1990 was a transitional year for Sega. The Master System was kept on life support in the States and Europe. The Genesis entered its second year in Japan and its first year in the West. And the Game Gear made a cautious debut in Japan in the latter half of the year.
Go for two! For the love of everything, clear out our stock!*
A total of 27 games were released in 1990 for the Master System in the United States and Europe, and out of those 27, only a handful are worth playing. Master System originals like Alex Kidd in Shinobi World, Golfamania, and Aerial Assault injected the console with some much-needed vitality. Particularly as true stinkers like Fire & Forget II, Assault City, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and so many more, did their best to usher the system into the grave.
1991 should be a much better year for the Master System, perhaps the best since 1988. Giving the Game Gear the same internal components as the Master System made it easy for Sega and other developers to essentially create the same game for both systems. As such, the Master System 1991 release list balloons to 39 games, and many of those games are of significantly higher quality than the games released in 1989 and 1990.
1991 Master System Games I’m looking forward to: Gain Ground, Castle of Illusion, Golden Axe Warrior, Sonic the Hedgehog, Lucky Dime Caper.
Oh my, yes.*
74 games were released for the Genesis/Mega Drive in 1990 in Japan, the United States, and Europe, with 73 of them being shoot-em-ups…
Ok, slight exaggeration there, but hot dang did Sega’s beloved 16-bit console ever get a ton of shoot-em-ups in 1990.
I’m not going to link to these, but I will list them all for posterity, and so you can see what I had to put up with: Darwin 4081, Whip Rush, Thunder Force III, Phelios, XDR, Insector X, Hellfire, Burning Force, Arrow Flash, Fire Shark, Elemental Master, Dangerous Seed, Darius II, M.U.S.H.A., Gaiares, Heavy Unit: Mega Drive Special, and Battle Squadron. These are just the pure shoot-em-ups. Games with shoot-em-up elements include: Target Earth, Space Invaders ’91, Final Zone, Granada, Atomic Robo-Kid, and Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair. That’s 23 games in total. So nearly a third of all games released for the Genesis/Mega Drive in 1990 were shoot-em-ups or contained shoot-em-up elements. Unreal!
And you get a shoot-em-up! And you get a shoot-em-up!*
Now, it should be said that I enjoy the shoot-em-up genre as a whole. I gave many of the aforementioned games high marks, after all. Still, by the time I reached Gaiares, I was ready for a break. Thank goodness for games like Strider, Psy-O-Blade, Castle of Illusion, and Star Cruiser to break up the genre monotony.
There are a lot of Japan-only Mega Drive titles in the first half of the year. Will they be good? Will I be able to understand them? Who can say. 1991 is also when the Genesis broke out in the States, thanks to the massive success of Sonic the Hedgehog. Not even the release of the SNES with Super Mario World could temper the growth of the Genesis in ’91 and, by January 1992, Sega had 65% of the 16-bit console market (of course the Genesis had a two year head start over the SNES, but a success story is a success story).
All told, about 152 games were released for the Mega Drive/Genesis in Japan, the United States, and Europe. That’s over double the amount released in 1990.
1991 Genesis/Mega Drive games I’m looking forward to: Gain Ground, Shining in the Darkness, Zero Wing, Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage, Rent A Hero, Wonder Boy in Monster World, Toe Jam & Earl, Ys III, Rolling Thunder II, QuackShot.
Columns on the go and I can watch TGIF on ABC?*
The Game Gear released on October 6th, 1990 in Japan, and as such, only saw 10 games between its official release date and the end of the year. I expected very little from these games, and because of this, I was pleasantly surprised. Revenge of Drancon (Wonder Boy), Dragon Crystal and Shanghai II were three top-notch titles. The rest were more in line with my limited expectations, although Zan Gear and Taisen Mahjong HaoPai seem decent if you have a firm grasp on Japanese.
The Game Gear would see a wider release in the States, Europe and Brazil in the first half of 1991, and as such, its game list expands to 46 games. Some of these overlap with Master System titles releasing the same year, so expect multi-system reviews of games like Lucky Dime Caper. Others are Game Gear-exclusive, and in many cases, exclusive to Japan.
1991 Game Gear games I’m looking forward to: The GG Shinobi, Fantasy Zone Gear, Wagyan Land, Galaga ’91, Ax Battler – A Legend of Golden Axe, Ninja Gaiden, GG Aleste.
David Lynch has done it again.*
And finally – as if Sega needed another system to support – the Sega Mega CD would be released on December 12th, 1991 in Japan. I’ll do a full-blown writeup of the console add-on when I get to December ’91, but needless to say, Sega really didn’t need to release this thing. Yes, it is a neat piece of early 90s hardware, and yes there are some great games for it, but its release marked the beginning of Sega taking advantage of its loyal fans. A Sega CD here, a 32X there (a CDX weeping softly in the corner), and before you know it, consumers rightly think Sega’s bilking them for all they’re worth. Of course, the story’s more complicated than that, but the fact remains: whatever consumer goodwill Sega had built up by 1992 was all but lost by 1995. We’ll get there.
In the meantime, six games were released for the Mega CD in 1991, and frankly, none of them look that appealing. But if you were to ask me, which 1991 Mega CD games I’m looking forward to, I would say… all of them? Sort of? They all look so deliciously bad-good, and I’m absolutely ready to dive into the bizarre Sega CD library.
Are there any 1991 Sega moments you’d like me to cover? Any favorite games you’re looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below!