Finally: a way to play classic Sega CD games without worrying about a faulty drive that was made in the early 1990s.
It looks a lot less bulky than any model on a Sega CD.
It is about the size of the original Virtua Racing cartridge for Sega Genesis.
A look at the cardboard shipping to buyers at the end of 2019.
It's a great time to play old video games on modern TVs. Fan-preferred companies take emulation seriously with products like the NES Classic and the Sega Genesis Mini, while enthusiasts fill in the gaps to either update the connectors on the original consoles or re-create them as "hardware-emulated" FPGA systems.
Last year, however, we saw the first major product that filled an important undersupplied niche: the CD add-on adapter from the early 90s. The Sega CD in particular has been given new life with the MegaSD. This combination of flash drive and FPGA card is connected to the original Genesis and Mega Drive consoles (and the newer analog Mega Sg). It replicates the functions of the original Sega CD without the need for a laser-controlled drive, while remaining compatible with the special system communication style of this add-on.
I originally hesitated to write down the announcement of the MegaSD – especially since, unlike Sega, it comes from the relatively unknown flash card manufacturer TerraOnion and costs a whopping 232 euros. But my tune changed when I saw the first practical review of the YouTube channel RetroRGB (embedded at the end of this article). In short, it seems to be working exactly as advertised, with reduced CD-based loading times, identical gameplay, almost identical CD-based audio, and some other useful features. (Update, March 28, 2020: Now we have updated this article with our own practical impressions that have been tested on original Genesis hardware. Long story short, it's great.)
A new way to snatcher
For the uninitiated, the Sega CD works by plugging it into the hidden Genesis plug. Really, the Genesis always saw the Sega CD as a game cassette and treated its 128 KB buffer accordingly. The Sega CD then often exchanged this buffer for its own buffer of the same size, which it filled and manipulated with its own dedicated processor.
Enlarge /. How the MegaSD works, in an airy symbol form.
I point this out because the MegaSD is not just a flash cartridge that contains huge ISO files ripped from classic CDs. It also emulates the entire Sega CD motherboard to perform the essential processing (used, for example, for Sonic CD's 3D rotation tricks à la SNES's famous "Mode 7" option). RetroRGB confirms that all of this works with classic games without any problems, regardless of whether they render visual tricks with Sega CD playback or play original CD Redbook audio. The worst news that RetroRGB is currently confirming is that the MegaSD will not work when connected to a Sega 32X adapter because the Genesis manages both cassette slots.
Before we started our own MegaSD test device, RetroRGB's tests gave us the feeling that the MegaSD's high price was deserved – especially in a world where buying aging Sega CD hardware has become prohibitively expensive. If you want to play some of the best 16-bit games of the era, especially Final Fight's arcade-perfect port and the English-language version of Hideo Kojima's Snatcher, the Sega CD is often the best way to access some of them. (The Turbografx 16 Mini next month includes a playable version of Snatcher, but it's only the Japanese version. For English-speaking Kojima fans, the Sega CD remains the best way.)
If you want another reason to spend so much, users can load MegaSD Genesis, Mega Drive, and Sega Master System games by copying them to an SD card as ROMs (just like you would ROMs from yours back up existing, lawfully purchased tapes or CDs is yours). RetroRGB examines the funky sound reproduction in SMS games due to the handling of the optional FM synthesizer add-on of this system. So watch the video below to see if it matters to you.
RetroRGB test of the MegaSD flash carts from TerraOnion.
Update: Great hardware with twists like MD + support
We have returned months after the original publication of this article to confirm some great news: TerraOnion has supported this. Since the start, several firmware updates have been sent to MegaSD owners. These ranged from timing updates for the CD search emulation to improved support for the backup RAM memory. The most stunning feature added to this car is the support for the Genesis version of Virtua Racing. This is special because it was the only Genesis game that came with an additional processor in the cartridge. (Nintendo was better known for this kind of trick per cartridge.)
From a legal point of view, the MegaSD is one of the easiest to recommend classic game backup solutions, since Sega CDs were not supplied with copy protection. Put your classic Sega favorite CD game in the DVD-ROM drive of a computer, "rip" the files with the freeware app ImgBurn (with the option "Create image file from disc"), transfer them to a micro SD card and hold this memory card in the MegaSD. I was able to do this with a few discs that I had on hand, including rarities that some Seattle area collectors had lent me, and I booted them without incident on my original Genesis 2 hardware and my fancier Analogue Mega Sg .
You can also use this flash cart to store and run Genesis cartridge ROMs. As with other flash drives, this contains a function for saving the status (only for Genesis games, not for Sega CD games). I would not blame the owners of original cartridges (or the license purchases of classic games on Steam) for copying their games to a MegaSD so that they can save progress since most Genesis games had no battery backup options .
Don't buy these expected CD seek times to be wiped out. Depending on the game, the coding of the original games may result in a standard loading break, regardless of what happens. But I was pleased with slight, noticeable price increases, such as the Sega CD versions of NBA Jam and NHL & # 39; 94, which are entertaining upgrades to their Genesis originals in terms of adding voice output and cleaner music tracks.
Two versions of the Genesis racer Outrun that have been patched by serial fans. Each source contains a different high-resolution recording of the series' classic songs.
Speaking of music: The MegaSD supports a relatively new "MD +" file format that combines original Genesis ROMs with Redbook audio. The idea is that you can play your favorite classics with their original graphics and sound effects and then replace your music wholesaler with 16-bit 44 Hz audio. Few games have received such updates from the community, but you are in a legal gray area where you can get them from external sources, especially if they deliver copyrighted audio. If you want to kick safely, your best option is a complicated one: hack your favorite games yourself. Although I haven't dealt with these issues, I was able to test a friend's project and confirm that it works as advertised, with higher resolution music booming on original Genesis hardware.
The MegaSD ends up in a retro niche sweet spot: a little expensive, safe, but not much more than trying to buy a working Sega CD. For every premium you pay in addition to a Sega CD auction purchase and shipping (if available), the MegaSD offers the additional benefits of improved search times, MD + support, and the certainty of not wondering when (not if) Your Sega The laser on the CD will break.
Listing image from TerraOnion