GameSpite Journal 12: Sega’s SG-1000

GameSpite Journal 12 is a print-on-demand book and will never run out of stock, but the coupon code WONDERFUL (which nets you 15% off through August 31 on our Blurb store) will end soon. And given Blurb’s rapacious pricing, I recommend the discount.

The Sega SG-1000 isn’t really much to speak of. That is to say, the system itself has little of a legacy beyond what it sowed the seeds for, and how it provided a meaningful contrast for its competition.

In fact, the most interesting thing about the SG-1000 is that it launched simultaneously with Nintendo’s Famicom. Not at roughly the same time; both systems debuted on the same summer day in 1983. Obviously, one console performed far better than the other, and the simple fact is that the Famicom’s victory came by completely outclassing Sega’s machine.

The SG-1000 certainly wasn’t a terrible piece of hardware by any stretch of the imagination. It offered power right in line with contemporaneous consoles like the MSX and the ColecoVision. In fact, the design of its innards ended up being so similar to those of the ColecoVision that third parties developed converters for anyone who that might care. (Given that the SG-1000 never went up for sale in the U.S. and the ColecoVision never carved much of a niche outside the States, one assumes those converters commanded a very tiny audience.) The SG-1000 color palette resembled that of those competing consoles, and—like them—it offered only flip-screen transitions rather than the smooth scroll abilities Nintendo eventually managed to unlock for the NES.

The SG-1000 also lacked much by way of notable software. Owners could certainly buy games for the machine, and the scope and size of its library stands up well to that of the ColecoVision, but by and large the console hosted underwhelming conversions of arcade hits. Congo Bongo, Lode Runner, and Zaxxon were all accounted for, along with a handful of universal third-party releases (Space Invaders) converted internally by Sega, as would be the case with third-party Sega console releases throughout the ’80s. The console eventually served up a hateful version of Westone’s classic side-scroller Wonder Boy, which sat alongside mundane anime-based licensed games such as Golgo-13 and Orguss under the heading of, “Nice try, but….”

The one truly noteworthy original software creation for the SG-1000 came in the form of a charming (if fairly mundane) release called Girls Garden: The first-ever game designed by one Yuji Naka. While Naka’s debut game didn’t exactly blow minds, it certainly paved the way for the one that would in many ways define the company: Sonic the Hedgehog.

Ultimately, the SG-1000’s sales never really went much of anywhere, even as the machine underwent the standard mutations and permutations of consoles of its era (including the SG-2000, which continued the ColecoVision parallels by turning the system into a home computer). But it clearly succeeded enough to keep Sega in the hardware game. And really, going down as the cornerstone for the company’s eventual console empire is no bad way to be remembered by history.

Article by Jeremy Parish

GameSpite Journal 12The Sega SG-1000

3 thoughts on “GameSpite Journal 12: Sega’s SG-1000

  1. Maybe it’s just because of the SG-1000’s color palette, but the hills in the background and the house in the pictured game (Girls Garden?) look pretty nice in spite of the more Game & Watch looking visual assets in the playfield. But if there’s a SEGA console even more obscure than the Master System, it’s this one.

  2. I think the art on the hills looks so good because it’s not mostly repeated tiles, which is unusual for the era.

    Speaking of unusual for the era, it’s also one of the few games I’ve seen from back then targeted (presumably?) at girls.

  3. This may not be the greatest place to mention it, but I just got my copy of GSJ12 in! Jeremy, it looks spectacular. I’m glad I eventually decided to splurge on it.

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