For the current issue’s Mega Drive celebratory feature we sent a whole bunch of questions to a whole bunch of videogame journos to gather a whole bunch of their thoughts on Sega’s wonder machine, and sadly not all of them got back to us in time to make it into the article.
At the time we fired off an email to Tom Guise (of MegaTech fame) he told us that he was in Macau playing poker to the early hours, so you’d think answering our questions would probably be the last thing on his mind. Not so. Amazingly Tom did get back to us and provided us with some really great answers about his memories of the Mega Drive, and we were royally miffed we didn’t have time to include them in the actual feature. Anyway, because I didn’t want them going to waste I asked Tom if he would be happy for us to post his answers onto our blog, and he kindly agreed.
Can you recall the first time you ever saw a Mega Drive running, and what was your impression of the machine?
The first time I saw a Mega Drive running was only when I’d bought it. December 1990, 18 years old. Until that point, all I’d had was a long-defunct BBC Micro, but all my friends had Amigas (and previously, C64s), and I just wanted to play some cool games for Christmas. I’d earned some money from my cretinous job at the time, and just kept looking at the dazzling pictures of Altered Beast on the back of the box. Arcade-quality, the box said. It was, of course, a magnificent fabrication, and I was all set to return the machine in disgust, except, fortunately, I’d also bought Golden Axe. Kicking those little squeaking imps about to release little blue bottles, and thumping the dwarf (controlled, of course, by your friend) on the head with the butt of your sword – so as to simulate a forced blow job – sold me. I’d also bought Super Hang On, which truly was awesome. There weren’t many UK games out at the time. And, after misguidedly buying (and returning) the dire Last Battle and (the just plain mediocre) Super Thunderblade, I picked up the slightly pricier Ghouls ‘N’ Ghosts, mainly because it promised a two-player feature (in fact, alternating two-player action, you lying sh*&s). All was forgiven though, because it really was, and still is, one of the best games I’ve ever played. And then, when I saw the arcade original in my local sports centre cafeteria, I realised… Sega hadn’t lied to me – the Mega Drive really could have arcade perfect games (with slightly smaller graphics). Better, in fact – you couldn’t jump diagonally in the arcade game!
What is your all time favourite Mega Drive game and why?
Possibly the original Sonic the Hedgehog, just because it really was the first Mega Drive game that actually looked like something you couldn’t do on any other machine at the time. It was fast (really fast), stylish, cool, and it was amazing fun. I remember looking at it playing in the window of Rumbelows, next to Super Mario World, and it looked way better (in hindsight, SMW was obviously technically better). But that was what truly defined Sega and Nintendo fans at the time – superficial looks, instant gratification and cool versus technical edge, depth and challenge. I was an instant gratification junkie, still am. Funnily enough, I was just in Asia playing poker, sitting next a guy who is now a director of an online betting site, and I told him I used to write for games mags. “I know,” he said. “I used to read your stuff.” Which was spooky. Then he said, “I was on Gamesmaster once, for completing Act One of Sonic the Hedgehog in the fastest time.” “26 seconds,” I said instantly, and we both laughed knowigly. If you can’t do that, you never played your Mega Drive properly.
What is your favourite Sega series and why?
That would be the Virtua Fighter series, but you’re talking Mega Drive, right? As a series, the Sonic games, I guess, because they were all monumentally cool (I’m not including Spinball, and that s*!tty isometric one), and each one appeared at a defining moment in my Mega Drive history. Sonic 1 spurred me to get my job, Sonic 2 was around just when the world went Mega Drive mad (and we partied with Right Said Fred and Cathy Dennis at Hamleys), and Sonic 3 appeared during the peak of the machine’s technical power. I didn’t like his cross-eyed, waddling look though. I’m convinced the Americans were behind that freakshow.