I've recently become a Sega Megadrive enthusiast.

For PAL regions in the 80s and 90s, the Nintendo platforms were never as popular as Sega's: poor third party marketing never stood a chance against Sega's hands-on approach. Perhaps the consoles and games were equally coveted between the systems, however Sega's were simply more available. Well, except for the Gameboy, but that's a bit of a special case.

Nintendo's fortune is still pretty high - selling record breaking numbers of handhelds, still in the console game, and still writing compelling software. Interest in old Nintendo hardware is reaching heady heights, too. In contrast, present-day Sega isn't nearly so glamorous - after pulling sharply out of the hardware market in the early 2000s, there isn't much left to be excited about. For a company now existing only in the software market, weak handling of their core IPs and debacles with outsourcing to third-party developers make for a fairly unsatisfying experience.

Sega did make some good choices though - deciding to use hard plastic cases to house their games, for instance. Over in Nintendoland, where cardboard was the main material for game cases, the ratio of cases to games is exceedingly poor - and therefore complete copies of games are hard to find. Not so for Sega, whose cases actually withstood BEING OPENED more than twice!

Due to all of this, in PAL regions Sega 8/16-bit consoles and games are both far more numerous and cheaper on the second hand market than Nintendo's. It's not uncommon to see working Megadrive 2 consoles with no cables selling for around the $5 mark, whereas even a faulty SNES can fetch $20. The game prices bear a similar tendency. It's far more reasonable to buy a Megadrive and pick up a few of those old favourite games you had when you used to rent out a console during the school holidays.

I had simple aspirations. There were only a handful of games I really wanted to find - fondly remembered classics from my youth. The Sonic games. Streets of Rage. Toejam & Earl, that kind of thing. Of course I knew there were some extremely well-regarded games outside of these - Gunstar Heroes comes to mind - but I hadn't played them, and didn't have much reason to hunt them down. But everything seemed so affordable, why not at least find out which of the Megadrive library was considered worth tracking down? Quite a few, if popular opinion holds - and the games which are still worth playing today MUST be pretty solid. Suddenly, yet inevitably, I have a collection. Games I had never heard of previously, let alone seen or played, now adorn my shelves. And what do you know? Turns out Gunstar Heroes really is as good as people say, especially with a co-op partner.

It's now the Megadrive's 25th anniversary (a 2-year long celebration, thanks to regional release date discrepancies), and I can think of no better way to recognise it than by picking up a MD2 and a couple of games for next to nothing. They'd make a pretty awesome gift, too!

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