save the people in the house but as soon as you trigger the trap you have to change to another camera to save some else. Because of this if you actually want to beat the game you can't stop to watch the videos, which for me is most of the fun of the FMV games, instead you need to play the game a hundred times and write down which camera you need to be at to trigger a trap. It makes for a bad experience and this is a big reason why FMV games didn't take hold with the public.

There is a game I bought back then for the PC called Silent Steel which was a FMV game with you as the captain of an US submarine duking it out with a Russian sub. The sets looked great because the game was filmed on a real submarine and the actors didn't pull that FMV crap acting that most of them did. The game itself plays exactly as I mentioned above but the story was good so the game was good. It is an example of how to do a good FMV game. In reality a game like Silent Steel isn't too different then games like the Telltale games that are coming out now like The Walking Dead. The shows you a video and then you decide what happens next. The biggest difference is that in most of the FMV games there are no puzzles that you need to solve. With current technology Telltale can make a game within their own game engine so the cut scenes and the game play are seamless helping you to feel like the whole is a game and not mostly a 5 minute cut scene with one decision to make before the next cut scene. FMV games that came out during the Sega Cd's run didn't have the power to do that so the best they could do was film scenes like a movie which severely limited the players options.

Prize Fighter

The other issue that people have with the Sega CD is that most of the games that aren't FMV are just ports from other systems with some cut scenes added. This again is true enough but lots of the games are good and are made better by the Sega CD. The cut scenes that were added are pretty cool, especially the ones that were created for the Sega CD that take into count the limited amount of colors that could be on the screen at once. When the games were based upon a movie like Demolition Man the cut scenes were scenes from the movie and looked washed out like the regular FMV game videos. The other addition was to the soundtrack. With the Sega CD you could have real music instead of the chip tunes that regular non CD games had. For the most part the CD sounds were a big improvement. Also a few of the games that were ported from other systems to the Sega CD had extra levels that were either created for the Sega CD or didn't fit on the cartridge version.

When most people have anything nice to say about the Sega CD it is about the RPGs and there's a reason and it's because they are good games. The two Lunar games, Vay, Popful Mail, Sinning Force CD are some of the best RPGs of the era. Now with these games they need a lot of memory to save your games and that is another issue with the Sega CD. The internal memory is limited to 64 kilobytes and it goes quick. 84 KB is enough usually for one RPG and that's it. Game saves from FVM or platform games take up less space and you can fit around 5 to 10 saves on the Sega CD. Sega did release a backup RAM Cart which had 1 Megabyte of memory which helped a lot but those are now over 20 years old so the batteries can have already failed or on the way there as well as all your saves. They also cost a lot of money. Your best bet is to get a backup cart that are being made now. You can get the Ultra CD Backup Ram Cart for $31.99 and it has 4 times the space as the Sega Cart and 65 times the space as the Sega CD itself. It is the best way to go today.

Sega CD Back Up RAM CART

During this time Sega went crazy for the Genesis and released the Sega CD as an add on to it. After that they released the Sega 32X as a second add on. The 32X did even worse than the Sega CD and vanished pretty quickly. There were a few games that were released to be used with the Sega Genesis, Sega CD and Sega 32X - all 3 systems were required to play these games. The games were regular Sega CD FMV games like Night Trap and Corpse Killer that used the 32X's power to render the videos with more colors and clarity. If you have the 32X it is the best way to play those games that can use it but except for the game Fahrenheit which had the disk to be used for either the Sega CD or CD/32X combo you would need to buy the games separately. Combining the 32X and Sega CD and playing a regular Sega CD version won't enhance the video.

If you're interested to play some of these games today probably the best way is to emulate them, even though I don't like to. You'll need a Sega Genesis and a Sega CD and working Sega CDs are going up in price by the day. I think the biggest reason for this is that they break a lot. I've owned 3 model 2s in my life and 2 currently do not work. The model 1 Sega CDs were even worse and because of that cost seven more. Plus most of the good games cost a lot of money. There are also a few other models released like the Sega CDX (Multi-Mega in the rest of the world) which was a Sega Genesis and Sega CD in one model. JVC came out with a Genesis/CD combo called the X'Eye which was similar to the CDX but cost much more which makes it pretty rare today.

Sega CD Model 1


Here are a few games that I recommend if you want to dip your toe into the Sega CD.

RPGs: I don't want to lie but I haven't played these games because as I said I don't like to emulate games but everyone else has recommended them so I think I'm safe here.

Lunar : Eternal Blue
Lunar : The Silver Star
Shining Force CD
Popful Mail

SHOOTERS: I'm going to also count in shooters that use FMV backgrounds.

Robo Aleste
Keio Flying Squadron
Android Assault


Sonic CD
Heart Of The Alien
Another World
Flashback : The Quest For Identity
The Terminator

LIGHT GUN SHOOTERS: Time to dig out your Justifier. I'm not adding Snatcher because shooting is a small part of the game and you can use your controller.

Leather Enforcers
Mad Dog McCree
Crime Patrol
Who Shot Johnny Rock?
Mad Dog 2 : The Lost Gold


Road Avenger
Ground Zero Texas
Tomcat Alley
Sewer Shark


Snatcher - My favorite game for the Sega CD
The Space Adventure
Rise Of The Dragon
The Adventures Of Willy Beamish


Final Fight CD
Star Wars : Rebel Assault
The Third World War
Iron Helix
Prize Fighter


Like all consoles the Sega CD has good and bad games. Sega hyped FMV so much that it alienated a lot of people who didn't care for FMV games so they wouldn't give it a chance. Like everything I say if you think you might like something I would give it a try even if people tell you not to. You may be skipping something that you may love. If I'm being honesty I would have to rate the Sega CD a 5 out of 10 but in my heart it will always be a 10 out of 10.

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