A Rare Look Inside SEGA In The Mid 90s

We couldn’t only feature Nintendo, so to balance things in the universe, here is the follow-up to the series of translations from the French documentary “Otaku”, this time taking a rare look inside Sega, their Sega vs Nintendo rivalry and Sega arcade games from the mid 90s.

Oh yeah, there is ample footage from the 31st Amusement Machine Show (1994 JAMMA Convention) in Japan! Once again, big thanks to Game Escape for the English subtitles!


source: Game Escape

 

A Rare Look Inside Nintendo During the SNES Era

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like in the Nintendo offices during their Super Nintendo days, then this excerpt  from the 1994 French documentary film Otaku is exactly what you are looking for!

Thanks to William Cladley from Game Escape for discovering this film and for adding English subtitles! Oh yeah, you’ll all recognise a younger Shigeru Miyamoto who even back then was always striving for a balance in creativity and management – both attributes have served him well.


source: Game Escape

The Completely Insane Policies of Nintendo’s President

Wow, imagine for one minute that Hiroshi Yamauchi was your boss! Actually, as much as he wasn’t a fan of video games, he did modernise Nintendo and transform the video game market, so he couldn’t not have been that bonkers, or was he?

To celebrate Nintendo’s 129th anniversary, YouTuber Larry Bundy Jr has made a fact hunt video about the former company president – highlighting some of his “completely insane” policies. The vid runs for a tad over 12 minutes and includes his public dispute with Square Enix, his dislike of Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPGs) and his ridiculous demands to be the only Yamauchi at Nintendo!


video source: Larry Bundy Jr

story source: Nintendo Life

80’s Arcade Video Games, Pinball and Mullets

Ah the good old days of the 1980s, hanging out at our local arcade parlours with mates and our monster mullets!

Thanks heaps to We Are Diehards on Facebook for sharing this most awesome vid with us all – let the nostalgia ooze baby!


source: We Are Diehards via Facebook

 

The Existential Horror of Sonic Adventure

Since his debut in 1991, Sonic the Hedgehog had been more than a mascot for Sega. He was the lifeblood of the company, a saving grace that finally allowed the Mega Drive / Genesis to gain a foothold in a market utterly dominated by Nintendo. Next to their portly Italian plumber, Sonic was a revelation, a zippy speedster filled with rad 90’s ’tude.

Flashforward to 1998. Nintendo and Sony had entered the 3D space with spectacular results due to Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot, their dominance further cemented by the likes of Banjo-Kazooie and Spyro the Dragon. Thanks to these titles, a solid formula was emerging for 3D platformers. Create a vibrant world, pop a cutesy character into it, and give the player responsive controls with which to steer them.

While these genre defining works were being released, Sonic the Hedgehog was suspiciously absent in the 3D realm. He’d failed to make an appearance on the Sega Saturn, due to a dysfunctional development cycle that caused his 3D debut to be cancelled. In turn, the Saturn died a quick death on the market, which some attributed to the lack of a Sonic title on the system. With the imminent release of their 6th generation console, Sega were not going to make the same mistake.

Hell or high water, Sonic Adventure would be the flagship title for the Dreamcast at its Japanese release, even if that meant a mere 10-month development cycle. In a post-Mario 64 world, Sonic Team sought to create large adventure fields for Sonic to travel through between the more traditional action stages. There would be a greater emphasis on story, quests and exploration. The action stages themselves would be expansive and frantic, fully exploiting Sonic’s foray into the 3rd Dimension. This would be a Sonic game for the next generation, proving that both Sega and their blue mascot were here to stay.

That was the idea at least. In practice, it tells a very different story.

Walking through the adventure fields, the player is immediately hit with an eerie sense of isolation. They’re huge, sprawling areas for sure, but for the most part, utterly devoid of any landmarks or NPCs. It’s easy to lose sight of your objective or overlook the key needed to open the next progression point, so the player often wanders aimlessly through the dull, lifeless environments. For a game starring Sega’s famous speedster, you spend a lot of time trapped in areas, going around in circles. Metaphorically, someone’s put lead in Sonic’s boots.

It doesn’t help that the longer you stare at the adventure fields, the more unsavoury questions raise their head. Why is Sonic suddenly a giant blue hedgehog living amongst humans? Why are ancient Inca ruins a train ride away from an American metropolis? Why is there a ladder that leads down to a solitary wooden pier, seemingly daring the player to jump to their watery doom? Beneath the bright colours and cheery J-pop, there’s the ever-present sensation that Sonic doesn’t belong in this strange world.

When you finally unlock a new action stage you feel nothing short of relief, though it’s short-lived. Simply put, Sonic is way too fast to control in a 3D space, and the fixed camera angles often have a stroke trying to follow Sonic at top speed. These issues are exasperated by a multitude of glitches that cause Sonic to get trapped in tight spaces, or plummet through platforms to his death. This makes later levels like the Egg Carrier and the Mystic Temple an utterly tortuous ordeal.

image source: Nerdbacon

Sonic Adventure feels like a surreal nightmare from which its titular character is trying to escape, and that’s quite fitting. Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot had proven that 3D platforming was the future, but for Sonic, it was his greatest existential threat; his iconic speed proving too much to handle in a 3D space. It makes sense then that Sonic doesn’t fit in this odd world of Inca ruins, garish casinos and lumpy looking humans, because in retrospect, he never should have abandoned his 2D origins.

