Sunday, December 14, 2008

The History of the Nomad

What better way to kick off a blog devoted to Sega's black sheep (no, not the 32X) than to give a bit of historical background. Enjoy! (Photos courtesy of that wonderful resource "the internet")

Before the Nomad there was the Sega Mega Jet. And before making its way to homes and the backseats of cars, Sega took to the skies.

In late 1993 Sega released a semi-portable version of the Mega Drive for use as in-flight entertainment on Japan Airlines. Resembling a cheap AM/FM boom box that would have been the top ticket prize at Circus Pizza, the Mega Jet had everything one would expect from a portable system with one major exception: an LCD screen. Of course, on a Japan Airlines flight this wasn't an issue. Customers simply plugged into the video screen in front of them and instantly became members of the Sega mile high club.

On March 10, 1994 Sega of Japan released essentially the same Mega Jet to consumers but the system still lacked a screen. In October 1995 Sega of America released a reworked Mega Jet which became known as the Sega Nomad. The Nomad added a 3.25 inch LCD screen and a battery pack, making it a truly portable system. (Note: The Nomad was only released in North America) Another excellent improvement included A/V output and one controller input. This allowed for what was essentially a fully working Genesis-only home machine.

I say Genesis-only because while the Nomad was an awesome portable, it could not do everything that a home machine could do. While the hardware inside was capable of utilizing the 32X and Sega Mega CD (Sega CD in the States), the body of the Nomad was incapable of fitting together with either. It's like it you tried to mate a horse and a turtle. Or maybe not. Bad analogy, sorry.

So how did Americans respond? Not so well. While like most Sega products, the Nomad was ahead of its time. Two major problems the system had were portability (taking a Nomad on the go was like carrying a Disney VHS case around with you) and battery life. I personally had no problem with the former and the latter could easily be remedied with a car adapter or an extra four batteries on hand. But, despite what I thought, the masses preferred the smaller and longer battery life to what the Nomad had to offer. In a last ditch attempt to gain users, Sega dropped the price of the Nomad from $179 to $79.99. Unfortunately the price drop wasn't effective and the Nomad was discontinued.

As we approach the Nomad's 14th anniversary, the system is still quite impressive in comparison to what portables have to offer. Emulations of Genesis games found on the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP are still not as good as the real thing. In terms or screen size, the Nomad still has Nintendo beat by .25 inches. As for system size, the PSP is larger than pocket sized and is still a major player in the portable world. Of course, the Nomad would never make a comeback and defeat what we have now, but it is much more worthy of a dusting off for portable enjoyment than many portables of the past.

So I call on all Nomad owners* to dust off your Nomad, take it out of storage and give your favorite Genesis game a go. The Nomad deserves your love.
*if you don't have one get on ebay pronto!

1 comment:

  1. The Nomad was a great console and could have done well in the UK/Europe. The idea that I could play all my Mega Drive games, but with maximum portability... amazing. I would have killed for one of those.

    Unlike the 32X and the Sega CD and Sega CD-X, I think the Nomad actually offered something original and was a prgression in gaming. The CD-X is the only other bit of pre-Saturn SEGA stuff that I would give the time of day.