Sega CD Museum

I found some of my old Sega CD games and thought I’d make a museum post. The first is the Sega Classics/Sherlock Holmes pack-in that came with the system. I mentioned before that an old game with new music wouldn’t really improve the game that much, but I did enjoy FIFA with its realistic sounds. Today the emphasis for soccer games is probably more on player rosters and gameplay, and sound is just expected to be real. Back then, it was a huge deal to have a sports game that actually sounded like you were inside the stadium; as you can see, it was a majorly touted feature on the game box itself.

Sonic CD was a completely new game built from the ground up for the Sega CD, and the result was arguably the best Sonic game ever. It has since been re-released for multiple systems, including current iOS and Android phones. Simply amazing.

Herzog Zwei

This past week I’ve had some difficulty continuing on Adventure 2012, so I decided to play a game from my Games List as a diversion and to hopefully get me back on track. The game I chose was 1989’s Herzog Zwei on the Sega Genesis…

Six straight hours later, I finished the game using “Ludwig”, the red character. I ate breakfast, drank coffee, and then played Herzog Zwei for the rest of the day. I didn’t even use the bathroom. I did eat a small snack which JC heated up for me.

Even when I was a kid, I never played games for six hours straight, and I never played through Herzog Zwei in one sitting. I was dazed. My bottom was numb. The funny thing is, having achieved my personal requirement for crossing the game off the list, I want to beat the game again, this time with “Balsaga/Wahrsager”, the blue character.

I had a lot of fun blowing things up, commanding troops, and listening to the bassy soundtrack. I guess you could say I got lost in the game. Still, I don’t know if I’ll do the straight-through thing again. If I do, I’ll embed the video below the “Ludwig” one. 🙂

Model 1 Sega Genesis

Today’s museum post will be of my pride and joy, my original Sega Genesis system. The original console was offered to me as a bribe from my mother to get me to study hard in order to get into a prestigious high school (I think that was the last time I ever got straight 4.0s in my academic career). I don’t remember the circumstances of my Sega CD acquisition, but I do remember bringing it home, unboxing it, and then setting it up. It was in the evening and my cousin was with us. I think we bought it from Macy’s in Serramonte.

After the first half-hour it was kind of a “is that it after begging and pleading with my parents to spend $299?!?!” sort of moment. It was one of the first times I ever felt disappointed with a gaming system, but at the time I didn’t know how to process such a feeling, so I tried really hard to enjoy it more. Sol-Feace and Golden Axe with CD music? Wow! Hardware scaling and rotation? Woo! At that age I was much more easily swayed by marketing hype, unaware that it was gameplay that was most instrumental in making a game fun. So, even though Golden Axe is fun, by that time it was a 4-year-old game, and after having played it so many times in the past 3 years, new music (and actually, it was pretty crappy music) didn’t suddenly make it fun again.

Still, I fondly remember many a rainy afternoon playing Sherlock Holmes in our little tiny apartment, the little tiny and grainy video of scenes from cold, foggy Victorian London making a fine accompaniment to the cold, wet San Francisco winter outside. Ah, memories from adolescence.

The Super Street Fighter II cartridge is one of the last few cartridges I have after I foolishly sold most of my collection.

Enjoy!

Sega Master System Nostalgia

Sega Master System Game Collection
Sega Master System Game Collection

For today’s museum post, I have a collection of games for the Sega Master System (SMS), collected over a period of nearly 30 years. The SMS was the first gaming console I ever had. I remember coming home from primary school one day and our parents taking us to New Town Plaza in Sha Tin. On one of the higher floors, there was a stationery shop where the SMS was sold. I have no idea why my father picked the SMS over the more popular Nintendo Famicom, but that’s what he did and the rest is history, and now I’m a Sega fanboy for life.

A funny thing that happened was that after we brought the new SMS home, we set it up and started playing, and then my father said “Hey, this isn’t motorcycle racing”. I guess he was sold on the motorcycle racing game Hang On and somehow we ended up with Bank Panic, a completely different game. We took it back to the store to exchange it. So, although I’ve thought of Hang On as my first SMS game for the past 30+ years, technically Bank Panic is the first SMS game we ever had.