The dissonance between Sonic and his game world are captured best in the unskippable cut-scenes. The dialogue and voice acting aren’t fit to lick the boots of the worst Saturday morning cartoon, but it’s the lip sync that’s truly abominable. Mouths pulsate and stretch in all directions, like a snake unhinging its jaw to eat an egg. Eyes enlarge and bulge. Nothing comes close to matching the dialogue spoken. In moments like these, the game feels like a horror-show, as Sega pushes these simple characters into dark areas they’re not equipped to handle.

In 2001, the Dreamcast was discontinued, and Sega exited the hardware business, surviving to this day as a third-party developer. For the first time, Sonic was not enough to save Sega from its financial woes.

Though Sonic Adventure continues to be remembered fondly, it’s patient zero for the problems that have plagued the franchise for the last 20 years. The dull adventure stages, the broken gameplay, the insipid storytelling – this is where it all began. In fact, it may be the first existential horror game in the platforming genre, in which a revered icon faces his complete obsolescence in a new era. The real antagonist of the game isn’t Dr. Robotnik or a cranky water god or even the horribly broken controls, but rather the steady march of technological progress. And that’s something not even Sonic could outrun.

Special thanks to Shannen Hogan for introducing me to the madness that is Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jack O’Higgins
Jack is a freelance journalist based in Dublin. He covers music, film, comics and video games. If this article angered you, please complain to him on twitter at @jackohigginz, as he really needs to raise his social media profile.

Follow Jack O’Higgins on Twitter

 

 

 

Retro Gaming Rarity: SEGA Master System Store Demo Unit

There are a few holy grail and rare items in the video gaming industry, and then there are those that are so rare that you probably didn’t even know they existed.

Well, it seems that this SEGA Master System Store Demo Unit on eBay falls in the category of ultra rare and an absolute holy grail! The seller has put up a considerable price tag on their auction, but we reckon it is totally justifiable, as they are being honest in their description and also opened to best offers.

This rarity is unique as there hasn’t been any precedent set before it – this is the first one we have encountered that is for sale which is in great working condition which also comes with very rare Master System demo game cartridges and cards!

It goes without saying that we would love this in our collection. How about you guys, do old gaming demo units interest you?

source: eBay Australia

 

The Pinball VS Arcade Industry Battle of the 80s and 90s

During the boom times of the 80s and 90s, it would have been quite hard to imagine that one day the coin-operated (coin-op) pinball and arcade video games business would (almost) disappear.

With the current worldwide resurgence in pinball and old school arcade machines making a comeback in barcades, we thought we’d take a look at how prevalent pinball and arcade games were in the 80s and 90s in the biggest coin-op amusement market in the world, the good ole USA!

We delved deep into the available ‘Census of Service Industry‘ data from the US Department of Commerce, which kept record of “sources of receipts” for pinball and arcade machines in establishments across the US. What we found was quite eye-opening!

source: 1982 Census of Service Industries: Industry Series. Miscellaneous Subjects(SC82-I-5) – US Dept of Commerce

From the 1982 census data, there were 5,434 sites across the US where the general public could attend to get their fix of playing pinball and arcade games. The total US takings at these establishments was a whopping  USD$1.175 billion (for that year), with arcade machines earning the lion’s share with USD$890.4 million and pinball with $284.3 million. Remember, this was just before the video games crash of 1983. Interestingly, Pennsylvania had the highest number of establishments (268), with the split of takings between pinball (USD$34.2M) and arcade (USD$36.0M) being almost 50/50. Everywhere else, it was arcade video game machines that took more coins out of pockets.

source: 1992 Census Of Service Industries: Subject Series. Sources of Receipts or Revenue (SC92-S-4) – US Dept of Commerce

By 1992 the coin-op amusement landscape changed quite a bit. As evident by the numbers, pinball declined substantially while arcade machines broke through the magical USD$1 billion earnings barrier for that year – that is some serious amount of coins! Pinball had unfortunately slid back, earning their operators a poultry (when compared to arcade video games) USD$165M in 1992. With hindsight, pinball was going to be saved by some big name licensed machines – hello The Addams Family!

source: The Arcade Flyer Archive

As already hinted, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for pinball. According to Vending Times (which tracks the use of coin-operated games), in the mid-1990s the silver ball game had rebounded with takings of USD$912M in 1994 (that was 38% of the total coin-op market at the time) and then almost doubling to a dizzying USD$1.7 billion by 1997/8. Pinball had gone from junk to the golden goose in three short years! Before pinball operators could make it rain more coins, it was the 32-bit gaming era that sounded the death knell for not only pinball, but arcade video games too. By the end of the 1990s, the number of venues where one could play pinball and/or arcade machines dwindled dramatically. Things got acutely dire for pinball when the once mighty Williams closed up its pinball division near the end of 1999.

The beauty of hindsight is that we can assess and track the ups and downs of the pinball and arcade coin-op industry. With the current global video games industry sporting 2.6 billion gamers and takings in excess of USD$116 billion per annum, the time of amusement centres on every street corner are long gone. If pinball could tap even 0.5% of this (that’s USD$580M), then the great silver ball game will be here to stay and be enjoyed for many generations to come!

Enjoying some arcade and pinball action at Melbourne’s Invaders Amusement Centre
– circa early 80s