10 Things I Learned About The Sega-Nintendo War From Reading Console Wars

By Fred Topel in Daily Lists, Gaming
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 8:00 am

5. Sonic Had Fangs.

It's hard to imagine as the blue little furball we've known and loved for 20-some years, but the original design of Sonic was way different. As conceived by Naoto Oshima, the original Sonic had sharp fangs and a spiked collar, which made him look more like a boss Sonic would have to defeat than the hero himself. They also gave the "scary Sonic" a busty human girlfriend named Madonna and he was an electric guitar strumming leader of a rock band.

Okay, in retrospect, that does sound awesome in its own way. What I wouldn't give to have a chance to play Sonic the Hedgehog as that guy, but even Harris said he never saw a picture of the Sonic with fangs. He did see some shots of Madonna and the Sonic rock band, but the Oshima "Scary Sonic" lives on only in legend.

4. Sega Created Modern Release Dates.

Remember when you used to rush to the store on Tuesdays to buy the latest video games? That was before you could preorder them on Amazon to have them arrive at your house on Tuesday. Well, Sega is the reason release dates are on Tuesday at all, and it all comes down to a clever pun.

Sega needed the release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 to top the original and anything Nintendo had in the works for the holiday season. For Sonic 1, Sega rolled out a mall tour letting fans try out Sonic early to build word of mouth. For Sonic 2, they created a worldwide day and date release date. They picked Tuesday so they could name it Sonic 2sday. Get it? Tuesday, twos-day?

3. Michael Jackson Wrote the Soundtrack for Sonic The Hedgehog 3.

Sega had already partnered with Michael Jackson for their game Moonwalker, which I was surprised to learn wasn't a massive success. I remember it well and actually discovered a lot of Michael Jackson songs through the game. "Smooth Criminal" didn't get much radio play where I was from but hearing the 16-bit version got me jamming.

So Jackson writing the soundtrack to a Sonic the Hedgehog game would have been huge, except that his child molestation scandal, sadly only the first for MJ, broke before the release of Sonic 3. There are lots of unconfirmed reports about this. Harris believes Jackson's music is still in the game, though perhaps finished by other artists. Others believe Jackson repurposed the Sonic 3 music as later songs like "Stranger in Moscow." All I know is I need to find a copy of Sonic 3 now, stat!

2. Donkey Kong Country Saved Nintendo.

We could argue about the technical power of the systems. Maybe Super NES had better graphics. They did have a whole extra year to work on them after Genesis came out. But, it really came down to games. Nintendo may have had Mario and Zelda, but for this brief time, Sega landed the titles that made more people buy Genesis.

Exclusive titles like Sonic the Hedgehog and Ecco the Dolphin were innovative for their time. Now, they both look like old side scrollers, but the speed of Sonic and the underwater physics of Ecco are still things of beauty. Sega also nailed the sports games like Joe Montana Football, then the Madden football series and College Football games. Guys in my college dorm had both Madden and College Football, which were the exact same game just with different players, and accurate to that year's roster.

The game that swung things back in Nintendo's favor was an update of their landmark character. It was the first home console game to feature pre-rendered 3D graphics; a side-scroller that turned Donkey Kong into a hero, trying to recover his lost bananas. It also introduced the character of Donkey's nephew Diddy Kong, who would star in the sequel. According to Console Wars, the story goes that Nintendo would spend $3 million per commercial and just blast their products across all media. One developer, Tony Harman, asked if he could have $3 million to create the greatest game, and all it would mean was one less commercial on the air. Nintendo agreed and the result was Donkey Kong Country. So that's what $3 million looks like.

1. Sega Saturn Lost The War.

Spoiler alert for actual history in which the Sega corporation gave up on consoles altogether after the Dreamcast. The book concludes with the failure of the Sega Saturn, and Kalinske did everything he could to prevent it. Kalinske was pushing to continue the life of the Genesis, as Nintendo wasn't giving up on Super NES any time soon. He pushed for the Sony partnership so Sega could have the best technology available.

Ultimately, the rift between Sega of America and Sega of Japan could not be bridged. Sega wanted to keep the technology in house and they were ready to jump into the next generation, and it was too soon. There wasn't enough support from game developers to give the Saturn a library worth collecting, and focusing on the Saturn ended the Genesis before it was done being a phenomenon.

To be quite honest, I don't even remember the Sega Saturn. When I learn that their big game was Virtua Fighter, I vaguely remember that blocky 3D fighting game in arcades, but had no desire to bring it home like Mortal Kombat. I did think the Dreamcast was a redemption and I would have happily continued buying Dreamcast games. I literally consider Crazy Taxi the best game ever. It's brilliant. You pick up passengers, take them to their destination, and then pick up more passengers! All I wanted was more cities to drive crazy taxis through, but all the sequels did was add unnecessary features like jumps. Taxis don't jump. Come on! Anyway, Sega Saturn sucked, Playstation and N64 came out, I sold my Dreamcast and now I'm a Sony guy because it plays Blu-rays.

Previously By Fred Topel

10 D&D Tips From Dan Harmon And His Dungeon Master

The 10 Hottest Scenes From SXSW's Sexiest Movies

The 10 Greatest Roles Of Dick Miller

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