Hang On - Sega Master System
Our “first” SMS game, Hang On

Pretty soon after, we added the second and third games to our collection. It would appear that we were big fans of driving games:

SMS Games Hang On, World Grand Prix, and Action Fighter
SMS Games Hang On, World Grand Prix, and Action Fighter
Game Descriptions on the Back
Game Descriptions on the Back

Our move to America was, in my memory, quick and sudden. Somehow, either I or my parents was able to pack the SMS and all its games and accessories into a suitcase and bring everything over. Looking back, it’s amusing to me that at this life-changing crossroads, the most important thing to my childhood self was my Sega Master System and its games.

Relics from Childhood - Sega Game Lists
Relics from Childhood – Sega Game Lists

Over the years, I continually added games to my library. One of my favorite places to buy games was Kay Bee Toys, but they mostly sold their games at retail prices. Later, when most retail stores no longer sold SMS games, I hit the mother lode in a place called Toy Liquidators, on Howard Street in San Francisco where the Burlington Coat Factory is now. I bought many games there on the cheap, brand new and still shrink-wrapped. I loved that place. Even later, when I was in college, I chanced upon a comic book store that had a bunch of games that were, though used, titles I had always wanted, but could never afford. I remember running to the ATM to get the cash to buy them, worried that someone else might discover and snatch them away from me.

I have mentioned before that there are some items in my life that I will never part with. My Sega Master System and games are some of those items. I hope you will enjoy the rest of the gallery below.

One of My Biggest Regrets

One of the biggest regrets of my life is selling off all my Sega Genesis games. In the early 90s, I got my hands on something called a game copier and copied all of my games before selling them at liquidation prices. At the time I thought I was so smart, but looking back I see that I was nothing but greedy and short-sighted. The Genesis was one of my favorite consoles, and what I was doing was deleting mementos of my childhood one game at a time. Not only that, I was doing something illegal, pirating games, and I was doing it all for a measly $10 per game. Fortunately, I never had access to a Master System game copier, or else I probably would have sold off that collection, too.

When I look back at how I acquired all of those games in the first place, I wonder how I could have been so stupid to sell them. I was excited to buy each and every one and played all of them extensively. It was a time when I would really value a single game because it was all I had. Reading the manual, plugging the physical cartridge into the console, admiring the box art, none of these things can be done with a game copier. Why didn’t I think of it then?!

The saddest thing is that these childhood mementos will never, ever come back. This is what I regret the most. As I’ve written on this blog, I’ve recently gone through and disposed of some old things, but there are some items in my life that are off limits that I will never dispose of. My Sega Genesis games should have been one of those items.

To find some solace I’m going to try to “rebuild” my collection using screenshots of title screens. I’ll try to reconstruct my collection in order of acquisition. When I’m done it should be pretty cool to look at a grid of title screens. It would have been better to have the actual games, of course, but unfortunately some mistakes can never be rectified.

Back to Basics

I’ll admit it – I’ve been kind of depressed ever since coming back home and ending our two-and-a-half month long trip. We’ve been back nearly a week, and most of that time has been spent sitting in front of my computer doing nothing, clicking on the same bookmarks every few minutes to see if anything has updated. No inspiration to update this site despite the massive amounts of raw materials (pictures, videos, scans) I amassed during the trip. Brought me back to certain days at work, when I used to hit a wall and just not do anything and feel like a loser, and then further not do anything because I felt like a loser. What a vicious circle.

If I had to pinpoint what causes me to become like this, I would venture to guess that it’s the amount of things I feel I have to get done: settle and reconcile my finances, unpack, clean my room, update this blog, plan for our next move, sort my photos, etc. With so many things requiring my attention, I find myself paralyzed instead. I want to do everything at once, and I have no patience. I’m pulled in every single direction, 360 degrees. That has to be it, because that’s how it used to be at work.

Sega Saturn Controller
Sega Saturn USB Controller, great for emulation or PS3 use.
Glenlivet and Chocolate
Glenlivet and chocolate, a delicious combination.

