The Sega CD is a video game console add-on for the existing Sega Mega Drive, being originally released as the Mega-CD in Japan. It allows users to play CD-ROM games without the need to buy a newer, more expensive, next-generation console.
Sonic the Hedgehog CD was released exclusively for the Mega-CD, although it has since been re-released as part of compilation games for both PCs and other consoles. The Mega-CD has many other successful games, such as the controversial Night Trap and Time Gal.
Soon after the Sega Mega Drive was launched in 1988, Sega began creating a CD-ROM add-on. In addition to relatively short loading times, it was planned to implement features similar to that of Sega's arcade systems.
The Mega Drive's processor was too slow to handle the Sega CD's new graphical capabilities, and thus an additional CPU was incorporated into the add-on. This second CPU was clocked at a speed of 12.5MHz, faster than the regular 7.67MHz CPU in the Mega Drive. The Sega CD's RAM access speed was initially too slow to run programs effectively, and the developers had to focus on increasing the speed. Sega of America was not informed of the project details until mid-1991, being given just preliminary technical documents earlier in the year. The American staff were frustrated by the Sega CD's construction, with games requiring more data than the CD drive was designed to provide.
Sega announced the release of the Mega-CD in Japan in June 1991 at the Tokyo Toy Show. It was later titled the "Sega CD" for North America's scheduled release of 1992. It launched in Japan on 12 December 1991 for ¥49,800. North America would see a release on 15 October 1992 for $299.99 USD and Europe received the console add-on in April 1993, starting with the United Kingdom on 2 April 1993. Initial sales were good, although third-party game development suffered due to Sega taking a long time to release dev-kits. This resulted in only two games being released at launch and only five more put out in the first year of sales.
Sega released a second model, titled the "Mega-CD 2", on 23 April 1993 in Japan and in June of the same year for North America, though called the "Sega CD 2". Europe would, once again, see the latest release of the peripheral, with it debuting in September 1993. Designed to bring down the cost of the peripheral, this model featured a spring-loaded lid instead of the CD tray.
The Sega CD saw dwindling sales in all regions by the end of 1993. With Sega shifting its focus to the Sega Saturn in 1995, the advertising for the Sega Mega Drive and its add-ons was discontinued, thus ending the life of the Sega CD.
The Sega CD is used in tandem with the Mega Drive system, as it attaches through the expansion slot featured on the side of the main console. It can also be used in combination with the Sega 32X to play 32-bit games that use both add-ons.
- Sega CD Model 1: Original model, constructed as a base for the Mega Drive Model 1, although it is compatible with the Model 2 as well. The Model 1 has an automated CD tray, although this is prone to hardware failure.
- Sega CD Model 2: Revised model constructed for increased compatibility with the Mega Drive/Sega Genesis Model 2, although it is compatible with the Model 1 as well. This model relocates the CD-drive from underneath the console to the console's side, and features a spring-loaded lid rather than an automated CD tray, greatly increasing its hardware reliability.
- Sega CDX: A combined, semi-portable Mega Drive & Sega CD unit called the Genesis CDX in North America and the Multi-Mega in Japan and Europe. This unit retailed at a lower price than the individual Mega Drive and Sega CD units together, but is incompatible with some games. The CDX features a small LCD screen that, when the unit is used to play audio CDs, displays the current track being played. The CDX can be used as a standalone CD player powered by 2 AA batteries, but must use an AC adapter when being used to play video games. This was bundled with Sonic the Hedgehog CD, Sega Classics Arcade Collection, and the Sega CD version of Ecco the Dolphin.
- Mega-CD Karaoke: When combined with the Sega CD and Mega Drive, this add-on creates a karaoke machine that is capable of both lyrics and video display. The peripheral features two microphone aux ports along with various knobs and buttons that can add different effects, such as echo, pitch shifting, and key changes. The Mega-CD Karaoke was released exclusively in Japan on 18 November 1992 for ¥19800.
- Victor WonderMega: A combined, non-portable Mega Drive & Sega CD unit released by third-party company JVC in Japan on 24 April 1992 for ¥79800. There were two variations of the WonderMega, with the first catering to the earlier Mega Drive design and the second mirroring the later release's appearance. This second model was titled the Victor WonderMega M2 and released in Japan on 2 July 1993 for a discounted price of ¥59800. This was only officially-released Mega Drive console to feature S-video output. It was later released in North America as the JVC X'Eye without S-video Output in September 1994.
- LaserActive: A laser disc player released by Pioneer in 1993. The device featured modules such as the Sega Mega Drive and CD that could be bought that allowed it to play said titles. Unlike other units, the LaserActive is not compatible with the Sega 32X.
- Unlike the Sega Mega Drive and 32X, which largely had region-free games with a few exceptions, Sega CD games are always region-locked.
- There were 220 games released for the Sega CD. Six of these titles were also released in formats that used a combination of the Sega CD and the Sega 32X.
- The Sega CD contains a very small amount of internal memory for saving games, leading Sega to eventually release a memory back-up cartridge to handle additional save files. This would be inserted in the Mega Drive's standard game cartridge slot, it released on 20 March 1992.
- The Sega CDX's compatibility with the Sega 32X is very nebulous. Instructions packaged with the 32X depict compatibility using an additional adapter piece, which never saw release. Even without the adapter piece, the 32X is indeed compatible with the Sega CDX, although some sources claim voltage issues make this a risky combination. JVC's WonderMega is also compatible, although the 32X will obstruct the console's lid from opening.
- The Sega CDX's shell is compatible with the Sega Power Base Converter, allowing the console to play Sega Master System games. Although the Power Base Converter can functionally work with JVC's WonderMega, it cannot physically attach to the unit due to the shell's construction causing obstruction.
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