Sega Mega Drive emulation

Today I am going to look at perhaps Sega’s most iconic console, The Sega Mega Drive and with it the option to play its extensive game library through the DGen emulation package on AmigaOS 4.

The Sega Mega Drive was launched in Japan way back in October 1988, but will no doubt be more familiar to my North American readers as the Sega Genesis when it was unleashed across North American a few months later.  It was based on the same Motorola 68000 series CPU found in the original Commodore Amiga 500 machine and pretty much offered an arcade at home experience such was the quality of its graphics and sound. Its game library which was chock-a-block full of Sega franchise titles such as Outrun, Afterburner, Space Harrier II, Super Hang On, Golden Axe and Altered Beast which many people will remember as being a pack in title when the machines were first released.

As the machine gained popularity, it became home to the most definitive franchises of the 16-bit era such as Sonic The Hedgehog, Streets Of Rage, Road Rash, Ecco The Dolphin and Phantasy Star. Its success in North America was largely down to the superlative sports titles and support of Electronic Arts who produced many great games such as John Madden Football and FIFA International Soccer.

Whilst it can be argued that Sega began to lose the plot a little in releasing an expensive CD add-on in the form of the Mega-CD, followed by the complete flop that was 32X, there can be no doubt that the Megadrive occupies a very special place in many a video game players heart and the good news is that thanks to DGen, you can try out many games that perhaps you may have missed out first time round.

DGen on AmigaOS 4 stands at version 1.24 and can be downloaded free of charge from OS4 Depot and I would recommend that whilst there, you also take the opportunity to download the rather simple GUI front end that exists. I see that on other platforms DGen stands at version 1.33, so it would be nice to see an update to this version somewhere down the line.

As you can see from my X5000 setup I have replaced my Amidock with the new X-Dock which can be found as part of the AmigaOS Enhancer Software Pack on the Amistore.  X-Dock has had a rather cool update over the past few months, so in terms of item layout so that items within a sub-dock can be displayed sideways.

DGen has a rather cool Sega like logo which I really like and the GUI is rather on minimal side as indicated.  You have the option to load up the emulator in a number of different screens and I would recommend starting the emulator in window x3 mode as opposed to full-screen, as the full-screen may end up displaying in a small window depending on your monitor and output settings.  If you start in window x3 mode, you can then swap to a correct aspect full-screen  by pressing the right ALT and Enter keys.

After selecting the window, you are then asked to select a game rom and this can be in one of the following formats  .bin or in compressed .zip formats.

The game ROM files can be kept in a folder of your choosing and as you can see I have placed them in the same folder as the DGen executable marked as ROMS.

In terms of configuration of the emulator, the good news here is that there is no real configuration as such if you are using the GUI front end.  DGen will automatically recognise your joy pad and it will also default to an NTSC system so that all North American and Japanese titles will work straight away.

However if you find yourself opening a ROM and are greeted with the following message, it means that the ROM will only run in PAL mode as many Mega Drive titles were region coded.

In this instance to run a PAL based ROM, you will need to start DGen from the command line and then enter in the -P to switch the emulator to the PAL Version.

The first game I am opening up is perhaps, the one which is most associated with the Mega Drive, Sonic The Hedgehog.

The graphics via the HDMI output on the X5000 look really good and the good news is that the emulator runs at a very good speed too.

Although I think the Sega Master System version is better than this Mega Drive version, Sonic is still a fantastic game to play.

Next up is another iconic Sega game, Super Hang On.  I absolutely love this game on the classic Amiga which is blessed with a really good conversion and some good in-game music tracks.

I think the tunes on the Mega Drive version are a little muted in comparison, but there is no doubt the game looks better than it does on the Amiga and generally looks more polished than its Amiga counterpart.

However Super Hang On, helps to demonstrate that DGen’s emulation is not 100% accurate.  It took me a few goes to try to get the screen grabbing software to catch this, but notice the trees on either side as the track turns slightly to the left.  You have the trees in the background slightly out of position so that it gives the impression when the screen moves that the graphics are all over the place.

Another game where I found that the emulation didn’t work too great was with Road Rash, which on the Mega Drive is vastly superior to the sluggish Amiga version. As you can see from the above screenshot, the emulation results in a set of corrupted backgrounds  which is a bit of a shame.

Another iconic Mega Drive game is Streets of Rage 2 which I am pleased to report does emulate really well.

This game manages to improve on the original game which in itself is worth checking out too.

In this game, I am pleased to the scrolling works well and is fluid. It feels so good to be playing this game with a HDMI output and its thumping iconic soundtrack.

The Mega Drive was able to dominate somewhat in North America thanks to its superlative sports games and support from Electronic Arts. The most iconic of their titles is John Madden Football which was unlike anything else seen on a home console up to that point.

As a Brit, the rules of American Football do tend to go over my head a little.

Especially when you are faced with tactical menus such as this. Where is the goal again?

Now for something just as iconic and perhaps more recognisable for my European readers as football even if it is called FIFA International Soccer.

In title screen and in game action is quite similar to the Classic Amiga version.

The emulation of this game is quite good and I have to say it plays much quicker than the Amiga version.

The NBA Jam series is another iconic set of games on the Mega Drive.

Again the emulation when playing this game is top-notch on this game and I really enjoy playing this game.

It is worth noting that many of the standout Mega Drive titles like FIFA, Road Rash or Street Fighter 2 were pretty poor efforts when they finally ended up on the Amiga and in contrast many of the top Amiga titles of the same period like Lotus, Chaos Engine, Shadow of The Best and Speedball were not as good on the Mega Drive.

In playing with DGen, it was nice to take a trip back to the early 90’s and re-discover a top-notch system that so many of my fellow classmates at school were raving about and with justifiable reason too. Whilst I have highlighted that not all games will run correctly using this emulator, I would say about 90% of what I have tried out appears to work ok and without issue. The Mega Drive game library is so numerous and varied that there are just too many games to go through in today’s blog post so if you do try this emulator out, don’t be too upset if not all games work. I do like how easy it is to set up and get going with no need to unzip rom files and the joy pad support works well, although it is perhaps a little bizarre to be using a Super Nintendo style joy pad in the 8bitdo SFC30 Pro when playing Sega Mega Drive games!

Until next time have fun with your Amigas!


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