Tonight, I decided to allow myself to do something, to do one thing. I poured myself a dram of the Glenlivet, plugged in my Sega Saturn controller, fired up the Kega Fusion emulator, and resumed playing Wonder Boy III: the Dragon’s Trap (I told you, I love Sega, always have, always will). Playing this game, watching the Lion-Man sprite move across the screen, listening to the 8-bit sounds, I was inspired to write this post. Thoughts came to me from every single direction, from wanting to explain the progression of why I wanted to play this game in the first place to where it had taken me. So, let us start backwards, to the last time I played this game…

It was in our little studio apartment at 34th and Broadway in Manhattan that we had found through Airbnb (if you know what to expect, it can be a great way to find cheap accommodations). Sandy was not yet here, but she was near and New York City was preparing for her arrival. The skies were gray and ominous, and there was a wind that seemed like it never stopped blowing. Walking around the Herald Square area, one could feel the tension in the air as the streets got emptier and the lines at Duane Reade got longer. After I had procured a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and the last Stella Artois six-pack, I hurried back into the safety of the apartment.

With nothing left to do but wait, I decided to finally play this 23-year old game. I’ve played it on and off over the years, but I hadn’t really touched any emulators for a long time because I had convinced myself that they weren’t authentic. I still have my Sega Master System, but hooking it up to a modern day flat panel is a pain, and the results aren’t quite flattering. We finally threw out our 23-year old Sharp Linytron TV earlier this summer (besides, I was in NYC). So no, if I wanted to reminisce, it would have to be with the emulator. (I just checked, I actually don’t have the original cartridge, oops.)

***

About 2 weeks earlier, we were in London eating breakfast just outside Euston Station. I had just eaten something called a pasty for the first time. We went inside the station to use the facilities and, while I was waiting for JC at WHSmith, a magazine caught my eye. retro GAMER. On the cover were names that were very familiar to me, having grown up with and played video games in the 90s: Pilotwings, Psygnosis, Final Fantasy, Konix Multisystem, Shigeru Miyamoto, and of course Wonder Boy III. I thumbed through, gushing with nostalgia and excitement. I had to get this magazine. But, JC and I had already pledged to only purchase things that we actually needed, because we were traveling around the world and didn’t need the extra baggage, and we were trying to stretch our budget. I consulted with her when she came out, and she told me to decide myself. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t get it, so I did.

Euston Station, Pasty Stand
Euston Station, Pasty Stand.
WHSmith retro GAMER
£4.99 won’t break the bank (I hope).

British gaming and PC magazines have always appealed to me. The first one I ever bought was actually in the 90s: a CVG that I chanced upon at Barnes and Noble in Oakland (back then we hardly ever went to Oakland). Their covers are rather attractive, with glossy paper and pages that are physically larger than American gaming mags. Costco even sells them from time to time. With WHSmith stores everywhere in London, it was only a matter of time before I succumbed and bought a magazine after seeing it for the third time (this happened with Android magazine, finally had to buy it at the Heathrow WHSmith).

CVG circa May 1993
CVG circa May 1993. Still have it after all these years.
Mag vs. Mag
A British mag vs. an American mag. Notice the size difference.
Android magazine
Finally bought it after seeing it for the Nth time.

Back on topic, though, it was the feature in retro GAMER that inspired me to play Wonder Boy III again. Once I actually sat down and forced myself to load up the ROM and play the game for at least 10 minutes, it didn’t matter that it was running on an emulator. I was back in the 90s. I was back in middle school. I still remember reading the manual for this game and noticing something quirky: HU-MAN was running around the town, but HU-MAN could not be used during the game. It was a special password that was in the manual that allowed you to use HU-MAN and receive all the perks associated with that password. Ah, childhood.

Tonight, once I actually sat down and forced myself to load up the ROM and play the game for at least 10 minutes, the memories started surfacing and I thought of all these things that I wanted to post here. I don’t know if I’ll revert back to my paralyzed state tomorrow, but tonight I am able to focus and pull my mind away from the endless loop of bookmark-clicking because I wanted to continue a 23-year old game I started playing in New York City after having seen a feature on that game in a magazine I saw at a bookstore inside a train station in London.

