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Retro Stories: Mega Drive Boxes

The End of Physical

Physical games are slowly but gradually on the way out, with each new generation of consoles physical games are just not as exciting anymore. Most general game releases are simply a plastic box and a disc and that’s about it. Yes, there is the odd website that is committed to still releasing titles with a manual or special extras like an art book or soundtrack. Maybe its time to fully embrace the digital future and accept the inevitable? But hey that doesn’t mean I can’t write a article showcasing how awesome physical games used to be!

In this feature I showcase boxed Mega Drive games from my own collection along with a tale or two behind each one. The Mega Drive was technically the first system that I started collecting for when I was younger. I used to save up my money from doing chores and a paper route in a attempt to purchase a second hand game from a store or car boot sale. Since I didn’t have the internet back then, purchases were often determined by how cool the box art was or if my Dad made some passing comment that it looked cool. Sometimes it worked out… sometimes not so much. The only game I every really remember being popular on Mega Drive with young people was the Sonic games, everything else felt like kinda uncharted territory. Interesting times for gaming for sure.

Quick Comparisons

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Spot the difference between the Genesis box art and the Mega Drive

Lets begin with one of my favourite Mega Drive games, Wonder Boy in Monster World. This is the only game in my collection where I have the Genesis version and the Mega Drive version. For the most past the boxes are similar. Using the same art work and black grid based background which was kind of the standard for early generation Genesis and Mega Drive boxes. The main difference occurs however when you flip the boxes over.

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Interesting how different screenshots are used

Since the Mega Drive was released across Europe the description of the game was in multiple languages. The games description is  therefore very brief when compared to the Genesis version. What may surprise you is that it was actually the Genesis version of the game I owned first when I was younger. Yes, Genesis carts work fine on European Mega Drive systems and vice versa. Carts only change shape when you head over to the Japanese version. Unfortunately I don’t own any Japanese Mega Drive games so I can’t showcase that comparison here.

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Always bring a fairy to a mushroom fight

Monster World has always been special to me as it was the first adventure game I played that some would say follows the formula of a Metroidvania today. You play as a boy, Shion, on a quest to fix Monster World diving into multiple dungeons and taking out all sorts of monsters. Sometimes you also had a buddy to help you out like a little dwarf kid that dug up money for you. I used to design games in notepads as a child and they always followed the design of Monster World. Only I wasn’t smart or handsome enough to turn that creativity into something real. Never mind, the dream was always nice. The game is featured on the Mega Drive Classics collection on PC, PS4 and Xbox One but bizarrely not Switch which really sucks.

The Blue Re-design

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Time moved on and the Mega Drive had a total box art revision in the form of this neat blue design. Blue being a much cooler colour than the red that the Genesis revision went for. Another change was that the boxes often now had full English on the reverse along with a full English manual sometimes in full colour.

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Why use a sword when you can kick

The Story of Thor is called Beyond Oasis on the Genesis a title that made more sense since this was where the game was set but I still prefer The Story of Thor for the nostalgia and who doesn’t love Thor? This game to me was basically what would happen if Zelda had a little bit of Streets of Rage infused into it. As well as using a variety of weapons like swords, crossbow and bombs, if all else failed you could always kick the enemies into oblivion. It’s a hugely underrated Mega Classic that is often featured on many Mega Drive compilations today. When I originally purchased this game it featured a sticker of Knuckles from the Sonic series encouraging folks to ‘Kick the habit’ of smoking. Not quite sure what happened to that sticker but I didn’t smoke at school so maybe the message worked.

Being Different

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Not all games followed the black grid or blue border design many companies decided just to be different. EA is one of the most prominent examples of this design. Not only were the box designs different, the carts also have this unique yellow plastic tag on them. Some might remember this fondly as the era that EA was at the top of their game. Releasing multiple quality titles often with enormous manuals featuring English and multiple European languages. As a child when I saw a EA box I often thought the game must be good. It was certainly an effective marketing of a product. When I was learning French as school I tried to improve my vocabulary by reading the French section of these manuals. Not sure it helped though.

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This is a fluffy environment

James Pond II is a cute platformer that is set around Christmas. I kinda loved this title back in the day you ran around saving penguins. This game got re-released to basically every system ever moving forward including the Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately the penguins were replaced with Elves as the game had some deal with Penguin biscuits at the time.

The J Cart

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Codemasters also had their own unique box art and cart designs. What made Codemasters stand out from the crowd was the infamous J – cart a cartridge that cleverly added two additional control ports so you could play a few of their games with up to four players. It was a ingenious idea before certain consoles expected you to purchase a separate multitap. The small catch is the game often sold for a more expensive premium.

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Its a Micro adventure

While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the toys I loved the Micro Machines video games on Mega Drive. These were cool top down racers where you played as various vehicles racing around tracks from home environments like gardens, breakfast tables and bath tubs. It was a brilliant and effective design and to this day I feel few racers have really recaptured the magic of this series. Fortunately I still have these old titles to enjoy which sadly never saw a re-release on modern systems.

Not Turrican

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Another odd variant is the total carboard box and unique cart from Accolade. By far the hardest games to maintain as cardboard has a tendency to become rather fragile over time.

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Very different from the film

Universal Soldier is essentially Turrican, an awesome 2D shooter that also released on Mega Drive as well as other systems. Universal Soldier plays just like Turrican with its own levels and bosses with some minor tweaks to the formula. I could not care less for the action film it was based on when I was younger. In fact I only saw the film years later as an adult and found it rather amusing how little the game and the film had in common. Of course with this being a film tie in game it never saw a re-release but I am pleased to say Turrican is making a comeback to Nintendo Switch this December with a collection of games that I am highly excited for.

Something Different

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Last one before I let you enjoy the rest of your day. Sometimes when certain stores didn’t have the official box for the game they just sort of made one themselves. Above is my only Mega Drive game that came in a Electronics Boutique box. This company is long gone in the UK but boy the memories last a lifetime to me. I was sold on this game based off the title alone. As a young boy that loved folklore tales, reading books about werewolves and monsters, how could I not pass up the opportunity to buy a game brilliantly titled Shadow of the Beast 2. When I opened the box and saw the manual I was one happy young fella.

Then I got it home and realized how crazy hard it was. A 2D adventure title with tough combat and puzzles that really doesn’t hold your hand. I loved the art style and its beautiful music and even though I didn’t finish this game until I was a adult, it holds a special place in my collection because of the bizarre box it came in. It towers over other Mega Drive boxes and doesn’t even fit on shelves that well. It was a black sheep not welcome with the rest of the Mega Drive. But since that kinda summed up my childhood and dare I say my life up to this point I guess I have always had a soft spot for things that don’t fit in. It’s not worth anything to collectors but it sure means a lot to me. Shadows of the Beast 2 sadly never saw a re-release to future systems.

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The game had a rather arty Game over screen

Thanks for taking the time to read todays entry. I actually don’t collect video games anymore since the hobby has become a bit challenging, but, I have held on to a lot of my favourites and I hope to share more fun retro stories in future entries.

Have a good day!

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