Decade Moment: Visiting SEGA’s London HQ

What is a “Decade Moment?”  It is a moment from the past ten years that us here at TSS remember vividly to this day.  A game announcement, completing a tough level, or acquiring some slick merchandise… everything memorable and certifiably Sonic counts.
Being a life long Sonic fan has been difficult at times, being a lifelong SEGA fan even more so. When I was growing up you were in one of two groups; either a SEGA fan or a Nintendo fan. This division separated playgrounds around the country with kids either boasting about their new Mega Drive or SNES games. Harsh words were spoken, sometimes fights even broke out but supporting your chosen brand meant everything and meant it for life. At least, it did for me.

Believe it or not SEGA were actually the more popular company in the UK while I know Nintendo ruled the US. Unfortunately this didn’t last for very long. With the botched launches of the SEGA CD and 32X SEGA’s popularity waned and by the time the Saturn rolled around hardcore SEGA fans were few and far between, taunted by the legion of videogame players who’d turned to the PlayStation or N64. While they enjoyed the likes of Final Fantasy VII and Mario 64 I happily played NiGHTS, revelled in Sonic R & Sonic Jam and waited patiently for the next real Sonic game.

I felt I was rewarded for my loyalty when I won a Dreamcast around its launch from the old SEGA Europe website in 1999. To say I was happy would be a gross understatement. I remember screaming and doing laps round my house, pumping my fists in the air. Everyone knows how the Dreamcast’s commercial failure spelled the end of SEGA’s console manufacturing days but it was good just to be part of what’s now being called the world’s most underrated console.

If you’ve read up to here you must be thinking what all of this has to do with my moment of the decade. The problem is without a back story my moment won’t seem that significant and hopefully now you’ve got a small insight into my mindset when it comes to all things SEGA.
As these things tend to happen with people so passionate about the pastimes they love I ended up writing about SEGA related things and because of said writing I was invited to SEGA’s HQ in London to preview Sonic Unleashed two weeks before its release in 2008. The trip on the train from Leeds to London was nerve-wracking and navigating London’s Tube system a nightmare. Despite all the best written directions I had I was sure I was going to get lost but after taking the exit from a station I saw it from a distance; those four blue letters adorned on the top of a building; SEGA. I took a picture.

Allow me to elaborate on how much of a near religious moment this was for me. Since the age of six I’d asked for and bought all things SEGA so finally visiting the Mecca that is Sega’s London HQ was astounding. Add to the fact that I got to play a new ‘proper’ Sonic game two weeks before the majority of the population, be one of the first people to see Night Of The Werehog, take home some SEGA merch and a Sonic advent calendar and I was absolutely ecstatic. That’s not all, I also got to meet the awesome AAUK, Svend, T-Bird, Shadzter, Vger, Flyoy Fox, Violet and more (If I’ve forgotten your names play hell with me in the comment section of this post) and chat to them after the event. I’ll never forget how knackered poor AAUK was in the pub after, too tired to even contemplate my offer of a pint. Talk turned to how the intro to Unleashed was probably the best Sonic intro ever and hopes for it to be truly special.

The jury is out on how special the game turned out but at least its rated rather highly by TSS staff. What was special beyond a shadow of a doubt was that day, visiting SEGA HQ and meeting some fantastic new faces. No wonder I ended up writing here.

Decade Moment: The “MarioKart: Double Dash!!” Demo Disc

What is a “Decade Moment?”  It is a moment from the past ten years that us here at TSS remember vividly to this day.  A game announcement, completing a tough level, or acquiring some slick merchandise… everything memorable and certifiably Sonic counts.

In the last ten years of running Sonic forums, playing Sonic games, and just simply being a fan, there is one moment that trumps all… and it’s from the least likely of places: a pre-order bonus for a Mario game.  In October of 2003, Nintendo announced that the long-awaited entry in the MarioKart series would be giving away demo discs with a pre-order.  I could care less for demo discs and the crap that they try to push on people.  Even today, with Nintendo’s DS Download Service, they rarely have anything worth checking out.  This demo disc was different though… it was stacked.

Check out this line-up: Mario Party 5, F-Zero GX, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike.

About three games out of those four ended up being any good (and in F-Zero and Rogue Squadron’s case… fantastic).  You would think that this list would have me hooked right then and there.  I was surprisingly not sold, however, until I got to the bottom of the list and read “Sonic Heroes.”

Flashback to a few weeks ago.  A trailer had just come out for Sonic Heroes that was SEGA’s trailer of the decade.  It gave me goosebumps to watch words fly at you, Sonic and company blazing past bright and colorful levels reminscent of the Genesis days, and to hear a movie trailer voice-over narrate it all.  But nothing… nothing prepared you for the fangasm that was “The Return of Metal Sonic:”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqMoXT3VJEk[/youtube]

Needless to say, I was a happy as a sophomore in high school could be.  My childhood icon was calling back to his 90s glory.  I knew that I was going to get Double Dash!! but this demo alone sweetened the deal.  Once the option was available, I immediately went to put a pre-order down at GameStop so that I could get my hands on “the return of a legend.”  Luckily, the store is not too far away from my house.  I was only a permit-carrying driver at the time, so with my parents at work, I was breaking the law.  I couldn’t contain myself though… I needed this demo disc.

I put $5 down and got back home safe and sound.  The only thing that wasn’t safe was my grades, because I’m pretty sure I gave a big “fuck that” to my homework that night.

There were only two levels: Seaside Hill with Team Sonic and Bullet Station with Team Dark.  Those two levels turned into hours of entertainment and eventually became days of satiating my desire to play the full version.  I had to keep myself occupied until January 5th.

Sonic Heroes fulfilled the insane amount of hype that I had running through me once I purchased it with my two Best Buy gift cards on that fateful day in January.  I played it for months until I got all A-ranks.  Still, the memories of playing Sonic Heroes until completion have faded and standing strong today six years later… is a demo disc for a Mario game.