Back to basics. Doing something I love, and have loved. Finishing something I started. Focusing on one thing at a time. Perhaps that is what will get me back on track. Good night, Wonder Boy. Good night, Monster Land.

Finishing Up Tokyo

It’s been over a month since we left Tokyo. Between then and now, we’ve been to Hong Kong, London, Paris, Aberdeen (Scotland), and now New York City. I must admit to suffering from a little travel fatigue. Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, however, I finally have some time to rest and catch up and post about our circumnavigation of Earth. This should be the last post on Tokyo, a summary of the other things that we did that I haven’t posted yet. Here goes…

Our Hotel, the Subway, Tokyo Game Show

Our hotel was located in an area called Shiodome, which is more of a “downtown” in terms of business rather than tourism. Again, japan-guide.com has an excellent overview of the place, so I won’t reinvent the wheel. Still, our hotel was pretty close to Shimbashi station, one of the major train stations in Tokyo.

Whoaaaa
Our hotel was wayyyyyyy up near the top of this building.
Tokyo Tower
View of the Tokyo Tower from the hotel lobby.

Tokyo’s subway has a reputation for being one of the cleanest and most efficient subway systems in the world. Having now traveled on various subways from California to London, I can say that this reputation is well-deserved. The seats are comfortable and the cars are clean. There are no signs telling people not to eat on trains, and people do, and they clean up after themselves (not that they make a huge mess to begin with). There is no graffiti or other defacing of public property.

Do Not Rush
Do not rush, mofo.

Having such a clean subway to ride on was a delight and much appreciated during the relatively long trip to Makuhari Messe, the site of the Tokyo Game Show. As I mentioned before, I’ve read about the TGS for years and it was unbelievable to actually participate in it. Unfortunately, most events and activities were in Japanese only and I was not able to immerse myself as much as I would have liked. It was still fun, though, and we scored a number of promotional items, including a Sega tote bag!

Entering TGS 2012
Wow, can’t believe I’m here!
Super Crowded
A sea of people.

Ferry to Odaiba

Odaiba is a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. On this day we took the ferry from Asakusa to Odaiba, sailing along the Sumida River and passing under many, many bridges. We even passed by the famous Tsukiji Fish Market. Of course, the most famous bridge we passed under was the Rainbow Bridge.

Ferry to Odaiba
The ferry to Odaiba.
Tsukiji
Passing by the famous Tsukiji Fish Market.
Rainbow Bridge
Within sight of the Rainbow Bridge.

Odaiba at Night

We spent the entire afternoon and early evening on the island. After dinner, we stopped by a retro arcade and played games like Sega’s Outrun. There were also table-top versions of Namco classics like Pac-man and Galaga. When we went back outside, the stunning night view of the Rainbow Bridge greeted us.

The Rainbow Bridge at Night
The Rainbow Bridge at night.
The Rainbow Bridge at Night
A closer look.

It was getting late so we made our way back to the hotel, but we wanted to come back to ride the ferris wheel, which we did a few days later.

On the Rainbow Bridge
On the Rainbow Bridge this time, riding the Yurikamome line.
Daikanransha Ferris Wheel
One of the biggest ferris wheels in the world.
Viewed from Below
Viewed from below.

Goodbye

I have always wanted to go to Japan, especially Tokyo. I finally got my wish, and it was everything I had hoped for. We didn’t see everything on the list, but that just leaves something to do for next time. Until then, I shall cherish these memories and photos. Sayonara!

Goodbye!
Until next time!

I Love Sega

Ever since my father bought me my first video game system, the Sega Master System, I have been a fan of Sega. While still a child living in Hong Kong, I would write letters to Sega of America telling them how much I loved them, and they would actually respond and send me the latest catalog.

Once I moved to the United States, my PAL SMS wouldn’t work, so I traded it in (yes, the guy at the electronics store actually wanted my PAL system) for an NTSC model. I continued to contact the company. I would call 1-800-USA-SEGA and request Helpful Hints sheets (basically what the reps read off of when gamers called in for game help), and a few days later I would get them in the mail. I still have them all, and perhaps will scan and post them someday.

Then, Sega Genesis came out, and of course I had to have it. Later, it was the Sega CD. Those days of the early 1990s definitely have a soft spot in my heart.

