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Generation Next

Meanwhile, Sega was well aware that its Master System didn’t cut the mustard and kicked off the 16-bit console market with the Mega Drive. The Mega Drive was a master stroke from Sega, allowing the company to claw back some serious market share from Nintendo. I can still remember picking up my Mega Drive from my friendly German import game specialist (thanks Robert) and rushing home to play Space Harrier 2. Back then, the lead time between Japanese launches and European launches was very long (like the PSP one might say), and having access to this kind of hardware got me one of my early journalism gigs for ACE magazine.

It was some time after the launch of the Mega Drive that Nintendo finally stepped into the 16-bit ring with the Super Famicom (Super NES outside Japan). Although the new Nintendo console was more advanced than the Mega Drive, Sega had managed to achieve an enviable install base while Nintendo had dragged its heals. The result was that early sales of the Super NES in Europe were low, especially since it was considerably more expensive than Sega’s offering.

But there’s one thing that you always have to remember about Nintendo – it’s all about the games, not the hardware. Super Mario World on the Super NES was an all time classic, a game that you could play through ten times and still not discover every little hidden secret, a title with such outstanding graphics, sound and game play that even today it ranks in many gamer’s top ten. In fact Super Mario World was SO good, that I actually played, and completed the Japanese version on my Super Famicom, despite not being able to read a single line of text in the game – I just couldn’t wait for the English version to appear! Then when Nintendo delivered The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past, it was clear that the Super NES was far and away the best gaming platform out there.

Of course while the 16-bit battle raged on the high street, the R&D guys were working hard on 32-bit consoles. First out of the gate was the 3DO – a machine that was supposed to be the centre of your home entertainment setup. The creators of 3DO allowed various manufacturers to license the concept and produce compatible hardware. In theory this should have made it a huge success, but in reality the extortionately high price meant that consumers avoided it in droves, much like the similar MSX concept before it.

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