Today, Sega no longer makes consoles, but I am still a fan. I get excited when I see the Sega logo, still the same as the one on my very first video game system. Imagine how excited I was when I saw my first Sega amusement center in Akihabara. It seems Sega today makes a lot of amusement machines, just as they always have, but in a different form. They are less video game, and more skill-game such as those cranes that pick up stuffed animals or other prizes. I was perfectly happy pumping 100-yen coins into those machines.

Later on in Tokyo, we went to the Tokyo Game Show. Of course, Sega had one of the largest booths, showing off their latest games such as Yakuza 5. If only I spoke Japanese!

Sega at Tokyo Game Show

I should find my old catalogs (found some) and post them here, especially the one I received when I still lived in Hong Kong. For now, enjoy these photos of Sega centers in Tokyo. Long live Sega!

Making Out Like a Bandit

Toys

We stopped by Akihabara today. The first thing I saw coming out of the metro was a Sega amusement center. I’m a long-time Sega fan so I was giddy, of course. We played one of the crane games and won a little toy, as seen above. Other goods that I made off with:

  • A mini wifi hotspot that will allow me to use my phone with the hotel’s wired internet (the wifi in the hotel has a weak signal).
  • A bigger wireless mouse to replace my tiny and overly-sensitive Logitech. Unfortunately, this new mouse has a feature called “Touch & Go” which turns off the mouse automatically after 3 seconds if you don’t touch its right side. It’s supposed to save power, but I have found that it doesn’t always respond properly. Before I found out more online, I thought that the mouse was defective. I’ll have to train myself to touch the right side of the mouse before I use it. It would have been a great mouse if not for this issue.
  • HDMI cable for connecting my laptop to the hotel’s LCD.
  • Extension cord so I can use and charge my phone at the same time when I’m in bed. If I use the phone at night without charging it, then I’ll have less than 100% battery to start the day, and that’s not something you want to do with a Galaxy Nexus.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog wet-nap for cleaning your hands after playing crane games!

In addition to a shopping haul I also spent some time in an arcade to play some Super Street Fighter II Turbo. It’s an older game so I pretty much played against the computer. Once I got to Akuma, however, someone decided to challenge me with his/her Chun Li (I didn’t see who was on the other side of the cabinet, but probably a he). I lost quickly just because it’s been so long since I’ve played against a real person and the adrenaline rush was a bit overwhelming. I got him on the run-back, and then again when he picked O. Ken. So, I can now say I played Street Fighter in Japan, and even beat a local player!

Since arriving in Tokyo I’ve been hacking my lungs out and having problems sleeping. That’s such a shame because I’m really liking Tokyo and there’s so much to see and do. I’ll just have to savor the few hours per day that I have when I’m not super tired, like today with Akihabara. I got to walk around the electronic stores and check out the women dressed in maid outfits, nice!

I suppose the one benefit of being unwell is my appetite. I’ve been eating like a pig. I think I need to eat more to replenish all of that energy lost to coughing and tossing and turning in bed. Below is today’s highlight, ramen that makes me salivate just looking at it:

Ramen

Finally, a sunset that you just can’t get anywhere else:

Dusk

I can’t wait to get better.

Sega Mega Drive Original Box

I was at my aunt’s and she brought out this Sega Mega Drive box thinking that it was originally mine (it wasn’t, it was my cousin’s). Talk about WOW. When I was a kid, the Mega Drive was like the holy grail to me. I had a North American Sega Genesis and I loved it, of course, but there was this notion that all things Japan were better, more exotic. I still remember buying my first imported Mega Drive game, Devil’s Crash MD for $75, which was a lot to ask for from my mother back then (most Genesis games were in the $49 range). I’ll never forget that day, because it was the day of the Oakland Hills fire. We were indoors most of the day and when we came back out with my new game in hand, the sky was orange, and we were in San Francisco! Anyhow, here are photos I snapped of the box.

Sega Mega Drive Original Box

Sega Mega Drive Original Box

Sega Mega Drive Original Box

Sega Mega Drive Original Box

Sega Mega Drive Original Box

Sega Mega Drive Original Box